This simple tofu sushi with sweet chili tofu, onion, and creamy avocado is the perfect vegan and vegetarian sushi combo. Let us show how you how to make tofu tasty!
What you’ll love about this sushi
- The filling is simple
- The sweet chili tofu is easy and quick to make
- The whole recipe is very easy to make
- Lot’s of shortcuts
- Much cheaper than takeaway sushi!
- Suitable for vegans and vegetarians
Ingredients and substitutions
You’ll need the usual suspects to make the sushi rice, nori, and the filling ingredients, which are all very simple. You can double-check you have the correct ones by looking at the image below which has everything labeled.
We’ll then discuss which ingredients are essential or can be omitted or substituted.
Nori: This is a pretty essential ingredient for sushi, but if you really didn’t want to make it with sheets of nori you could try substituting with square dampened rice paper wrappers or some sheets of yuba.
Sugar: This is pretty necessary for seasoning your sushi rice and a little goes a long way – I certainly use less of it in this recipe than most traditional sushi rice recipes.
Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar is another necessary condiment for sushi rice but can sometimes be very expensive or hard to find (hint: it’s usually much cheaper at Asian specialty food stores than in your local supermarket). White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be substituted if needed.
Salt: The last pretty-much-indispensable sushi seasoning ingredient. If you are on a low-sodium diet I recommend substituting with a low or no-sodium alternative rather than just omitting.
Avocado: Creamy avocado goes great with the sharp raw onion and sticky sweet chili tofu, but if you don’t like it or can’t get it, omit it. Try substituting with a little of something creamy like cream cheese, crumbled feta, vegan goat cheese, or vegan sour cream.
Vegetable stock: You’ll need this to make the tofu. Make up some with bouillon or stock cubes if you don’t have any to hand. Tomato-based ones would also be great. If you don’t have anything to substitute with, try water with a quarter teaspoon of salt – it won’t be quite as flavorful but will still be quite tasty.
Tofu: An essential ingredient (you can’t make tofu sushi without tofu!), use firm or extra firm. If you can’t or won’t eat tofu you could try substituting with paneer and halve the amount of vegetable stock used.
Sweet chili sauce: You need this and you need a good sweet garlicky brand with some mild heat in it. If for whatever reason you can’t get a hold of some, you can always make your own. If you’re not a fan of sweet chili sauce, you can substitute it with a nice thick teriyaki sauce.
Onion: I use thinly sliced raw yellow onion in this recipe, but you can use whichever type of onion you prefer. If you prefer your onion to have less “bite” then you can soak it (instructions given below):
Water: You need this to make the rice do not use stock of any kind to try and infuse sushi rice with “extra flavor”, it will get all the flavoring it needs from the seasoning and vinegar.
Sushi rice: This is the absolute best for making sushi with, but if you can’t get a hold of any, pudding rice or risotto rice will do in a pinch. I’ve even used quinoa, you’ll just want to make sure it’s very fluffy and not soggy.
How to make it
Sushi is not difficult to make but it does have a few different steps and requires a small amount of skill. I’ve split up the different steps here and accompanied them with some process photos to make it even clearer how to do it, but if you’re an experienced sushi-maker then you can probably scroll on down to the short version in the recipe card
How to make the sushi rice
First, rinse your sushi rice really well. Sushi rice has a lot more starch than normal rice, so will need to be rinsed seven or eight times instead of three or four. It’s a pain but will give you lovely separate grains instead of gooey mush so don’t skip it. Please don’t rinse in a sieve either, the starch really needs to be massaged out of the rice.
Just measure and place the rice in a large saucepan, add water until it covers the rice, and swish the rice around in the water until it’s cloudy (image 1 below), then drain off and repeat. Make sure it is drained very well before you add the water for cooking, or the ratio of rice to water will be off.
Add the water and a pinch of salt to the rinsed drained rice (image 2 below). Cover with a tightly fitting lid and turn the heat to high. When the water is at a steady simmer, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and leave for fifteen minutes. This would be a great time to start making your tofu by the way!
