Home Cuisines Japanese Sushi for Picky Eaters – Illustrated Guide

Sushi for Picky Eaters – Illustrated Guide

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Sushi for picky eaters

When it comes to eating out, sushi ticks all the boxes. It’s healthy, affordable, and there’s no waiting time. But convincing kids, and some adults, that it’s delicious can be a challenge.

The good news is that sushi comes in a wide variety of flavors and textures. Some menu items are much better than others for newbies. We’ve made life easy by creating the ultimate selection of sushi for fussy eaters. The secret is to start simple and slowly get more adventurous.

6 best types of sushi for a picky eater

If you’re looking for delicious sushi that won’t offer any unpleasant surprises, you’re best to choose mild-flavored California rolls, inari, or makizushi. As the eater becomes more adventurous, introducing nigiri, sashimi, and even ikura are all good options.

1. California rolls

Why it’s good: The flavors will be familiar and there’s only a small amount of nori (dried seaweed) in the middle.

California roll covered in sesame seeds

The California roll is a perfect way to introduce newcomers to sushi, but it’s important to select uramaki. This is a type of “inside out” sushi roll that has rice on the outside with fillings inside. Beginner sushi eaters will be more comfortable seeing rice than seaweed, which is a popular way to roll sushi.

Crab, avocado, and cucumber are popular fillings with mild flavors. Once you’ve made a choice, the rolls can be eaten on their own or dipped into soy sauce. Find out how to make homemade sushi rolls here.

2. Inari

Why it’s good: Sweet and mild, few will find fault with inarizushi.

Two inari in a plate

Inari sushi, aka Inarizushi, takes sticky sushi rice that kids love, and stuffs it into deep-fried tofu pockets. Although kids and tofu don’t often pair well, this may be an exception. The cooking method results in tofu that’s sweet, chewy, and delicious. Don’t tell ‘em it’s tofu and they won’t even know.

3. Makizushi

Why it’s good: With loads of ingredient options, there is something for everyone’s taste buds.

A selection of 3 maki rolls in a row

One of the most popular types of sushi is makizushi or maki sushi. We’ve already mentioned uramaki above, which is a type of maki sushi. However, these rolls have a seaweed wrapping on the outside with vinegared rice and other ingredients on the inside. They’re easy to eat with your hands if chopsticks are too tricky.

The way to impress picky eaters is to select the right fillings. Some of the best options include:

  • Boston roll – unoffensive poached shrimp
  • Vegetarian – a decent meat-free option
  • Salmon skin roll – yummy crispy skin
  • Philadelphia – smoked salmon
  • Tempura roll – fried crispy interior
  • Spider roll – soft shell crab
  • Spiced tuna roll – Familiar and very popular
  • King crab roll – cooked crab, great texture

4. Nigiri

Why it’s good: You can easily see what you’re getting, so there are no surprises.

3 types of nigiri

Nigiri takes an oval mound of sushi rice and tops it with one other ingredient. It’s simple, which is often what fussy eaters prefer.

There are a huge number of nigiri varieties, but we recommend tamago nigiri. The rice is topped with a piece of Japanese omelet which is secured in place with a thin piece of nori. It’s excellent for soaking up the soy sauce.

Other types of nigiri you may want to try include tuna, salmon, and shrimp.

For a little more shock value, try eel (unagi or anago), octopus (tako), geoduck (mirugai), or salmon eggs (ikura). Ordering these first up will probably scare most picky eaters away from sushi for good!

5. Sashimi

Why it’s good: Great for anyone who enjoys fish or doesn’t like rice.

Six pieces of salmon sashimi

Not everyone enjoys rice. If that’s the case, our previous suggestions won’t be very appealing. Instead, offer sashimi which is thinly sliced fish or seafood that is served on its own. Popular types of sashimi include salmon, tuna, and shrimp.

Other sashimi options that aren’t overpowering or fishy are octopus, crab, red snapper, or bass.

6. Ikura

Why it’s good: Many kids love the texture that pops in your mouth.

Ikura or caviar balls

Ikura can be hit and miss. For some kids, it is the best part about eating sushi. These fish eggs are a vibrant orange color and have a fun pop when bitten into. They’re fishy but fairly mild. Serve them up and find out how popular they are with your family.

Interesting reading: How to eat sushi – a beginner’s guide.

What about the extras that get served with sushi?

There are a few extras that often come with sushi, including wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce.

Kids tend to enjoy soy sauce, but you should avoid wasabi for beginner sushi eaters as it can be extremely spicy. You don’t want to put them off in the first bite.

While ginger is less aggressive in taste, picky eaters often don’t enjoy its pungent flavor.

Soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi

If you’ve serving up a feast for hungry eaters, check out our handy guide that explains what to serve with sushi. You’ll get 28 tasty ideas.

Tips for getting kids excited about sushi

Ask for soy paper: Did you know that many sushi chefs will make a batch of sushi for you that uses flavorless soy paper instead of nori. Check out our handy guide that compares soy paper and seaweed here.

Start with familiar food: most kids have eaten food like rice, tuna, shrimp, cucumber, and avocado. Look for menu items that offer these fillings, without any surprises, like a slither of fishy, salty eel.

Visit a conveyor belt sushi restaurant: what’s more fun than having dozens of sushi dishes rolling past on a carousel? With so much variety, there’s sure to be something that’ll appeal to a fussy eater, even if it’s as simple as edamame beans.

Order a variety of dishes: Sometimes it’s best to simply order a wide variety of dishes and let them choose.

Create fun names for unknown foods: make unfamiliar sushi more approachable by creating new names for them. Fried shrimp tempura could be renamed fish sticks.

Test out chopsticks: chopsticks are tough for first-time users, no matter what the age. But they’re also fun to practice with and they’ll provide a distraction from food that’s a little different.

Choose the right venue: For their first time eating sushi, keep it casual. We suggest searching for a relaxed, family restaurant or buying it at the mall. Quiet, top-end restaurants are not the place to experiment with beginners to Japanese cuisine.

Start with banana sushi: To get kids familiar with the concept of sushi at home, slice bananas into sushi-sized pieces and coat the outsides. You can use coconut, chocolate, rice crisps, or crushed pistachios. Serve with chopsticks.

Commonly asked questions

What is the least fishy tasting sushi?

The best non-fishy options for sushi are crab, salmon or tuna. Their unoffensive flavor and soft texture make them ideal for sushi beginners.

What is an Alaska roll?

The Alaska roll is also known as the uramaki, which is an inside-out sushi roll. The rice is on the outside, typically housing fillings like imitation crab, salmon, cucumber, avocado, and spicy mayonnaise.

Do sushi restaurants serve non-Japanese cuisine?

Sushi restaurants often serve more familiar menu items, catering to fussy eaters. Some popular offerings include beef skewers, dumplings, short ribs, and egg rolls. The okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancake, is a Japanese recipe, but it is also likely to appeal to all taste preferences.

Summing up

Sushi is popular for good reason, it’s often cheap and you get served fast. Many dishes are also mild and likely to appeal to most people.

Introducing picky eaters to sushi doesn’t have to be difficult. Start with the basics like California rolls, inari, or makizushi. Over time, introduce new options like nigiri and sashimi and see how popular they are.