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
What are some names of sushi rolls? ›
- Avocado Maki. Avocado Roll | GF.
- Kappa Maki. Cucumber Roll | GF.
- Vegetarian Roll. 5 pieces assorted fresh vegetable roll | GF.
- California Roll. Crab, avocado and cucumber.
- Spicy California Roll. Spicy crab, avocado and cucumber.
- Shrimp Tempura Roll. ...
- Philadelphia Roll. ...
- Crunchy California Roll.
Nigirizushi or Nigiri sushi is of the most traditional form of sushi you'll see. This type of sushi consists of a single topping (of your choosing) placed over palm-pressed sushi rice.What is the most famous sushi in the world? ›
In Japanese, maki means “to roll.” All sushi rolls that are wrapped in seaweed with fillings on the inside are considered maki sushi.What kind of sushi is in Japan? ›
There are several kinds but the two main types of sushi in Japan are nigiri sushi and maki sushi.Is sushi a fish name? ›
While many people assume that sushi is also raw fish, it is actually vinegar rice that is mixed with a number of other ingredients, which can include either cooked or raw fish.What are the different types of sushi from a tuna? ›
There are five types of tuna often used for sushi toppings: Pacific bluefin tuna, Southern bluefin tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Albacore Tuna. Obviously the taste differs depending on the type. Japanese: 黒鮪 (kuro-maguro). This is the king of tuna, and is also known a shibi or honmaguro.What is Japan's favorite sushi? ›
Japanese people are known for their love of tuna, but the results show this is particularly true for men, as there was around a 10-point difference between men and women's liking for akami, chūtoro, and ōtoro. Meanwhile 46.4% of women picked salmon.What is best sushi rice? ›
The best rice for sushi is short-grain Japanese rice — this is what's in the bags labeled "sushi rice" at the store. This glutinous rice has a higher starch content than other varieties, which gives it the sticky texture you're after when you make sushi.Why is sushi popular? ›
But beyond its health benefits, people love sushi because it is simply delicious! The combination of fresh fish, rice, and vegetables makes for a truly unique and amazing culinary experience. Whether you are eating nigiri or maki rolls, there is no doubt that sushi is one of the best culinary experiences out there.
What sushi is fried? ›
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 are big sushi rolls called? ›
Futomaki rolls are the “big guns” of sushi. Measuring up to two-and-a-half inches around, with four or more ingredients besides the sushi rice and nori, these rolls are practically meals in and of themselves.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 sushi can I eat everyday? ›
You should moderate your consumption of these types of fish in sashimi, nigiri or otherwise. Those Kae rolls you love so much, are made from fish that are much lower in mercury content, meaning you can safely eat it more often. This includes salmon, crab, shrimp, and eel.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 is the yellow sushi called? ›
Yellowtail fish is one of the most popular menu choices at sushi restaurants. But how much do you know about this famous entree? For one thing, it's not actually tuna, as many people think. Most of the time, yellowtail actually refers to Japanese amberjack, a delicious fish that lives between Japan and Hawaii.What is the best 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.Is sushi a raw fish? ›
Sushi is traditionally made with vinegar rice, seaweed wraps, vegetables, raw seafood, and occasionally cooked seafood. Sashimi is a dish of raw seafood served on its own. Eating sushi and sashimi is risky, especially if precautions aren't taken, because you're consuming raw foods.Is sushi good for you? ›
The bottom line is that, yes, sushi is healthy. It contains high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids from fish, plus a great combination of vitamins and minerals. White rice provides carbs for energy, and won't raise your blood sugar too high because it's combined with fat and protein.What is the most authentic sushi roll? ›
Known as Negitoro Maki in Japanese, Tuna and Scallion Roll is one of the traditional classics you can find in any authentic sushi restaurant. It is prepared by scraping the meat from the skin and bones of tuna's belly. Chefs may often use otoro or fatty tuna in its place and mince the meat with a sharp knife.
What sushi is good if you dont like fish? ›
Plant-based sushi rolls
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.
So, is sushi healthy? The bottom line is that, yes, sushi is healthy. It contains high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids from fish, plus a great combination of vitamins and minerals. White rice provides carbs for energy, and won't raise your blood sugar too high because it's combined with fat and protein.What is the famous sushi in Japan? ›
|Street address||Tsukamoto Sogyo Building Basement Floor 1 2-15, Ginza 4-chome|
Narezushi, the most primitive, earliest form of sushi, is a world away from your California rolls and sliced sashimi. Dating back to the 10th century in Japan, this fermented fish was preserved with salt and raw rice, eventually giving way to the nigiri (sliced seafood atop rice) we know and love today.What is sushi called in Japan? ›
|Place of origin||Japan|
|Main ingredients||Vinegared rice Nori|
|Cookbook: Sushi Media: Sushi|
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 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.
Cook Time: 0 minutes. Serves: 2. The festive dragon roll is a tasty uramaki sushi roll featuring avocado, unagi, and shrimp tempura. Made to look like a dragon, this inside-out sushi roll is traditionally filled with eel and cucumber with slices of avocado designed to look like the scales of the dragon.