Sushi for Beginners

Your kids may soon join you at the sushi bar. Here are seven tips for introducing them to the briny treat.

By Katie Workman


Sushi has now become happily, wonderfully, readily available in Japanese restaurants all over the country, and for those who crave it, this is excellent news.While some kids take to sushi like, hmmm, a fish takes to water, there are some understandably more recalcitrant about giving it a go. Fair enough.

As a parent, you might have some questions about when it is safe for kids to try raw fish or seafood. The FDA warns against giving raw fish to “young children,” and many nutritionists recommended waiting until sometime around the ages of 5 to 7. Add to these cautions the perhaps obvious caveat that you should buy any and all sushi at places with good reputations for fresh fish.

Now, how to introduce this food to a skeptical kid? Here are seven tips that will make converts of even your most skeptical child. Maybe.

  1. Start with cooked sushi: Shrimp (ebi) is a good bet, as are California rolls, which are made with avocado, cucumber, and cooked imitation cab, often called surimi. Many restaurants now offer other creative rolls that include various cooked fish, and some, if you ask nicely, will even cook a piece of fish and make a special piece of sushi or a roll for you. Tempura rolls are another great way to go, and smoked salmon finds its way onto many rolls in the U.S. Eel is always cooked and often served with a very flavorful and pleasantly sweet-and-salty barbecue sauce — a surefire hit, as long as the word eel doesn’t send your budding gourmet running for the hills.
  2. Hit the vegetarian options:  Most Japanese restaurants have lots of veggie options, some very inspired. Commonly available vegetarian sushi rolls feature cucumber, pickles, avocado, radishes, spinach, carrots, and more. Slightly sweet egg, cooked and cut into slabs, is another alternative.
  3. Go for the rolls: For beginners, these may not scream “fish!” as loudly as individual pieces. They are easy to pick up with your fingers and dip lightly into soy sauce.  Hand rolls, shaped like cones, are also fun. They are large, so order them when you know what fish you really like.
  4. Try a fish that already passed the taste test: If your child eats cooked salmon, tuna, scallops, or another kind of seafood or fish, start with one of them, something they already have embraced.
  5. Avoid the most strongly flavored fish:  Some milder options are tuna, halibut, red snapper, scallops, and usually salmon. Wait a while on the mackerel, sardines, and other more oily fish.
  6. Sit at the counter! Watching the sushi chef do his thing is lots of fun, and hopefully he (occasionally she) will be willing to chat with your offspring and answer questions. Watching their meal being prepared in front of their eyes often makes kids much more willing to try something new.
  7. Don’t rush your kids: It may take a few tries before your children really get into sushi. Some kids are going to take longer than others, or they may decide that sushi isn" t="" their="" thing.="" that’s="" okay;="" what="" is="" important="" that="" they="" try="" new="" things,="" and="" give="" them="" a="" few="" good="" chances="" before="" cross="" off="" lists.<="" span="">

    If you have questions about when to introduce sushi to your child, it's a good idea to talk to your pediatrician. You also may want to check out for more information on different kinds of fish, and what's safest for kids.



    Katie Workman is the author of the upcoming The Mom 100 Cookbook, to be published in the spring of 2012. She is the founding editor-in-chief of, a website devoted to trusted, tested recipes from cookbook authors