Here we dive into sushi vs sashimi: two of the most beloved Japanese dishes around the world. For those who are not well-versed in Japanese cuisine, it can be easy to confuse these two (typically) raw fish menu items. 

In this article, we define sushi vs sashimi, give background on each, and highlight the key differences between them. We tell you how you can make your own at home and provide our favorite recipes. 

What is considered sushi?

Let’s begin by defining what is perhaps the most iconic Japanese food found around the world: sushi. Sushi typically consists of vinegared white rice formed into a mound or roll with raw seafood or fish and vegetables. Sushi is often made with nori seaweed wraps. 

There are many types of sushi—including vegetarian—and ways to form it. It can be served as an appetizer or a main dish, alongside soy sauce for dipping; sweet, pickled ginger (to cleanse the palate); and a dollop of spicy wasabi for heat. 

Origins of sushi 

Sushi is said to have originated in China between the 5th and the 3rd centuries BC. Originally called narezushi, the simple dish consisted of fermented rice and salted fish, which were necessary due to the lack of refrigeration at the time.

Around the 9th century, sushi was introduced in Japan by the Chinese, along with Buddhism. By the 18th century, cooked sushi replaced the fermented version, until

a famous chef named Hanaya Yohei began preserving the rice with vinegar in place of long fermentation, creating the sushi we know and love today. Sushi spread to the West after World War II becoming a staple favorite around the world.

What is usually in sushi?

Sushi is typically made with cooked white rice infused with vinegar, nori (seaweed) wraps, fish or seafood (usually raw), and vegetables. The most common types of sushi are tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), eel (unagi), octopus (tako), shrimp (ebi), and crab (kani). Fresh cucumbers and avocados can be included for texture and brightness.  

Types of sushi

The most popular variations of sushi are:

  • Nigiri: A hand-pressed sushi roll in which a piece of fish is placed on top of a mound of sushi rice. This is the original and purest form of sushi. 
  • Maki: Rice and filling ingredients are rolled inside a seaweed wrap and then sliced into bite-sized pieces. This is perhaps the most popular type in the West.
  • Uramaki: An inside-out maki roll, with rice on the outside of the seaweed wrap. Typically served with many toppings.
  • Temaki: This is a cone-shaped sushi roll with rice and filling ingredients inside the nori wrap.
  • Chirashizushi is a less popular type of sushi in which toppings are served over a bed of sushi rice. 

Is sushi completely raw?

No, sushi is not completely raw. Sushi rice, which is an integral component of the dish, is always cooked. While most sushi fillings are raw, this is not always the case. Historically, sushi was fermented or cooked to preserve the fish before refrigeration. Today, you can request that your seafood be raw or cooked. 

What is sushi served with?

Sushi can be eaten on its own as a meal, as an appetizer, or side dish with other foods. Sushi is typically served with soy sauce (which etiquette dictates should only be put on the fish portion of the roll), sweet pickled ginger (gari), and wasabi. 

For a larger Japanese meal, sushi pairs well with veggie or shrimp tempura (battered and fried), gyoza, edamame, miso soup, and seaweed salad.  

How to make sushi

Here are the basic steps for making a maki roll. For temaki, uramaki, or nigiri, you will need to adjust how you place the filings and roll the seaweed wrap.  

  1. Cook sushi rice: Use short or medium-grain white rice. Higher starch content allows the rice to stick together better.
  2. Flavor rice: Mix some vinegar into the rice.  
  3. Prepare fillings: Slice your fresh fish fillet or seafood, avocado, cucumber, or other vegetables, if using.
  4. Prepare nori sheets: Lay a nori sheet on a bamboo mat for rolling. Beginners may want to cut the sheets in half for easier rolling.  
  5. Add filling: Lay out a thin layer of sushi rice and add filling ingredients on top of the rice. 
  6. Roll and slice: Roll the nori sheet into a cylinder. Slice the cylinder into bite-sized pieces or serve as whole rolls.  

