I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of nori substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitutes for nori in sushi are yuba and rice paper. You can also try alternatives like cucumbers, lettuce, or thin omelet wraps. If you want to stick with seafood, go with tororu kombu. Garnish replacements include smoked dulce seaweed, furikake, aonori, and bonito flakes.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made sushi rolls to try out loads of nori substitutes.
Nori is dried edible seaweed that is a staple in Japanese cuisine, especially for sushi and onigiri. It has a salty, grassy taste, but some brands come in different flavors (like BBQ or sweet and spicy) nowadays.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Yuba/soy sheets||1 piece nori sheet = 1 piece soy sheet||10/10|
|Rice paper||1 piece nori sheet = 1 piece rice paper||10/10|
|Thinly-sliced cucumbers||1 piece nori sheet = 1 thinly-sliced cucumber sheet||9/10|
|Lettuce||1 piece nori sheet = 1 piece lettuce||9/10|
|Thin omelet wrap||1 piece nori sheet = 1 thin omelet wrap||9/10|
|Tororu kombu||1 piece nori sheet = a handful of tororu kombu||8/10|
|Furikake||Replace nori with a sprinkle of furikake||8/10|
Common uses for nori and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for nori and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Onigiris and sushi rolls – Try yuba, rice paper, thinly-sliced cucumbers, and lettuce.
- Garnish – Try tororu kombu, furikake, aonori, or bonito flakes.
- As a condiment/seasoning – Try furikake, aonori, or smoked dulce seaweed flakes.
Yuba or mamenori sheets are a great alternative for wrapping sushi if you don’t like nori’s flavor.
The sheets are made with soybean protein and are flavorless, so you’ll only taste what’s inside your sushi.
They come in various colors, so you can get creative with your presentation.
They’re not limited to sushi either. You can use these versatile sheets for spring rolls and dessert wraps!
Psst… most Asian grocery stores will stock these wraps.
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with Yuba/soy sheets.
Rice paper is typically used to make fresh spring rolls but it’s also a superb replacement for nori in sushi.
It has a neutral flavor, and you can easily pick up a pack in your local grocery store.
Just remember to soak the rice paper sheets in room temperature water before using them – this softens them and makes them pliable.
Need some help? Happy Food Tube has an easy recipe with visuals.
Pro tip: looking to jazz up your traditional sushi? Wrap it in rice paper, then fry it to transform the chewy paper into a lightly crisp and golden crust.
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with rice paper.
For a fresh, healthy, and easily accessible substitute for nori, look no further than thinly-sliced cucumbers.
The trick to using cucumbers as a nori substitute is mastering the Katsuramuki technique, which allows you to create paper-thin sheets of cucumber.
It’s a bit tricky initially, but this tutorial from Make Sushi helped me.
And once you master it, you’ll be whipping up cucumber sushi rolls in no time!
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe with a thinly-sliced cucumber sheet.
Another healthier nori substitute you can consider is lettuce leaves.
Before you scroll straight past, hear me out – the trick is to blanch the lettuce leaves first, which will help make them soft and easy to roll.
From there, you can lay the blanched leaves on your bamboo mat and you’re all set to roll a fresh and crunchy sushi treat.
Pssst… can’t picture it in your mind? Check out sushi chef Hiroyuki Terada’s video to see how they made this work.
Pro-tip: You can also use collard greens for this if you fancy a touch of bitterness.
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with blanched lettuce or collard greens.
Thin omelet wrap
Fancy a protein-loaded substitute for nori? Look no further than a simple thin omelet wrap.
It’s a convenient and budget-friendly alternative that works well since the omelet is pliable but still sturdy enough to be rolled.
I left my omelet unseasoned, so it didn’t interfere with the flavor of my sushi rolls. But you can have creative license here.
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a thin omelet wrap.
Tororu kombu, or dried kelp shavings are a great replacement for nori if you want to keep the essence of the ocean. They have a rich, umami flavor
You can use them for sushi, and as a garnish just like nori.
Check out Hiroyuki Terada’s video tutorial to become a tororu kombu sushi master.
These kelp shavings may not be available in your local shop, but try visiting an Asian grocery store!
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tororu kombu.
This spice blend is made with crushed nori and sesame seeds, so it has all the saltiness of seaweed and tones of umami goodness.
It’s a super poular rice seasoning, so works really well to replace nori as a garnish.
It won’t work as a wrapper. But I still sprinkle it on my sushi for a flavor boost! You can also roll the rice in it to give you sushi a cool look.
Pro tip: if you like spice, mix a few chili flakes into the furikake.
How to substitute: replace nori in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a sprinkle of furikake.
Other substitute options
Nori is popularly used as a wrap for sushis and onigiris, but here are other options you can consider if you’re looking for substitutes that can work as toppings:
- Green shiso leaves – these are a staple condiment already in upscale Japanese resturants, but they’re not so easy to find in Western countries.
- Aonori – this is simply crushed nori so it’s a fantastic flavor match. It’s fragrant and you can pair it with anything – from sushi rolls to ramen and even your morning eggs. But you’ll have to go to an Asian supermarket if you want to find it.
- Smoked dulse seaweed flakes – these have a salty, umami flavor without the briny taste of nori. They’re often called the “bacon of the sea”.
- Bonito flakes – these are made from dried, smoked, and fermented skipjack tuna. They have a pungent, umami flavor like nori and are great for toppings.
Substitutes to avoid
I cam across these options frequently during my research, so I gave them a shot.
But they didn’t impress me, so I can’t recommend them!
- Regular dried kombu – this comes from the sea, just like nori, but you can’t use it the same way you would with nori. It’s not good for sushi rolls or using as a garnish. Save it for your dashi or a salad instead.
- Cold cuts – products like prosciutto would work as a sushi wrap, but they have a prominent meaty taste that doesn’t go with the traditional clean flavors you find in sushi. You could always adapt the fillings though.
- Smoked salmon – I think smoked salmon is much better put to use as an ingredient in sushi rather than replacing nori. Salmon flakes could make a nice garnish though.
11 BEST Nori Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 piece yuba/soy sheet
- 1 piece rice paper
- 1 piece thinly-sliced cucumber
- 1 piece lettuce
- 1 piece thin omelet wrap
- handful tororu kombu
- 1 piece large green shiso leaves
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen nori substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe