Umami rich inari sushi (also known as inari zushi, inarizushi or simply inari) is one of the most popular vegetarian sushi dishes in Japan. This Japanese tofu pocket sushi is the perfect finger food for parties, picnic or a bento box. Moist and delicious, this easy inari sushi recipe is always a crowd pleaser!
Inari sushi is one of Japan's iconic dishes. It's a simple and delicious vegetarian sushi we all grow up with in Japan. Inari is tender, moist, slightly sweet, and moreish. You'll experience an umami rich dashi explosion in your mouth!
While I know how popular inari sushi is in Japan, my cousin who lives in Canada, recently passed on how popular inari sushi is in North America. It's often sold out at Japanese stores.
But the truth is, homemade inari is much better than shop bought. So it's time to dust off an authentic inari sushi recipe and share it with you. It’s my mother's old recipe, with a few improvements that I made along the way.
You’ll learn how to make inari sushi perfectly every time, the Japanese way. You’ll be the inari star of your friends and families in no time!
Bring joy and share it with loved ones. Read on!
What is inari sushi?
Inari sushi is a popular Japanese sushi dish. Made with seasoned sushi rice packed in fried tofu pouches (aburaage), it’s simply delicious. It’s slightly sweet but tangy, and full of umami flavour.
The secret of inari's deliciousness is the Japanese dashi seasoned fried tofu. You'll experience an umami explosion in your mouth, where sweetened dashi absorbs through the fried tofu!
Why called inari?
Inari is called inarizushi or oinari san in Japan. Some people say that inari sushi is named after Inari, one of the divinities in Shintoism in Japan.
Some worshipped Inari as a goddess of prosperity, food and agriculture. It's said that the messenger foxes of the Inari fancied the fried tofu (aburaage). So when combined with rice, it began to be called inarizushi in the 19th century Edo period (reference from "Morisada manko").
There are many inari shrines in Japan. But the main shrine, and perhaps the most famous is the Fushimi Inari Taisha, in Kyoto. It’s a must see if you go to Japan - Andy always has to go there when visiting Kyoto.
I myself have visited many times since I was a child. So if you’re visiting Inari shrines in Japan, why not eat some inarizushi!
Kansai vs. kanto style inari sushi
In the Kansai region (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe areas) inarizushi is triangular, while in the Kanto region (Tokyo and surrounds) it’s rectangular.
You may also see inari served upside down, or in the shape of the anime character Totoro. So don’t be surprised if you see a few different types either in Japan or in Japanese restaurants.
Ingredients for inari sushi
Inari fried tofu is seasoned and delicious. Of course, homemade inari is much better than shop bought - it doesn't contain any additives or preservatives, and it’s easy to make. You can save fried tofu in the freezer for a month!
Along with inarizushi, you can use it for stir fried vegetables, miso soup or add it to rice. I always buy the fried tofu extra at the local shop.
Making sushi rice is a great fun. If it's your first time, you can learn it step by step from my how to make authentic sushi rice post. It’s how I learnt to cook it from my mother, and it turns out perfect every time.
The important thing is to use either Japanese long grain rice or sushi rice (easily found at supermarkets or Japanese shops).
You’ll need some Japanese rice wine vinegar to make sushi rice. I always use one with no additives (from Marukan). Japanese rice wine is milder and naturally sweeter than Western white vinegar. The sushi rice flavour cannot be achieved with standard white vinegar.
Mirin and Japanese soy sauce
You’ll also need Japanese soy sauce (shoyu) and mirin for this recipe. They can be used for many dishes, including teriyaki, fried rice, fried or simmered vegetables, gyoza and much more! Together, they create an authentic Japanese umami flavour. So add them in your pantry.
How To Make Inari Sushi (Inarizushi)
All you need is to find the right ingredients. The rest is straightforward. I’ll show you simple, authentic and traditional inari sushi making. Let's get started!.
How to make an inari tofu pocket
One of the great things about inari is the sweetened dashi taste in your mouth. For this, you need to season fried tofu pockets.
Cut each fried tofu into half, and make a pocket inside of it. If it's difficult, gently roll the fried tofu with a chopstick or roller.
