Sushi first hit the California dining scene in the 1960s, and since then, it has only increased in popularity across the US. The Japanese dish, which dates back centuries and likely started as a street food, is traditionally made with white rice and raw fish. But over the years, chefs have gotten increasingly experimental with this bite-sized favorite. Nowadays, you can find Americanized versions, like the California roll (which features avocado and crab), in most sushi spots across the US. And vegan sushi is also more popular than ever.

Jump to the sushi

According to Food52, sushi likely made its debut in the US in the late ’60s in Los Angeles. A Little Tokyo dining spot, called Kawafuku Restaurant, was the first to serve the Japanese delicacy, and it was a hit. The restaurant inspired a handful of others to follow suit, and eventually, this spiraled into a nationwide boom in the Japanese dining scene in the US.

Jump to the recipes

Fast-forward to 2024, and research suggests there are nearly 16,000 sushi restaurants across America, and nearly five million US consumers regularly indulge in the dish. But in recent years, as more people have shifted their diets away from animal products (research suggests more than half of young Americans now identify as flexitarian), fish-free sushi has become more commonplace.

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What is vegan sushi?

During the 1960s and 1970s, sushi chefs began incorporating avocado into their rolls. Avocado became a component of the classic California roll, but this also led to the advent of vegan-friendly sushi by way of the avocado and cucumber roll. Vegetable rolls filled with gobo (pickled burdock root) and other colorful veggies followed suit. 

The first all-vegan sushi restaurant is unknown, but by 2011, Shojin had set up shop in Little Tokyo. The all-vegan sushi menu featured complex and delicious combinations that far exceeded the basic vegetable roll. The chef not only played with vegetables, using a variety of traditional Japanese cooking techniques to transform tofu into crab meat and eggplant into eel, but implemented a wide array of eye-catching plant-based sauces, toppings, and finishing touches to further elevate his rolls. 

VegNews.vegansushinewyork.beyondsushiBeyond Sushi

Today, vegan sushi exists in a plethora of forms. Some use plant-based fish made from konjac—a root vegetable from Eastern Asia—while others rely on tofu, jackfruit, mushrooms, eggplant, and even chickpeas to replicate the taste and texture sushi lovers crave. 

“Vegan sushi isn’t an alternative—it’s the way forward,” Chef David Lee of Planta, a pioneering plant-based restaurant group, told VegNews.

“We’re committed to introducing it to our audience without sacrificing flavor profile or texture. Smoked eggplant, dehydrated watermelon, and fresh nori or soy paper are crucial to the equation, and so is quality rice,” Lee continued.

Types of vegan sushi

Plant-based iterations of virtually every form of sushi exist these days, and the ingredients vary from restaurant to restaurant. Here are a few of the most common types of vegan sushi you’ll come across at vegan and vegan-friendly establishments.


Nigiri, or what loosely translates to “hand-pressed” sushi, is the most traditional form of sushi. It’s simplistic in composition, meaning the few ingredients truly shine. Nigiri is made simply of seasoned sushi rice pressed into a small oval and topped with a very thin slice of raw fish (with the exception of egg, eel, and shrimp nigiri, which is cooked). The most common types of nigiri include salmon, albacore, and yellowtail.

Vegan nigiri features a number of inventive culinary techniques to replicate that raw fish texture and flavor profile. In 2017, Ocean Hugger Foods astonished the world by launching its ahi tuna-grade alternative—Ahimi—in select whole foods. The product was simply made with marinated, thinly sliced tomato, and it was the first breakaway innovation that paved the way for other vegan versions of raw fish. While no longer available at Whole Foods, Ocean Hugger paved the way for others. You can now find vegan sushi-grade sashimi at GTFO, an online vegan retailer. 

VegNews.vegansashimi.gtfoitsveganGTFO It’s Vegan

Today, higher-end vegan Japanese restaurants still tend to rely on the manipulation of vegetables to create their own versions of nigiri, whereas quick service and food truck operations lean more toward starch-based solutions. These tend to look hyper-realistic and are mostly made of starches, such as konjac or other vegetable-based gelling agents. 

Rolls and hand rolls

A sushi roll traditionally consists of a filling wrapped in nori (seaweed sheet) and rice. The roll is cut into one-bite morsels, with each roll yielding about five to eight, one-bite pieces. A hand roll contains the same ingredients, but it is served in a different format. Nori is wrapped into a cone shape and filled with rice and vegetables and/or vegan fish. Typically, a hand roll is a smaller serving than a cut roll. 

