Best Nigiri Sushi Recipe Ever

What’s the difference between sushi and nigiri? What about sashimi? This can be a matter of confusion if you are in a restaurant and find yourself looking at a lengthy menu.

There are a few characteristics to keep in mind to help you understand the choices to help make a decision for what to order or pick up at the store for a meal at home.

What Is Nigiri?

Nigiri is a type of sushi consisting of a small ball of rice topped with wasabi sauce and raw fish or other seafood. In Japanese, the term nigiri (ni-giri) means “two fingers.” This refers to the typical bite-sized portion of rice that sushi artists use in assembling the dish.

The act of “nigiru” means to grasp the rice form of sliced fresh fish with your hands. Nigiri sushi is recognizable as an oval-shaped mound of rice with a thin slice of fish, usually raw, placed on top of the grains. The simple presentation makes it a user-friendly starter for someone who is new to Japanese cuisine.

How Is Nigiri Different From Sushi?

Sushi is a Japanese dish featuring rice and another ingredient which usually includes a type of fish or seafood. The fish or seafood can be raw or cooked depending on the way the dish is prepared.

The term sushi is often thought of as a dish of raw fish but the term is a mix of the Japanese words for “vinegar” and “rice.”

The rice for sushi is a medium-grained white rice flavored with vinegar and a combination of salt and sugar. Nigiri combines the slightly sweet taste of sushi rice with fresh fish slices that are eaten raw.

Nigiri vs. Sashimi

Sashimi is simple strips of raw fish with no rice; however, the rice can be served as an accompaniment. The term “sashimi,” meaning hooked or pierced meat, refers to the slices of raw fish. Sashimi is not technically considered to be a type of sushi because the traditional version of sushi always features rice. You will find sashimi is typically served with chopsticks for eating.

Nigiri sushi is essentially a thinly sliced piece of sashimi placed on top of a small, hand-formed mound of sweet and salty vinegar rice — i.e. sushi rice. 

Nigiri vs. Maki

Maki is a dish served rolled and held together with a thin sheet of dried seaweed called nori. The inside is made with rice and fillings, which can include ingredients like raw fish, cooked shellfish and chopped vegetables. It’s the most commonly found sushi in restaurants.

The tube shape is sliced into even bite-sized pieces. Unlike nigiri, the ingredients are usually rolled inside of the seaweed and rice.

Types of Nigiri

Saba – Mackerel

Engawa – Halibut




Iwashi – Sardine

Uni-Sea Urchin

Anago – Eel

Maguro-Bluefin Tuna

Fish Roe

Bluefin Tuna-Otoro



Whether you’re making a meal at home or it is a night out at a restaurant you want to have the freshest fish available. When buying fish to use in food preparation it is a good idea to consult with a fishmonger when you can. A fishmonger will help you select the freshest product available for sale.


  • What Are the Different Types of Sushi?
  • What Is Nori?
  • What Is Sashimi?