Types of Sushi
If you didn't grow up eating sushi, you may be confused when looking at a sushi roll menu if the restaurant chooses to leave out the descriptions. This guide will break down some common sushi terms and recipes so you can know what to order when visiting a sushi bar or restaurant.
Did You Know?
Feel free to eat your sushi rolls or nigiri with your hands! This is, in fact, how many in Japan eat their sushi. When eating nigiri, it's also recommended to turn the roll upside-down to dip in soy sauce to avoid absorbing too much into the rice.
5 Main Types of Sushi
|Type of Sushi||Description||Notes|
A topping, usually fish, served on top of sushi rice
Not all nigiri is raw, though this dish is best for people who want to appreciate the flavor of the fish, shellfish, or other toppings
Fish or shellfish served alone (no rice)
This is best for people who really love to taste the fish or shellfish since it comes with nothing else
Rice and filling wrapped in seaweed
This is what most people think of when they think of sushi rolls
Similar to the above, but rice is on the outside and seaweed wraps around the filling
These rolls often have lots of toppings and sauces — they may either be cooked or raw
Sushi that has been hand-rolled into a cone shape
The cones are not as easy to share as the rolls (though very delicious!)
Here's a brief run-down on what's what. For pictures and more information about each type, you can scroll to the sections below.
What's the Difference Between Sushi, Sashimi, and Nigiri?
- Sashimi is just the meat, served without other ingredients.
- Sushi features the meat and adds rice and other ingredients, such as vegetables, which are all rolled up in a sheet of nori (seaweed) and then sliced into pieces. You'll either see it as maki (which means roll), where the seaweed is on the outside, uramaki, where the seaweed is on the inside and rice is on the outside, or temaki, a cone-shaped piece of sushi that's rolled by hand.
- Nigiri is a dish that's halfway in between sashimi and sushi. Nigiri is sashimi that's served on a molded rectangle of rice.
Lastly, while most sashimi is raw fish, some sashimi is not raw, and some sashimi is not fish. For example, unagi is cooked freshwater eel, and sashimi also encompasses other types of seafood, which you will see below.
Types of Sashimi
|Sashimi Name||What Is It?|
Spanish Mackerel (raw)
Sweet Shrimp (raw)
Saltwater Eel — usually deep-fried or boiled
Round Clam (raw)
Albacore White Tuna (raw)
Skipjack Tuna (raw)
Tiger Shrimp (cooked)
Yellow Tail (raw)
Yellowtail Belly (raw)
Surf Clam (cooked)
Squid (the body is served raw, the tentacles are cooked)
Salmon Roe (fish eggs)
Crab Meat (cooked)
Salmon Belly (raw)
Red Snapper (raw)
Sweet Egg Omelet (cooked)
Blue Fin Belly (raw)
Whelk Clam (raw)
Ocean Trout (raw)
Barbequed Freshwater Eel
Sea Urchin (raw)
Sashimi is to sushi as a fillet is to a taco. Any sashimi meat can be made into a sushi roll. And any chef can get creative and create specialty sushi rolls by combining multiple meats and vegetables. However, there are a few specialty sushi rolls that can be found at most restaurants, though the exact preparation can differ significantly.
Types of Popular Sushi Rolls
|Roll Name||What's in It?||Contains Raw Fish?||You Should Order If . . .|
Avocado, shrimp tempura, cucumber, tobiko (flying fish roe — fish eggs)
Usually not — double check to make sure
You like fried shrimp and avocado
Salmon, avocado, cream cheese
You like cold and creamy
Spicy tuna, crispy seaweed, tempura
You like crispy, crunchy and raw tuna
Shrimp tempura, yellowtail, bean sprouts, carrots, avocado, cucumber, chili, spicy mayo
You like warm, creamy, and crunchy
Fish cake/imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, tuna, avocado, salmon, shrimp, yellowtail
You like different kinds of sashimi
Eel, crab, cucumber / avocado outside, eel sauce
You love eel — which is warm, buttery, and a little sweet
Crab or imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds
You don't like raw fish and like avocado
Spicy Tuna Roll
Tuna, mayo, chili sauce
You like cold and spicy
Eel, cucumber, avocado
You like eel (cooked and warm) and avocado
Soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, spicy mayo
You like crab and crunchy tempura
Cucumber, fresh carrot, scallion, avocado, asparagus, cream cheese
You like veggies
Shrimp Tempura Roll
Shrimp tempura, avocado, tempura flakes, eel sauce
You like crunchy and fried shrimp
Surf and Turf Roll
Cucumber, fish cake/imitation crab, beef, carrot, tuna, salmon, avocado
You like raw fish and cooked beef
One or more of the parts is deep-fried in a light batter
You like crunchy, fried foods.
