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Sushi is amazing. Sushi is also insanely filling and can make you feel super-bloated. Those little maki rolls look so innocent, but then you eat a million of them and then feel so much regret.

Going out for sushi, sashimi is always a great option to keep things light, but there’s something about that rice-seaweed-soy combo that is so irresistible. And for those of us who are trying to stay away from grains and/or soy, we need options, people!

Fortunately, with a little creativity, there’s always an alternative. Cauliflower rice, a wonderful invention that makes all your rice-heavy meals light, yet still delicious, can be a great stand-in for sticky rice with a couple of additions. Since it’s not starchy, it needs a bit of help;  I’ve found that, with a little coconut fat and a sprinkling of chia seeds, you can get there pretty easily.

When I was a teenager, my two best friends from high school and I spent a lot of evenings rolling maki and learning the art of sushi-making. (Once a food nerd, alway a food nerd.) It’s one of those skills that takes some time to perfect, but even if it’s not rolled as tight as it should be or the ratio isn’t perfect, it pretty much always tastes good. Just make sure you have a sushi mat on hand. If you are a veteran sushi-roller, this will be a breeze and you can totally ignore the second half of my directions. If you’re new to the whole thing, don’t get discouraged if it takes a few tries. If my instructions aren’t thorough enough, I’d recommend scoping out a good video or step-by-step article to walk you through things. It’s exactly the same as making traditional maki, just with different ingredients.

This sushi rice recipe uses apple cider vinegar in place of the traditional rice vinegar-white sugar combo. The rice is still tangy and sweet, but you keep out the rice and refined sugar. If you’re OK with that stuff and prefer the classic flavours, feel free to swap in rice vinegar and a little of sugar. (I’d recommend coconut sugar.) I also dip the sushi into coconut aminos, in lieu of soy sauce, since I don’t respond well to soy.

In terms of the fillings, I went with the classic combo of cucumber, avocado and carrot, plus the addition of jalapeño and mung bean sprouts, but the possibilities are endless! I fully encourage and support experimentation here, as long as you don’t over-fill your sushi and end up with a big mess. A few other suggestions:

  • Steamed sweet potato
  • Steamed asparagus
  • Slivered mushrooms marinated in coconut aminos
  • Scallions
  • Sushi-grade fish (if that’s not already obvious)

I used jalapeño in my sushi mainly for spice, because I haven’t yet found wasabi without weird additives. However, I have read that powdered wasabi is the way to go and I noticed that this brand has nothing funky in it, so I definitely need to try it out. If you’ve had it, let me know if you like it! Otherwise, a little jalapeño is a delicious substitute, albeit unconventional. Hey, once you’re making sushi rice with cauliflower, another swap isn’t such a big deal.

What’s your fave sushi filling? Give me more ideas, please 💙

Cauliflower rice sushi

Prep Time1 hr
Resting time1 hr
Servings: 40 pieces

Ingredients

The rice

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower about 6 cups, riced
  • 2 Tb coconut oil
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk
  • Tb apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tb chia seeds

The maki

  • 5 nori sheets
  • 1 cucumber cut into long sticks (seeds removed)
  • 1 large carrot cut into long matchsticks
  • 1 avocado cut into sticks
  • Optional: diced jalapeño pepper and sprouts
  • Coconut aminos for dipping

Instructions

The rice

  • To rice the cauliflower, cut it into florets and then pulse in a food processor with the S-blade until it looks like couscous. You will likely have to do this in a couple of batches. If you fill it up more than halfway, it won’t break down into even pieces.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
  • Add the cauliflower rice and salt to the pan and sautée for 5 minutes until slightly softened.
  • Add the coconut milk and chia seeds. Continue to cook until all the liquid has been absorbed or cooked off. If it’s watery, your sushi will turn to mush.
  • Stir in the apple cider vinegar and remove from heat.
  • Chill in the fridge for an hour or two, until cold and sticky.

The rolls (see photos above):

  • Lay the first nori sheet on your sushi mat width-wise with the shiny side down, so the faint lines that go across the sheets are vertical.
  • Fill the first two-thirds of the sheet with a layer of sushi rice about ½ a centimetre thick. Press it down firmly and evenly with your hands or a wooden spoon.
  • Spread a row of the veggies evenly a couple of centimetres up from the bottom. I usually do one row each of the avocado and cucumber and a couple rows of the carrot matchsticks, then sprinkle the sprouts and jalapeño.
  • Lift the mat with both thumbs from underneath, while holding the veggies in with your fingers. Roll the ends tightly and firmly over top of the veggies, pushing down as you go, until the edge of the bottom of the mat meets the cauliflower rice on the other side. Squeeze the mat tightly and evenly around the roll with both hands.
  • Continue to roll and squeeze until the roll has been fully wrapped up. If your rice is really dry, you may need a swipe of water across the end of the sheet to get the seaweed to stick.
  • Slice into 8 even pieces with a sharp clean knife. The easiest way to do this is to cut the roll in half, then cut each of those in half, and then each of those in half. Be gentle and use a sharp knife so you don’t squish everything.
  • Serve with coconut aminos and any other condiments you like.