Ultimate guide to the Japanese sushi sandwich | recipe & more

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 13, 2020

The sushi sandwich is an increasingly popular hybrid between the Western ‘sandwich,’ a Japanese dish called Onigirazu, and sushi.

People love this fun dish because it mixes popular ingredients with the flavors of sushi.

It’s easy to make this dish at home or buy from gourmet grocery shops, and in this article, I’ll take a look at what it is and how to make it.

LEarn how to make these sushi sandwiches

Many specialty restaurants also offer sushi sandwiches for dining in or take out.

The sushi sandwich is a popular hit on social media like Instagram because it’s an aesthetically attractive dish.

Plus, it’s kind of easy to make, and you can just pile on all your favorite ingredients and toppings to create your own unique Instagrammable lunch, snack, or dinner!

This hybrid sandwich is a great option for fish, meat, vegetarians, and vegans alike because it’s easy to customize each sandwich to suit all individual food preferences.

What is a sushi sandwich?

This dish is initially inspired by a rice dish called Onigirazu, from Japan. It looks like a western-style sandwich, but it is made of rice and seaweed and packed full of delicious seafood, meat, or vegetarian ingredients.

If you don’t like raw fish, this dish is for you – it can taste like sushi rolls, but you can substitute ingredients and forget all about raw fish!

The sushi sandwich is the perfect food for those who are bored of having the same old for lunch and want to switch things up.

For this sandwich, you can use many of the same ingredients you would use to make traditional seafood or vegan sushi rolls like these ones we made here.

It’s easy to pack up for lunch, it’s compact like a bread sandwich, and it can be prepared as part of meal-prep for the next day, as it keeps its freshness for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

So, you might’ve heard of sushi sandwiches being called Onigirazu, but did you know it’s actually not the same thing and incorrect to call them one and the same?

There is a distinction between Onigirazu and a sushi sandwich.

The former is made using plain white rice, while the latter is a seasoned dish made with vinegar-soaked rice.

Sushi sandwich is the term to use for Western and American styles of this dish.

The sushi sandwiches you’ll find for sale at grocery sushi fridges like the ones at Whole Foods are not quite like the Japanese versions.

These sandwiches are great options for dieters and considered low-calorie foods, as, on average, 1 serving of vegan sushi sandwich contains about 150 calories while those with ingredients such as salmon containing about 250 calories per serving.

Now that you’ve read about all the possible ways to make a sushi sandwich, it’s time to get cooking and make your own delicious version in the comfort of your home with the kitchen tools you already own!

Sushi sandwich with smoked salmon and fried tofu

In this recipe, you'll learn to make a delicious smoked salmon and tofu sandwich. Tofu and salmon are easy to find ingredients and healthy for you. Tofu is naturally gluten-free and a great source of calcium and iron. 125g of tofu has only 95 calories. Smoked salmon contains lots of Vitamin D, Vitamin B-6, and Magnesium.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword Sushi
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 250kcal
Author Joost Nusselder
Cost $6

Ingredients

  • 4 cups short-grain rice
  • 4 large nori sheets
  • ounces smoked salmon
  • 2 blocks tofu
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • ounces sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • ounces cream cheese
  • 1 ounce cornstarch
  • ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 180 ml cold water
  • 1 handful of chopped chives
  • teriyaki sauce
  • soy sauce

Instructions

Preparing the rice

  • Before you start putting your sandwich together, you must cook the rice.
  • You must cook your sushi rice for about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. The rice should be firm. Once the water evaporates completely, your rice is ready.
  • In a large bowl, mix 1tbsp salt, sugar, and vinegar and heat up the mixture in the microwave for 1 minute, or until the sugar melts.
  • Pour this mixture over the cooked rice and mix well.
  • Allow rice to cool to room temperature. It's much easier to mold the rice once it's cooler.

Preparing the fillings

  • In a bowl, whisk together the egg, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1 tbsp salt.
  • Slowly mix in the cold water and stir.
  • Slice the tofu into small strips and marinate it in this batter.
  • Heat the canola oil and fry for a few minutes on each side until crispy and golden.
  • Cut up all your filling ingredients and put them in small bowls.