The delicious creativity in vegan sushi is infinite, and we love trying new and enticing combinations, but there is a group of common rolls you’ll see across most menus. Here’s what they are, how they’re prepared, and what’s in them.


1 Cucumber and Avocado Roll

Little explanation is needed here, other than the fact that if you’re at a non-vegan sushi restaurant, it is virtually guaranteed that this will be on the menu. It’s a great light bite and a welcome last resort when there are no other satiating options. 

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2 California Roll

Many self-proclaimed sushi snobs may liken this roll to Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte in that it’s “basic.” While the first iteration of this roll was made with real crab meat, today, it’s made with imitation crab, mayonnaise, and cucumber, all rolled in nori and sesame-flecked rice. 

Note: imitation crab still contains seafood. It’s essentially the Spam of the sea, as it’s made of an assortment of parts that come from a variety of white fish such as tilapia and cod. Vegan versions of the California roll are often made with seasoned tofu, jackfruit, or mashed chickpeas mixed with vegan mayo

Vegnews.happiestveganonearthHappiest Vegan on Earth

3 Spider Roll

Love a good crunch? Order a spider roll. Unlike the California roll, this combination of fried soft-shell crab, cucumber, avocado, and mayo originates from Japan. It gets its name from the long, fried pieces that stick out of either end, which abstractly look like a spider’s legs. You’ll often see this roll paired with eel sauce, which happens to be vegan. It’s a sweet, syrupy mix of reduced mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. 

To replicate the crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside crab meat, vegan sushi chefs often fry enoki or shimeji mushrooms. The resulting texture is similar to fried soft-shell crab.



4 Philadelphia Roll

True to its name, the Philly roll actually comes from Philadelphia. The combination was created by Madame Saito—a Japanese immigrant turned Philly restaurateur. As legend has it, her Jewish American customers inspired this roll. She thought of lox and bagels and incorporated the concept into a sushi roll. 

The Philadelphia roll is made of smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber, surrounded by rice and nori. Vegan options simply swap in non-dairy cream cheese and a starch- or vegetable-based salmon.


5 Caterpillar Roll

Avocado lovers, this one’s for you. The caterpillar roll gets its name from the slices of avocado that adorn the outside, making it look like a very abstract caterpillar. Often, two dots of sriracha are added to the end of one roll, giving the caterpillar “eyes.” The filling consists of unagi (eel) and cucumber, also surrounded by nori and rice. 

Due to its chewy texture when baked or fried, eggplant is most commonly substituted for unagi in vegan iterations of the caterpillar roll.


6 Shrimp Tempura Roll

While most traditional sushi is served raw, shrimp is the exception. Frying is a common application, which lends a delightful crunch and textural variety to this roll of battered shrimp, cucumber, and avocado. 

To create a vegan shrimp tempura roll, chefs typically use a commercially available plant-based shrimp made of konjac, then batter and fry it. 

Vegan sushi condiments

Purists may balk at the idea of anything more than soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi, but sometimes, condiments make the roll.


You’ll see vegan sushi restaurants, pop-ups, and more drizzling creamy, plant-based spicy mayo and sticky-sweet unagi or eel sauce; adding texture with tempura flakes; and even going so far as to deep-fry entire rolls. Sriracha, jalapeños, lemon slices, and seaweed-based “caviar” are also popular additions to plant-based sushi. 

Condiments are a key way to add additional flavor and texture to basic rolls, particularly when made at home. The recipes below either include an irresistible condiment or could benefit from a flourish of spicy mayo or a sprinkling of crunchy panko.

How to make vegan sushi

1 Vegan Pink Rice Sushi With Tamari Ginger Sauce

Show off your sushi-making skills on social media with this colorful roll. The pink rice is naturally colored with beets, and it surrounds a rainbow filling of red bell pepper, avocado, carrots, cucumber, and baked teriyaki tofu.

2 Black and White Sushi Rolls

Flavor is king, but this roll is equally about aesthetics. Naturally nutty black rice surrounds hot pink pickled turnips and creamy avocado for a striking piece of sushi that’s also texturally intriguing and delicious. The best part? You only need seven ingredients.

3 Vegetarian Sushi

This is your standard vegetable roll, elevated with a touch of wasabi powder and accented with pickled ginger. It’s light yet satisfying, perfect for the sushi beginner. 

