Sushi with a Twist

SushiWhile most people eat sushi for a meal, we think it also makes a great snack. Bite-sized portions packed with protein and veggies, rolled up in one of the most nutrient-rich foods around, seaweed. What could be a better between-meal snack than that?

We know what you’re thinking…what about the rice? Well, what about it? Rice isn’t known for its bold flavor. When you taste sushi without rice you’re going to find that the sushi doesn’t taste much different. Rice, however, is great filler and glue, which is the main reason it’s used in sushi rolls. Sushi rolls without rice don’t always hold together quite as well, but there are a few solutions for this. One is to use a sushi mat and take care to roll the sushi slowly and tightly. Two, add something besides rice as filler, like egg. Whisk one egg, fry it into a thin circle, and use it as the first layer in your roll. Third, and probably most importantly, get over the idea that pieces of sushi must be perfectly round, perfectly secure little bundles. Even if the sushi roll is a little loose, it tastes just the same.

Reader Marissa Davidson makes rice-less sushi as a snack all the time, and then she puts yet another twist on the recipe by using thinly sliced roast beef instead of raw fish. The rich flavor of beef paired with the nori seaweed creates that elusive and thrilling flavor combination known as umami. For the same affect, you can also try thin slices of seared flank steak. Raw fish, of course, is always an option as long as your seafood is fresh.

As for other fillings, use any vegetables you like. Avocado, cucumber and carrot are most typical, but consider greens like watercress or spinach to add flavor and nutrients. Take Marissa’s lead and be creative – and let us know what you come up with!


Sushi Ingredients

  • Sheets of nori seaweed
  • 1/4 lb (or more) of favorite sliced meat or fish
  • Avocado
  • Thinly sliced cucumbers
  • Thinly sliced carrots
  • Any other veggies of choice


Lay the nori shiny side down on a sushi mat. Place sliced meat on top of the nori. (If you’re using an egg, lay it down first).

Sushi with Egg

Spread avocado over meat in a thin layer or lay slices lengthwise about an inch from the bottom of the nori. Add a small pile of thinly sliced veggies at the bottom of the nori, too.

Sushi Roll

Fold the front edge of the nori over the toppings. After each fold, squeeze the roll to secure it tightly. Slice the roll into bite-sized pieces.


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60 thoughts on “Sushi with a Twist”

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  1. What a fantastic idea! I just a place that carries nori as well – I’ll have to give this a try sometime soon. Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

      1. The word “sushi” means vinegar rice. You cannot make sushi without rice. You can make maki without rice!

  2. Couldn’t you mash up some cauliflower and use that instead of rice?

    1. Good idea! I had cauliflower “grits” last night and that worked well

  3. Genius! I’m getting some sushi cravings right now..

    I should check if my local sushi-supplier makes riceless!

  4. Wow these look like a genius snack to carry around. I’ve never really thought about making sushi with roast beef. Trader Joe’s sells uncured Roast Beef and uncured pastrami.

    Roast Beef + Pastrami + Avocado + Spinach + Cucumbers = A very happy me.

  5. I don’t think I’d particularly like roast beef sushi, but using a layer of egg is a great idea. We frequently make tamago for our homemade sushi and it would be easy enough to make it in a thin layer to lay on top of nori.

    I am fond of unagi sushi, though the sugary sauce isn’t strictly primal. Still, unagi + avocado + cucumber = win. 🙂

  6. Looks like a nice fresh new snack to try. I’ll have to give the roast beef version a whirl.

    Finding sushi grade seafood in Vermont is pretty darn close to impossible.

  7. That looks and sound so yummy! I have never had sushi before. For the first 21 years of my life I was afraid of all seafood. But, just a few months ago I through away that fear and now I LOVE seafood, especially wild alaskan salmon.

    I will have to give this exact recipe a try! The roast beef alternative sounds excellent too 🙂

  8. That looks yummy! Tasty, and also an excellent way to get more iodine (through the seaweed). Can’t wait to try it :))

  9. I have to disagree with you on this one Mark. The rice they use for sushi, assuming its properly done in the authentic way, is very tasty even on its own. Its not sushi without the rice.

