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The Difference Between Nigiri vs. Sashimi

Learn about the differences and similarities between nigiri and sashimi.

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

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

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.

So what makes them different? How are nigiri and sashimi similar? Why do some people get confused?

This article will discuss the process of making nigiri and sashimi, their differences, and other frequently asked questions. 


What is Nigiri?

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. 


What is Sashimi? 

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.


How are Nigiri and Sashimi Different? 

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

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.

Similarities:

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

Differences: 

  • 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. 


Frequently Asked Questions

All of your questions about sashimi and nigiri, answered.

What is the difference between sushi and sashimi and nigiri?

Nigiri is considered sushi due to its pairing with vinegar rice. All forms of sushi contain rice in some way.

Because of this, sashimi is not considered a form of sushi. Sashimi does not come with rice, only thin slices of fish.

The most common form of sushi in the United States is traditionally called Makizushi, which are sushi rolls. These bite-size sushi pieces are fish, rice, veggies, and other ingredients rolled together.

Neither nigiri nor sashimi is rolled in this fashion. Sushi also does not always contain fish, whereas nigiri and sashimi are both dishes that require fish. 


Is nigiri raw fish?

Most of the time, nigiri will be served raw. This is the most popular preparation of the dish, and cooking the fish can change the flavor and composition of the meal.

Occasionally nigiri can be found prepared with seared or cooked fish, although this is not as common. 

The types of fish used for nigiri are all safe to be eaten raw. Salmon and halibut should be frozen before consumption to ensure they are safe to eat.

Freezing the fish helps get rid of any parasites or other potential foodborne illnesses. 


Which is cheaper, sashimi or nigiri?

Nigiri is usually cheaper than sashimi. Nigiri comes with rice, which helps the consumer feel fuller quicker.

A person would have to eat more fish to feel the same fullness from sashimi. Since fish is more expensive to produce than rice, this can be part of the reason for the price gap.

Sashimi is also typically a higher-quality fish, on top of the higher quantity of fish per serving.

Another thing to consider is the time and effort to make the sashimi aesthetically appealing when served. 


Final Thoughts

Both nigiri and sashimi are delicious and great options when craving seafood. The similar preparation of thinly-sliced fish often causes people to get confused with one another.

To reiterate, nigiri is a dish consisting of raw fish and vinegared rice, while sashimi is just thinly-sliced high-quality fish. 

The main differences between these two dishes are how it is prepared and the cost. 

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Written by Brian N

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.