Contents will differ, but it will have some kind of topping that makes it looks like the roll is exploding.
Vegetarian Sushi Ingredients
There are also vegetarian sushi ingredients that have the added bonus of being on the cheaper side. These include:
- Egg (tamago)
- Cucumber (kappa)
Common Sides and Condiments
Before we begin, you must know what to eat with sushi.
- Miso soup: Traditional Japanese soup made with dashi stock and miso paste.
- Edamame: Young soybeans in their pods.
- Tempura: Fried vegetables or shrimp in a crunchy batter.
- Wasabi: Green paste made from Japanese horseradish. This should be mixed with shoyu (soy sauce) as a dipping sauce for your sushi.
- Pickled ginger: The Japanese use ginger to clear their palettes between courses.
The sushi roll you get might have brightly colored orange spheres or tiny black spheres on it—these are both roe, which are fish eggs.
- Tobiko: Roe of flying fish. Usually a bright orange, though it can be colored to be black or even green.
- Masago: Roe of capelin. Usually orange-colored unless it is dyed.
Meet Some Common Sushi Fillings
All of these pictures are of the fillings in nigiri form (on a bed of rice). Sashimi is raw fish. When placed on rice (sometimes with nori, or sheets of seaweed), it is sushi. The following raw toppings can be found on sushi menus:
Spicy Tuna Roll
Ahi (tuna) rolls usually have a dark pink layer of raw tuna in them.
However, spicy tuna (or spicy ahi) usually includes diced or shredded tuna with hot peppers. The spicy sauce that sushi chefs use is usually orange and is about as hot as a banana pepper or sandwich jalapeño.
Tempura is a Japanese style of deep frying that uses a light batter. Tempura rolls can be made in two ways.
As shown in the photo above, one way to make this crunchy delight is to make the entire roll tempura. In the photo above, the chef created a sashimi roll, covered it in tempura batter, and deep-fried the whole thing.
Tempura Style #2
Another way to make this crunchy delight is to prepare the contents tempura. For those rolls, shrimp tempura or some other kind of vegetable tempura is put inside the nori (seaweed paper).
Unagi is a saltwater eel. Sushi usually uses a grilled slab of unagi coated or marinated in either oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce, or some other sweet-and-salty glaze. Unagi tastes like tender steak.
A California roll is usually made with crab and avocado. If you purchase a California roll in a supermarket, you may get one with mayonnaise in it. In the California roll above, there is crab, ahi (tuna), and avocado. Sometimes it will be served with a slab of ahi on top.
Inari is breaded-rice sushi. The bread is thin and sweet and sometimes filled with vegetables such as carrot strips or cucumber.
A rainbow roll is a sushi roll topped with many different types of sashimi.
The sushi roll underneath the sashimi is usually a California roll (avocado and crab).
To make this type of sushi, the chef prepares a California roll and adds the toppings afterwards.
Dragon rolls are usually unique to the chef, and many get creative with the appearance of the dragon roll—some making them look like dragons. So there is some variation as to the ingredients chosen by different chefs, but dragon rolls are usually filled with eel and cucumber and topped with thinly-sliced avocado, producing a scale effect.
The Philly roll is a popular kind of sushi that you will find on many menus around the country. It usually has salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber, though it might come with other ingredients like avocado, onion, and sesame seed. It's named the Philly roll because of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, not because it's from Philadelphia.
Temaki With Crab
This is an example of a cone-shaped hand roll, which is called temaki. This one has crab in it—you can tell it's real crab because it's stringy. Imitation crab usually comes in stick form and is not stringy.
The spider roll has soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, and spicy mayo on it. Sometimes the chef will construct it so it looks like it has spider legs coming out of the sides.
There's even something at sushi restaurants for people who don't eat fish! Many places offer a veggie roll, which will—no surprise here—contain different kinds of vegetables like cucumber or avocado.
The contents of volcano rolls tend to vary, but the one thing they have in common is that there is usually some kind of topping on the rolls that makes it look like the sushi is exploding—hence the term "volcano roll."