  10. Rather than sushi, this type of dish should be called nori-maki, or seaweed roll.

  11. Yeah, I have to say I really do like the vinegar-y taste of sushi rice too, Austin. I wonder if I tried it with the egg (or with cauliflower rice) and added a bit of vinegar, if it would be good?
    And for the people who were talking about what the words actually mean:
    sushi = the rice
    sashimi = just raw fish
    maki = a roll with the rice, veggies, meat, seaweed etc, like this recipe shows.

  12. it’s not sushi.
    it’s good. but not sushi.
    a tip: try to eat the ingredients in pic 2 just as it is. and make sushi with fish and rice.

  13. Yes, it is not sushi. Suhsi literally means “it’s sour” – a reference to the vinegar rice. It’s Nori-maki.

  14. This is closer to Korean kimbap than Japanese maki sushi (or even futo-maki sushi, considering all the ingredients. But both of those use rice.

    Now for some minor tips to make life easier (IMHO):

    -Wrap the bamboo mat in plastic wrap to make cleanup easier (cheap sushi restaurant idea).

    -Leave a small lip of exposed nori on the outside edge on the roll to have a “glue point.”

    -Keep a small bottle of “Sushi Rice Vinegar” (homemade is better, but bottled is okay) to use as a binder/glue on the edge of the nori to hold the roll. Water works but not as well.

  15. I don’t know about sushi, but I’m a big fan of ‘meat rolls’. I usually use ham or roast beef, and layer in any combination of condiments, veggies, or even tunafish. I’ve attempted many; my last one was horseradish, spicy brown mustard, red bell pepper, spinach, pickles, and a little shredded cheese, rolled up in a thick piece of roast beef. Sometimes I slice it up like sushi and eat it with a fork, and sometimes I leave it whole and bite it like a rollup sandwich. The combinations are endless and it’s delicious!

  16. I haven’t ever had rolls at sushi restaurants because I can’t eat artificial crab and being from the center of South Dakota there is RARELY any real crab involved… So… before I buy… how does Nori taste? Is it good? What is the flavor? What is the health benefit of nori? Is it comparable to anything else? What could I replace it with? (Sorry for the abundant qqs)


    1. Manda, if you get the chance try some sushi with shrimp or even just veggies. A lot of rolls don’t have anything to do with crab. Also there are excellent (for SD) sushi places in both Sioux Falls and Rapid City should you ever make it to one of those towns!

  17. we’ve been doing this for awhile now. my 2 & 4 year old kids love it. sometimes we’ll use smoked fish. or shredded chicken. usually with avocado and cucumbers. we soften the nori with diluted vinegar and sprinkle just a bit of sea salt over everything before we roll it up. YUM.

  18. not to sound like a doucher, but i’m going to anyways:
    sushi translates to “sour rice”, and is the only “must have” ingredient to make something “sushi”. (the rice becomes sour from the vinegar it is cooked with)
    in fact, other ingredients are not necessary at all to make sushi. the “sushi rolls” that western culture is familiar with are actually called makizushi; strips of raw fish (or sometimes cooked seafood) are sashimi. i love me some sushi. in fact, i keep some of the sweet pickled ginger in my house at all times…but i never thought about making sushi as a snackfood. great idea!

    1. “not to sound like a doucher, but i’m going to anyways:”

      ‘Nuff said.

      Who cares what it is called? It tastes great!

  19. I am thinking of roasting some cauliflower in the oven and taking it out when it’s still pretty firm, then running it over a cheese grater to make little ‘grains’ like rice. Then I’ll add a little homemade sushi rice vinegar to give it that zip. I’ll use that in the roll and it will be like I died and went to heaven!

    Now the best would be if I still had some frozen real wasabi root that I ordered online. But alas that loveliness is all et up!

