Sushi Bowls

See the updated version of this recipe HERE.

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 from 2 votes

Sushi Bowls

Forget learning how to roll intricate sushi rolls, get all the same flavors in a free-form sushi bowl.

Total Cost $7.17 recipe / $1.20 serving
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 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
  • 1 1/2 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 1/4-1/2 tsp of sesame seeds over each bowl. Crumble/tear the nori and top each bowl with a small amount (about 1/4 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 rice
After 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 crab
This 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 toppings
Here are the rest of my toppings. You can prepare these as the sushi rice cooks to cut down on total preparation time.

This 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 bowl
Begin 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!