Just because you're vegan or don't eat fish doesn't mean you can't enjoy the goodness that is sushi, sashimi and poke bowls. This watermelon tuna is simple to make with only 5-ingredients, and will level up any of your sushi nights!
I grew up in Southern California where sushi is a huge part of our diet! There is really no better combo than rice, veggies, and seaweed.
Typically, Asian dishes like fried rice, poke bowls, stir fry, or heck, even orange tofu lend themselves to being easily made vegan. That's why when I recently saw watermelon tuna becoming a thing on social media, I knew I had to take a stab at it.
Watermelon tuna?? Yes, it’s a thing! And it’s delicious! It's also surprisingly easy to make too (only 5 ingredients), and you can have a make your own sushi night or whip up a delicious poke bowl for lunch.
So, read on to learn how to make my vegan watermelon tuna that will surely satisfy those sushi cravings!
Does Watermelon Really Taste Like Fish?
Does watermelon taste like fish? On its own, no, not really!
But this recipe does a great job at replicating the fishy taste, look, and feel of real sashimi tuna!
The plus side is that this is a much more sustainable way of indulging in your sushi cravings as the fish and our oceans are spared from unsustainable and cruel fishing methods.
When you make watermelon tuna, it will have a slight watermelon taste, but the texture and taste will be pretty close to real tuna! A big help here in getting that “fishy” taste is the umami aspect of ingredients like soy sauce and nori (seaweed).
- Watermelon – Is there anything better than a ripe watermelon on a hot day in the summer? Even better is that watermelon is a nutrient-rich food and also full of water, making it very hydrating. It’s particularly high in Vitamin C, which is known for its immune-boosting properties.
- Soy sauce – Soy sauce is an ancient food that is well known all around the world now for its salty and savory qualities. If you have an issue with gluten, simply substitute tamari for the soy sauce in this recipe!
- Rice vinegar – Vinegar in moderation is a healthy part of any diet, and rice vinegar is an incredibly common ingredient in Asian cuisine. This is a great vegan staple to keep in your cupboard!
- Sesame oil – Opting for sesame oil here helps complement the general flavor profile of this recipe. You can use another oil if you don’t have sesame or prefer a different one for whatever reason.
- Nori – Nori is seaweed that has been dried and is well known for its usage in sushi and other Asian dishes. This algae helps deliver a “fishy” taste that really goes a long way in selling this watermelon tuna as the real thing. Plus, nori contains iodine, which is an essential nutrient that many Westerners are deficient in. It’s also rich in riboflavin, thiamin, iron, manganese, and copper!
- Sesame seeds – Sesame seeds aren’t absolutely necessary here but they add a nice little bit of crunch and extra sesame flavor! Like other nuts and seeds, they are nutrient-dense and contain protein.
Recipes to Use Watermelon Tuna In
This watermelon tuna recipe is perfect to use for any recipe that would use regular tuna!
Here are some examples:
- On its own with homemade vegan spicy mayo
- In a poke bowl (like this one – just substitute watermelon tuna for tofu)
- Vegan sushi
- In a wrap
- On an Asian-inspired salad
No matter how you choose to use it, this watermelon tuna will hit the spot and satisfy those sushi cravings every time! It can be a nice side dish on its own with spicy mayo, the star of a poke bowl or salad, used as a vegan sushi alternative, or thrown into an Asian-inspired wrap!
Dice the watermelon into 1-inch cubes, and add it to either a shallow container or a large storage baggie.
Pour the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil over the watermelon. Crumble the nori sheet and sprinkle over top as well. Mix so that the watermelon is well coated.
Let the watermelon sit in the marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours (the longer, the better).
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the watermelon from the refrigerator, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing once half way through.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and use the watermelon tuna for a homemade sushi night or in a poke bowl!
Here are some helpful recipe tips for you to keep in mind while putting together this watermelon tuna and serving it!
- Garnish ideas – Some of my favorites include sesame seeds, “everything but the bagel” seasoning, and furikake.
- Recipe add-ins – I kept this recipe simple, but feel free to add in whatever you prefer! Some possibilities could be sriracha, scallions, crushed macadamia nuts, cashews, or peanuts, red pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic.
- Don’t go too small! – The watermelon will shrink some during the cooking process so keep that in mind when making your cubes!
- Substitutions – You can substitute teriyaki or coconut aminos for the soy sauce if you prefer. They will both make it a bit sweeter, and coconut aminos are gluten-free friendly.
- Marinating is key – The longer you marinate, the more flavor you’ll get! Plus, you can save the marinade to use on your rice bowls!
- Watermelon steaks?? – If you want, you can use this same recipe to make grilled watermelon steaks! Simply cut them into 1-inch thick “steaks,” marinate, and grill for about 3 minutes on each side.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This is a perfect recipe for whenever you have a sushi craving! It works great as a side or snack in itself, plus it’s versatile and goes great with many different Asian-style recipes. There are so many reasons to love this recipe, it's...
- Simple – Just five steps, five ingredients, and ready in under an hour (excluding marinating time).
- Loaded with umami (thanks to nori and soy sauce) – This recipe really captures that “fishy” taste thanks to how loaded with umami it is!
- Healthier and more eco-friendly option – Unfortunately, fish and our oceans are loaded with mercury and other harmful chemicals. Plus, the way fish are commercially caught is both cruel and bad for the environment. This recipe gives you a delicious, cruelty-free, and more eco-friendly alternative.
Let me know if you try this recipe for watermelon tuna, and if you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
More vegan entrees to try:
- Crispy Orange Tofu
- Chipotle Burrito Bowl
- Yellow Curry
- Pineapple Fried Rice
- Creamy Pink Pasta
- Tofu Poke Bowl
- Pumpkin Pasta
- Grilled Tofu Burger
- Mediterranean Buddha Bowl
- Spicy Noodle Stir Fry
- Falafel Sandwich
- Beyond Sausage Paella
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