  20. Those do look good. I’ve had beef sushi before, but this looks way better. (It was like sliced beef & wasabi on a fried wonton wrapper, lame.) My friend’s had some great primal sushi at their wedding (OK, like 1 roll out of 20 was primal, but still) I don’t know how they did it, it looked like they cut a cucumber in a giant spiral and wrapped it around crab meat. It was SO good, but hard to describe. 😉

  21. Lol…everyone’s all caught up in the name…???…if “kleenex” covers all tissues I think “sushi” can cover all nori rolls. It’s just a word folks, which in this case describes something that looks ultra delectable and yummy…I can’t WAIT to try it!

    PS to the post from SD, nori tastes like seaweed (’cause that’s what it is).

  22. Oh yeah, if the nori isn’t your cup of tea, try this rolled in a crisp, fresh leaf lettuce leaf. That goes for any of the other suggestions in this post, too. Yum!

  23. Oh man, I tried this recipe tonight and it was AWESOME!!! I used eggs, turkey, carrots, avacado, and pickles. Sprinkled it with some rice vinegar, rolled it up, dipped it in wasabi, soy sauce, and pickled ginger. This recipe has changed my life. 🙂 Thanks Mark!

  24. I wrap ALL of my food in Nori!!!! It’s wonderful! For instance this evening I had Eel wraps… with spaghetti squash, spinach, green beans & eel… and yesterday I had spinach & salmon belly!

    1. Those eel wraps sound awesome. I may have to go to the korean grocer and get some unagi this week after reading that meal idea.

  25. The authoritative answer, curiously…
    It not so.
    Leave me alone!
    Earlier I thought differently, many thanks for the information.
    Just that is necessary. Together we can come to a right answer. I am assured.

  26. Believe me you do not want your food to be umami because that means it’s been doused in MSG and other chemical flavor enhancers. That’s the origins of the term. A Tokyo study named the flavor achieved by using these chemicals “umami” (fifth flavor) although many still argue that it’s just an enhanced version of the original 4 flavors.

    1. I believe he’s referring to umami as a concept of mouth and stomach indulgence, which is how most people I’ve dealt with in the past have treated it. Seeing as we’re not adding Aji-no-Moto or any specific flavor agents in the recipe, I’d say any umami that arises is the good kind!

  27. That looks SOOO yummy!! I am going through some Carb withdrawals right now (just started the 30 day Challenge!) and I am CRAVING sushi (rice & fish) BIG TIME!! But… I will not give in!! Must eat like Grok!

  28. Another good sticking-things-together layer (like Mark used the egg pancake above) is mashed up avocado.

  29. I know this is an old post but what the hell. I just made these the other night, and OH MY GOD! They are amazing! I don’t own a sushi mat so I used a piece of wax papper, worked pretty well.

  30. I had this for dinner tonight! What a wonderful sushi recipe! I misread the instructions and messed up while filling my roll, but after I got it right, what a mouthgasm!

    This is my second day on the Primal Blueprint (although I’m giving myself time to “test the waters” before I go completely primal), and this definitely gives me incentive to keep going! Will definitely try more recipes in the future!

    Thanks Mark!

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  32. I like the egg idea, but I am going to try chopping up cooked egg white to rice sized pieces and mixing it with paleo friendly mayo made with vinegar. The egg whites have very little flavor, and the vinegar in the mayo will mimick the vinegared rice flavor. A lot of sushi rolls include mayo anyway, though I’m not sure how traditional it is!

  33. Just tried this with egg, spring lettuce, julienne green peppers and some roe (the only ingredients I had in my fridge). It was excellent! For me, the flavor in sushi is from the wasabi, ginger, soy sauce, and nori. I loved it!

  34. Oh, dear, I am realizing that this post to which I’m responding is 4 years old! I have for years asked various sushi bar people to make riceless nori rolls for me. Now I make my own, sooooo simple and I have dispensed with the rolling mat as well: Lay a roasted nori sheet on your plate. On one end smear some salted plum, little avocado chunks, a few slender slices of red pepper and cucumber, some gently cooked fatty salmon and a few pieces of good quality pickled ginger. Roll it up and eat it. It’s beautiful! It’s delicious! And simple! Enjoy!