4 Healthy Cucumber Sushi With Spicy Mayo

Hollowed-out cucumber slices replace nori in this light and refreshing vegan roll. The spicy mayo adds a subtle heat while baked tofu imparts a hearty umami bite.

5 DIY Vegan California Roll

Made simply with avocado, baked tofu, cucumber, carrots, sushi rice, and nori, this roll is a canvas to be punched up with flavor. Drizzle it with store-bought eel sauce or vegan spicy mayo, top it off with tempura flakes, or (for the adventurous) deep-fry the entire thing. Of course, a quick dip in tamari and a strip of pickled ginger work just as well.

Where to find vegan sushi in the US: 20 restaurants to try

Want to find the best places to sample delicious vegan sushi for yourself? We’ve got you. Check out just a few of our favorite picks below.

VegNews.vegansushi.beyondsushiBeyond Sushi

1 Beyond Sushi

New York City, NY

This popular chef-driven vegan sushi hotspot opened its first location back in 2012 and has since expanded to two thriving Manhattan restaurants. Expect to find every single type of vegan sushi you could desire—and then some. Don’t skip on other delicious Asian-inspired favorites like Chick’n Banh Mi and Shoyu Ramen too.


2 Planta

Multiple locations

Vegan diners across the US can indulge in the delicious sushi options at Planta, because this popular plant-based chain has locations in multiple cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago. You won’t be disappointed with options like Ahi Watermelon Nigiri, Spicy Tuna Rolls, and so much more.

VegNews.vegansushi.shojinShojin Organic and Natural

3 Shojin Organic and Natural

Los Angeles and Culver City, CA

Led by Hiroshima-born Executive Chef Jun Matoshiro, everything at this California micro chain is organic, vegan, gluten-free, macrobiotic, natural, and “made with love.” Dine in or take out depending on your mood, and make sure to indulge in some of Shojin’s Signature Rolls, like Saturday Night Fever, which features slightly torched mushroom crab, or the Crunchy Tiger, which features avocado wrapped soy chicken.

VegNews.vegansushi.chefkennysChef Kenny’s

4 Chef Kenny’s Vegan Dim Sum

Las Vegas, NV

As the name suggests, this is the place to go in Las Vegas if you’re in the mood for some vegan dim sum. But the extensive vegan menu at Chef Kenny’s also includes plenty of delicious sushi, too. Choose from options like Vegan Eel Nigiri, Mushroom Nigiri, and Vegan Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls.


5 Shizen

San Francisco, CA

Shizen is a must-visit if you’re in San Francisco. The fully vegan sushi bar and izakaya combines “classic shojin and sushi techniques with local, seasonal ingredients” to create its flavor-packed menu. Choose from classic nigiri and rolls, like avocado and California, as well as a wide range of specialty options, like the Open Invitation with pumpkin tempura or the Colonel’s Pipe with smoked beets.


6 Kusaki

Los Angeles, CA

The vegan fish dishes at this popular West Los Angeles spot are stunning—from the delicately plated nigiri to the sashimi, but thanks to those local ingredients, the vegetables are the real star here. This is one of those places where you order a bit of everything and return often for more.

VegNews.bluesushisakegrillsushiBlue Sushi Sake Grill

7 Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Multiple locations

This sushi chain isn’t vegan, but it offers an impressive range of animal-free options. Snack on starters like edamame or cucumber sunomono while you wait for the main event, which includes vegan sushi options like Kaluna with plant-based tuna, Inari with fried tofu, Unami with eggplant eel, and avocado nigiri.


8 Tane

Honolulu, HI and Berkeley, CA

Made with vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, and flowers, Tane’s vegan sushi is as beautiful-looking as it is delicious. Its unique menu includes options like Sunset, which is made with spicy tofu and seaweed pearls, and Kailua, which features ginger shoyu tomato and pickled mango.

VegNews.NikuNashiSushiBoat.TiffanyRoseTiffany Rose/Niku Nashi

9 Niku Nashi

Los Angeles, CA

Now open for delivery only, Niku Nashi vegan sushi is not to be missed. Standouts options include the Barbie Roll with fried oyster mushrooms, pickled cabbage, and spicy vegan tuna and the Dragon Roll with oyster mushrooms, asparagus, and Philadelphia cream cheese.

