This homemade vegan poke bowl has sushi rice, sautéed zucchini, cucumber-kimchi salad, and spicy mayo. Simple to make and ready in just 45 minutes.
Every summer during peak zucchini season (i.e. when the farmers markets are anchored by seemingly bottomless crates of the green stuff), us recipe developers get busy. The goal: figure out yet another “best way to use up zucchini” recipe, so that you, dear home cooks of the world, won’t be left scratching your heads for too long.
This warm panzanella was my preposition last year. This year, I’m keeping it simple and transforming basic sautéed zucchini into a colorful vegan poke bowl – with sushi rice, tangy cucumber-kimchi salad, and creamy spicy mayo. Just 45 minutes from start to finish. Let’s dive in!
What is Poke
Poke (pronounced poh-kay, rhymes with okay) is a traditional Hawaiian meal of cubed and marinated raw fish. This is most often tuna with soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions. I haven’t been to Hawaii, but from my understanding, poke is a casual thing, available at grocery stores and gas stations.
Within the past decade, poke bowls have become super popular here on the mainland. Rice is often used as a base for the marinated fish, followed by a bunch of other toppings, like seaweed salad, avocado, cucumbers, sesame seeds, various sauces/dressings, fried shallots, you name it.
For me, a poke bowl is all about contrast. Contrast of textures – chewy fish, fluffy rice, crunchy vegetables; of temperatures – warm rice/cold toppings; and of flavors – sweet rice, briny fish, salty soy sauce, nutty sesame. With each bite, you get a little bit of everything. For this vegan poke bowl, I’m using sautéed zucchini instead of fish.
How to Make This Vegan Poke Bowl
Rice: Start by cooking the rice in boiling water. Do not stir while it’s cooking; after all the water is absorbed, turn the heat off, and let it stand covered (without stirring) for an extra 10 minutes to steam. This is how you get the fluffiest rice.
Zucchini: Meanwhile, slice up your zucchini and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until it’s nicely browned. Cook it over medium/medium-high heat and don’t overcrowd the skillet; resist the urge to stir the zucchini too often and wait until the very end to salt it. This technique yields golden brown, not-mushy zucchini with bright green skin.
Cucumber-Kimchi Salad: While the rice and zucchini are cooking, make the salad by combining cucumbers, kimchi, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. The longer this salad sits, the softer the cucumbers become and the more kimchi flavor they take on (this is a good thing).
Spicy Mayo: Finally, stir some Sriracha (or another hot sauce) into some mayo until it reaches your desired spice level.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Rice: You can use any [white or brown] short-grain rice for these vegetarian poke bowls.
- Zucchini: Feel free to substitute with yellow summer squash or use a combo of both.
- Cucumbers: Any cukes will work here – Persian, Kirby, or English.
- Kimchi: If you don’t have kimchi, add a splash of rice vinegar/citrus juice and a squirt of hot sauce to the cucumbers to replicate kimchi’s spicy tang.
- Optional toppings: Use this recipe as a base and feel free to pile on other things, like quick-pickled red onions, ponzu sauce, avocado, crispy shallots, sliced radishes, shelled edamame, pickled ginger, or even diced mango.
Other summer favorites…
- Summer Rice Salad with Tomatoes and Pesto
- Magical No-Churn Banana Coconut Ice Cream
- The Easiest Herbed Potato Salad (Plus, My Potato Salad Formula!)
- Vegan Sushi Rolls with Crispy Tofu
- 1 cup sushi rice (or any other short-grain white or brown rice), rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 small zucchini or yellow summer squash (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 small cucumbers, partially peeled and thinly sliced into coins
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped kimchi with its juice
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
- Sriracha or another hot sauce, to taste
- Scallions, for serving
- In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover tightly with a lid and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until all the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes (do not stir during cooking). Turn the heat off and let the rice stand covered (still not stirring) for 10 more minutes to steam.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini in a single layer and cook until it’s nicely browned, stirring occasionally but not too much, 8 to 10 minutes; in the last 2 minutes of cooking, season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. (see note below)
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine 2 sliced cucumbers with 1/4 cup chopped kimchi and 1 teaspoon each of sesame seeds, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir 1/3 cup mayo with hot sauce to taste, starting with 1-2 teaspoons and working your way up, depending on how spicy you want it.
- To serve, divide the rice among 4 bowls and top with the zucchini and cucumber salad. Drizzle with spicy mayo and sprinkle with scallions and extra sesame seeds.
How you cook the zucchini is key to the success of this dish. Cook it over medium/medium-high heat and don’t overcrowd the skillet; resist the urge to stir the zucchini too often and wait until the very end to add any salt. This technique yields golden brown, not-mushy zucchini with bright green skin.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 300
- Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 47.2 g
- Fiber: 2.7 g
- Protein: 5. 8g
Keywords: hawaiian, poke, zucchini, kimchi, cucumber