Quinoa Sushi: The Healthy Upgrade You Need to Try Today

Among the crop of diet and recipe books that have dropped on my desk over the last few months, I keep seeing one idea mentioned over and over again as a way to health up your diet – and that is replacing the white rice in sushi with quinoa.

Sushi rolls with salmon and quinoa instead of rice. Served with soy sauce

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Latest to do it is Davina McCall in her new book Davina’s Smart Carbs: Eat Carbs and Still Lose Weight With My Amazing 5 Week Smart Carb Plan! who heads up her recipe for quinoa sushi with the comment ‘Amazing: Sushi made with quinoa is such a brilliant idea.’ And yes, yes it is.

Why is Quinoa Sushi Healthier?

See while sushi has a super healthy reputation, it might not completely deserve it.

The fish bit is okay, the seaweed bit is brilliant, but those slabs of white rice that come with it – not so great.

Not only are they usually cooked in salt, but white rice is a high GI food (GI is also known as glycemic index and is a measure of how fast a food turns into the sugar glucose in your system) and as a general rule, the lower GI the foods you eat the better.

The reason that this happens is that white rice has had its outer husk removed which makes it easier for your body to break down. This also reduces the amount of fibre in the rice.

Sushi rice can often also be flavoured with a mix of rice vinegar and sugar which increases the GI further.

On top of that, while it looks like a light meal, a large sushi roll – eight individual pieces – contains the same amount of carbs as three slices of bread.

Quinoa, however, while still being carby, also contains a healthy dose of protein which lowers its glycemic index (and ensures it will help keep you fuller for longer). In fact, quinoa is one of the only foods that can call itself a complete protein – that means it contains all the amino acids we need for good health.

Quinoa is also a better source of fibre than sushi rice. This also helps lower it’s GI.

It’s also a seed, not a grain, fact fans – and it comes from the same family as spinach – and that’s pretty healthy stuff!

This makes it, as Davina calls it, a smart carb.

So now you know why everyone is raving about quinoa sushi, how do you make it?

Simple Quinoa Sushi Recipe

Well, you could get started with the recipe for Salmon Hand Rolls from Davina’s latest book for starters.

Sadly, they aren’t the best choice for a work lunch – she does warn they can go a bit soggy if you don’t eat them quickly after making them, so, maybe give them a go at weekends.

Sushi roll being made with salmon and quinoa from Davina McCall's recipe

Salmon Hand Rolls

Serves 4, 124 calories per serving

100g skinned salmon fillet, well chilled
juice of ½ lime
1 tsp light soy sauce
120g cooked quinoa cooled (or use ready-made)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 pieces of sushi nori
6cm chunk of cucumber cut lengthways into thin strips
2 spring onions, finely sliced into long strips
cress, chives or other herbs
salt and black pepper

To serve
sushi pickled ginger
wasabi paste
chilli sauce such as sriracha

1. Dice the salmon into ½cm cubes and season them with salt and pepper.

2. Mix the lime juice and soy sauce together and pour it over the salmon. Turn the salmon gently until all the cubes are lightly coated with lime and soy, then set them aside for a few moments.

3. Put the quinoa in a bowl, season it with salt and pepper and stir in the orange juice.

4. Cut each square of nori in half, following the straight lines.

5. Place a half sheet in your hand, with a short side running along the wrist end of your palm. Put a heaped tablespoon of quinoa over the third of the nori sheet closest to you and spread evenly.

6. Sprinkle over the cucumber, spring onions and cress or herbs, placing them high enough so that they will poke out a little once rolled. Finally, add a quarter of the salmon fillet.

7. To roll, take the corner closest to you and fold it up to the top corner where the filling ends. Then simply wrap the rest of the nori sheet around until you have an ice cream cone shape.

8. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi or chilli sauce, if you like. Eat immediately.

Prefer Sushi Rolls?

You can also make quinoa sushi in the traditional roll shape pictured at the top of this piece.

Just change the method at step five and place the nori sheet on a sushi rolling mat.

Place the quinoa in a thin layer on the nori taking it to the sides, but stop about a centimetre away from the end of the sheets.

Add the toppings – but, not quite as shown in the picture above. When making sushi rolls you should keep the filling in a thin strip along the middle. You might find you need to cut the salmon in slightly smaller chunks than in the original recipe.

Then roll. If the roll won’t stick at the end, use a few grains of quinoa to glue it shut. Or, use a little orange juice or water to wet the ends and it’ll stick together.

Cut the roll into six pieces with a sharp, wet knife.


Recipe and image used with permission. Taken from Davina’s Smart Carbs by Davina McCall – out now from Orion Books, order it here via Amazon. Davina’s Smart Carbs: Eat Carbs and Still Lose Weight With My Amazing 5 Week Smart Carb Plan!

What to Read Next

If you want to try making sushi at home, you’ll find more tricks on how to roll sushi check out our post on top tips for sushi making here.

And, adding quinoa isn’t the only way to swap the rice in sushi. You can also make it with noodles – have a look at that here. 

Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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