This vegan poke bowl recipe swaps cubed watermelon for raw fish. Its pink color mimics the fish perfectly, and it makes these bowls refreshing & fun!
There’s a new poke bowl shop in town called Poke Poke, and we’re just a little obsessed. Jack and I have eaten there at least 2x per week since it opened. In fact, we’ve just returned from eating lunch there. We might be late to jump on the poke trend, but there’s something so crave-able about these sort of deconstructed sushi bowls. Please tell me that we’re not the only ones that get hooked on the same type of food for weeks on end?
What is a poke bowl?
The easiest way for me to describe a poke bowl is as I did above, as “a deconstructed sushi bowl.” It originated in Hawaii, and the bowls usually consist of a base of rice, cubed raw fish, seasonings like green onions and sesame seeds, and other toppings. A salty soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil marinade often finishes them off. Hawaiian poke is available all over the place – from grocery stores to food trucks to high-end restaurants – but here, poke bowl shops are just starting to pop up.
Even though Poke Poke is close to our house, I wanted to make a vegan poke bowl recipe at home to share with all of you. I didn’t want to use fish because, well, this is a vegetarian blog. Also, I’m not a big fan of getting sushi grade fish at the grocery store. Enter – watermelon. I first saw the idea here and I was intrigued. While it doesn’t taste like ahi tuna, it sure looks like it, and it’s fresh, fun, and delicious.
Vegan Poke Bowl Ingredients
In my plant-based poke bowl recipe, I skipped the rice. You could easily add some, but I found the grain-free bowl to be the perfect light meal on a hot summer day. Here’s what made it so refreshing:
- Watermelon acts as the fish. It’s cooling, juicy, crisp & sweet – delicious!
- Pickled ginger adds a little sweet/tangy pop.
- Cucumber gives it a cooling crunch and pairs perfectly with the melon.
- Macadamia nuts are a Hawaiian staple, and they add delectable richness and crunch.
- Jalapeño spices it up.
- Scallions are a classic poke bowl ingredient, and they cut through the sweetness of the watermelon.
- Avocado gives this bowl essential creaminess, balancing the sweet & sharp flavors.
- A tangy tamari-sesame-lime sauce ties it all together.
- And furikake – a toasted nori and sesame seed condiment – is the perfect nutty, toasty finishing touch.
Vegan Poke Bowl Recipe Variations
Customizing your bowl is one of the best parts of eating poke, so don’t hesitate to fix yours to your liking. If you need ideas to change the bowl topping up, here are a few suggestions:
- Make a more traditional poke bowl by adding a base of rice. Jasmine rice or sushi rice is customary, but brown rice or even quinoa would be good too.
- Swap the watermelon for diced mango, marinated or baked organic tofu, or sashimi grade fish if you’re not vegetarian!
- I like the macadamia nuts for a little Hawaiian flare, but if they’re not your thing, omit them entirely, or replace them with another nut, crisp fresh corn kernels, or steamed shelled edamame.
- Add a handful of cilantro, mint, or basil.
- Try using the sauce from this recipe!
Let me know what variations you try!
More Favorite Watermelon Recipes
If you love this vegan poke bowl, try another refreshing watermelon recipe like watermelon gazpacho, watermelon tomato salad, watermelon feta salad, or a watermelon margarita next!
Vegan Poke Bowl
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar or agave
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 5 cups cubed watermelon
- ¼ cup chopped scallions
- 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup macadamia nuts
- 2 tablespoons pickled ginger
- 1 small jalapeño or thai chile, diced
- ½ ripe avocado, pitted and diced
- Furikake (recipe below) or toasted sesame seeds
- Handful of microgreens, optional
- 1 sheet nori
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Make the furikake (if using): Toast the nori over a gas burner by waving the sheet above the burner until it’s darkened and crispy. Cut into small pieces. Place the toasted nori in a food processor with the sesame seeds, salt and sugar. Pulse until everything is well chopped up.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl combine the tamari, garlic, lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.
- Toss the watermelon with the scallions and a bit of the dressing. Assemble bowls with the watermelon, cucumber, macadamia nuts, pickled ginger, jalapeño, avocado and microgreens, if using. Pour on more dressing (as much as you like) and gently toss. Serve with furikake sprinkled on top.
Use leftover furikake topping on rice bowls with grilled or roasted vegetables.
tried this recipe and i’m in love!! I also added in some rice 🙂
My family loves this recipe!
Does the furikake seasoning last in a Pyrex lidded bowl for future vegan poke dinners?
I’m so happy to hear! Yep, it’ll last awhile (a couple of weeks?). I usually keep it in a little bowl at room temp.
I can not wait to try this recipe. I just love how watermelon has become such a great savoury addition this season.
Poke bowls are definitely the rage here in So. Cal as well. I love your idea to use watermelon as this something my family will eat <3. Love the creativity.
Look so nice. I will try to cook it.
It looks so pretty! I bet it tastes amazing too (of course it does because it has watermelon and avocado in it!)
Mmm, I love this idea! Also, good to hear you liked Poke Poke – I’m in Austin too and have driven by a couple times but haven’t gone yet 🙂
you should go, it’s really good 🙂
What a great alternative to poke bowls! They seem so intimidating, though I can’t get enough of them. This looks so refreshing and perfect for the remaining hot weather before fall.
Hello!! I was wondering, it says that the recipe serves two, but mentions to divide the four cups of watermelon into four bowls. It also mentions to increase watermelon from 4 to 6 cups to serve four as a side. Is this correct or is there an error somewhere? Thanks!
Sorry, that was confusing. It’ll make 2 big bowls, or 4 smaller bowls.
Oh wow this is such a beautiful recipe and a beautiful farewell to summer!!! I can not wait to try this recipe. I just love how watermelon has become such a great savoury addition this season. Thank you for sharing 🍐
What a great idea- sounds perfect for late summer!
So much summer love packed into this bowl, and I love that you did a veggie version!
Please explain this “poke bowl” phenomenon to a poor expat in rural France, where the choices are French food or French food (not bad choices, but no poke bowls to be found).
What is the poke factor in this recipe?
It’s kind of a deconstructed sushi bowl, usually made with raw tuna.
Aloha! Super late comment but as a Hawaiian I feel the need to answer. 🙂
Poke is a Hawaiian word and is pronounced POH-keh. Many people mispronounce it as the English word “poke”. In Hawaiian poke means to slice or cut crosswise into pieces/cubes.
Traditional Hawaiian poke is usually made with cubed raw fish (such as ahi), soy sauce, and other seasonings.
Loved this post, great photos too!