The Difference Between Nigiri vs. Sashimi

Learn about the differences and similarities between nigiri and sashimi.

Nigiri sushi with salmon, grouper, eel, tuna and prawn, served on black stone slate

When you are in the mood for seafood, sushi is an all-time classic. Sushi can be prepared with rice, avocado, veggies, and more.

There are countless ways to prepare a delicious sushi meal. However, if you would like your seafood prepared a certain way, knowing the names of each dish is important. Two classic seafood dishes are nigiri and sashimi. These two dishes are often confused because the main component of each dish is a thinly sliced fish. With both sashimi and nigiri, these slices of fish are not rolled up like traditional sushi, and instead, stay laid out on the plate. While some may argue that these two dishes are the same, they most certainly are not.

Each dish is unique in its own way. The combination of flavors is a wildly different experience depending on how the meal is prepared. Both nigiri and sashimi are distinct and flavorful in their own ways. This article will discuss nigiri and sashimi, their differences, and other frequently asked questions. 


Nigiri is a thinly-sliced, high-quality selection of raw fish placed over vinegared rice.

Some chefs opt to put a thin piece of seaweed between the layers of fish, or a small amount of wasabi for a bit of added spice.

The name itself, nigiri translates to “two fingers” in Japanese. This translation is in reference to the amount of rice used in the dish.

The most popular types of nigiri to order are salmon or halibut. Salmon has a creamy and smooth taste that melts in your mouth, perfectly paired with the tangibles of the vinegar rice.

These types of fish are also a great source of protein, omega-3 fats, and other essential vitamins. 


Sashimi is another Japanese delicacy, consisting of thinly-sliced fish. The main difference between sashimi and nigiri is that sashimi is not served with rice.

Sashimi is arranged in a visually appealing way on the plate, served raw. The most common pairings with sashimi are soy sauce, ginger, or wasabi. 

Popular choices for sashimi include blue-finned tuna, salmon, or yellowtail. Each of these fish can be eaten raw and is made out of the belly of the fish.

This part of the fish is high in healthy fats and the most succulent in flavor.

The Differences

Nigiri and sashimi are similar but are not the same. Nigiri is served on top of rice, whereas sashimi is served on its own.

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Because sashimi is not served with rice, it is technically not considered sushi. The term “sushi” only applies to meals prepared with a form of rice, traditionally vinegared rice.


  • Both are thinly sliced pieces of fish
  • Both are commonly made out of salmon 


  • Nigiri is served on rice, sashimi is not
  • Nigiri is a form of sushi, sashimi is not
  • Sashimi is more expensive

Sashimi is a seafood dish served on its own, featuring meticulously sliced fish paired with soy sauce. Nigiri is a selection of sliced fish placed on sweet and salty vinegared rice, occasionally featuring seaweed or wasabi. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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