Other Common Words on Sushi Menus
|Item||What Is It?|
Soft tofu coated with potato starch and deep fried
Bowl of rice mixed with fish, vegetables, and additional ingredients of your choice
A type of radish
Japanese "rice bowl dish" consisting of fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients simmered together and served over rice
A dish made of unripened soybeans
Vegetable dish made with sesame dressing
Japanese pan-fried dumplings
Imitation crab meat
Deep fried cutlet
Generic term for skewered and grilled meat and vegetables
Rice and fillings wrapped in seaweed (commonly called sushi roll)
Capelin roe (fish eggs) — orange in color
A traditional Japanese seasoning
Chewy dessert made from rice
Raw fish served over pressed, vinegared rice
Raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and sometimes as an entree
A Japanese dipping sauce made from soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and fish flakes
Thinly sliced meat served without rice
A kind of Japanese herb
A type of sweet and spicy sauce
A type of Japanese condiment
Hand-roll: rice and fish in a cone-shaped seaweed wrapper
Japanese breaded frying preparation
A Japenese tempura dip
Flying fish roe
Belly area of fish
Type of thick noodle made with wheat flour
A type of pickled plum
A type of seaweed
A type of Japanese herb similar to horseradish
Japanese type of skewered chicken
Fried buckwheat noodles
Japanese pickled burdock root
A type of citrus fruit
There are six main types of sushi found in restaurants. If you know the basics about these, then you should be able to interpret a menu much easier than if you were to try without this knowledge. Below are the six different types of sushi and what their basics consist of.What are the 3 main types of sushi? ›
Different Types of Sushi: Nigiri- raw fish pressed onto balls of rice. Maki- raw fish rolled up in seaweed. Sashimi- raw fish cut into thin slices.What is the most popular sushi roll? ›
A heady mixture of raw tuna and hot sauce, the spicy tuna roll is easily one of the most popular menu items in American sushi restaurants.
The most common type of sushi is nigirizushi, which is finger-sized sushi that is hand-pressed and has a piece of raw fish on top. Nigirizushi is typically made with tuna, salmon, or shrimp.What is the most popular Japanese sushi? ›
According to our survey results, Maguro (tuna; nigiri) is by far the most frequently eaten sushi type. 60 percent of the respondents answered that they eat Maguro sushi frequently.What is the best tasting raw sushi? ›
Hamachi: Tasty when served both raw or cooked; it's fresh, soft, and buttery, with a slightly smoky flavor—considered the Best fish for raw sushi in the traditional Japanese style, simple seasoning.What is the basic sushi called? ›
Nigiri is the original form of sushi that we know today. Also called edo-mae (meaning “in front of Edo”), the name refers to its birthplace of Tokyo (formerly Edo). It's made up of a hand-pressed rice cylinder (shari) topped with any number of ingredients (neta).What is simple sushi called? ›
Sashimi. Sashimi refers to raw seafood cut into thin slices. It's a simple form of sushi that Chau says is deceptively hard to prepare, as the seafood must be cut perfectly to “ensure the mouthfeel is smooth and the bite has a melt-in-your mouth quality” and any mistake in the cut will be noticeable to the consumer.What are small sushi rolls called? ›
Hosomaki are smaller rolls made with a sheet of nori, rolled up with a layer of rice, but contain only a single filling, such as cucumbers, tuna or carrots. Temaki are hand rolls, which are made by rolling a sheet of nori into a cone shape, then filling with rice and vegetables and fish.What kind of sushi is popular in Japan? ›
Japanese people love sushi, and tuna just edges out salmon as their favorite topping. In a survey conducted by the take-out sushi chain Kyōtaru, the popular sushi toppings akami (lean tuna) and chūtoro (medium-fatty tuna) placed joint first with 45.8%, closely followed by salmon with 44.3%.
Maki-zushi Vegan Sushi
The sushi is then sliced evenly to reveal its fillings. Kappa maki-cucumber roll-is a safe bet for vegetarians and vegan sushi-eaters, with a slice of cucumber wrapped in a thin roll of rice and seaweed.
Tempura rolls are basically deep fried maki or uramaki rolls. Tempura itself is basically a method of frying fish or vegetables in a light batter made of flour, water, and eggs. In other words, the western love of deep fried everything has even made it to the sushi world.What is the most sushi eaten in one sitting? ›
The record for eating them falls to Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, who completed the feat on a Japanese TV show, 'Food Battle Club'. He consumed 150 onigiri (about 9kg in weight) in the space of half an hour.What is the most famous sushi in the world? ›
Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし次郎) is one of the best praised Edo-style Sushi restaurants in Japan and all over the world, having been listed on the Michelin Guide as the three-star restaurant for 11 years running.What is the safest sushi to eat? ›
Tuna is often considered a safer option for sushi. It's a faster fish, so it often avoids parasites. This doesn't protect it from other contamination issues, like salmonella, but it's one way to reduce your risk.What's the safest fish to eat raw? ›
Here are a few common types of fish eaten raw: seabass, swordfish, salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna and salmon. Other types of seafood, like shrimp, crab, scallops, eel and octopus are also widely and safely eaten raw.What fish is the king of sushi? ›
Sushi wouldn't be sushi without tuna, particularly bluefin tuna. It is so revered in Japan that they call it the" king of sushi."What are traditional sushi rolls? ›
Typically, Japanese sushi rolls have nori wrapped on the outside, while Western sushi has the nori on the inside of the roll so that the rice is outside the roll. Putting rice on the outside was done to appeal more to the Western aesthetic, which preferred not to feel the texture of seaweed from the outside.What is cooked sushi called? ›
|What it is:||A traditional sushi roll consisting of fish, veggies and rice, rolled up in seaweed.||Thin slices of raw fish served atop rice.|
|Cooked or raw?||Either one||Raw|
|Does it count as sushi?||Yes||Yes|
Sushi always contains rice, while sashimi is just slices of meat or fish. Sashimi could be considered “no-rice sushi.”
