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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

Easy sushi fillings ideas: traditional, homemade, and vegan

ByAnjali Phagami Pun

Mar 20, 2022

We have all heard, seen, or tasted sushi at least once in our life. For a long time, it was considered exotic, and maybe a little scary. If you have not had sushi, you miss out not only on the delicious food but also on its nutritional benefits. But before you chomp down on that plate of delicious-looking sushi, do you know what type of sushi you are eating? What is the best way to enjoy this famous Japanese delicacy? Read more to find out more about easy sushi fillings ideas that you can try at home.

What exactly is sushi?

Sushi is a Japanese dish featuring specially prepared rice and usually some type of fish or seafood, often raw, but sometimes cooked. And though you might automatically associate the word sushi with raw fish, it’s actually the rice that is the most important ingredient. Indeed, the word “sushi” refers to the sour flavor of vinegared rice. Regardless of the toppings or sushi fillings ideas, sushi always includes rice. Maybe all that sounds simple, but it can take years to master these techniques. As a matter of fact, sushi rice is so important that sushi chefs in Japan undergo years of training just to learn how to cook the rice properly before they ever begin to handle any fish or seafood.

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Origin of sushi

The word “sushi” is often ambiguous for non-native Japanese. We think of it as being interchangeable with raw fish. Sushi is vinegared rice topped with other ingredients. Sashimi, which is slices of raw fish alone, is not sushi because it isn’t accompanied by rice.

Originally, sushi was fermented fish with rice preserved in salt, and this was a staple dish in Japan for a thousand years until the Edo Period (1603 to 1868) when contemporary sushi was developed. The word “sushi” means “it’s sour,” which reflects back to sushi’s origins of being preserved in salt. Sushi in Japan is very simple and usually doesn’t contain more than one type of fish or one type of vegetable.

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In Japan, they don’t have the kinds of roles that are popular at American sushi establishments, such as Rock & Roll, Spider Roll, Caterpillar Roll, and so on. Japanese people also don’t put avocado on their sushi. These types of rolls are considered “Western-style” or “California-style.” When using condiments, the Japanese keep it simple sushi fillings ideas.

Is sushi healthy?

Sushi is delicious but are they healthy? The simple answer is yes, and that depends on what you order. Fish is a healthy source of protein. If you love eating fish, then sushi is a great way to get your lean protein servings. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you can also enjoy sushi made with plant-based proteins, such as tofu, to meet your recommended daily intake of protein foods. Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are common ingredients in sushi that are essential for heart health.

Sushi is a well-loved food internationally. The combination of fish, rice, and seasonings makes sushi a perfect food part of a healthy meal pattern. Sushi can fit into almost any diet as part of a healthy way of eating. This is where the sushi fillings ideas come in handy.

Easy sushi filling ideas

Japanese sushi chefs are highly regarded and respected because it takes them more than 10 years of training to acquire such skills. However, you don´t have to be a professional if you want to have some simple homemade sushi with easy fillings. Here are some easy sushi fillings ideas that vary from simple homemade fillings to traditional and vegan sushi fillings.

1. Homemade sushi fillings

An easy-to-follow homemade sushi tutorial with lots of tips, tricks, and photos to help you roll like a pro along with sushi roll and sauce recipes galore! Let’s dive right in! It may seem like a lot to buy at first, but most of the ingredients turn into staples and nonperishables like nori, sushi rice, and vinegar will last a ridiculously long time in your pantry.

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Ingredients for homemade sushi staples:

  • sushi rice
  • a bamboo mat
  • plastic wrap
  • nori
  • low-sodium soy sauce
  • toasted sesame seeds and/or chia seeds
  • chili sauce
  • wasabi + pickled ginge

Homemade sushi fillings:

  • cucumber
  • avocado
  • asparagus
  • jalapeño
  • green onion
  • carrots
  • yuca
  • sprouts
  • lettuce
  • bell peppers
  • red onion
  • radish
  • sweet potato

Fruit-wise, pineapple, mango, apple, and pear are all insanely good. As for protein options? Anything you’d like! I typically use shrimp tempura and/or sashimi-grade tuna. You can also add tofu or cream cheese to the rolls if you’d like! Be creative and add anything that floats your sushi boat.


Firstly, make your sushi rice on the stovetop or using a rice cooker. Combine 1+1/2 cups of rice with 2 cups of water in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Quinoa works excellent too!


Secondly, season the rice with seasoned rice vinegar or a combination of plain rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pour over your rice, fluff with a fork, taste, and adjust as desired. Remove rice from heat, fluff into a bowl, and set aside.


While the rice cooks/cools, prep your veggies! Slice into matchsticks and set aside. Once the rice is done you’ll be ready to roll!


To avoid messy clean-up and scrubbing, wrap your bamboo mat in plastic wrap. Finally, lay a sheet of nori on top and grab your rice!


The two most popular techniques are inside-out rolls with rice on the outside or rolls wrapped with nori on the outside and rice on the inside. Finally, grab a spoon and spread a thin layer of rice on the seaweed sheet. For large rolls, add an extra layer. I like my pieces bite-sized, so I add a thin layer and leave a little extra space at the end.  Totally up to you!


