Furikake – A Versatile Japanese Seasoning With Many Sugarproof Uses
The many wonders and uses of Furikake–a Japanese seasoning perfect for adding an umami punch to rice, eggs, veggies, and more!
I was first introduced to Furikake a few years ago by Richard, the owner of the New High Mart, a Japanese store on Vermont Avenue in my neighborhood and close to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where I work. I’ve never been to Japan before, but it’s easy to think that I am there as soon as I step into the store. It’s quirky in a very Japanese way. For starters you have to ring the bell to be let in, and then when you are in you have to leave your phone by the door. It’s worth the trouble. Typically, I stop by to pick up my supply of Japanese sencha tea. Often, I enjoy a conversation with Richard who goes into great detail about the origins of all the items and where and how they are made and how to use them in the Japanese way. One day I got the full run down on furikake and I was sold. My family and I got quickly hooked and now it’s a regular staple in our house. Here I want to share with you how you can use this seasoning to get your kids snacking on veggies, avoid typical sugar bombs at breakfast, and make a great meal out of practically nothing.
Furikake is a Japanese seasoning intended to be sprinkled on rice, vegetables and fish. It is typically a mixture of different varieties and treatments of sesame seeds (black, white, toasted, etc), seaweed and salt. Some brands do have a bit of added sugar but usually not very much. For example, the brand that I found at the New High Mart has just 1g of sugar per tablespoon of seasoning. This is a minimal amount and the only downside but the benefits far outweigh the risk. Also, I have since found a brand at Trader Joes with zero added sugars and tastes just as good and is a good deal at $2.49 (sorry Richard).
You can also find Furikake at Asian grocery stores. I have seen some brands with things like maltodextrin (as a filler), and many will have MSG, disodium succinate and/or disodium inosinate (all flavor enhancers). Avoid any brand with these or any other unfamiliar chemical sounding names. The main ingredients should be sesame seed, seaweed and salt and you can also find products with a wide variety of different flavors including wasabi and salmon.
Here are a few ways you can use furikake that are relevant to Sugarproof:
1. Add to sushi rice and rice bowls. We make sushi rice on most weeks in our house. Typically, we will make a simple rice bowl for the evening meal and use the extra leftover rice to make stir fry for lunch later in the week. Before we discovered furikake we would often make a traditional sushi dressing with rice vinegar, salt and sugar. Almost all commercial or restaurant sushi rice is flavored with a vinegar-based dressing that also has added sugar. For example, commercial sushi rice vinegar seasoning has 6g of added sugars per 1 tablespoon which is 6 times more than the furikake I mentioned. Other recipes for making sushi rice dressing that I have seen work out to be closer to 10g of sugar per tablespoon of vinegar dressing which is about what you’d have in a bowl of rice. That would work out to be 10g or 2.5 teaspoons of sugar in a bowl of sushi rice! Now, instead of making the vinegar seasoning, we just sprinkle furikake on the sushi rice. My younger daughter Orla will also drizzle the rice with plain rice vinegar as well, but either way we have cut down on added sugars thanks to the furikake. The rice and the furikake alone is delicious but you will want to use this as a base to add protein, fiber and veggies to make a complete meal. We will typically top the rice with things like edamame, cubed raw or pan-fried tofu, a fried egg or jammy boiled egg, and grilled veggies. Here is an example of a rice bowl we had recently.
I think this is probably one of our family’s favorite dinners, and it all started when we discovered the furikake. The others in my family also like to add a few splashes of chili sesame oil, also sourced from the New High Mart, but that’s a whole other story. Since kids typically like to choose their own toppings, I highly recommend serving this dinner in a way that they can construct their own bowls. Think of how much fun kids have at those frozen yogurt places where they get to add their own toppings. Now apply that same principle to a healthy meal of a simple bowl of rice with lots of healthy, nutrient-packed options for toppings.
2. Get your kids snacking on veggies instead of sugary carbs. We know kids love sprinkles and toppings but they don’t have to be of the sweet varieties like at the frozen yogurt place. Use the sprinkle and toppings theory to your advantage for promoting veggie intake using furikake. Typically, we will slice up some cucumbers but you can use any fresh veggies. Serve with a little bowl of furikake. Let the kids do the sprinkling or dip the cucumber in the furikake to give it a nice coating. They’ll love the crunch and the taste. You can also use this in lunch boxes. Try it on any other plain cut veggies or on roasted vegetables as a side.
3. Turn a typical sugar bomb breakfast into a savory version. In Sugarproof we talk a lot about the importance of breakfast and the need to avoid sugars so you don’t send the kids off for a day of sugar highs and crashes on the sugar roller coaster. One good example here is to use furikake in the morning on oatmeal or other type of whole grain porridge/hot cereal. Typically, hot cereal can be an invitation for kids to add a few glugs of maple syrup or spoons of brown sugar. But it doesn’t have to be served sweet. Next time try topping hot cereal with furikake sprinkles and ideally also a protein of choice like tofu or a fried egg. It will be a game changer and will turn a typical high sugar breakfast into a savory one without any added sugars.
4. Get your kids more interested in eggs at breakfast: Another way to avoid a typical sugary breakfast is to introduce eggs. In Sugarproof we have recipes for Popeye Scramble, Three, Two, One…Crepes, and Eggs in a Basket. On some days you might want something simpler but often it can be tricky to get kids to go for plain eggs. For a quick way to make eggs more enticing, try furikake sprinkles on plain scrambled eggs or a scooped out soft-boiled eggs mashed on a piece of toast. Or if time is still a major factor, boil and peel a few eggs the night before and in the morning just sprinkle them with the furikake.
These are just some simple ideas to get you started. Other ways to use furikake are to use it to sprinkle on salad or to flavor a batch of popcorn. Let us know if you have other ways that you have used this product to help kids to avoid sugar or increase veggies and encourage healthy snacking. Enjoy!
We would love to see what you are sprinkling this delicious seaweed seasoning on! Please share your family’s favorite uses for furikake or how it has helped replace sugary breakfasts on Instagram or Facebook. Tag us at @sugarproofkids for a chance to be featured on our social roundup!