The Japanese really appreciate seaweed and harvest different varieties around their coastline. Moreover, as part of their diet based on healthy eating, seaweed is one of their preferred central ingredients in numerous delicacies, including soups and sushi.
But maybe you love sushi but don’t like the taste of seaweed, or you’ve tried making sushi yourself at home a couple of times but the seaweed keeps turning out too chewy.
There are several types of sushi that don’t use seaweed or nori, and these include nigiri, nori-ribbon nigiri, tamogoyaki, inari, and the California roll. Furthermore, all types of sushi may also be made with soybean paper as opposed to seaweed, although relatively uncommon.
Though many people love sushi, some dislike the taste of seaweed. Luckily, there are endless alternative seaweed-free sushi options. If you want to know more about the types of sushi without seaweed, I’ll discuss some of the popular ones in this article.
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Is All Sushi Made With Seaweed?
No, not all sushi needs to be made with seaweed.
However, when seaweed is used traditionally (or any other ingredient for that matter), there are always substitute ingredients that can be used and work just as well.
Several sushi dishes don’t include seaweed at all. Let’s take a look at some examples next.
Why Do the Japanese Use Seaweed in Sushi?
The Japanese diet is based on fresh and seasonal foods. They avoid fatty and processed foods with added sugars or animal protein.
Instead, they encourage the consumption of rice, seafood, fish, noodles, fruit, vegetables, soy, and seaweed.
The Japanese typically use Nori seaweed as wrapping for their sushi because it’s loaded with minerals and nutrients and is excellent for enhancing the flavors of commonly used ingredients in sushi.
It’s also used in salads, soups, broths, and many other dishes.
What Are the Types of Sushi Without Seaweed?
The word ‘Nigiri’ translates to ‘two fingers.’ This sushi dish comprises a thinly sliced piece of raw or cooked fresh fish draped over a cluster of sweet and salty vinegared rice.
Typical examples of fish used are salmon, tuna, albacore, yellowtail, and fatty tuna from bluefin.
This type of sushi is the most popular in Japan.
Nigiri sushi doesn’t have a rolled structure (typically referred to as ‘makizushi’), the most popular type in the States.
Instead, it’s molded by hand into an oval shape with the topping pressed on top of the rice. The stickiness of the rice and moisture from the topping keep the arrangement in place. All types of sushi can get really creative with its toppings – click here to learn more.
And for garnish, minced scallions or ginger are commonly placed on top of the fish.
Sashimi is raw fish that’s carefully slices into thin pieces. Sashimi is just the fish alone, no rice (though you can have it with rice on the side), no seaweed, no additional ingredients or toppings.
Sashimi can be enjoyed dipped in soy sauce. You can eat it with wasabi, too.
The most popular types of fish used for sashimi are tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. However, there are many others.
The Japanese word for “egg” is “Tamago.” So, in other words, Tamago sushi is essentially egg sushi.
The highlight of this dish is the tamagoyaki or a rolled omelet. It is light and fluffy and typically seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, and dashi.
Tamagoyaki originates in the Kanto region of Japan, located in the eastern part of the main island. It first became popular in the 1950s when the government began encouraging parents to give their children more protein, and farmers began to rear more chickens.
It’s a type of nigiri sushi, but this time the topping is a slice of tamagoyaki.
As a classic egg sushi dish, it’s a favorite for both adults and children. It’s traditionally served for breakfast, as sushi filling, used as a side dish, served on top of a bowl of sushi rice, or put in a Japanese lunch box (bento).
Next up in our types of sushi without seaweed selection is inari. Inari (Inarizushi), also known as ‘brown bag sushi,’ is essentially a super-thin pocket of deep-fried tofu (aburaage) soaked in a seasoned broth and stuffed with sushi.
Inari sushi was named after the Shinto god by the same name, known to have a fondness for tofu.
People have been enjoying inari since the 1800s. The deep-fried pockets concept became popular in Japan, and by the 1980s, 300,000 to 450,000 pockets were made daily. Traditionally part of Japanese cuisine, they’re also hugely popular in Korea.
The popular vegan option of deep-fried pouches and sushi is typically seasoned with mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. These flavors combined give it a uniquely delicious taste.
