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Vegan Poke Bowl With Watermelon (No Tofu)

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Everywhere I look new poke restaurants seem to be opening up around us. I’ve been loving the new trends of healthy food options being readily available. Classic poke bowls are made with raw tuna and are often served as an appetizer or a main course. This vegan watermelon poke bowl is a little bit different. It’s completely plant-based, but still has all the flavors of the classic Hawaiian dish. 

Vegan poke bowl with watermelon

Instead of raw fish, I use watermelon cubes to prepare this tasty recipe. It’s perfect for a hot summer day served with brown rice or sushi rice. You could even use this recipe for meal prep or pack it along for an easy picnic meal. After trying this vegetarian poke bowl, your fish-loving friends may never go back to the traditional version!

​Recipe highlights

  • This bowl is versatile and you can add your own veggies and spices to mix it up.
  • There is no tofu in the recipe. This is great if you are soy-free or do not have tofu on hand.
  • Simple, but exotic-tasting ingredients make this vegan version incredibly delicious and savory 
  • Cubed watermelon takes the place of the raw tuna that would be in a traditional poke bowl recipe. There is no marinated fish in this version.
  • The marinade ingredients contribute to the sweet, salty and savory flavors in this watermelon tuna poke bowl.
  • This recipe is perfect for anyone following a plant-based diet. 

Ingredients needed

Vegan poke bowl with watermelon - ingredients needed

Marinated Watermelon:

  • Cubed watermelon – The texture of the watermelon makes this look like a real poke bowl. And, the texture is amazing. Use a small seedless watermelon for best results.
  • Soy Sauce – I use regular soy sauce but you can use tamari if you are gluten-free. This ingredients helps contribute the salty and savory flavors that would be in any traditional poke recipe.
  • Rice Vinegar – Rice vinegar contributes slight acidity and sweetness to this recipe.
  • Miso Paste – This ingredient can be found in most traditional grocery stores. Be sure to use white/sweet miso paste for the best balance of flavor. 
  • Sesame Oil – Use toasted sesame oil for a salty and umami undertone that is essential for making delicious vegan poke bowls.

​Sauce

  • Vegan Mayonnaise – Any brand of plain vegan mayo will work. This provides the creamy base for this recipe.
  • Soy Sauce – A small amount of soy sauce is added to level up the flavor of the poke sauce.
  • Sriracha – You can adjust this ingredient and add a little more if you like it spicy. The addition of siracha to the plain mayonnaise makes this a spicy mayo (or sriracha mayo).

Bowl Ingredients

  • Rice – I suggest using short grain rice but you can use any type of rice you would like. 
  • Edamame – This adds protein to the poke bowl. Typically, sushi grade fish would be providing the protein but in this vegan poke bowl recipe, the protein has to come from other sources.
  • Carrot – Not only does carrot add a lovely flavor and crunch, but you cannot beat the bright contrast of colors.
  • Radish – You can omit the radish if you would like. But, I find the crunchy texture to really work with the juicy watermelon.
  • Avocado – You can mash the avocado for a creamy avocado topping, or top the bowl with avocado slices if you prefer.
  • Pickled ginger – I consider this my secret ingredient. I love pickled ginger on these bowls and it helps the recipe taste like the real thing.
  • Sesame seeds – A sprinkle of sesame seeds on top of these bowls brings it all together.

How to make vegan poke bowls with watermelon

Vegan poke bowl with watermelon

First, cut the watermelon into small 1-inch cubes and discard the watermelon rind. The watermelon chunks are taking the place of the ahi tuna that would be in the meat version of these poke bowls. 

In a large bowl, combine 3 Tbsp. of soy sauce with 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar, miso paste and toasted sesame oil. Whisk until smooth. 

Add the chunks of watermelon and toss to evenly coat. Set aside to marinate for 1 hour (or a couple hours if you have time). Turn the watermelon regularly to distribute the marinade evenly. The watermelon will release some liquid, this is normal!

Drain the watermelon and add it to a large pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring and being careful not to break up the pieces. Cook for 8-12 minutes until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

While the watermelon is cooling, prepare your sauce. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and stir till smooth. Add water (or rice milk) a small amount at a time till the consistency is met that you prefer.

Prepare your veggies. Cook the edamame (if needed) according to the package directions. Peel and cut the carrots into thin matchsticks. Slice your radish. 

Assemble the bowls with 3/4 cup of cooked rice to each bowl. Layer the veggies and top with 1/4 marinated watermelon and pickled ginger. Drizzle sauce and serve with sesame seeds. You can also top with green onions and lime juice for additional flavor.

Storage

The individual components of this recipe can be made 2 days in advanced and stored in an airtight container. Serve immediately after assembling the bowls.

Recipe notes

  • Do not skip the marinating of this recipe. I have made this recipe before and rushed it by not letting the watermelon marinate. The flavors need to develop and soak into the watermelon.
  • You can also quick-pickle or blanch the carrots if you would like the texture to be a bit softer. This also imparts a unique flavor.
  • The first time I made this recipe I used seeded watermelon. That was a mistake! Use seedless watermelon for the easiest preparation possible.

Other unique vegan recipes

If you like this vegan poke bowl recipe, check out one of these recipes:

Vegan Poke Bowl With Watermelon

Vegan poke bowl with watermelon
This vegan poke bowl is made with marinated watermelon for a flavor and texture that resembles tuna.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Serving Size 4 bowls

Ingredients

Marinated Watermelon

  • 4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet (white) miso paste
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Vegan Poke Sauce

  • cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha or hot sauce

Poke Bowl Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked rice (short grain)
  • 1 cup cooked edamame shelled
  • 1 carrots cut in matchsticks
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 4 radishes thinly sliced
  • 2 avocado sliced
  • cup pickled ginger

Garnish

  • shredded nori optional
  • toasted sesame seeds optional
  • green onions optional

Instructions

Prepare the watermelon

  • Cut watermelon into 1 inch cubes.
    Diced watermelon for vegan poke bowls
  • In a large bowl, combine ingredients for marinated watermelon. Whisk till smooth.
  • Add the watermelon and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate for at least 1 hour, turning regularly.
  • Drain the watermelon after marinating is complete. Add to a large pan over medium heat and cook, stirring gently being careful not to break the pieces up. The watermelon will release some liquid.
    Cooking watermelon for poke bowls
  • Cook for 10 minutes until all liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Make the poke sauce

  • While the watermelon is cooling, make the poke sauce.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir until smooth. If too thick, add water or rice milk a little bit at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Prepare the veggies

  • Cook the edamame according to package directions if needed. Cut the radishes into rounds and slice the carrots into matchstick sized pieces.
    Sliced veggies for vegan poke bowls
  • Slice the avocado or mash for a creamy avocado topping.

Assemble the poke bowls

  • Place 3/4 rice to each bowl. Layer veggies and 1/4 of marinated watermelon to each bowl.
  • Drizzle with sauce and top as desired.

Notes

  • All components can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in the fridge separately. Serve immediately once assembled.

While I am glad lots of new poke spots are opening up in the recent years, you can’t beat making your own version at home. This vegan watermelon tuna is a truly unique recipe, and it’s perfect for anyone venturing into poke bowls for the first time. Have you hopped on the new poke trend?

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