sushi bowls

$7.17 recipe / $1.20 serving

Ah, sushi. So insanely delicious but also so insanely expensive. Sushi has a right to be expensive, seeing as fresh, sushi grade fish can be anywhere in the neighborhood of $16-$20+ per pound. Plus, you have to add in the cost of the expert technique that is involved with the intricate cutting, slicing and rolling. So, when I do shell out some cash for sushi, I feel like it’s well worth it. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to have sushi as often as I crave it. But, of course, I have a solution. These neat little sushi bowls are the perfect budget friendly fix for those days when you’re craving sushi but your bank account is not.

The main cost cutting factor here is that I used imitation crab. Yeah, yeah, I know, imitation crab is “scary”. But once you know what it is all of your fears will float away, I promise. Imitation crab is simply a less expensive fish (usually pollack) with a little crab flavoring mixed in. The “crab” that I bought, was actually a mix of pollack and real crab so it’s even LESS scary (plus it boasts sustainable fishing practices and lots of omega-3s). Besides, I’m just going for a sushi fix, not authenticity. It’s mouth-wateringly delicious and easy, that’s all that counts.

Another thing that makes these sushi bowls great is the fact that all of the difficulty has been removed. You don’t need to know how to roll sushi. You don’t need to know how to perfectly julienne any vegetables. Cut the “toppings” however you see fit, throw them all into a bowl and dive in! I cut mine into different shapes and sizes for fun but you don’t need to be fancy to have it taste great.

Okay, enough intro already…

Sushi Bowls

Sushi Bowl

5.0 from 2 reviews
sushi bowls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $7.17
Cost Per Serving: $1.20
Serves: 6
  • 3 cups uncooked short grain rice (sushi rice) $1.43
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar $0.09
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar $0.02
  • 1 tsp salt $0.05
  • 8 oz. imitation crab $2.99
  • 1 medium avocado $0.99
  • 1 medium cucumber $0.50
  • 1 large carrot $0.21
  • 2 medium radishes $0.12
  • 3 tsp sesame seeds $0.07
  • 1½ sheets nori (seaweed) $0.70
  1. Place three cups of uncooked short grain rice in a medium pot. Cover the rice with cold water, swirl around then carefully pour off the water. Repeat this until the water is no longer cloudy (usually 3-4 rinses).
  2. After draining off the rinse water, add 3 cups of cold water to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat without a lid. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to warm and cook with a lid on for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, turn the heat off and let sit (with the lid still on) for an additional 15 minutes.
  3. Mix together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Microwave for 20 seconds and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Microwave additional time, if needed, to help the sugar and salt dissolve.
  4. Once the rice has finished cooking, dump it out from the pot into a large bowl. Sprinkle half of the vinegar/sugar/salt mixture onto the rice and gently fold it in until it is well incorporated (try not to squish the rice). Sprinkle the remainder of the vinegar mixture on the rice and fold it in again until it is evenly mixed and the rice looks shiny and is fairly sticky.
  1. While the rice is cooking, wash and cut/slice the cucumber, raddish, carrot (I shredded mine) and avocado.
  2. Place one cup of cooked sushi rice in each bowl and divide your toppings evenly between the six bowls. I like to arrange the toppings in a pretty way to make it feel even more like I’m eating “real” sushi.
  3. Sprinkle ¼-1/2 tsp of sesame seeds over each bowl. Crumble/tear the nori and top each bowl with a small amount (about ¼ sheet). See notes below for additional topping ideas, optional condiments and how to store the sushi bowls to enjoy later in the week!


Step By Step Photos

sushi riceAfter cooking the short grain rice, mix in the vinegar/sugar/salt solution. This gives the rice it’s characteristic “sushi rice” flavor and texture.

imitation crabThis is the “crab” that I used. It can be found in the frozen seafood section of most grocery stores. It’s so tasty that I found myself eating little bits as I assembled the bowls.

sushi toppingsHere are the rest of my toppings. You can prepare these as the sushi rice cooks to cut down on total preparation time.

noriThis is the nori I bought. It comes in large sheets that can be cut (or crumbled if you’re me). Luckily, it comes in a resealable package because I only used 1.5 sheets out of 10. I didn’t even notice that it was organic until I took the picture!

assembled sushi bowlBegin the bowl with one cup of sushi rice and then add your toppings!

NOTE: These bowls are extremely versatile so alter them to your tastes. Other proteins that you can use instead of crab include: shrimp (precooked, frozen, salad sized), tofu, hard boiled eggs or grilled chicken. I usually just sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce (which costs next to nothing) but I also found small “a la cart” dishes of wasabi and pickled ginger at the sushi counter in Whole Foods. So, if you won’t be eating this often and don’t want to buy a whole container of those, check with your local sushi vendors to see if they sell small “side portions”. If you happen to have teriyaki sauce or oyster sauce in your refrigerator, they would also make a great condiment for these bowls.