Place your toppings in the center, very close to one another, and practically in a little veggie dogpile.


  1. For rice on the inside, line your veggies/seafood on top of the rice.
  2. For rice on the outside, flip the sheet of nori so the rice touches the plastic wrap, and then add your vegetables to the seaweed-only side.


roll, squeeze, repeat: Roll approx 1/4 of the mat and gently squeeze (so it sticks) and unfold the bamboo mat. Repeat the process until you’ve rolled the sheet of rice, seaweed, and veggies into a spiral. Give it one last squeeze to seal the deal.


Finally, slice into bite-sized discs with a freshly sharpened chef’s knife. If you’re topping your sushi with sashimi or avocado, first tightly wrap the roll in plastic wrap prior to slicing. Now, enjoy!!


  • sesame seeds
  • thin slices of fish
  • shrimp or crab salad
  • sprouts
  • thinly sliced avocado

2. Easy vegan sushi fillings

Sushi without fish? Absolutely no problem! If you are a sushi fan, you will love this easy vegan sushi recipe with avocado, tofu, carrots, and cucumber. Moreover, you don’t need many ingredients for my sushi recipe. It’s all very basic.

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Vegan sushi fillings:

  • cucumber
  • carrot
  • avocado
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • sweet potato
  • fried asparagus
  • caramelized onion
  • jackfruit
  • mango
  • baby spinach
  • beets
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • marinated eggplant


  • rice vinegar
  • sugar
  • salt
  • nori sheets
  • carrots
  •  cucumber
  • avocado
  • firm tofu
  • soy sauce
  • sesame seeds


Cook the sushi rice. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Add the cooked rice to a large bowl and stir in the vinegar sugar mixture until well combined. 


Heat some oil in a flat pan and cook the tofu strips for about 4 minutes on high heat until crispy. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce while cooking.


Thirdly, make a handful of rice and place it in the center of the nori sheet. Spread evenly, leaving a 3/4 – inch strip of the nori sheet uncovered on the top.


Place some thin strips of cucumber, carrot, tofu, and avocado in a line on the near edge of the nori sheet. However, make sure not to overfill the nori.


After that make sure that the ingredients are fully covered with the rice and the nori sheet. Now, roll slowly to ensure that the sushi is rolled evenly.


Wet your fingers again in the shallow bowl of cool water and moisturize the uncovered strip of the nori sheet. Then completely roll up the nori sheet with the bamboo mat.


Place the sushi roll on a cutting board and carefully cut it in half with a sharp knife. Put the knife under cold water before and after cutting.


Finally, sprinkle the vegan sushi rolls with sesame seeds and serve with soy sauce. If you want you could also add wasabi and pickled ginger.

3. Traditional sushi fillings

Traditional Japanese Sushi Rolls – What comes to your mind when you hear traditional Japanese food? While Japanese cuisine is extremely varied, most people will conjure up images of sushi rolls which are an important part of the food culture. Finally, here is a list of must-try Japanese sushi rolls with traditional fillings to order:

Tuna Sushi Roll (Tekka Maki)

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Tuna Sushi Roll, known as Tekka Maki in Japanese, contains only one filling and in this case, it is raw tuna. The other ingredients include seasoned sushi rice and nori, a type of edible seaweed. In the past, tuna was considered the poor man’s food because it was easily available. However, the popularity of tuna sushi rolls turned it into a must-sought after food in Japan and worldwide.

Cucumber Sushi Roll (Kappa Maki)

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Cucumber rolls are known as Kappa Maki in Japanese and they comprise thin strips of Japanese cucumber in between seasoned rice, wrapped in nori sheets. Furthermore, as there’s no fish used in this sushi recipe, it is a great option for vegetarians and those who are uncomfortable with the idea of eating raw fish. Moreover, if Japanese cucumbers are not available, chefs often use Persian or English cucumbers as substitutes.

Temaki (Hand Rolls)

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These are hand rolls that are folded in the shape of a cone instead of a cylinder. They comprise of less rice and the fillings are arranged diagonally over the rice, slightly protruding out of the cone. Some of the common filling options include scallions, cucumbers, tuna, salmon, and so on.

Futomaki Sushi Rolls

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This is a thick and fat sushi roll comprising several delicious sushi fillings, hence it is much bigger than any other sushi rolls mentioned above. Some of the common sushi fillings used in these rolls are cooked baby spinach, egg omelet, seasoned daikon radish, sweet dried fish (senkura denbu), cucumber, shitake mushrooms, kampyo (gourd strips), and so on.

The Japanese traditionalists may frown at taking liberty with the sushi roll fillings. But, trust me, the fillings can go as far as you like! With sushi becoming a popular delicacy worldwide, there are so many interesting ideas for sushi roll fillings. If you love making sushi at home, play with the flavors, make them a treat for your eyes, and pleasure for your taste buds! You can thank me later.

The recipe of the handmade sushi fillings was taken from peas and crayons.

If you want to know more about traditional foods, read our article about kookoo sabzi.