The addition of sesame seed and other steamed vegetables, radish, and furikake to the sushi is not unheard of.
It’s also loved for its portability. As all the fillings are held securely in place inside the pouch, it’s easy to eat with your hands.
The California Roll is another favorite sushi variation that needs a wrapping but the wrapping doesn’t necessarily have to be seaweed.
This variation of sushi falls under the uramaki family. Uramaki, also referred to as ‘inside-out’ sushi, is rolled sushi with the sushi rice on the outside and wrapping ingredients on the inside.
While it’s considered Western-style sushi, there’s also some debate regarding who was behind its discovery.
Some think that a sushi chef in a restaurant in Los Angeles coined it; however, a Canadian sushi chef claims he named it ‘California’ because of its popularity with his Southern Californian dinners.
It has a filling of crab meat, avocado, and cucumber. Though the wrapping ingredient is typically nori seaweed, you may use any other wrapping sheet of your choice, including soy or rice paper.
In addition, you can use a bamboo mat sold in most Asian food stores to roll it to get the right shape and tightness.
Other types of sushi rolls where seaweed can be substituted for another ingredient include:
- Philadelphia Roll – avocado, salmon, and cream cheese
- King Crab Roll – king crab and mayonnaise
- Boston Roll – avocado, cucumber, and shrimp
- Spicy Tuna Roll – tuna and spicy mayo
- Spider Roll – Tempura soft-shell crab, spicy mayo, avocado, and cucumber
- Rainbow Roll – imitation crab, yellowtail, shrimp, salmon, tuna, avocado, and cucumber
- Shrimp Tempura Roll – Shrimp tempura, avocado, eel sauce
- Dragon Roll – eel, eel sauce, crab sticks, avocado, and cucumber
- Alaska Roll – avocado, smoked salmon, cucumber, and asparagus (optional)
Seaweed Substitute for Sushi: Soybean Paper
Soybean paper is fundamentally made from compressed soybeans and is used as a substitute wrapping ingredient for nori seaweed or to wrap spring rolls and desserts.
It is also referred to in Japan as ‘mamenori’ or ‘mame-nori-san.’
Soy paper is sometimes the preferred option to seaweed since it doesn’t have that overpowering ocean smell associated with seaweed.
In addition, it’s gluten-free and very low in carbs, with no trans or saturated fat and cholesterol. It is also very low in calories, having only 15-20 calories per sheet.
Suppose you appreciate the artistry part of sushi. In that case, you’re in luck with this option since it’s available in various colors, including orange, yellow, pink, green, and natural.
Plus, some brands offer the option to have your images printed onto the sheets with edible ink – how cool is that?
These vivid hues result from dying using natural food and plant extracts, totally free of artificial colors and flavorings.
Soy papers are the same size as traditional seaweed paper, though slightly more delicate, it offers the same outcome.
The best way to make it stick together is to use sushi rice as part of your filling for its stickiness; or, if you’re not adding sushi rice, you can dip a few drops of water on the edge of the soy paper to seal it.
Be sure to apply enough pressure during the rolling process to help keep it sealed.
One of the diverse things about sushi is that even if it’s made traditionally using specific ingredients, all the traditional ingredients and seasoning complement each other so well that they’re interchangeable. So you can have fun experimenting with substitutes to create your own unique culinary experience.
Nori seaweed is one of the principal ingredients used in sushi. The Japanese love it for its nutritional benefits and how it works to enhance the flavors.
Seaweed, however, is an acquired taste and is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fortunately, because of sushi’s flexibility, seaweed can be swapped out for other healthy wrapping alternatives, including rice paper, tofu, Japanese omelet, cumber, avocado, rice, and soybean paper.
In addition, soybean paper sheets take the visual creativity aspect in making sushi to another level. You can get them in different colors and add a print design using edible ink and without artificial additives.
So, there you have it – there is no wrong way to make sushi (and it doesn’t have to take too long to make). I hope that this article has given you plenty of ideas for other types of sushi without seaweed. As the Japanese would say: ‘meshiagare!’ which means ‘bon appétit!’