Made of vinegared rice tucked inside little deep-fried tofu pockets, Inari Sushi is easily one of the easiest sushi to make at home. It’s vegetarian and vegan-friendly too!
Looking for easy sushi recipes to make at home? You won’t go wrong with Inari sushi. Tasty, filling and addicting, Inari Sushi are fast and easy to make and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. In this recipe, I’ll show you how to make classic inari sushi with a delicious touch.
What is Inari Sushi?
Inari Sushi (稲荷寿司, いなり寿司), or Inarizushi, is made of sushi rice that is stuffed inside seasoned deep-fried tofu pockets called Inari Age. Inari Age (pronounced [ah geh]) is made by simmering tofu pockets in sweet and savory dashi-based broth. After the tofu pouches absorb all the flavors, they are squeezed to remove the liquid and ready to stuffed with sushi rice.
With their sweet and tangy taste, these little golden pouches are the best sushi to enjoy at home, picnic, or on the go. Inari sushi is also a popular menu for bento boxes, and you may see this type of sushi packed at the deli along with sushi rolls.
The Origin of Inari Sushi
Inari shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari, the deity protecting the crops. The Japanese people bring Aburaage (deep-fried tofu pockets) or Inari Sushi as offerings and place them in front of the fox statues on the shrine grounds. It is said that foxes are the messengers of the Inari god and it’s believed that they like aburaage. Eventually, newly harvested rice was added as a filling to the fried tofu to show the gratitude for good crops towards the Inari god.
Hence the dish is named Inarizushi or Oinari-san (O is an honorific prefix, and -san is an honorific title) and enjoyed for over 170 years.
Tokyo vs. Osaka Style Inari Sushi
Even within Japan, the Inarizushi in the Tokyo area and the ones in the Osaka area are different in shape! In the Tokyo area, you will find straw bag-shaped Inari Sushi and the sushi rice is completely wrapped inside the bag. On the other hand, in the Osaka area, you will find fox-ear-like triangle-shaped inari sushi that exposes the sushi rice at the bottom, and sometimes sushi rice is mixed with various ingredients.
How to Make Inari Sushi
Inari sushi is made in 3 simple and easy steps.
- Make sushi rice (add sushi seasonings over steamed rice).
- Make Inari by simmering tofu pockets in dashi-based broth. Or, buy a packaged inari from a store.
- Stuff the sushi rice into the inari pockets.
It takes extra time only if you want to make homemade inari. Otherwise, it all comes together very quickly once you made the sushi rice. We’ll talk about the homemade inari age next.
Homemade vs. Store-Bought Inari Age
Homemade inari age is the best, in my opinion, especially because store-bought inari age tends to be a bit sweeter to my taste. However, there are benefits for store-bought.
- IMPOSSIBLE to purchase if you live far from Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
- Healthier (no preservatives, natural ingredients).
- You can adjust the seasonings (being able to make it less sweet).
- VEGETARIAN/VEGAN-friendly (use Kombu Dashi)
- EASILY accessible in any Asian grocery store (doesn’t have to be Japanese grocery stores).
- Stored at room temperature (packed in a can and no need to refrigerate).
- All brands tend to be sweet.
- Includes unnatural ingredients.
My mom used to make inari sushi for our bento lunch box. When she had the time, she would make her own inari age; otherwise, she would just use the readily made tofu pockets. Sometimes I’d help her out by stuffing the rice into the tofu pockets. It’s a very easy task so you can ask your children to help!
Make Delicious Vinegared Rice (Sushi Rice)
I make sushi rice from scratch, and it’s very easy to make with just three ingredients – rice vinegar, salt, and sugar.
However, keeping a bottle of Sushi Seasoning in the refrigerator can be very convenient when you just need a small amount of sushi rice or when you are running short of time.
Creative Inari Sushi
I loved the simplicity of the classic Inari Sushi, but I discovered a simple way to spruce it up.
Since I happened to have some leftover shiso (perilla) in the fridge, I figured I could incorporate shiso leaf and seasoned nori (seaweed) to the Inari Sushi. As simple as that, the add-on ingredients immediately added a refined taste and accent to the otherwise humble pocket sushi. It was an accidental discovery but was I happy with the extra twist. Since then, my go-to Inari Sushi always includes shiso leaf and seasoned nori! I hope you try adding shiso and nori next time when you prepare Inari Sushi.
If you are making Inari Sushi for parties and potluck and want to make it prettier, flip upside down and show the rice. Tuck in the edge of inari-age inside the bag, so it will have a round smooth edge. You can decorate the top with shredded egg crepe called Kinshi Tamago or any toppings you like!
The Perfect Sushi to Enjoy Anytime
I love packing Inari Sushi in the bento box with some vegetables for a simple quick lunch. For dinner, you can serve Inari Sushi with other sushi, along with soy sauce and wasabi as a dipping sauce. They make the perfect afternoon snack too!
- 3-4 cups sushi rice (cooked and seasoned) (1 cup of cooked sushi rice is for making 3-4 inari sushi)
- 1 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 12 inari age (seasoned fried tofu pouch) (for my homemade recipe, click here)
- cooking liquid from making inari age
- 12 shiso leaves (perilla/ooba)
- 12 nori (seaweed) (I used precut seasoned nori)
- pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga) (to garnish)
- Prepare sushi rice ahead of time and keep it at lukewarm/room temperature.
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Add sesame seeds to the sushi rice and mix together.
- Carefully open the inari age pocket (it's very thin, so it's easy to break or tear). Make sure you can see the bottom of the pocket as you need to stuff the sushi rice all the way.
- Moisten hands with the liquid from inari age. Take a small handful of rice and make a small rice ball. Do not make it too big otherwise, it won't fit in inari age.
- Wrap each rice ball with shiso and a piece of nori and stuff the rice ball into the Inari-Age. Close the inari age and place open-end down on a plate.
- Another method is to keep the bag open on top. Wrap each rice ball with a piece of nori and stuff the rice ball into the inari age. Then place shiso on top.
- Tuck in the edge of inari age inside the pocket so you will have a nice smooth round edge. You can decorate the top as you like.
- Serve with sushi ginger.
- The leftovers can stay at a cool place for several hours and should be consumed soon. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. I highly recommend keeping them in an airtight container or a plate wrapped tightly with plastic and then wrap around the container/plate with a thick kitchen towel so the food stays safe in a cool environment but rice doesn't get hard from cold air in the refrigerator.
Editor’s Note: The recipe and photographs updated in February 2013.
Looking for more delicious sushi recipes?
- Temaki Sushi (Hand Roll Sushi)
- Sushi Rolls
- California Roll
- Your Ultimate Guide to Host a Sushi Party
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