Uni, or sea urchin roe, is a type of seafood that is a culinary delicacy in Japanese cuisine. It is an orange colored seafood with a distinct flavor that pairs well with many different kinds of dishes and is a delight to the taste buds. While it’s definitely delicious, is uni healthy?
Uni is very healthy since it is low calorie, protein packed, and has omega-3s and other micronutrients. A 25 gram serving of uni consists of 40 calories, with 5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of carbs. It’s packed with vitamins and healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which comes with a lot of health benefits.
It’s a very versatile ingredient and is a great way to add a decadent touch of protein to a dish - a great way to add some extra flair to your next dinner party. Best of all, making uni recipes at home means that you can use as much uni as you'd like!
In this article, I’m going to share some key information about uni and share some of the best ways to use uni in recipes.
Types of Uni
There are 2 predominant types of uni that differ based on origin - those from the United States and those from Japan.
Santa Barbara Uni – Within the US, the best fresh sea urchin is found in Santa Barbara. Most sushi restaurants on the West Coast get their uni stock from here. In Santa Barbara, they even have a weekend fish market where you can eat it out of the shell. The uni here tends to be sweeter and creamier.
Hokkaido Uni – The other kind of uni, also known as bafun uni, is from Hokkaido Japan, the hometown of the dish. It typically is the highest price in restaurants and is often seen as the highest quality of uni due to its strong umami flavor.
To learn more about the different uni types, check out this article.
Frequently Asked Questions
Uni is the edible part of the purple sea urchin. The edible part is reached by breaking the spiny outer shell to reveal the gonads, or sex organs, of the sea urchin.
Uni taste has a briny seafood-like, sweet flavor with a creamy texture. Its butter-like texture has made it a popular ingredient to include in a variety of dishes.
You should be able to find uni at your local Japanese grocery stores or a local seafood market if you live in a coastal city. I've also found them at HMart, a Korean chain grocery store.You can also order it online if you don’t happen to live near the coast - Santa Barbara Fish market sells some of the best in the United States.
Uni has many health benefits, including being a good source of protein and being packed with Vitamins and minerals.
It contains Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, which support cardiovascular health, and beta carotene, which helps with visual health and immune system strength. It also has a high amount of dietary fiber and is low in mercury compared to other seafoods.
If you liked this article, check out my 30 Healthy Japanese Recipes for more low calorie and high protein Japanese recipe ideas.
Best Japanese Uni Recipes
Uni’s creamy texture and distinct flavor make it a great addition to a wide variety of dishes including the more traditional Japanese recipes, to more experimental and fusion dishes. Here are some of my favorite ways to use uni.
Uni Pasta Recipe
Uni pasta is a popular fusion combo of Italian food with Japanese and has become a staple at izakaya restaurants. There are many different ways to make it, but my favorite way is by far the uni carbonara. It’s a spinoff of the traditional carbonara recipe, with the egg sauce infused with uni instead of the bacon, giving it a more seafood-like flavor and making it one of my personal favorite pasta sauces.
Making it is super simple. The uni carbonara consists of a sauce mixed with egg yolk, parmesan, dashi, and uni, combined to create a creamy texture and tossed with pasta sauce. You can also use an immersion blender to grind up the uni.
Meanwhile, the pasta is cooked in salted boiling water until al dente. Then, it’s just a matter of tossing the pasta and the sauce together in a frying pan on low heat.
Then, mix in pasta water until you reach a creamy consistency with the sauce and top with some spring onions for some freshness.
Check out Uni Carbonara recipe to see how I made this recipe in detail.
Uni Hamachi Crudo
Hamachi topped with uni is another delicious combo. In this recipe, I made a simple crudo sauce mixing soy sauce, mirin, and a touch of truffle oil. Then I added in the hamachi slices and topped it with uni, green onions, and furikake. This is a super delicious and decadent tasting dish that takes 5 minutes to make!
The classic that you will often find at sushi restaurants. A classic nigiri sushi consists of sushi rice wrapped in seaweed and topped with some fresh uni. It is often paired with some Japanese soy sauce for a delicious splash of umami. This dish is by far the most common way you'll find uni served at your local Japanese restaurant.
Uni also makes for a great filling in Japanese handrolls, also known as temaki. To make, wrap a piece of nori with rice with the uni along with any other desired mix-ins. Mix-ins can include other fish, as well as cucumbers and shiso leaf.
Check out this temaki making recipe for detailed steps on how to make a handroll.
With its butter-like texture, uni is also delicious topped on some toast. You can top it on some small baguette slices to make crostini, or on top of an avocado toast for a decadent avocado toast. Top it with some furikake for some additional garnish. This is an especially great appetizer to serve at your dinner parties and is sure to impress your guests.
Uni Scrambled eggs
Pair your favorite scrambled egg recipes with some more eggs! Uni is also delicious with your favorite scrambled eggs recipe. It's a great way to add some deliciousness to your breakfast. Take it a notch further and add salmon roe to recreate the famous egg on egg on egg recipe from Sakamai in NYC.
Maguro Uni Don (Tuna Uni Rice Bowl)
Maguro uni don is a popular rice bowl dish found throughout the stalls of Tsujiki fish market. It consists of a bowl of rice topped with fresh maguro (tuna sashimi) paired with uni. It is also sometimes paired with salmon roe and snow crab. This dish is super simple to put together and is packed with lean proteins, making this a great meal for fitness purposes.
Uni and Beef Nigiri
Uni and beef nigiri is a beautiful spin on surf and turf - the creamy uni texture paired with the delicious beefy flavor makes for a mouthwatering combo. For best results, I tend to like to keep the beef on the rarer side.
In addition to nigri, I’ve also seen steak dishes topped with uni, such as the famous steak dish at Salt and Charcoal.
Similar to the hamachi crudo, you can also make a scallop version of it. I used the same sauce mixture - soy sauce, mirin, and truffle oil. Then I sliced the scallops into small pieces and topped them with furikake and uni.
And of course, you can always enjoy the delicious sea urchin delicacy in its purest form - sashimi! It’s so good you may end up eating an entire tray yourself.