Can You Eat Sushi on Keto?


Although the fish, seafood, and veggies that are stuffed inside sushi are low in carbs, the starchy rice coating and accompanying sugary dipping sauces are both high in carbs.  Therefore, enjoying sushi while following the Keto diet can be a challenge.  Low carb options on the typical sushi bar menu are limited to Sashimi. 

sushi keto

Sashimi is a type of sushi made without rice, most commonly using tuna or salmon.  However, any type of fish or seafood may be used, so this is where you can get some variation.  There are many different types of sashimi that you can try; such as, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallop, crab, sea urchin, and squid.  The good news is that most types of fish and shellfish are low in carbs or carb-free, so you can safely enjoy all types of sashimi on Keto.

Cauliflower Sushi is another way to enjoy low carb sushi.  You can learn to make your own Keto-friendly sushi at home using cauliflower rice.  Rolling your own sushi at home can be a lot of fun and it’s a great way to customize the ingredients so that they work for your special dietary needs. 

Is Sushi High in Carbs?

Fresh fish and veggies should be considered health food, right?  It isn’t the fish and veggies that you should be concerned about, it is the rice. Sushi rolls contain mostly rice and only a small amount of fish and veggies. You’ll likely need to eat quite a few pieces of sushi to feel satiated.  Consuming just a few pieces of sushi made with rice and dipped in sweet sauce has the potential to quickly become a ticking carb bomb!

Low Carb Tip:   Order Sashimi (sushi without rice) or ask for rolls wrapped in cucumber.  You can also ask the chef to “go easy on the rice”. Be sure to fill up with a side salad or a side of protein-packed edamame.

Carbs in Sushi Rice

Sushi rice contains roughly 65 grams of carbohydrates per half cup.  Just two pieces of sushi made with this starchy rice can easily clock in at over 30 grams of carbs.

Most types of sushi are rolled with a thick layer of sticky sushi rice.  A special short grain rice is typically used in sushi, which is higher in starch and carbs than other types of rice. Because the rice is packed tightly, it is easy to consume a high amount of carbs by eating just a few pieces of sushi. 

Once cooked, the rice is then seasoned with a rice vinegar called Su.  Although su tastes slightly sweet, the silver lining is that this rice vinegar is almost virtually carb-free.

Sushi Rice Substitute

Yep, you guessed it… Cauliflower rice is a popular substitute for sushi rice. Not only is cauliflower sushi low in carbs, it makes the perfect alternative to regular sushi.

Unfortunately, you won’t find cauliflower sushi at restaurants, so you’ll have to make it yourself at home.  Keep reading for two delicious recipes for sushi using cauliflower rice later in this article…

Origin of Sushi

sushi calories carbs

First developed in Southeast Asia and Southern China, the original type of sushi was first introduced to Japan in the 8th century.  Back then, fish was salted and wrapped in fermented rice as a means of preservation. Fermented rice was used to store fish, keeping it fresh for up to a year. 

Sushi actually refers to a dish of vinegary rice. (Rice vinegar in Japan is called “su”. ) Sushi is a Japanese word that translates to “sour rice.”  It is the fermented rice that is the main part of the dish, even though most North Americans think of it as raw fish. 

The rice was originally served with various toppings, which may include raw fish. The sushi we see today has evolved into a roll that is shaped inside a thin sheet of seaweed and then cut into bite sized pieces.

Carbs, Calories, and Fiber in Sushi

View the chart below for the carb counts of basic sushi ingredients:

Ingredient Calories Carbohydrates Fiber
Sushi Rice 60 per 1/4 cup 35 grams per ¼ cup 0 grams
Seaweed 9 per sheet 6 grams per sheet 0 grams
Pickled Ginger 40 per ounce 4 grams per ounce 0 grams
Rice Vinegar 3 per tablespoon 0 grams 0 grams
Fish (Salmon) 186 per 4 ounces 0 grams 0 grams
Fish (Tuna) 145 per 4 ounces 0 grams 0 grams

Most types of sushi that contain rice clock in at roughly 250 calories and 30 grams of carbs per piece!  Some rolls may also include a sweet sauce, pickled vegetables, or tempura breading.  A single shrimp tempura roll can have as many as 75 grams of carbs!   This is much too high for the Keto diet

By comparison, sushi made with cauliflower rice has only 7 grams of carbs per serving.  That’s an exponential carb savings!

