How to Order Sushi Without Rice

Sushi is one of the most popular dishes from Japanese cuisine that has gained incredible international fame.

Sushi is made from small bits of raw fish, cold, rice seasoned with vinegar, and vegetables rolled in seaweed. It’s difficult to imagine a sushi roll without the rice, as it’s typically one of the main ingredients.

If you’re not a fan of rice or need to be mindful about it due to dietary restrictions, you might not know how to order sushi without rice. But I’m here to help, so let’s get rolling.

how to order sushi without rice

Will Sushi Restaurants Make Sushi Without Rice?

The most accurate answer to this question is – probably. But that will mostly depend on which restaurant you go to.

If you have previously visited a restaurant with a highly trained sushi chef – or itamae – you might be in luck.

It requires some creativity to make a sushi roll without rice, as it may fall apart if not properly made. There are no guarantees that the chef will accept the request, but they might see it as a challenge.

The other important factor to keep in mind is that if the sushi restaurant is too busy, the kitchen staff might not have the time to accommodate special requests.

So, in a nutshell, your best bet is to ask and hope for the best.

What Is Sushi Without Rice Called?

Many sushi enthusiasts will tell you that sushi without rice is not sushi at all. The vinegar-flavored rice makes the sushi dish.

If you’re keen on eating fresh Japanese seafood and avoiding rice, Sashimi is the go-to recommendation.

This is a delicious and nutritious dish that is often categorized as a type of sushi, but that’s not an accurate definition.

Sashimi is made of thinly sliced raw fish, such as salmon and tuna, and also mackerel, yellowtail, or shrimp. It’s served without rice, but with dipping sauce and vegetables such as daikon radish.

However, more commonly, the ‘sushi without rice’ option is called the “Naruto roll.” The sushi chef will wrap the fish and vegetables in a very thin cucumber wrap instead of rice.

plate with naruto roll pieces sushi wrapped in cucumber
Naruto Roll

These types of rolls typically contain avocado for some extra filling. So, if you’re wondering how to order sushi without rice, consider the Naruto-style roll.

Low Carb Sushi Options

It’s fair to ask why anyone would want to avoid rice in sushi, as it’s such a crucial part of the dish.

Perhaps you want to experience the flavor and health benefits of the dish and avoid calories and carbohydrates associated with rice.

Also, some people have rice intolerance and can’t consume it at all.

However, with the expansion of low carb and ketogenic diets, people have been trying to create rice-free sushi.

Again, the Naruto-style roll is a great low-carb option, as cucumber and fish are staples of low-carb diets.

However, if you’re avoiding carbs, you need to be mindful of the hidden carbs in sushi. For example, the unagi sauce can contain up to 14 grams of carbs per one ounce.

Another popular low-carb sushi solution uses cauliflower rice instead of sushi rice.

In the keto and low-carb community, cauliflower plays a significant role, and cauliflower rice replaces traditional rice relatively well.

In a nutshell, it’s not enough to avoid rice if you’re staying away from carbohydrates.

To make sure you’re eating low-carb sushi, it’s best to prepare it at home from scratch. In a restaurant, it’s best to make sure you ask for sushi without rice (like sashimi) and with only low-carb sauces.

plate of 4 types of sashimi with ginger and wasabi

Tips for Ordering Sushi Without Rice

Ordering sushi without rice might seem unusual since sushi is traditionally defined by its vinegared rice, but there are plenty of reasons to do so, from dietary needs to personal preferences. Here are some steps and tips to order sushi without rice:

  1. Know the Terminology:
    • Sashimi: This is simply slices of raw fish or seafood. It doesn’t come with rice.
    • Naruto or Naruto Rolls: Some restaurants offer rolls wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber instead of rice.
  2. Speak Up:
    • When you sit down, mention to the waiter or sushi chef that you’d like to order items without rice. They will usually be accommodating, though it might be a unique request.
  3. Customize Your Order:
    • You can request standard rolls without rice. For example, if you love a spicy tuna roll, you can ask them to make it without the rice or to wrap it in cucumber or seaweed.
  4. Opt for Hand Rolls:
    • Temaki, or hand rolls, are typically cone-shaped and can be filled with various ingredients. You can ask for these without rice, and they’ll just be larger portions of the fish or fillings.
  5. Be Prepared for a Different Texture:
    • One of the pleasures of sushi is the combination of textures, including the soft and slightly sticky rice against the smooth fish. Without rice, the experience will be different. But the focus will be solely on the freshness and flavor of the fish or other ingredients.
  6. Expect a Different Presentation:
    • Traditional sushi presentations rely on the shape and consistency of rice to hold everything together. Without rice, your order might look different than you’re used to.
  7. Ask About Pricing:
    • Since rice is a cheaper ingredient, some establishments might charge you slightly more for rolls without rice, as they’ll be compensating with more of the pricier ingredients like fish. On the other hand, some might keep the price the same. It’s good to ask so you’re not surprised.
  8. Consider Other Menu Items:
    • If you’re avoiding rice because of dietary reasons, many sushi restaurants also offer a variety of salads, soups, and other dishes that don’t contain rice. They can be a great complement to your no-rice sushi choices.
  9. Be Understanding:
    • While many sushi chefs and restaurants are accommodating, remember that sushi without rice is a departure from tradition. If a particular place isn’t comfortable or familiar with the request, be understanding and flexible.
hand with chopsticks holding piece of salmon sashimi with waiter pouring soy sauce on it


Can Sushi Rolls Be Made Without Rice?

The answer is yes – sushi rolls can be made without rice. The Naruto-style roll is the perfect example. The thinly sliced cucumber mimics the rice and allows the sushi chef to create the roll.

Granted, the taste won’t be anything like the traditional sushi roll, but still quite delicious for most. You can get quite creative with Naruto rolls and can add smoked salmon, Kewpie mayo, cream cheese, sriracha, and of course, avocado.

The rule of thumb is to choose a thick cucumber as the thinly sliced sheets will be wider and easier to manage.

What Can Replace Rice in Sushi?

Several ingredients can replace rice in sushi, but it’s not guaranteed that they’ll all be available to order at a restaurant.

For example, some restaurants might offer cauliflower rice sushi and even offer substitutes such as quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, or a similar grain.

The grains have a similar texture and taste to rice, but they’re not low carb.

Other alternatives can be different types of rice that aren’t typically used in sushi and have more health benefits. These include brown, red, and even black rice.

In Summary

Avoiding rice for whatever reason shouldn’t stop you from enjoying sushi. With some ingenuity, you’ll likely be able to enjoy rice-less sushi at a restaurant you like. But, again, calling ahead and asking about options is the best course of action.

However, even in a pinch, a creative sushi chef with enough time on their hands will probably be able to come up with something delicious.

Therefore, another vital aspect of knowing how to order sushi without rice is to be aware of possible alternatives and give Sashimi and Naruto-style rolls a try.

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