Sushi vs Sashimi: What's the Difference?

While both are Japanese in origin, they're not the same dish. Here's the difference between sushi and sashimi (and nigiri, too).

Sushi roll with chopsticks
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If you’ve ever been to a restaurant that serves sushi, you’ve probably noticed sashimi on the menu and wondered, “Is sashimi a type of sushi?”

While both are Japanese in origin, they’re not the same dish. Here’s the difference between sushi and sashimi (and nigiri, too).

What is sushi?

Sushi rolls on plate with green tea
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If there’s no rice, it’s not sushi. Vinegar-soaked rice is the ingredient that makes sushi, well, sushi. The name itself means “sour tasting” due to the flavor from the vinegar, as well as the raw fish that’s often included. While traditional sushi features raw seafood, it’s not a component necessary to consider a dish sushi. Modern takes can include cooked seafood, veggies, or even other meats.

Bottom line: Sushi doesn’t need to include raw fish (or fish at all) to be considered such—only vinegar rice.

What is sashimi?

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Sashimi is specifically raw—and fresh—seafood, like tuna, salmon, mackerel, hamachi yellow tail and even shrimp. Sashimi is usually served thinly sliced on a bed of daikon radish and shiso leaves, sans rice. A little bit of wasabi or fresh ginger may also be added.

Bottom line: Sashimi is thinly sliced raw seafood served without rice and is not considered a type of sushi.

What is nigiri?

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Nigiri is usually listed near sushi and sashimi on a menu, and it falls somewhere between the two dishes. Nigiri is raw seafood, similar to sashimi, served over hand-balled vinegared rice. Though it’s a type of sushi (remember, it’s all about the rice), nigiri doesn’t include any extra ingredients like cucumbers or avocado.

Bottom line: Nigiri is raw seafood served over rice and is a type of sushi.

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