What to Order at the Sushi Bar on Keto

At most sushi bars, you’ll find a low carb option called sashimi.  This is type of sushi made of fresh fish, without the rice.  Feel free to order any of the following options while on the Keto diet:

Sashimi Name What Is It?
Ahi, Katsuo, Maguro, or Bincho Raw Tuna
Aji or Saba Raw Mackerel
Amaebi Raw Shrimp
Anago Saltwater Eel, fried or boiled
Aoyagi Raw Clams
Ebi Cooked Tiger Shrimp
Escolar Raw Butterfish
Hamachi or Hamachi Toro Raw Yellow Tail or belly
Hirame Raw Halibut
Hokigai Cooked Clams
Hotate Raw Scallop
Ika Squid (only tentacles are cooked, body of squid is raw)
Ikura Salmon Roe (fish eggs)
Iwashi Raw Sardine
Kani Cooked Crab
Sake or Sake Toro Raw Salmon/Salmon Belly
Tai Raw Red Snapper
Tako Cooked Octopus
Tamago Sweet Egg Omelet (cooked)
Toro Blue Fin Belly (raw)
Tsubugai Whelk Clam (raw)
Umi Masu Ocean Trout (raw)
Unagi Barbequed Freshwater Eel
Uni Sea Urchin (raw)

Keto Smoked Salmon Sushi Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cauliflower head, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon Canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons Su (rice vinegar)
  • Smoked salmon, cut into thin slices
  • 2 ounces Mascarpone cheese
  • Avocado, thinly sliced

Preparing Cauliflower Rice:

  1. Add oil to frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the cauliflower, sauté until the cauliflower is tender, 2 minutes.  Do not overcook.
  3. Lay cooked cauliflower rice over paper towel lined platter to dry out further as it cools.  Sprinkle with rice wine vinegar.  Once it cools it will be ready to handle.

Assembling Sushi Rolls

  1. Take ½ sheet of nori and press a layer of cauliflower rice over the rough side, enough to cover entire nori sheet.
  2. Press the cauliflower layer down firmly with hands and then flip over nori sheet.  Cauliflower rice should now be on the bottom (against to the sushi mat).  The smooth side of the nori sheet should now be facing up.
  3. Lengthwise along the center of the sheet, place a small amount of mascarpone cheese.  Arrange thinly sliced smoked salmon on top of cheese, along with a few slices of sliced avocado. 
  4. Curl mat tightly around the roll like a blanket, pressing firmly to form a roll.  Slowly roll the mat around the sushi roll, continuing to form into a log shape.
  5. Cut using a sharp knife into 5 or 6 pieces using a sawing motion to retain shape. 
sushi keto approved

Low Carb California Roll Recipe (Vegan)

There are a few vegan sushi options available at sushi bars.  The most popular vegan option is the California roll, consisting of cucumber and avocado wrapped in seasoned sushi rice.  Let’s keep this recipe Keto by substituting the starchy rice for low carb cauliflower rice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cauliflower head, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon Canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons Su (rice vinegar)
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced, deseeded
  • Avocado, thinly sliced

Preparing Cauliflower Rice:

  1. Add oil to frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the cauliflower, sauté until the cauliflower is tender, 2 minutes.  Do not overcook.
  3. Lay cooked cauliflower rice over paper towel lined platter to dry out further as it cools.  Sprinkle with rice wine vinegar.  Once it cools it will be ready to handle.

Assembling Sushi Rolls

  1. Make sure you’re using half a sheet of nori. Rough side up, smooth side down.  Get your hands slightly wet with water to avoid sticking. 
  2. Take 2/3 cup cauliflower rice, spread evenly over nori to cover entire sheet. 
  3. Sprinkle cauliflower rice layer with toasted sesame seeds.  Flip over so rice is on bottom and press down.
  4. Add avocado slices along with cucumber in the center. 
  5. Slide thumbs under rolling mat and roll tightly, while pressing the fillings back, keeping them tightly rolled inside rice coated nori wrapper. 
  6. Continue rolling, with a gentle squeeze to keep the cauliflower rice together.  Roll a few times while pressing to make sure it sticks together well. 
  7. Cut into 8 pieces using long sawing motions, instead of chopping motion, to prevent flattening of sushi rolls. 
  8. Serve with spicy wasabi (instead of high-carb sweet sauces).

Melissa Marshall

A litigation paralegal and writer. Her first novel debuts this fall. She lives with her kitten, Zoey overlooking the waterfront in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - also known as the “City of Lakes”.

Recent Content