Imitation Crab Meat: Is It Vegan?

Many Japanese restaurants serve imitation crab meat in California rolls, kani salads, and plenty of other dishes. Food names usually describe what they aren’t (crabs), but they don’t usually describe what the food is.

Despite the fact that imitation chicken, duck, and other proteins typically don’t contain animal products, imitation crab does.

If you’re dining out for sushi, we offer some alternatives you can order instead of imitation crab.

Imitation Crab Meat: Is it Vegan?

Most Imitation Crab Products Aren’t Vegan

Although imitation crab meat is not crab, it is also not vegan. “Surimi” is the Japanese word for crab stick, which means “ground meat.”

Basically, surimi is a ground-up mixture of white-fleshed fish and other parts of fish. A paste is made by adding artificial flavoring, sodium, and starch to the paste, and then forming it into the shape of a crab.

Pescatarians consider imitation crab as pescatarian, but vegans and vegetarians do not. Imitation crab is often substituted for crab due to its affordability.

Is Vegan Imitation Crab A Real Thing?

While vegan imitation crab (a weird term indeed!) isn’t typically found at Western sushi spots, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The vegan kitchen geniuses have discovered that a number of vegetables and plant-based foods can be transformed into imitation crab when properly prepared. Among them are:

  • Tofu
  • Hearts Of Palm
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Shredded Jackfruit

There are a number of vegan imitation crab recipes available online that you can make at home.

Vegan crab is available both in stores and online if you prefer to skip the cooking process. You should carefully check the label of the product to make sure it is vegan.

The vegan fish market is growing, so although you can expect to see more vegan crab in the future, the options are not as limited as they are now.

There is currently vegan crab available in several varieties that can be implemented into a range of tasty recipes.

But, what if you want to avoid imitation crab in certain dishes. Let’s explore that more below.

A Sushi Dish To Avoid If It Contains Imitation Crab

Imitation Crab Meat: Is it Vegan?

In some Japanese dishes and sushi rolls, imitation crab meat plays a central role, while in others, the ingredient sneaks in. It is best to avoid both if you are vegan.

You can assume that if a menu contains imitation crab (aka surimi), it isn’t vegan unless it’s specifically stated otherwise. On a typical Japanese restaurant menu, you might find the following items:

  • California Roll
  • Kani Salad
  • Kani Roll
  • Alaska Roll
  • Dragon Roll

So, if you don’t want any imitation crab because of personal beliefs (vegan, vegetarian etc.), then you should definitely avoid the rolls above. Always check the ingredients and ask when purchasing such food to make sure. 

Imitation Crab-Free Vegetarian Sushi Rolls And Dishes

When it comes to sushi, vegans have a wide variety of options. In most sushi rolls, rice and seaweed are the base ingredients-both vegan and delicious. If the dish is cruelty-free, it will depend on what’s inside the roll.

Vegan foods are those listed below. Be sure you tell the restaurant about your dietary requirements and watch out for any sauces, like eel sauce or mayo, that are part of the meal, so you can request one that doesn’t contain them.

  • Edamame: The vibrant soybeans you know and love.
  • Miso Soup: This miso-based broth often comes with tofu cubes, seaweed pieces, and scallions—all vegan.
  • Kappa Maki: This is a cucumber roll.
  • Shinko Maki: Also known as Takuan Maki, this roll’s main ingredient is pickled radish.
  • Kampyo Maki: This sushi roll features kampyo, which is a dried Japanese gourd.
  • Seaweed Gunkan Maki: Seaweed, often seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and red chili, is piled atop sushi rice and wrapped in nori (seaweed).
  • Avocado Roll: Just as its name implies, this roll features avocado as the main event.
  • Vegetable Tempura: These tempura-fried veggies are crispy and delicious. Some establishments may add egg to their batter, so check in with the restaurant before placing your order.
  • Sweet Potato Tempura Roll: The tempura-fried sweet potato is extra sweet and wonderfully crunchy; just ask the restaurant if its tempura batter contains egg.
  • Natto: This ingredient, which often comes topped on sushi, is simply fermented soybeans.

We can guarantee that each food item above is delicious and will fill that empty void in your stomach every time! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kinds Of Sushi Are Vegan?

Vegan sushi rolls are available in many varieties. Compared to the more complex fish-based rolls, they usually feature one or a few vegetables and tend to be less expensive.

The cucumber roll, avocado roll, pumpkin roll, and sweet potato tempura roll are all common vegan sushi rolls.

Is Vegan Sushi Fish-Free?

No. Authentic vegan sushi won’t contain fish. Since fish is an animal, it isn’t vegan.

Where Can I Find Vegan Sushi?

Even restaurants that aren’t explicitly vegan will often offer vegan sushi rolls on their menus. 

Vegetarian rolls, which are typically available at grocery store fish counters, generally consist of only vegetables. Find out if there are any vegan Japanese restaurants in your area by searching online.

In Summary 

So, imitation crab – is it vegan? While it is not actual crab, it is not considered vegan. Therefore, it should not be a part of any vegan diet.

However, for those of you who are not vegan, imitation crab is a tasty ingredient that goes well in a range of sushi rolls.

Brett White
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