Assembling the sushi sandwich

  • Lay down your plastic wrap on the flat surface you are using and place 4 Nori sheets in a square shape.
  • Place ½ a cup of your cooked rice in the center of the seaweed and lay it out in a diamond shape. Use moist hands or a moist rice paddle to make sure the rice is not sticky.
  • Spread out the cream cheese onto your rice evenly as this is your base layer.
  • Add all of your fillings in layers in this order: tofu, salmon, avocado, cucumber, chives. Make sure that you don't overstuff your sandwich as it can lose its shape.
  • Add another ½ cup of rice on top of your fillings and maintain that diamond shape to cover all the filling. Make sure to pat lightly and avoid thick chunks of rice.
  • Use the plastic wrap to pull one edge of the Nori sheet towards the middle of the rice and press down hard to make the seaweed and rice stick together.
  • Repeat the same step for the opposite corner.
  • Now, fold the other two corners towards the middle and seal them using the plastic wrap.
  • Press lightly to seal the Nori sheet and rice.
  • Your finished sandwich should look like a square package that can be cut into two triangles.

Notes

1 serving of this sandwich contains about 250 calories, so it's a healthy option for sandwich lovers looking to skip out on the bread.
For this recipe, you need some plastic wrap to lay down on your cutting board or flat surface.
The sandwich will be made and wrapped with the help of this plastic wrap.
If you want to make your work easier, try a special sushi sandwich-making device that will help you fold the sandwich just right every time.

My top choices of ingredients for this recipe are:

Check out all of the authentic ingredients I use in all of my dishes here in my Japanese ingredients list.

Before serving, let the sandwich cool in the fridge for one hour or overnight if you are taking it to work the next day.

If you want to make a more accessible version of this dish, try using a large pan.

Cover the whole pan with nori sheets, followed by a layer of rice, your fillings, then cover in another layer of rice and a final layer of Nori sheets.

Cut into small bite-sized chunks. It will be like a sushi sandwich pie.

Try this delicious dish today and savor all the flavors of seafood sushi rolls in convenient hand-held sandwiches.

Here’s Cooking with chef Dai with a great explanation:

The Origins of Onigirazu

The Onigirazu sandwich has a specific inventor and history. It is inspired by traditional Japanese rice balls.

In 1991, Tochi Ueyama first shared this sandwich in a popular manga series called Cooking Papa, which aired in Japan.

He was inspired by his wife, who made this sandwich for the family. It quickly became popular, and people started making their own versions of this manga dish at home.

Onigirazu refers to a rice ball that doesn’t need to be molded into a triangular shape like onigiri.

Sushi sandwiches around the world

You’re probably wondering what kinds of ingredients you can make sushi sandwiches with.

Typical fillings include

There are also specialty sandwiches that use unique ingredients such as sweet potato, spinach, radishes, daikon, mushrooms, oysters, sashimi.

Did you know that different countries have their own versions of sushi sandwiches that are inspired by the local cuisine?

In the United States, the BLT, or bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich is very popular and has been adapted to the sushi sandwich.

Instead of adding fish, tofu, and pickled veggies, the American sushi sandwich includes hot sriracha sauce, smoked bacon, small pieces of tomato, and iceberg lettuce.

Australians enjoy adding canned tuna, capers, and mayonnaise to their sushi sandwich. This recipe is like the famous tuna and mayo sourdough subway sandwich.

In Western European countries, people enjoy stuffing their sushi sandwiches with luncheon meat, poached eggs, and lettuce or cilantro.

You can also use pork, beef, and chicken instead of luncheon meat.

In Vietnam, there is a popular gluten-free sushi sandwich with chicken cooked in teriyaki sauce, Dijon mustard, carrots, and butter lettuce.

Vegans in Japans prefer Tofu Katsu Onigirazu, which is made of sushi rice, fried katsu tofu, lettuce, carrots, pickled radish, pickled burdock root, and teriyaki sauce.

You can make much in the same way as this vegan tofu sushi recipe we wrote about here.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.