My dad and I recently went to a vegan sushi class in Sussex, hosted by a health shop local to us – Big Life Organics – which we’d visited many times before for healthy vegan inspiration.  Sushi and I have had a bit of a love-hate relationship, and having attempted to make it more than a decade ago (and failing miserably!) I was slightly hesitant.  But it was a new vegan adventure and I went into it with an open mind.

Big Life OrganicsThe teacher, Nicola, is a graduate of the Kushi Institute of Europe who teach macrobiotic cooking and also a co-founder of Big Life Organics.  Nicola suffered from recurrent health problems for many years before switching to a macrobiotic diet, and following years of study is now a skilled chef. The health almost seems to glow from within Nicola, and I was hanging on every word and instruction from start to end.  I also took way too many pictures with my iPhone. Snap happy is an understatement, but my enthusiasm got the better of me!


  • Tempeh (what is it?)
  • Mirin, Shoyu, Brown rice vinegar, Rice syrup
  • Dried shitake mushrooms
  • Cucumber
  • Red, Yellow and Green peppers
  • Nori sheets
  • Sushi rice
  • Pickled ginger
  • Wasabi paste (in the class we had this fun tube of Wasabi, which was super easy to use)


  • Sushi rice needs to be cooked per the box instructions, and then set aside in a wooden bowl (Nicola taughty us how you can store sushi rice outside the fridge provided it’s not in a glass bowl which makes it damp)
  • Cut tempeh into thin strips then deep-fried till golden brown, and flavoured with 2 tbsp of mirin, 2 tbsp of shoyu and 2 tbsp of brown rice vinegar
  • Shitake mushrooms were rehydrated in water for 30 minutes, then flavoured with shoyu, rice syrup and brown rice vinegar (shitake mushrooms help to draw salt out of the body!)
  • Cucumber and peppers all need cutting into think strips.  By the time you’re done there will be a rainbow of colour in front of you to choose from
  • Take a cereal bowl and fill it with lukewarm water

Vegan basic sushiInstruction – Basic Sushi

  • You need a sushi rolling mat – I bought one straight after the class, they are not expensive
  • Take your Nori sheet and look at the two sides.  One will be shiny and one matt – place the shiny side face down on the sushi rolling mat
  • Spread a layer of sushi rice across the entire sheet leaving about an inch gap at the top (BEWARE – if you make the layer too thick as I did at first, the sushi roll doesn’t fold very easily, and ends up looking like the rice wants to escape!)  Press the rice down so it forms a compact layer
  • Now for the fun…  From the prepared ingredients choose a few things to make a combo.  Layer a few pieces in the centre of the rice horizontally (once again, don’t put too much in…see point above)
  • Add a little wasabi or pickled ginger to spice things up
  • Wet your finger and spread across the inch gap at the top, then tuck ‘n roll the Nori till you get to the end and use the wet Nori to stick down
  • Use the sushi rolling mat to really press things together so they sort of “bind”
  • Remove the mat and place the sushi roll with the join facing down
  • Take a sharp knife and cut into pieces (half, half and then half again).  You should get 8 pieces from each roll
  • Between every cut clean the blade of the knife – a quick wipe with a tea towel, it makes the cutting a lot easier

Vegan Dragon sushi rollInstruction – Dragon Roll Sushi (more advanced)

  • Cut a piece of clingfilm large enough to cover a slightly bigger space than the rolling mat.  We used eco-clingfilm which had the most amazing cutter on it.  Took all the pain out of getting a straight line and wasting any
  • Follow the exact same instructions for the Nori sheet (don’t worry about leaving the inch gap though, spread the rice all the way to the corners)
  • Once the rice is pressed down layer the clingfilm on top of the rice
  • Put a hand underneath the mat, one on top of the clingfilm…breathe in…and flip it so the clingfilm is face down.  Nerve-wracking but super exciting!Rolling vegan dragon sushi
  • The Nori is now facing up towards you to follow the same instructions as above to layer in your various ingredients/pastes
  • Rolling takes a bit more patience, roll slowly and make sure the rice and nori sheet is “tucking” into a nice roll as you go…while making sure not to roll in the clingfilm as you go
  • At the end press down with the rolling mat, remove the clingfilm and et voila!
  • Seam down, cut into 8 pieces as before

An hour later, when we had everything at home laid out on the table with a few dipping sauces (soy, sweet chilli and umami), I was still blown away by the whole experience.  How had someone with my limited cooking skills been able to accomplish making something so advanced?  With careful, clear instruction from Nicola, a well-prepared cooking area and amazing encouragement while attempting to go it alone.

I have no doubt we’ll be trying this out for our next picnic, after seeing how easy it is to just wrap the whole roll up and pop it in a backpack for a lunch away from home.

We are also planning a sushi get-together where we can all have a bash at making it, kids included. No doubt the kids will make the most inventive and colourful sushi!

Give it a try, you won’t look back.

Simplifying Happy Choices

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About Michelle

Michelle grew up in a culture where it was normal to eat meat at every meal. Watching close family suffer multiple health problems drove her to learn more about eating for health. After watching Food Inc Michelle took the plunge into veganism and hasn’t looked back since. She is now on a mission to bring vegan inspiration to everyone!