When you think of Japanese cuisine, sushi is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But there is a wide variety of sushi, from chirashi (sushi bowl), to maki (sushi rolls), and nigiri (sushi that is shaped like an oblong) to temaki (cone-shaped sushi).
Still, the concept of sushi is simple. It is vinegary rice rolled in nori (the Japanese word for seaweed), that is then topped with seafood that is typically raw and vegetables.
Sushi is simply delicious. It balances savory and sour flavors perfectly, and as it is made with totally fresh ingredients it’s super healthy.
With some soy sauce and a tiny amount of wasabi, you can enjoy sushi on its own, but truthfully, there are so many sides in Japanese cuisine that go so well with sushi that you have to give them a try!
Still, sushi should be the star of the show, so whatever sides you have need to be simple and not overpowering.
Below, you’ll find 12 Japanese-inspired side dishes, and a couple of desserts and beverages you can enjoy afterwards. Let’s jump right in!
In Japan, it is custom to have soup with your meal, so miso soup is a perfect accompaniment to your sushi. Japanese soup can be split into two categories. Suimono, which is a clear soup, and miso soup.
Dashi stock and miso paste is used to make miso soup, and its two core ingredients contrast each other beautifully. These are tofu and negi, otherwise known as a scallion.
This Miso soup recipe has plenty of rich and savory umami flavor, and is also packed with crispy scallions, chewy, crunchy seaweed and pillowy tofu.
Tempura is a beloved part of Japanese cuisine, and it’s easy to see why. It’s simple to make and irresistible! You can opt for shrimp or vegetable tempura, although we’ve provided a recipe for shrimp tempura.
Sushi and tempura are an undeniably excellent duo. The secret to making tempura at home is to mix wheat flour with iced water in small batches with chopsticks.
You can also mix dashi, mirin, soy sauce and water to make that gorgeous dip.
Edamame are simply soybeans that stay in the pod. When enjoyed alongside soft sushi they provide a nice crunch, but to prepare the edamame, you need to blanch the beans in 4% salt water.
All you need to do then is boil or steam them until they are cooked!
Gyoza are crescent-shaped dumplings that are traditionally filled with minced pork. However, we’ve provided a vegetable gyoza recipe, as we believe veggie gyoza pair better with sushi.
The filling of these veggie gyoza are cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu. The bottoms are crispy and golden brown and the filling is fresh and juicy.
A match made in heaven!
Seaweed salad is a refreshing side dish to enjoy with sushi, as it balances out the heavy rice.
Not only is it simple to prepare, but so healthy for you too! It’s a great way to mix up your usual green leaf salad, and seaweed is available in most Asian supermarkets.
Tamagoyaki is a Japanese egg roll that is made of mirin and sugar that makes it curiously sweet. You can even use tamagoyaki as a filling for your sushi, as well as enjoying it as a side.
Tamagoyaki even makes for a special, Japanese inspired breakfast. Tamagoyaki resembles golden pillows and has a texture similar to custard.
Tamagoyaki is a favorite among Japanese children, who often have it in their bento (or lunch) boxes. But adults can enjoy it with sushi too!
Gari or pickled ginger is not usually served as a side in Japan when eating sushi. Rather, it is served as a palate cleanser between bites of your sushi. Interesting!
Gari is known for its bright pink shade, and this vibrant pink hue comes from the fact that traditional pickled ginger is made using baby ginger which is pink, and has a gentler flavor and a softer consistency.
Still, since baby ginger is hard to come by, many Japanese restaurants serve regular ginger for their gari palate cleansers, and use food coloring to give it its pink hue.
Add some smoky and sweet flavors to your sushi by incorporating some teriyaki flavors.
Enjoy your sushi with eggplant slices marinated in teriyaki sauce, and we promise you, you won’t regret it. It’s delicious!
It might surprise you to learn that kani salad isn’t a part of traditional Japanese cuisine, rather it’s a Japanese-American hybrid dish.
However, it uses a lot of Japanese ingredients, in particular kani, otherwise known as imitation crab meat. Still, this dish is super easy to make.
All you need to do is mix together kani, carrots, cucumber, Japanese mayo, and lettuce. But you can also add mangoes to make your salad a little sweeter.
This not only adds another flavor element, but a dash of color too! You can also incorporate avocado if it’s in season, to give the salad a richer, nuttier flavor.
Now onto the desserts to cleanse your palate! Where better to start than with matcha green tea ice cream?
Matcha has a very distinct flavor, and a taste that some describe as powdery, but when it’s transformed into ice cream, it is delicious! It is the perfect Japanese dessert to enjoy after your sushi meal.
The ideal matcha flavor should be earthy and sweet, and just a tad on the bitter side. Matcha is a lot more concentrated than traditional green tea, and a little goes a long way.
This recipe emphasizes the intense matcha flavor and has a rich texture. One lick, and you’ll be immediately transported to Japan!
Japanese cuisine isn’t exactly known for its desserts. Japanese desserts normally have simple flavors that are mild and sweet, and dango is the perfect example of that.
Dango is a dumpling similar to mochi, that is often enjoyed on the side of green tea to counteract its bitterness.
Dango is also reminiscent of matcha, red bean paste, and other sweet, mild filling. A serving of dango normally consists of three dangos, each a different color, that are pierced on a skewer.
Dango may look familiar to you, and you may have encountered it more than you think. This is because it’s an emoji!
You may have seen an emoji of green, pink, and white balls on a stick, and this is dango.
This recipe uses just a handful of ingredients and is simple to follow, making for chewy dango that is firm but tender. They’re made with green matcha powder, rice flour, and food coloring.
Green tea is one of the most popular beverages in Japan, and is enjoyed at breakfast, lunch, during a break in the afternoon… anytime, really!
So who says you can’t enjoy it with sushi? Still, most people enjoy green tea, not for the flavors but the health benefits it provides.
In fact, green tea is such a staple of Japanese cuisine, that Japanese restaurants often serve it, both hot or iced, free of charge. We couldn’t think of a better beverage to enjoy with sushi!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Sushi Healthy?
Sushi is incredibly healthy. It provides an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart, and this is due to the fish element of the sushi.
Sushi also has very little calories. The most popular type of sushi is nigiri sushi, and these are oblongs of sticky rice that are topped with a small fillet of fish.
Can You Have Sushi Without Fish?
Sashimi is the meat equivalent of sushi, and sushi can also just include rice and other ingredients, like vegetables, that are rolled up in nori and sliced into pieces in the same way.
Is There Sushi That Is Not Raw?
Contrary to popular belief, not all sushi is served raw, and you can actually make a sushi meal with cooked food.
Eel (otherwise known as anago and unagi) is always cooked, and is usually accompanied by a savory and sweet sauce. California rolls also contain cooked imitation crab meat, avocado, and cucumber.
While sushi is often enjoyed by itself, we hope that our above Japanese-inspired sushi sides have shown you that you can enjoy sushi with a number of different accompaniments!