8 Different Types of Sushi Explained

If you didn’t grow up eating sushi regularly, being invited to a sushi restaurant can be daunting. With the exception of lox, the concept of eating raw fish is literally a foreign concept to some Americans.

Or maybe you’ve found the one or two buns that you feel comfortable eating and want to diversify, but you don’t know where to start, mainly because you don’t know what the half of the menu words. Use this guide on kinds of sushi as a reference before making your reservation. Then you can head to the restaurant with confidence and save your questions for the most unexpected menu options.

Related: So You’re Craving Sushi: Here’s the Healthiest and Unhealthiest Items on the Menu

Different types of sushi: the most common explained

1. Makis

Most sushi restaurants have an entire menu section dedicated to maki. So what is it? “Maki translates to ‘to roll’ [in Japanese]said Bryan Sekinethe founder and principal instructor at The secrets of sushi. He explains that maki is a roll where nori (seaweed) forms the outermost layer. Often maki consists of the filling (usually fish and vegetables) in the center, rice, and then nori as the outer layer.

Sushi Uramaki

2. Uramaki

“‘Uramaki’ translates to ‘upside-down roll,'” Sekine explains, explaining that it means the rice is on the outside as opposed to the seaweed. “‘Ura’ means ‘the back of something’ in Japanese,” explains Chika Ravitch, author of Sushi for beginners. “Uramaki was created for Americans by a Japanese sushi chef because a lot of people in the United States didn’t like the feeling of eating nori, which is an edible black seaweed.”

Related: How To Make Sushi At Home – 7 Recipes To Try

Sushi ngiri


If you don’t like the taste of nori (remember, it’s seaweed), nigiri might be more your style. Ravitch explains that the nigiri is a rectangular bed of sushi rice with a slice of cooked fish or meat on top. Sekine says that sometimes the nigiri is served with a small rice ball instead of a rectangular bed. “It’s the most traditional form of sushi and the most common type of sushi in Japan,” he says. Typically, nigiri rice contains rice vinegar for flavor.

Sushi sashimi

4. Sashimi

“Sashimi refers to slices of fish that are most often served raw but can also be cooked,” says Sekine. Ravitch adds that the sashimi does not come with rice. “In sushi restaurants in Japan, people traditionally eat sashimi first as an appetizer and then eat sushi,” she says.

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Gunkan Sushi

5. Gunkan

Pop quiz! Can you remember what a nigiri roll is? (It’s the rice ball or bed of rice with a slice of cooked fish or meat on top.) Well, Sekine explains that the gunkan is a type of nigiri. “The seaweed strip is wrapped around a rice ball and topped with an ingredient that otherwise couldn’t be served as a nigiri,” he says. For example, he says if you order Masago nigiri, this type of sushi is made with smelt roe (which looks like little orange balls), it would come in the form of gunkan as that would make it easier to to eat.

Related: 5 Delicious, Healthy Fish That Will Pack an Omega-3 Punch Without Too Much Mercury

Shrimp tempura sushi rolls

6. Tempura roll

Many sushi restaurants have tempura rolls on the menu, but Ravitch says it’s not a traditional Japanese sushi dish. “The tempura rolls were designed for foreign taste buds, like in the United States. The fillings are usually seafood tempura or vegetable tempura,” she says. Sekine explains that tempura rolls are when the main ingredient of the roll is fried or the whole roll is fried before being cut into pieces.

Inari Sushi

7. Inari

Ravitch says inari is common in the United States and Japan. “It’s sweet and salty refried bean curd stuffed with sushi rice,” she says. Ravitch says the bean curd prepared for this type of sushi can be purchased from Amazon or Asian markets so you can also prepare this type of sushi at home.

temaki sushi

8. Temaki

This is another type of sushi that Ravitch says is very common in Japan. “Temaki is a hand-rolled cone-shaped sushi that includes rice and toppings,” she says. Since there’s no special technique for making temaki, Ravitch says it’s a different kind of sushi that’s fun to make at home. “You just need to prepare the sushi rice, toppings and nori,” she says. “You roll all the ingredients you like, so temaki is great for parties.”

Now that you know the most common types of sushi, it’s time to go fishing. You can navigate the menu like a pro and feel good about what you’re ordering. You are ready to think outside the box and embark on an adventure!

Then find out how to make a vegan sushi roll in less than 10 minutes.


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