Pickled Okra Veggie Rolls

By: The Local Palate
Five sushi rolls sit on a white plate with a spoon full of sauce.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Dill

This creative and nutrient dense okra sushi roll comes from sushi chef Marisa Baggett of Memphis, Tennessee. Her twist to tradition demystifies the complexity of making the dish while honoring the food’s heritage. Baggett says, “It’s absolutely appropriate for us to take things and make them our own as long as we’re still honoring that culture and the thought behind where it came from.” Enjoy the satisfying balance of pickled okra, cream cheese, and a colorful medley of crunchy veggies for your next night in with this beginner-friendly okra sushi recipe.

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4 rolls

  • For the sushi rice:
  • 2½ cups short-grain white rice
  • ¾ cup rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup superfine or caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons salt

  • For the sushi roll:
  • 4 (4×7-inch) nori sheets
  • 3 cups sushi rice
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 teaspoons cream cheese at room temperature (optional)
  • 8 large pickled okra
  • ½ carrot, peeled and julienned
  • ½ red bell pepper, julienned
  • 8 green beans, blanched
  • Sweet chili sauce for serving

  • Special equipment:
  • Rice cooker, rice paddle or wooden spoon, large and small nonmetal bowls, bamboo sushi mat

For the sushi rice:

  1. In a medium bowl, cover rice with cool water. With your hand, gently swish in a circular motion, then pour water off. Repeat three times. Place rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cool water until water runs clear. Allow to drain 10 minutes. Baggett says, “If your rice is not very, very good then your sushi itself is not going to be very good. Properly prepared rice makes all the difference when you’re pressing it on the seaweed.”
  2. In a rice cooker, add rinsed rice and 2½ cups minus 3 tablespoons water. Cook 40 minutes, even if cooker indicates rice is done sooner.
  3. While rice is cooking, soak a rice paddle or wooden spoon in a shallow bowl of water. In a small nonmetal bowl, mix vinegar, caster sugar, and salt and whisk vigorously until sugar and salt are mostly dissolved, about 2 minutes. Leave dressing at room temperature.
  4. Dump steamed rice onto a large cutting board. With soaked paddle, gently “cut” rice into pieces like a pie. Pour ¼ cup dressing over rice and toss well. Add more dressing ¼ cup at a time, tossing after each addition, then spread rice into a thin layer and allow to cool for 10 minutes, continuing to soak paddle. Flip rice again and let cool for 5 more minutes. Store in a large nonmetal bowl and cover with a damp cloth.

For the workspace set-up:

  1. Lay all prepped ingredients beside work surface. Identify the rough side of a sheet of nori—Baggett’s helpful alliteration is “rice on rough.” On a cutting board, lay nori rough side up vertically, so short ends are parallel to bottom of board. Fill a small bowl with water.

For the roll: 

  1. With slats horizontal, lay bamboo mat on top of roll with your thumb and middle finger on either side, and use your
    index finger to press down on the top, creating a rectangular cylinder.
  2. “Now for the fun part,” says Baggett. Dip fingers in bowl of water, scoop out a softball-sized amount of rice (about ¾ cup) and spread it evenly on bottom ⅔ of nori. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon sesame seeds on the rice. Using a spoon or your finger, spread 1 teaspoon of the cream
    cheese horizontally across center of sushi rice. Stack 2 pickled okra, ¼ of the carrot and pepper matchsticks, and 2 green beans horizontally across center of rice and all the way to edges of nori; it’s okay if some spills over.
  3. With dry hands, place both thumbs under bottom edge of nori and with your fingers grasp ingredients you just arranged on rice. Using thumbs, gently lift nori up and over ingredients, continuing to roll up until outside bottom of nori meets plain nori at the top. Roll until all nori overlaps, then place roll seam-side down on cutting board.
  4. Baggett recommends cutting this roll into 5 pieces. Dip the tip of a sharp kitchen knife in bowl of water, then turn knife vertical and tap handle against cutting board to let water run down the blade. With a continuous sawing motion, cut into top of roll, sawing all the way down to the cutting board. Repeat knife dip, tap, and saw every time you cut. Serve futo-maki with sweet chili sauce or traditional sushi accompaniments.
  • Recipe By
    Marisa Baggett in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Contributing City
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