VegNews.vegansushi.wellnesssushiWellness Sushi

10 Wellness Sushi

Denver, CO

Right now, Wellness Sushi—which made Yelp’s list of 100 Top Places to Eat in the US—has just one spot in Denver, but it’s looking to open a second location very soon. Its diverse, flavorful menu includes options like Krunchy Krab Maki Rolls and Teriyaki Beef Onigiri.


11 Ma-Kin

Agoura Hills, CA

Ma-Kin is on a mission to become “the best vegan restaurant in Agoura Hills,” and we’d say it’s making good on that goal. Put it to the taste test for yourself and try mouthwatering dishes like Jalapeno Tempura Rolls, Baked Lobster Rolls, and Dragon. The latter is made with seared sweet tofu, shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, and eel sauce.


12 Daikon Vegan Sushi

Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas isn’t short of tasty plant-based treats, but for vegan sushi lovers, Daikon should be on the list of restaurants to check out. Start your meal with a fragrant bowl of miso soup and crunchy edamame, before moving on to a banquet of simple, classic sushi options, like Cucumber Rolls and Pickled Carrot Rolls, and more inventive creations, like the Hot Girl Roll (with jalapeños and spicy vegan tuna).

VegNews.vegansushi.stickyriceSticky Rice

13 Sticky Rice

Washington, DC

Head to Sticky Rice in DC to get your fix of delicious, expertly crafted vegan sushi. To try it, order the Harvest Vegan Nigiri Combo (with smoked red pepper, vegan tuna, shiitake, tempura sweet potato, scallion, and vegan eel) Note that this spot isn’t totally vegan, so make sure to double-check that your order is animal-free.


14 Cha-Ya

San Francisco, CA

Located in the heart of San Francisco, Cha-Ya is an all-vegan restaurant specializing in the best of Japanese cuisine. Check out the extensive (and delicious) sushi selection, of course, but also make sure not to skip over other tasty options, like the Senroppon Shredded Salad and Agedashi Tofu.


15 Franchia

New York City, NY

This popular vegan café offers every type of food you could possibly crave. There are dumplings, crab cakes, ramen, Malaysian curry, and meatballs, for example. And of course, there’s plenty of sushi. Choose from options like the Tropical Mango and Avocado Roll, the Spicy Chicken Roll, and the classic California Roll.


16 Kensho

Yorba Linda and Westminster, CA

Kensho has all the rolls you could dream of. Heat-seekers will especially delight at the many spicy options, from the basic yet well-executed spicy tuna roll to the I Lava You—a baked California roll topped with oyster mushrooms and torched to charred perfection. The kitchen also offers expertly executed renditions of the standard rolls including the Caterpillar and Spider.

Vegnews.theyasaiThe Yasai

17 The Yasai

San Diego, CA

Boasting two locations in San Diego, this intimate plant-based sushi concept relies exclusively on tofu and vegetables to craft its dizzying array of inventive specialty rolls and incredible nigiri. For lunch, stick to an appetizer like the gyoza and a classic roll or two. When dining in for dinner, splitting a few small plates and specialty rolls is the best way to taste the talent of The Yasai’s creative chefs.

Vegnews.naughtypandaNaughty Panda

18 Naughty Panda

Pasadena, CA

Originally founded in Orange County, CA, this themed vegan sushi spot packed up its adorable mascot and made its home in Pasadena, CA. The tiny joint is cramped and best suited for takeout, but despite the small storefront, the rolls bring big flavor. Popular options include the crispy fried onion-topped Super Saiyan Crunch Roll and the unique orange slice-adorned Charmander roll.

Vegnews.tamasushiTama Sushi

19 Tama Sushi

Huntington Beach, CA

Tucked into a strip mall in Huntington Beach, CA, this small, vegan-friendly sushi joint is crafting plant-based rolls even omnivores go for. Local favorites include the LB Vegan—a torched roll topped with mayo-drizzled meaty mushrooms and water chestnuts—and the Red Dragon Roll, a roll that shows off the kitchen’s tomato-based sashimi tuna.

Vegnews.tomosushiTomo Sushi

20Tomo Sushi

Philadelphia, PA

The city of Philadelphia can excel at more than cheesesteaks, and this vegan-friendly sushi spot is proving the point. The vegan menu features appetizers, small plates, ramen, and an exhaustive menu of plant-based rolls. You’d have to be a local to try them all, but you can hit the sweet spot with a mix of complex and single-ingredient rolls. Our order for two: Umeshiso Kappa, Shiitake Mushroom, Harvest, and Vegan Green Dragon.

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