Best sushi recipes

Check out our roundup of 25 restaurant-quality sushi recipes. Whether you want classic rolls or poke bowls, Drizzle Me Skinny has got you covered!  If raw fish makes you nervous, this roundup of 24 cooked sushi recipes includes non-traditional recipes using tempura, deep-fried sushi, imitation crab, teriyaki chicken, and so much more.   

What exactly is sashimi?

Sashimi is a Japanese word meaning “pierced meat.” This could reference the freshness of fish that has just been caught. Technically, sashimi is any type of thinly sliced raw food, though it is usually seafood or other types of meat.  

Common protein choices for sashimi include yellowtail (hamachi), bluefin tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), and sea urchin (uni). Sashimi can also be made using tofu or different types of meat such as beef. 

A key difference between sashimi vs sushi is that there’s no rice and no rolling involved in sashimi. Sashimi is served with shredded daikon radish in lieu of rice and is often accompanied by soy sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger, and cucumber.

Is sashimi sushi?

While many consider sashimi a type of sushi, purists will tell you that it’s not. This is because sashimi is not served with vinegared rice, which is a defining ingredient of sushi. You can, however, typically find sashimi in any sushi restaurant.

Origins of sashimi

The practice of eating raw fish was introduced to Japan from China as early as the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). Sashimi didn’t become popular in Japan until the Edo period, between 1600 and 1867. The raw fish dish spread to the West much later, growing in popularity in the US in the 1980s.

How are you supposed to eat sashimi?

Sashimi is eaten with chopsticks and can be served plain or with garnishes. Smear a piece of fish with a small amount of wasabi before dipping it into soy sauce. Pickled ginger or cucumber can be used between bites to cleanse your palate.

If the fish is served with shiso leaves, wrap a leaf around the fish before dipping it into the soy sauce and eating it (sans chopsticks). 

Does sashimi taste like anything?

Sashimi has a fresh and delicate umami flavor of the fish being consumed. Because it’s typically dipped in soy sauce and smeared with wasabi, it can be a bit salty, sweet, and spicy. The meat has a firm yet smooth texture that melts in your mouth. 

How do you make sashimi?

Begin by selecting sashimi-grade, high-quality fish for safety. Check for freshness by feeling that the fish is firm and bright in color. It should not have a strong odor. Sashimi can also be made using frozen fish, which can give you peace of mind about its freshness. For ease, it’s best to buy fish that has already been deboned, scaled, and trimmed. 

Use a very sharp knife when slicing sashimi against the grain. This will help you get thin slices. Once thinly sliced, transfer the meat to a serving plate with soy sauce, daikon radish, cucumber slices, wasabi, or other chosen garnishes (if using). 

Best sashimi recipes

While sashimi sounds quite simple, there are many variations and flavor profiles to try. We love this spicy salmon sashimi with ginger from Food & Wine. Made with hot chile oil, it has a great kick! This tuna sashimi with daikon and ginger by Spruce Eats is also delightful—simple, fresh, and clean!  

Summary: What is the difference between sushi and sashimi?

Both of these Japanese favorites are typically made with raw fish (though they don’t have to be made with seafood, and they don’t have to be raw). The two key distinctions when looking at sushimi vs sushi are:  

  • Rice: Sushi always has a component of vinegared rice. Sashimi is simply slices of raw food—usually fish or seafood—sans rice.  
  • Garnishes: Sushi is always served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Sashimi may be served plain or with these garnishes, plus daikon radish. 

If we’ve got your mouth watering for sushi and other Japanese delights, be sure to check out some of our related posts!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: Why is sashimi not sushi?

A: Sashimi is not considered sushi because it does not contain vinegared rice, which is a quintessential ingredient in sushi.  

Q2: Why is it safe to eat raw fish in sushi?

A: Sushi-grade fish is safe to eat raw because it’s treated differently than other fish to lower the amount of pathogens present. Due to how it’s caught, transported, and stored, it has lower amounts of bacteria and parasites and is thus considered safe when raw. 

Q3: What is nigiri vs sashimi?A: Nigiri and sashimi share are both Japanese dishes composed of raw fish and similar garnishes. Nigiri is a type of sushi, as it’s served with rice. Sashimi is any thinly sliced raw food, typically fish. Read our complete guide on nigiri vs sashimi!

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