These sweet potato sushi rolls are filled with chewy rice, crispy oven-baked sweet potato, avocado, crunchy cucumber and umami-rich nori sheets. They make for a great vegan sushi roll recipe that's easy to prepare right at home. Perfect for a date night in or even make them with your kids!
You know, the thing with making homemade sushi rolls at home is that it really isn't that hard to do at all. Your first roll, and second, might not be the most perfect-looking sushi roll out there. But unless you are trying to really impress someone, then your not-so-perfectly-round sweet potato maki should do it.
So, I say it is time to de-complicate and casualize the world of sushi roll making!
I learned more about how to make vegan sushi at home when I posted my breaded avocado sushi rolls a while back. And since then, sushi-making at home just became normal-meal-making. Because after a few rolls, once you get the hang of it, you will realize how easy they are to make. And dang, there is so much fun food you can stuff in these rolls!
But today, I'll stick with a sweet potato sushi recipe, which is by far one of our most favorite fillings to use when making vegetarian sushi rolls.
We are trying to eat more sweet potatoes as they are so healthy and so fiber-rich and so colorful and so much of everything. But also soooooo darn sweet. This is not surprising given the name, but I feel like sweet potatoes need help tampering down that sweet intensity when used in savory dishes.
And sushi rolls are just perfect for that. The sweet potatoes' natural candied flavor balances out perfectly with the savory crispy panko coating and the umami-rich nori sheets. And breading the sweet potato with panko creates a roll that tastes and feels close to a classic sweet potato tempura roll, but in a much healthier way.
So, I hope this post acts like a gentle little push you need to grab that old & forgotten sushi mat and start making sushi!
What you will need
You really don't need much to make your own sushi rolls (and even what's listed below can usually be swapped for something else), but here is a short list on basics to help you make sushi at home.
I would say that although not essential, having a sushi mat will help you a lot to roll the sushi. It is not hard to get and actually not expensive at all. You can easily find sushi mats online for under 10$ (just like this sushi mat that you can get on Amazon).
But, if you don't have a bamboo mat right now and feel the urge to make a sushi roll at this exact moment, then you can follow this method from the minimalist baker on how to roll sushi without a mat.
To be as classic as possible, you could prepare Japanese white sushi rice. It is a short-grain white rice that gets chewy & sticky after cooked and combined with a sweet vinegary mixture.
I have to admit though that I rarely use this kind of sticky rice. I prefer short-grain brown rice, which I find has a similar chewiness to the classic sushi rice and also, after combining it with the sushi seasonings, gets sticky enough to make amazing sushi rolls. The hearty and fiber-rich brown rice is so much more satisfying, but feel free to use the classic white rice if you prefer!
To flavor the sushi rice, you will add rice vinegar, maple syrup and salt.
Nori sheets (or seaweed sheets) are red algae that are dried (turn dark after drying) and compacted into the shape of a thin sheet.
You don't absolutely need nori sheets to make sushi, but I find that, aside from bringing so much umami and ocean-y flavor to a fish-free sushi, using it helps hold the sushi rolls tight together. This can help you succeed if you are just starting to make sushi yourself.
You can now find nori sheets pretty much everywhere, just look in the Asian section in your grocery store.
Sushi rolls are so incredibly versatile! You can really use any ingredient you like and flavor them the way you want. I recommend looking for a combination of soft + crispy + crunchy with a savory sauce.
In this case, the soft sweet potatoes are coated with crispy panko breading and combined with crunchy cucumbers + creamy avocado.
How to make the crispy sweet potato sticks
- Peel and chop the sweet potato into the shape of sticks of about 1 to 1 ½ inches thick.
- In a bowl, combine the flour with the water. In a second bowl, combine the panko with garlic powder and salt.
- Then, taking one sweet potato stick at a time, cover with the flour-water mixture, then shake the excess by hitting the side of the bowl. Transfer the sticks to the panko mixture and make sure it covers all surfaces by gently pressing with your hands.
- Transfer the sweet potato strips to a parchment paper-covered baking sheet and keep going until you use all the sweet potato sticks. Bake for 30 minutes.