Also worth noting: I bought the crab, nori and short grain rice at Whole Foods Market because I was there and too short on time to do price comparisons at other stores. The short grain rice was a pretty good price and I got it from the bulk aisle which means I was able to buy exactly the quantity that I needed. I felt the nori was kind of expensive but didn’t notice at the time that it was organic. The crab was a really good price although I have never looked at imitation crab prices before to know if it was relatively high or low. The Super Target in my area carries a lot of sushi ingredients and they may be less expensive. So, what I’m trying to say here is: if you do some looking around, you could probably make this dish for even less than I did!

As always, I packed these bowls in resealable containers so that I can take them with me for lunch for the rest of the week. Tell me your coworkers wouldn’t be jealous if they saw you eating one of these beauties:

sushi bowl lunches

Then imagine what they would do if you told them that it only cost you $1.20. BAM!


  1. Very informative sushi piece thank you for the fine read.

  2. Lisa says:

    Made this with brown rice, shredded carrots, sliced cucumber and chunked imitation lobster (it was on sale for $1.88/8 oz. package – score!) for my sushi-loving husband. He reports that it is a success! I topped mine with leftover veggie stir-fry and it was tasty. This is a great recipe for making a bunch of lunches at once for people with different tastes.

  3. johnny108 says:

    Hand rolling sushi isn’t very hard. If you got the rice down- that’s the hard part.
    Ever hear of “Temaki” sushi? Hand rolled, and looks like an ice cream cone of nori, filled with, say, the contents of your sushi bowl…
    (Congratulations on the sushi bowl- real name “Chirashizushi” = scattered sushi)

  4. I tried this yesterday, and it was fantastic. I’m one of those annoying people who takes a recipe and changes everything: we only had long grain brown rice, so I used that (it was good! And the rice vinegar and sesame still gave it a sushi-ish flavor). Also, I’m a vegetarian, so intstead of crab I added some cooked edamame (also good). Finally, for the veggies, I used what I had on hand: carrot and asparagus. But despite my substitutions, it was still a tasty, easy, and best of all cheap dinner.

  5. Chris says:

    I discovered your blog yesterday and I couldn’t wait to try this : it was delicious ! As a French student, I have to say that your recipes are great ! Thank you :)

  6. Chris says:

    I discovered your blog yesterday and I couldn’t wait to try this : it was delicious ! Thank you :)

  7. Anon – That’s not a stupid question :) It’s actually pretty easy to do. Just take a vegetable peeler and peel stripes down the length of the cucumber before slicing. Then, I just cut it in half lengthwise and slice into half moons. You don’t have to cut it like that, I just did it for visual appeal.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This might sound stupid.. but how did you cut the cucumber like that? would it be okay to just cut it as is instead of doing that? Haha.

  9. I didn’t find that refrigeration had a negative effect on the sushi rice :)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Does storing the sushi rice in fridge for a few days affect the taste of the rice? Thanks

  11. For a few more $ you can use a few slices of smoked salmon. More raw-ish fish texture and delicious! Still way cheaper than going out for sushi.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Instead of crab my husband and I just mixed canned salmon in with the avacado cubes and a little lemon pepper and it was delish, we eat it often.

  13. mandi says:

    Awesome idea. Leftover teriyaki chicken over sushi rice is my go to when I have extra sticky rice. It keeps a few days easy. so why not cook tons? Easy to make sushi would be a cone, stuff the goodies in and it rolls up like an ice cream cone! my favorite ever time, lots more nori compared to rice.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I made this tonight and it was fantastic! Thank you for such a smart idea!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Mmmm, will make tonight with canned salmon :)

  16. I want you to know that I am an evangelist for this recipe. I LOVE it. I like having other stuff with it instead of the crab, too, like cooked shrimp, cream cheese, etc.

  17. What a great idea! The opportunities are endless as well. If you have a little more money to play with and can find some wonderful sushi grade fish, this would be just the way to serve it at home. I like the shrimp idea as well. Marinated tofu would be great as well. I love this idea!

  18. Toni says:

    I made this tonight. It was delish! Not sure if this is a misprint or something, but you list to only use 3 cups of water to 3 cups of uncooked rice. Wouldn’t you use 6 cups? I scaled mine down to feed 2, and made 1 cups of rice. I used 2 cups of water, and it worked fine. Thanks!

  19. Great idea and to keep the avocado from going brown, I take paper towels squeeze lemon on them and wrap up the slices while i make my sushi. The lemon prevents that. I have been making sushi for years and never had left over avocado brown on me…:)

  20. Hi Beth! Very creative and colorful use of sushi making supplies. I am constantly trying to convince friends and acquaintances that there are so many more possibilities to the world of sushi than raw fish. It appears from your pictures that you are storing a number of the servings in plastic containers. Are you finding that the rice becomes hard after you have refrigerated it?

  21. Anonymous says:

    sushi rice is yummy. we’ve also used jasmine rice. it’s also delicious!

  22. Lauren says:

    Love this! It’s my favorite! I’m addicted to sushi and now your sushi bowls! Makes a great lunch, also!

  23. This is the best thing ever! My hubby and I LOVE sushi! This is delicious, fast and easy to prepare, and WAYYY cheaper than sushi! This is definitely a family favorite for us now! Thank you for posting!!!

