Is Sushi Keto Friendly?

Not a real flavor of pork rinds, but should it be?

November 30, 2023 5 min read

For fans of seafood and Japanese cuisine, sushi is a must-consume on any diet regime. It’s not only delicious, but dietitians say that sushi can be a key part of a healthy diet. That’s because of its lean protein content and healthy fats similar to pork rinds.

But not all types of sushi are the same. With different ingredients and preparations, some sushi variations are healthier than others. In the same way, some types of sushi are keto friendly, while others are best to avoid when observing a high-fat and low-carb diet.

Is Sushi Keto?

Sushi is traditionally made with a range of ingredients, usually some form of fish and seafood. While, at first glance, this sounds like a good fit for the keto diet, this protein is usually rolled in rice — a high-carb food that is not suitable for keto.

That said, nutritionists acknowledge that there are sushi variations you can still consume while observing the ketogenic diet regime. These include sashimi, which is not served with rice or toppings, and Naruto, where the ingredients are wrapped in cucumber instead of rice.

How Many Carbs in Sushi?

The carbohydrate content in sushi will depend on which variety you opt for. Sushi that contains rice will have more carbs than sushi that substitutes rice for other ingredients or does away with it entirely.

The types of sushi that have the highest number of carbs include nigiri, maki, uramaki, and temaki, all of which include rice in their recipes. On the other hand, we have sashimi and Naruto, which do not contain rice and are naturally keto-friendly.

Carbs in Sushi Rice

Sushi rice is the variety used for sushi dishes. Unlike plain white rice, sushi rice is seasoned with sugar and rice vinegar. It has a high carb content, with one cup of plain glutinous sushi rice having 36.5 grams of total carbs and 34.8 grams of net carbs.

Carbs in Sushi Roll

The carbohydrate content of a sushi roll will depend on its ingredients and fillings. For example, a tuna roll containing rice and raw tuna will have about 4.59 grams of total carbs. As a general rule, a roll that has about 3 to 4 ounces of white rice will add 140 calories and 30 grams of carbs to the roll.

Carbs in One Piece of Sushi

Similar to a sushi roll, the carb content in a single piece of sushi will depend on its ingredients. One piece of sushi with tuna and rice, for example, will contain 4.59 grams of carbs. A piece of California maki, with rice, crab sticks, avocado, and other ingredients, will have 5.5 grams of total carbs and 5.2 grams of net carbs.

How to Order Keto-Friendly Sushi in Restaurants

Sushi is best enjoyed at an authentic Japanese restaurant. But ordering sushi instead of making it yourself at home can be a challenge if you’re trying to watch your carb intake. Most sushi restaurants don’t give keto dieters a lot of options for sushi that doesn’t contain rice or substitutes it for other ingredients.

Still, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re ordering keto-friendly sushi when dining at a Japanese restaurant.

Foods to Avoid

First, you need to know what foods to avoid. Most Japanese dishes use ingredients that are not suitable for the keto diet, including rice, breading, soy, sugar, and starch. When perusing the menu, make sure you don’t order menu items that:

  • Contain rice, whether sushi, white, or brown rice. Regardless of the variety, rice is very high in carbohydrates. Instead of rice-based sushi, opt for sashimi or a Naruto maki. Alternatively, make a special request and ask the kitchen to omit the rice from your sushi.
  • Are coated with tempura breading. Some sushi rolls are coated, garnished, or fried with tempura breading. But this adds extra carbs to your sushi. Avoid these options if you’re particular about your carb intake.
  • Have too much soy. Most soy sauces contain few net carbs, but nutritionists say they’re okay to consume on keto in moderation. However, many soy-based Japanese dishes contain more soy than recommended in your keto diet.
  • Contain added sugar and starch. Sugar and starch are among the main types of carbohydrates. You’ll find them in Japanese food like tamago and imitation crab meat. They’ll also be in common side dishes like pickled ginger and wasabi. To avoid the extra carbs, opt for plain veggies and fish.

Best Low Carb Sushi Options

When dining at a Japanese restaurant while on a keto diet, here are some low-carb sushi dishes that you can enjoy:

  • Sashimi: The main difference between sashimi and sushi is the former is not served with rice. Instead, they’re plain raw fish, such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces. Simply dip the fish into soy sauce, and you have yourself a tasty zero-carb but high-protein meal.
  • Naruto rolls: Naruto rolls contain no rice. Instead, the ingredients are wrapped in cucumber, giving them the same goodness of sushi without the carbs.
  • Rice-free sushi bowl: Sushi bowls, also called poke bowls or chirashi bowls, are the salad versions of your favorite sushi rolls. You can order a sushi bowl without rice or, if possible, request the kitchen to substitute the rice for sliced cucumber, lettuce, or zucchini instead.

Of course, no sushi meal is complete without sides. Some keto-friendly side dishes that you can have with your sushi include:

  • Edamame: Despite being made of legume, edamame can be a keto-friendly side dish as long as you consume it in moderation. One cup of edamame contains only 6.9 grams of total carbs.
  • Miso soup: Miso soup is a staple in any Japanese meal. Made with miso paste, broth, tofu, and seaweed, it’s a refreshing side dish that will go well with your keto-friendly sushi.
  • Seaweed salad: Seaweed salad is a simple dish that only contains seaweed flavored with vinegar and seasoning. It typically has no added sugar, but it’s worth asking the kitchen to be sure.
  • Chicken skewers: If you need more protein, you can order a side of plain chicken skewers. Most Japanese restaurants also have this in shrimp, fish, or steak. Just make sure the meat isn’t sweetened or marinated to avoid the extra carbs.

Other Helpful Tips

Before you dine at a Japanese restaurant, it helps to access the menu beforehand so you can check the ingredients and macros for the sushi dishes you’re eyeing.

Don’t be afraid to ask the staff about the menu and their low-carb recommendations.

If you don’t find anything that fits into your keto macros, request the chef to customize your meal. You can ask them to remove the rice from your sushi or replace it with keto-friendly substitutes.

To avoid the hassle, though, you can also opt to just enjoy sushi at home. This is a better alternative to eating out because you can customize your sushi and control the ingredients.



While sushi is traditionally not keto-friendly, there are some substitutes that you can make to allow you to enjoy the goodness of sushi without overloading it with carbohydrates.

When dining at a Japanese restaurant, remember to skip the rice and tempura breading. When making sushi at home, be mindful of your ingredients and make sure everything you use fits well into your macros.