Make the sushi rice
- Cook the sushi rice according to the packaging instructions, which will vary depending on the type of rice you use and the cooking method as well.
I follow the instructions from Lisa at Healthy Nibbles and Bits to cook my short-grain brown rice in the Instant Pot. If you would like to use classic Japanese rice, then check out these sushi rice cooking instructions by Gimme Some Oven. You can use a rice cooker as well if you have one.
But no matter if you use brown or white (or black!) rice, aim for having about 3 cups of cooked rice, which will give you about 4 sushi rolls.
- To the 3 cups of cooked rice, add the rice vinegar, maple syrup and salt. Stir to combine and set aside so it cools down for a little.
How to roll the vegan sweet potato sushi rolls
Once you have all your ingredients ready to go, then you can start to roll.
- Lay the bamboo sushi mat on a counter surface and add a sheet of nori over it (rough side facing up or shiny side facing down).
- Then, distribute the rice over the nori sheet and using wet fingers, spread the grains evenly on the surface all the way to the sides and bottom of the nori while making sure to leave about 2 inches free of rice on the top side of the nori sheet. Make sure to wet your fingers slightly to prevent the rice from being too sticky while spreading it around.
- Leave about 2 inches free of any fillings at the bottom, and then place the sweet potato sticks, avocado and cucumber over the rice.
- Then, lift the mat while holding the fillings with your fingers and start rolling. Tuck the fillings as you roll as much as you can using the mat to help you keep everything tight.
- When you reach the top, wet the section that's free of rice (to help the sealing) and finish rolling all the way. Gently press on the roll to help seal the nori and use the mat to shape it in a nice tube, if needed.
- When done rolling, you can use a sharp knife to cut the roll in maki.
Pro tips when making vegan sushi rolls
- Let the rice cool down before spreading on the nori (warm rice can change the texture of the nori)
- Don't put too much rice when spreading on the nori or the maki will be too thick. You want a layer that really covers the nori without any empty spaces, but without big clumps of rice.
- When covering the sweet potato sticks, make sure to remove the excess of batter before rolling in the panko. Too much batter can create a texture that's too chewy.
- Make sure to use panko breadcrumbs and not regular breadcrumbs to get the full crispy effect.
- You can cover your sushi mat with a large plastic bag to help keep it clean.
- To help cut the sushi roll, make sure to use a very sharp knife (so it does not squeeze the fillings out as you cut) and wet the blade if the rice sticks to it.
Watch how to make them
This sushi is amazing with spicy mayo. Simply combine vegan mayo (store-bought or homemade cashew mayo) with sriracha, tasting along the way to get to your preferred spicy level.
You can also serve the maki with a seaweed salad and miso soup.
Also serve with:
- soy sauce
- peanut sauce
- pickled ginger
- teriyaki sauce
- Green onion
- hoisin peanut butter sauce
- sprinkle with sesame seeds
How to make this vegetarian sushi roll recipe gluten-free
It is easy to make gluten-free sweet potato sushi by swapping a few ingredients:
- Instead of using wheat flour, you could use brown rice flour instead. If the batter looks too thin, then you can sprinkle a little more flour (you might need up to ¼ cup more of brown rice flour compared to wheat flour). You want a batter that's just thick enough to hold on to the sweet potato sticks, but not too thick so it does not create a heavy layer over the veggies.
- Make sure to use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs as well.
- Choose a gluten-free tamari instead of regular soy sauce for dipping.
How many sushi rolls does this recipe make?
With about 3 cups of cooked rice (1 ½ dried rice), you will be able to make 4 rolls, which is about what you will need to feed 2 people. In this case, you will end up with extra breaded sweet potato sticks.
I actually often cook 3 cups of dried rice, which gives me plenty of rice to use most of the sweet potato sticks and about 8 rolls total. It makes enough for us and our kids plus our lunches the day after. In that case, double the amount of rice seasonings to add to your rice too.
You might have more sweet potato sticks than you need. You can store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for 1-2 days, although their texture won't be as good after a while.
