Sushi Rice Bowl Recipe

Sushi lovers, unite! Sushi rice bowls, or chirashi-don, let us enjoy those classic, clean Japanese flavors without the fuss of rolling or hand-shaping rice.

If your supermarket carries sushi-grade fish, you’re halfway to making a sushi rice bowl your yuppie neighbors would gladly shell out for!

The sushi-grade tuna is accompanied by the normal sushi players: seasoned Japanese short-grained rice, bite-sized chunks of crunchy cucumber and creamy avocado. The dish is adorned with slivers of seaweed.

To serve, top with a dollop of the spicy mayonnaise and drizzle with a little wasabi-soy sauce, which I like to dilute with a few drops of water. I find that straight soy sauce is too thick and salty poured directly on rice.

Sushi Rice Bowl Recipe

This sushi rice bowl recipe comes from a fellow Tuttle Publishing author, Debra Samuels (my first cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook was published by Tuttle.) Debra has lived in Japan for periods totaling over 10 years since the 1970’s, and studied Japanese cuisine throughout her stays.

Debra is also a food journalist for The Boston Globe and also authored My Korean Table Cookbook. Her recipes are simple and comforting. You won’t find fancy techniques or exotic ingredients in Debra’s books, just honest, homestyle cooking based on ingredients you’ll find at most well-stocked grocery stores.


The book we are featuring today is My Japanese Table. Featured recipes include:

  • Spicy Tuna Tartar
  • Step by step how to roll sushi
  • Fried Cabbage and Pork Noodles (Yakisoba)
  • How to host a Yakitori party
  • Succulent Salmon Teriyaki
  • How to make a Bento box
  • And, alas!: chirashi don, aka a sushi rice bowl!

Is your mouth watering yet?

I chose this sushi rice bowl recipe, featuring fresh tuna, cucumber, avocado and spicy mayonnaise, because it’s a simple way to enjoy “sushi” without having to learn how to roll sushi. All ingredients can be found at most grocery stores, so no need to visit an Asian market.

In Debra’s words:

This chirashi-don recipe combines two of my favorite fresh tuna dishes: the first is the tuna tartar set on top of rice under a coating of grated Japanese yam (yamakake); the second being a striking appetizer of layered fresh tuna and avocado cubes with a Spicy Mayonnaise dressing that I discovered with Miho Nakajima, once a teenaged neighbor and now an elegant banker in central Tokyo. You won’t season the rice necessarily. As for seaweed, you’ll cut it into shreds and place it directly on the tuna rather than wrapping it. The result is a mouthful of goodness.

How to Choose Sushi Tuna

How to choose sushi tuna
(Tuna image from Monterey Bay Seafood Watch)

Choose your fish carefully – the tuna should be labeled “sushi-grade;” ask your fishmonger these questions:

  • When was this fish defrosted? (all tuna arrives frozen)
  • Ask to smell the fish (it should smell “fresh from the ocean”, not “fishy”)
  • Ask your fishmonger to gently press the flesh of the fish, it should spring back up (old fish will be tacky, sticky and stay indented)
  • Ask where is the fish from and how was it caught? Choose environmentally friendly tuna, like troll/pole caught Albacore from the U.S. See Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch Guide for an entire list of fish, graded by sustainability metrics. Here is the tuna page.

Sushi Rice Bowl Recipe

Recipe adapted from My Japanese Table by Debra Samuels. Reprinted with Permission, Tuttle Publishing. Recipe photo by Heath Robbins.
Debra's cookbook includes instructions for the traditional way of cooking rice and sushi rice, using kombu (kelp). I've modified her recipe to include my version of a simplified sushi rice, using seasoned rice vinegar found at most grocery stores. Make sure you buy "Seasoned Rice Vinegar" or "Sushi Rice Vinegar" -- which includes sugar in the ingredients.
Tips: For the seaweed, I just buy regular sushi seaweed and use kitchen shears to cut into shreds. English and Japanese cucumbers have less seeds than regular cucumber and are crunchier. If using regular cucumber, it's best to get rid of the watery seeds. Slice cucumber in half, lengthwise and use a small spoon to scrape out the seeds. I prefer to dilute the soy sauce with just a few drops of water, but I'll leave that up to you!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 pound sushi-grade tuna
  • 2 small avocados
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Roasted seaweed shreds (kizami nori)
  • Soy sauce, preferably low sodium, for drizzling
  • Wasabi, to taste


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or other spicy chili sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

FOR THE SUSHI RICE (makes 4 cups cooked)

  • 2 cups short-grain white rice
  • 3-4 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar


  • Cook the rice: Put the rice into a medium saucepan. Run cold water into the saucepan, and with your hand, swish the rice around. Drain water into the sink. Repeat 3 more times, until water is more clear. Fill saucepan with 2 1/4 cups of water. Cover with lid. Cook rice over medium heat for 10 minutes. Lower heat to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat, do not open lid. Let rice sit for 5 minutes or more.
  • While the rice is cooking, prepare the Spicy Mayonnaise. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients and set aside.
  • Cut the cucumber, tuna and avocado into 1/2" dice. In a small bowl, toss the avocado with the lemon juice, and cover with plastic wrap until ready to eat.
  • When the rice has cooked and rested, open lid and transfer the rice to a large bowl. Using a spatula, gently fold and lift the rice to allow steam to escape and to cool. Do not mash the rice or mix too vigorously (try not to break the rice kernels). After much of the steam has been released, dribble in a little of the seasoned rice vinegar, fold and lift rice to distribute. Repeat with rest of rice vinegar. Keep rice covered with a damp cloth until ready to serve. Do not refrigerate.
  • To serve, divide the rice between 4 bowls. Top with cucumber, avocado, then tuna. Spoon a dollop of the Spicy Mayonnaise. Top with shredded seaweed. Serve with soy sauce and wasabi at the table.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

If you can, I’d highly recommend some miso soup to go alongside a sushi rice bowl! What are you more interested in?

Alternatively, the Japanese love pairing chirashi, or any raw fish, with something crispy and light like this Crispy Tofu with Citrus Soy Sauce

Go a sushi streak going? Why not try your hand at Hand rolls (temaki)?