Preparing fried tofu for seasoning
As tofu pockets are deep fried, to season them, you need to remove as much of the oil from them as you can. This is because oil and dashi do not mix well together.
The best way is to cook the fried tofu pockets in boiling water. Then drain hot water, and wash them with running water. Then the tofu pockets are ready for seasoning.
Seasoning tofu pockets
Place dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a pan and cook the fried tofu. Use a dropping lid (otoshibuta). This is a traditional cooking method to season, allowing the ingredients absorb the dashi mix. If you don't have it, no problem. Use a smaller size lid.
Leave them to cool down in the pan after cooking. This way they’ll absorb the dashi mix.
How to make inari sushi rice
Making sushi rice is not difficult at all. You cook rice as you always do but reduce 10% of water and add a piece of kombu (kelp). Then season the cooked rice with rice vinegar, sugar and salt while it's still hot. Please find the detailed information at my sushi rice recipe.
The amount of rice in my sushi rice recipe works perfectly for this inari sushi recipe. Add toasted sesame seeds to it for some extra flavour. I toast sesame seeds even they are toasted to intensify flavour. Avoid burning them.
Filling sushi rice into tofu pockets
This is the fun part! You divide the seasoned sushi rice into four. Each section yields four to five sushi rice balls. It's approximately 50 to 55 g each. Use a tablespoon, and fill the seasoned sushi rice into the pockets. Make sure you fill the sushi rice to the edge of the tofu pockets first.
Then fold the rest of the fried tofu inside as the photo shows. Place the inari sushi on a plate or in a bento box. They’re perfect for family gatherings or picnic, as a snack or entree.
That's it! Serve immediately. Enjoy!
How long does inari sushi last
This inari sushi is best enjoyed when it’s made. But you can place it in an airtight container and keep it for two days in the fridge. Or make inari sushi tofu pockets a day advance. Make sushi rice and fill it the next day.
Is inari sushi gluten free
Yes. This inari sushi is gluten-free. Make sure that you use gluten-free soy sauce. I use Kikkoman. Also this inari is vegan friendly without making much effort.
Is inari sushi served hot or cold
Inari sushi is served at room temperature.
How to reheat inari
No need to add heat to inari. Keep it at room temperature.
More sushi recipes
How to make sushi rice like a sushi restaurant
Inari sushi rice
Fried tofu pockets (inari age)
- 9 fried tofu (making 18 pockets in total)
- 1½ cups dashi (360 ml)
- 2½ tablespoon mirin
- 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
- ⅓ cup sugar ( 89g: I use cane sugar.)
- pickled sushi ginger
- Prepare sushi rice first. Add toasted sesame seeds and roughly combine them with the sushi rice. Avoid both over mixing and getting sticky. Set aside.
Fried tofu pockets (inari age)
- Cut each fried tofu into half and open it. Make a pocket inside each of them. If it's difficult, roll it out with a chopstick or a roller.
- Cook fried tofu pockets in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain hot water, and transfer them into a bowl. Remove oil with running water by throwing the water from the bowl for three times. Gently squeeze them and remove water. Set aside.
- Place dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a medium sized pan, and combine them. Add the fried tofu pockets in the pan, place with a drop lid, and cook them over a medium heat until there’s only a little bit of water left. It takes about fifteen minutes. Avoid burning them.
- Turn off the heat and leave the cooked fried tofu pockets to cool down completely. Set aside.
- While the fried tofu pockets are cooling down, divide sushi rice into 18 pieces. It's about 50 to 55g each.
- Add the rice into each seasoned fried tofu pocket with a table spoon. Make sure they’re filled to the edge of the pocket. Then fold the rest of tofu over the stuffed sushi rice. Then repeat for the other pockets. That's it! Serve immediately! Enjoy!
- It's important to make sushi rice with Japanese long grain rice or sushi rice which are available from the local supermarkets or Japanese shops. I use Japanese pure rice wine with no additives (from Marukan). Please find further details how to make sushi rice at my recipe.
- Use a dropping lid to season the fried tofu pockets in a pan. This is a traditional cooking method in Japan, helping the ingredient absorb the water. If you don't have it, use a smaller size lid.