After fifteen minutes take the pan off the heat and leave to one side for a further five minutes. Stir the sugar, salt, and rice vinegar together in a small microwave-safe container and microwave on high for one minute, stirring halfway. after removing the mixture from the microwave, stir until all the sugar and salt are dissolved (image 3 above).
When the rice has finished steaming, remove the lid, pour in the seasoned vinegar, and use a fork to gently fluff up and mix the rice until the seasoning has been absorbed and well-distributed (image 4 above).
If you have plenty of time before you need to make sushi, cover the rice and leave until at room-temperature, then transfer to the fridge to use later when needed. Note that I don’t like keeping my sushi rice in the fridge longer than a day though or it starts to dry out.
If you don’t have a lot of time and want to eat your sushi as soon as possible (this is me) just tup the sushi rice out onto a large chopping board or a sheet of baking paper and spread it out into as thin a layer as possible.
It should cool enough at room temperature to be of use within 20-30 minutes, depending on how cold your kitchen is. You can even hurry the process along with a fan if you’re really in a sushi-eating frenzy.
How to make the sweet chili tofu
The sweet chili tofu is much easier and more versatile to make than the sushi rice. It’s a good idea to start making it while the sushi rice is cooking as it will also need to cool down.
Wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel or dishcloth and apply pressure to lightly press for just a minute or two. Then all you do is slice the tofu into one-centimeter-wide strips. Then heat a large wide saucepan or skillet on high with the oil in it – note that if you are cooking with gas medium-high should be hot enough.
Add the tofu strips when hot enough to sizzle (image 5 below), and leave undisturbed for one minute until the bottom is golden. Carefully flip the strips and leave thirty seconds on another side, and repeat until all the sides are golden (image 6).
I’m going, to be honest here and say that three golden sides are normally enough for me and I don’t bother browning the fourth side! If you have an oven or an air-fryer you can just brush with a little oil instead and heat on 350ºF, turning every five minutes, until golden brown, but it is much faster in the skillet.
Now mix the vegetable stock and sweet chili sauce together and pour into the pan (image 7 above). When the sauce is bubbling and starting to boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and allow it to bubble away.
Flip or gently toss the strips of tofu every few minutes to prevent sticking until most of the sauce is gone and the tofu is nice and sticky (image 8 above), which should take between six to ten minutes. Take off the heat and leave to one side to cool while the rice cools.
This method gives you really flavorful tofu that doesn’t need to be pressed for ages, with a chewy exterior, soft seasoned interior (it absorbs some of the broth), and sticky outside.
Put it all together
When everything has cooled down, you’re ready to assemble your tofu sushi. Thinly slice the onions from root to tip and slice the avocado. If you don’t love the sharp bite of raw onion (although it goes really well when thinly sliced with the chewy sweet chili tofu and creamy avocado) you can soak your onions.
To soak your onions, add them thinly sliced to a cup of water with a quarter teaspoon of salt added for half an hour, then drain and pat dry. If you’re going to do this completely optional step (I don’t), it would be best done when the sushi rice is cooking so you don’t have to wait another half an hour.
Get a bowl of water and your bamboo mat. Dampen your hands with water, grab a big handful of sushi rice, drop on the nori (always shiny side down to the bamboo mat). Use your hands to spread the sushi rice around, leaving a one-centimeter gap without rice at the top of the sheet (image 9 below).
Just below the middle of the sheet, place a line of sliced onions, a line of sliced avocado, and then the tofu strips on top (image 10 below). Dampen the top of the sushi with a little water, tuck the sushi edge closest to you over the filling (image 11) using the bamboo mat (just push it back in if any filling falls out), and evenly roll with two hands until the seam side is down (image 12).
Transfer to a sheet of baking paper on the counter while you make the other sushi rolls (around eight, so seven more). When you’ve made all the rolls (make sure they’re not touching on the baking paper or they’ll stick together), grab a sharp knife and a chopping board.