1. Sushi. Sushi is the most famous Japanese dish and the first thing people think of when they think of Japanese cuisine.What is the healthiest sushi roll? ›
It's probably the cleanest thing on the menu because you're looking at pure protein. They contain a lot of omega 3 fatty acids and provide a lot of protein without all the carbs of the roll,” says White.
The combination of fish, rice and seasonings makes sushi a perfect food part of a healthy meal pattern. Sushi can fit into almost any diet as part of a healthy way of eating.How many rolls of sushi per person? ›
Sushi is designed to share, which is why so many sushi catering packages feature platters or sushi “boats.” If you're wondering how to order sushi for a hungry office, a good rule of thumb is roughly one roll (six pieces) per person.What do you drink with sushi? ›
- Japanese Beer. Instead of going with a dark and heavy beer, choose a light brand like Sapporo. ...
- Sake. Sake is a tasty, fermented rice beverage. ...
- Prosecco. Prosecco is a bubbly white wine that isn't too sweet. ...
- Pinot Grigio. For a more floral flavor, try a pinot grigio. ...
- Tuna: Any sort of tuna, be it bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack, or albacore, can be eaten raw. ...
- Salmon: Salmon is one of the most popular ingredients used in sushi and sashimi, but to ensure it is safe, it shouldn't be previously frozen, or farmed appropriately.
Nigiri uses rice, and is technically a type of sushi, while nigiri eschews rice, and can be made of fish or a different type of meat.What is the sweet sushi called? ›
A Guide to Inarizushi: Japan's Sweet Sushi Tofu Pockets
Inarizushi (or, inari-sushi) is another unique variety of sushi, a sweet bean bag-looking morsel, made with a pocket of sweet deep-fried tofu known as inari filled with sticky Japanese sushi rice.
Tuna, fresh salmon, cream cheese & avocado, rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with tempura chips, smelt roe & spicy sauce.What is crab sushi called? ›
|California roll sushi with roe|
|Alternative names||California maki|
|Region or state||North America|
|Main ingredients||Rice, cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado|
|Food energy (per serving)||1 serving (2 pieces), 129 kcal|
I've heard the terms Spam sushi and Spam sandwiches, but, no, get it right: It's Spam musubi. Back home in Hawaii, musubis are found at every convenience shop on the islands, 7-11 included (and, I must say, their musubis are pretty darn good!).What is basic sushi? ›
Sushi is typically made with rice, nori (seaweed), fish, and vegetables. Common sushi ingredients include tuna, salmon, shrimp, squid, eel, and crab. You can use almost any ingredient you like in sushi. Popular ingredients include vegetables, fruits, and meats.What are the traditional sushi rolls? ›
Some of Japan's most traditional sushi comes in varieties like maki rolls and temaki. The main difference between these two types of sushi is that maki rolls are rolls that are cut into bite-size pieces and temaki are hand rolls kept in a cone or log shape that's meant to be bitten into.What sushi has no fish? ›
If you don't like fish but still want to eat sushi, there are a number of veggie-based options available. Avocado rolls are a popular choice. Avocado rolls are served as chunks of ripe avocado rolled in a layer of sushi rice and covered in seaweed.What is the most popular fish for sushi? ›
Tuna: A top choice, go with any sort of tuna, including bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye, skipjack, bonito, and albacore. There are a few rarer ones as well. Salmon: Though it is popular and commonly used for sushi, this particular fish does come with concerns about parasites.What are rice sushi rolls called? ›
Nigiri uses rice, and is technically a type of sushi, while nigiri eschews rice, and can be made of fish or a different type of meat. It's also not technically sushi – though it's still served at most sushi joints. So, who comes out the victor in the war between nigiri and sashimi?