  24. I love imitation crab more than real crab!! I’m weird like that. I’m going to wrap this idea up in rice paper instead of having rice. Neat and clean.

  25. Re avocado – coat the exposed part of leftover avocado with a bit of lemon juice or “fruit fresh” powder, and then olive oil to slow oxidization. The olive oil helps to seal it from the air, so it works better than the citric acid alone.

  26. I did this, and it was freaking awesome! Thank you. :)

    I got some wasabi and smelt roe to dot over the top, and I made eel sauce to drizzle over (equal parts soy sauce, sugar, & mirin, simmered so it can thicken a bit – I do it in the microwave), and it was fantastic. I intend to try it with the ingredients of other types of maki, too.

    And most of the stuff I bought to make it – the sushi rice, nori, sesame seeds, etc. – will make a LOT of bowls.

  27. This is Chirashi Zushi, albeit with more veggies than fish, but still it’s Chirashi Zushi, and you’ve made it look as artful as any sushi restaurant.

    Also, I give the thumbs up to imitation crab. There’s a video somewhere of them making it, which is pretty gross, but still, I’m sure it’s no worse than canned tuna or salmon.

  28. Yes, I actually bought those 99 cent packs of nori when I bought the supplies for this dish! They were SO good! The sweet one was so tasty and would add an amazing element to the sushi bowl. The reason that I didn’t include them in the final recipe is because I didn’t think they would be as widely available as regular nori. But, I will definitely be using them for my sushi bowls in the future!

  29. Anonymous says:

    If you ever just need a little bit of nori, they have little snack sized pre cut roasted sheets of it in the asian aisle at Whole Foods for 99cents its a tiny green or pink package (green is roasted slightly salty, pink is sweet)

  30. Another great use for Krab is in grilled cheese!

  31. These are cute, but how are you going to reheat the rice for your leftovers? Microwaved cucumber/radish gets kind of weird…

    Maybe next time a layer of wax paper between rice/toppings for easy removal, or pack the veggies in a plastic bag?

  32. You could definitely use brown rice but it’s normally not as sticky as white rice. Brown rice has less exposed starch due to the outer nutritious germ layer (in white rice it has been polished off). You can compensate by steaming the brown rice with a bit more water than usual. Or use a blend of brown and white rice for more starchy stickiness.

    I’m gonna try making this with a variety of sauces to get more mileage out of the recipe. Thinking about changing it up with various vinaigrettes and mayo – soy, ginger, wasabi, sriracha, or teriyaki.

  33. as a matter of fact, short grain rice (sushi rice) is often available in the brown variety. They had it in both the bulk section and bagged variety when I was at Whole Foods. I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it would be great and have a nice nutty flavor. If you use long grain brown rice the texture would be quite different. But I’m all for experimentation so give it a shot and let me know how it turns out!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Just wondering: ever tried cooking brown rice as sushi rice? Would it be interesting?

  35. about the avocado- i often slice up avocado for salads that i pre-pack for the week. they do get brown (oxidized) on the outer surface but they still taste great. if you don’t want to eat browned avocado, i would suggest just cutting off the amount that you need from the whole avocado each day. the rest of the avocado that stays connected to the pit and covered with skin will stay nice. just be sure to wrap it up air tight with some plastic wrap or in resealable bag and refrigerate.

    you also may want to keep the nori separate from the sushi bowl while it’s refrigerated to keep it from getting soggy.

  36. Beautifully arranged and great idea! Yum! Thanks so much for your suggestions, very kind and helpful!

  37. This is such an awesome idea! My 3 year old is always begging me for sushi, but with our recent move I haven’t had a lot of time to make some…this would definitely be doable! I’m also not a big fan of imitation crab, but I am open to taste one that’s better than what I can get here. I think we will stick to shrimp.

    I looove the way your blog is set up with meal and serving prices!

  38. I think it looks delicious! And I don’t mind imitation crab! Also, FYI, Trader Joe’s sells crab claw meat for $7.99 a pound – not too bad!

  39. I want to try this, looks so yummy! Do you put any dressing on it? Or just leave it as is with the seasoned rice?

    This would be a great summer picnic meal

  40. Anonymous says:

    If you are storing them for later, how do you keep the avocado from going icky?

    • Kiri says:

      If you kept it separate in a tiny pot, covered with water, that will stop it oxidising and going brown. Then you can just tip out the water, pat it dry and put it back into your dinner.

  41. I love Imitation “K”rab! I also love that you posted how to make that rice, I crave it alllll the time. I am definitely picking this stuff up next time I’m at the store! Thanks!

  42. I LOVE Krab. I used to be ashamed of it, but now I embrace it. I’m totally making these for lunch.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Wow! Sounds great! By the way, there’s imitation crab all over the place in actual sushi restaurants! I would add some pickled ginger to the bowl…

  44. haha! I knew I was going to get that from at least someone! Well, this brand is real crab mixed with pollack (a white fish) and I think it tastes pretty good! But, to each his own :)

  45. Anonymous says:

    Ugh. In no way, shape, or form does imitation crab provide a sushi fix. ;P It just tastes gross.

  46. What a great idea. I’m sending this to my husband. We love sushi!

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