Fresh. Crunchy. Savory and satisfying. On the table, 30 minutes or less! Spicy Tuna Gimbap — the humble pantry meal that feels like a feast.
Typically, Gimbap is labor-intensive Korean food. Lots of ingredients. Lots of chopping and cooking.
But pantry-friendly Spicy Tuna Gimbap is a simple and easy weeknight meal. No cooking. Minimal prep. So easy and so good!
What is Spicy Tuna Gimbap?
Spicy Tuna Gimbap is a variation of a popular Korean snack that’s made with rice and various fillings rolled up in a large sheet of seaweed or nori.
Gimbap/Kimbap literally translates as “Seaweed Rice.” Most people are familiar with the traditional kind sold in Korean markets — with a variety of colorful vegetables and proteins.
By contrast, Spicy Tuna Gimbap is MUCH easier to make at home. The main ingredient is canned tuna. And there’s no cooking required, except for the rice!
Make simple and easy Spicy Tuna Gimbap and you’ll soon be making it on the regular, too!
- Short Grain Rice. Also called sushi rice, short grain rice contains more starch than long grain rice. When cooked, the rice clings and sticks together, making it easier to roll, slice, and stay together. Long grain rice is too fluffy and will fall apart when making Gimbap.
- Canned Tuna. I recommend spicy Korean tuna fish made by Dong Wong. So much flavor! Just enough spice! If you don’t have access to Spicy Tuna, use regular canned tuna and add sriracha.
- Mayo. Mayo binds the tuna together and adds tons of flavor. I use Kewpie, which is a Japanese mayo. It’s sweet, eggy, and very rich. Regular mayo also works, FYI.
- Seaweed Sheets or Nori/Gim. Full-size seaweed sheets (also called Nori or Gim) can be found at the Asian Grocery store. There are two kinds: unseasoned Japanese Nori and seasoned Korean Gim. Honestly, they are both delicious. Use the one that’s most convenient to purchase. They store for a long time in the pantry, so it’s easy to keep on hand.
- Cucumber. Adds lots of crunch and freshness. Cut into long, tiny strips for maximum crunch! (Versus one big cucumber log.)
- Kkaennip (Perilla leaves). Adds earthy, herby freshness. SO good with tuna. Use green leaf lettuce if you don’t have it.
- Sriracha + Kewpie drizzle. Optional garnish. Adds lots of flavor.
- Bonito flakes. Optional garnish. Adds lots of smoky flavor.
- Place seaweed sheet, flat side down.
- Add rice evenly and spread to corners, leaving a 2-inch border on top.
- Add Kkaennip (perilla leaves) or lettuce.
- Mix spicy tuna + mayo in a separate bowl and add on top of the perilla leaves.
- Add cucumbers.
- Picking up the bottom end, roll tightly into a log. Brush with sesame oil. Repeat, slice, and enjoy!
- Optional: The Spicy Tuna filling will bleed into the rice. There’s just no way to avoid it. Eat as is OR drizzle extra Kewpie (Japanese mayo), sriracha, and a generous handful of Bonito flakes to cover. Enjoy!
- Use a bamboo mat. Although it’s not necessary, it makes rolling easier.
- Use food service gloves. Makes spreading the rice on the nori easier. Also, easier to roll as the gloves work like non-stick surfaces.
- Add rice on the edges. To seal the gimbap and make sure the end of the nori sticks to the roll, smear a little rice on the clean edge before rolling.
- Drain tuna. As best as you can! Easier to roll and won’t bleed as much onto the rice.
What’s the difference between Gimbap and Sushi?
Some people refer to Gimbap as Korean sushi. But Gimbap is NOT sushi. In fact, it has an entirely different flavor profile than Japanese sushi.
Gimbap has a unique flavor. The rolled-up nori sheets are packed FULL of a variety of fillings. Common ones include cooked vegetables, savory meat such as bulgogi, and a pickled, sour-sweet flavor from yellow Korean daikon (danmuji).
Sushi contains raw fish and vinegar-seasoned rice. Sushi is also dipped into soy sauce and wasabi. The fillings are different and the rice is seasoned differently.
How do I store Gimbap?
Gimbap is best eaten the day it’s made, within 4-6 hours. If stored in the fridge, the rice will harden.
Can I make this non-spicy?
Yes, definitely! I make non-spicy Tuna Gimbap for my kids. Just use regular canned tuna instead of spicy Korean tuna. And don’t add the sriracha drizzle.
Other easy recipes to love:
- Homemade Miso Soup
- Miso Chocolate Mug Cake
- Olive Oil Black Pepper Parmesan Popcorn
- Korean Rolled Omelette (Gyeran Mari)
- Ramdon with Steak
Spicy Tuna Gimbap
- Bamboo Mat (optional)
- 4 Nori Sheets
- 1 cucumber
- 8-12 Kkaennip (Perilla) leaves (red or green leaf lettuce is a good substitute)
- 3 cups (uncooked) short grain rice
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 3 (5.29oz/150g) cans spicy Korean tuna (I use Dong Won Hot Pepper Tuna)
- 3 Tbsp Mayo (I use Kewpie Mayo)
- *1-2 Tbsp sriracha (if you don't have access to spicy tuna)
- Cook + season rice. In a rice cooker, cook short grain rice according to package directions. When the rice is fully cooked, transfer to a large bowl. Season with soy sauce and mix well. Cool slightly.
- Prep the fillings. Add drained, canned spicy tuna to a medium bowl. Add mayo and mix until well combined with a fork. Roughly divide the tuna mixture into 4 equal portions. Julienne cucumber into thin strips, the same length as the short side of the seaweed sheets. Roughly divide cucumber into 4 equal portions.
- Make Gimbap. Lay out one seaweed sheet, flat side down. Add 1 cup of (warm) rice and spread evenly to the edges, making sure to leave a 2-inch border at the top.
- Add kkaennip or lettuce leaves, making sure the leaves overlap.
- Add tuna mixture and cucumbers. (If you divide the portions in 4 equal portions beforehand, each roll will be sure to have equal amounts of filling.)
- Picking up the bottom end, roll tightly into a log. Use the bamboo mat (optional) to press into a cylindrical shape. Press a few grains of rice on the border to "glue" the end of the seaweed sheet to the rest of the roll.
- Coat with sesame oil. Repeat until all 4 rolls are finished.
- Slice Gimbap and spread onto a platter. The spicy sauce will bleed into the rice. There's just no way to avoid it. Eat as is OR drizzle extra Kewpie (Japanese mayo), sriracha, and a generous handful of Bonito flakes to cover. Enjoy!