You can store leftover maki also in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container. The texture will change slightly as the rice can dry up, but it can still make for a great quick lunch.
My sister's storage pro-tip: If you have more rolls than you know you can eat, then don't cut them right away and store the rolls, still whole, in an air-tight container in the fridge. They simply store better that way and you can even eat them just like that, holding the rolls like a burrito, straight from the fridge.
More fun vegan 'fishy' recipes
- Vegan fish tacos
- Portobello poke bowl
- Quinoa and tomato-tuna poke bowl
- Crispy avocado sushi
- Shiitake mushroom sushi rolls
- Vegan sushi bake
More sweet potato recipes you might like
I hope you enjoy these sweet potato sushi rolls as much as we do! If you try them, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how they were. Your feedback is so helpful!
Sweet Potato Sushi Rolls
For the sushi rice
- 1 ½ cups short grain brown rice - or choose a classic Japanese white sushi rice if you prefer, see notes
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
- ½ tsp salt
For the crispy sweet potato
- ½ cup white whole wheat flour - or brown rice flour for a gluten-free recipe, see notes
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups panko - choose gluten-free panko if needed
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 large sweet potato - peeled and sliced into long sticks of about 1 ½ inch thick.
For the roll
- nori sheets
- cucumber - julienned
- avocado - sliced
For serving (optional)
- soy sauce - or tamari for gluten-free option
- spicy mayo - see notes
- sesame seeds
- pickled ginger
Make the sushi rice
- Start by cooking the sushi rice accordingly to the packaging instructions (see notes). Once cooked, add the rice vinegar, maple syrup and salt and gently stir to combine. Set aside so the rice can cool down.
Make the crispy sweet potato
- Pre-heat the oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, add the flour + water and stir to combine until there are no clumps anymore. It should be a thick batter. In a second medium bowl, combine the panko, garlic powder and salt.
- Then, taking one stick of sweet potato at the time, dip into the batter covering all surfaces, then hit the side of the bowl to remove the excess before transferring to the bowl with the panko. Then, using your hands, cover and press gently on the sweet potato so the panko stick to its surface. When completely covered, then transfer on the baking sheet. Keep going until you are done with all of the sweet potato pieces.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping half way through.
Roll the sushi
- Lay the sushi mat on a surface and add a nori sheet over (rough side facing up). Then, use your fingers to cover the nori sheet with the rice (not too thick) spreading it evenly on all its surface while making sure to leave 2-3 inches free of rice on the top portion of the nori. You can slightly wet your fingers if the rice sticks to them too much.
- Then, leave about 2 inches free of filling at the bottom and add the breaded sweet potato, cucumber and avocado slices (see pictures in the blog and video). Then, lift the bottom of the mat with your thumbs while holding the filling with your fingers and start rolling while tucking the fillings inside of the roll. When you get to the top, wet the surface that's free of rice and then finish the rolling. Gently press to help seal the roll and shape it.
- Use a super sharp knife to cut the roll into maki (wet the blade to prevent the rice to stick to it if needed).
- Drizzle a spicy mayo and sprinkle sesame seeds over the maki and serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, if desired.
- Brown rice cooking instructions: read the short grain brown rice cooking instruction from Lisa at Healthy Nibbles to cook your brown rice either on the stove or in the Instant pot. Use about 3 cups of cooked rice when combining with the rice seasonings.
- If you prefer to use a classic Japanese white sushi rice, then read the post from Gimme some Oven to help you cook sushi rice properly. Again, use a total of 3 cups of cooked rice to add the seasonings.
- To make the spicy mayo, combine vegan mayo (I use my cashew mayo) with as much sriracha as you want.
- You should be able to make 4 rolls with the 3 cups of cooked rice. You will have some leftover crispy sweet potato that you can keep for snacking for later. The sweet potato unfortunately don't store very well as they lose on their crispiness with time (and can also get too chewy).
- You can also double the amount of rice to cook (double the rice seasonings too!) and prepare 8 rolls, which will allow you to use most of the crispy sweet potatoes (I found that the sweet potato inside the rolls stored better, actually).
- Store any leftover sushi in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.