Transfer the sushi to the chopping board one roll at a time (starting from the ones you made first as they’ll be better sealed underneath). Dip your sharp knife in the bowl of water as needed – this will stop the nori sticking to the blade – and cut the sushi roll into eight even pieces.
Serve immediately or cover tightly and transfer to the fridge until needed. Serve with soy sauce for dipping (or coconut aminos if you’re sensitive to soy), wasabi paste, and pickled ginger. Some edamame would make a great starter when having this sushi as the main course.
This tofu sushi can be kept at room temperature for two hours or stored tightly covered in the fridge for up to four days. It’s perfect to bring in your lunchbox.
Technically you could but I wouldn’t – nori does very badly during defrosting. You can however freeze the rice and toppings separately for a future date for up to three months, then take out, defrost in the fridge overnight, and use to assemble sushi,
- 2½ cups uncooked sushi rice
- 2¾ cups water
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar plus 1 Tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Sweet Chili Tofu
- 2 Tablespoons oil (canola, sunflower etc.)
- 12.5 oz firm tofu (350g)
- ½ cup sweet chili sauce (120ml)
- 1 cup vegetable stock (240ml)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 large avocado
- 8 sheets of nori
- Rinse the sushi rice very well to remove the starch, around 7 times.
- Drain the rice and add it to a pot with a tight-fitting lid.
- Add in the water, a pinch of salt put on the lid, and heat on high until starting to boil.
- Lower the heat to the lowest setting, and let cook for 15 minutes (covered).
- Remove from the heat and let sit for five minutes.
- Microwave the vinegar, salt, and sugar together, for one minute stirring halfway, then stir when done until the salt and sugar has dissolved
- Add the vinegar mixture to the rice and stir quickly. To help the rice cool down faster so you can make your sushi, I spread it out on a large chopping board or sheet of baking paper. It will take about 20-30 minutes at room temperature to cool down if spread out.
Sweet Chili Tofu
- Briefly press the tofu, for 15 minutes max. Slice into 1 cm thick strips.
- Add the oil to a large wide skillet or frying pan and heat on high. Add the tofu strips and let cook for one minute.
- Flip the strips to an unbrowned side and let sit for 30 seconds. Repeat twice more until all sides are golden brown (honestly I just do three sides!).
- Mix together the sweet chili sauce and the vegetable stock and add to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-high when the mixture starts bubbling.
- Cook for between 6 - 10 minutes, tossing gently to coat the tofu with the sauce until it has thickened and any remaining sauce just coats the tofu. Put to one side to cool.
Assemble the Tofu Sushi
- Set out a bamboo mat for rolling the sushi. If you don’t have a mat, a slatted placemat or a sheet of baking paper will do in a pinch. Thinly slice the onion and the avocado. If you don't like raw onion or find it too strong I would suggest soaking it in salty water for between 10-15 minutes (ideally do this earlier, for example when you are making the sushi rice).
- Lay a sheet of nori on top (shiny side down) and put roughly half a cup to two-thirds of a cup of sushi rice on it.
- Using wet fingers spread out the rice so that the nori is covered in a single layer with no spaces, leaving a centimeter of nori free for sealing the roll at the top edge furthest away from you.
- Place your filling ingredients just below the middle in a horizontal line. Lay the strips of onion, then the strips of avocado, then the sushi strips (just join them up if they are not long enough or break them up if they are too long).
- Dampen the rice-free nori edge with a little water, grab the mat close to you, lift up the mat and tuck it over quickly the filling to secure it, and continue to tightly roll with pressure from both hands until the dampened end is underneath (seam side down).
- Repeat for all the rolls.
- Using a sharp knife, wet it to stop it from sticking to the nori and slice each sushi roll into eight evenly sized pieces.
- Serve immediately or leave to chill in the fridge until you're ready to eat.
Serving Size10-11 pieces
Amount Per Serving Calories 310Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 0mgSodium 601mgCarbohydrates 40gFiber 3gSugar 17gProtein 9g