Sushi vs. Sashimi: What is the Difference Between Sushi and Sashimi?

When looking to eat traditional Japanese cuisine, it is important to know the difference between sushi and sashimi. The quick answer is dependant on the definitions of the two dishes. Essentially, sushi is any ingredient paired with vinegared rice, and does not necessarily require fish, raw or otherwise. Sashimi is sliced fish or sometimes meat, eaten without any other ingredient, except for soy sauce to taste.

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Nigiri vs. Sashimi: What is the difference between Nigiri and Sashimi?

Sushi vs. Sashimi: Definitions

To know whether you’re about to enjoy a dish of sushi or sashimi, you must recognize them for what they are.

What is Sushi?

“Sushi” will usually conjure the image of raw fish in rice, wrapped in seaweed and formed as a roll sliced into bite-sized chunks. This is not the only way sushi can be served, however. Sushi is any ingredient or combination of ingredients which is eaten together with rice prepared with vinegar. The vinegared rice is the only vital ingredient to define a dish as sushi.

Seaweed-wrapped rolls of this sushi rice served with any ingredient or combination of ingredient (commonly raw fish, but it can include vegetables, meat, and cooked fish) is a type of sushi. Its name depends on where the seaweed is in relation to the rice. If the seaweed is on the outside, it is hosomaki. If the rice is on the outside, it is maki. The roll can be sprinkled in other ingredients, such as sesame seeds.

The other main type of sushi is nigiri. Nigiri is the most often mistaken for sashimi, and that is because it does include sashimi. Nigiri is sashimi on top of sushi rice, commonly held together with wasabi or a thin strip of seaweed.

What is Sashimi?

“Sashimi” is only the fish, though it can also be similarly-prepared meat. Meat is not often offered outside of Japan, however. It is most commonly raw fish, sliced thinly. As established, it is not paired with other ingredients, except soy sauce if desired. This prevents other ingredients from marring the flavor of the sashimi.

Sushi vs. Sashimi: Pros and Cons

Sushi Pros

  • Chopsticks are traditionally used for both sushi and sashimi, but if a diner is not accustomed to using chopsticks they may find them difficult. Although the culture of eating sushi and sashimi can be important, particularly in traditional sushi restaurants, in Europe and the USA it is often acceptable to use your fingers if chopsticks are difficult for you. It can be messy to eat sashimi in this way, as you will be handling the fish directly. With sushi, however, you can hold the piece by the seaweed or the rice. 
  • A wider flavor profile due to the combination of ingredients.
  • Vegetarian and vegan sushi can be found.
  • A wide range of options.

Sushi Cons

  • Sushi can include raw fish, which some diners may not find palatable.

Sashimi Pros

  • Raw fish is a good source of lean protein and has important vitamins.
  • The fish is eaten alone which allows the diner to experience the flavor without any interference of other ingredients.
  • A range of ingredients can be used in sashimi, meaning it can be easy for diners to find something they enjoy. It also means sashimi can be adventurous, and allow diners to explore new flavors.

Sashimi Cons

  • Again, sashimi is often raw fish, which may put off some diners.
  • Sashimi can be quite expensive.

Safety: Is it Safe to Eat Raw Sashimi or Sushi?

Although both sushi and sashimi can include raw fish, so long as a diner is visiting a well-regarded establishment, this is safe. It is often recommended that young children and the elderly, as well as pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, do not eat raw fish, but for the average person raw fish, when prepared professionally by sushi chefs, is safe. 

Cost: Why is Sashimi so Expensive?

Sashimi can be more expensive than sushi, but this is because sashimi includes larger cuts of fish. It is also more expensive “per bite” because sushi includes rice, which is a cheaper — though delicious — ingredient than the fish. It is also quite expensive because the chef needs to be well trained to cut the fish perfectly, and because sashimi and sushi dishes only use the highest grade fish that is specially prepared, to maximize flavor and to ensure it is safe to consume. 

Sushi versus Sashimi: Similarities

The key similarity is that both dishes can include raw fish, but it is not a necessity for either. The key to sashimi is the delicate slices, and the key to sushi is the vinegared rice. They are both considered a delicacy and are best prepared by highly-skilled chefs who use the highest grade fish. They both go very well with soy sauce and, particularly sushi, wasabi. Do note, however, that outside of Japan, you would most likely have not wasabi, but dyed horseradish as a substitute.

So What’s the Difference Between Sushi and Sashimi?

The key difference, as we have seen, is that sashimi is the cut of fish (or meat) and sushi is the specific kind of rice. Sushi can include a wide range of ingredients and can be found in vegetarian and vegan variations. Sushi is a dish that expertly combines ingredients and flavors, whereas sashimi allows the single ingredient to shine through, perhaps aided by soy sauce. 

Comparison Table

IngredientsVinegared rice, seaweed, meat/fish/vegetablesFish, occasionally cooked meat
Raw fishSometimesOften
ChopsticksYes, although it can be excused to eat certain kinds with your handsYes
Safe to eatYes, if prepared properlyYes, if prepared properly
CostSushi isn’t incredibly cheap, but it is deceptively fillingCostlier than sushi

Comparison Video: Difference Between Sashimi and Sushi

Comparison Chart

Comparison Chart: The Difference Between Sushi and Sashimi
Differences and Similarities Between Sushi and Sashimi


To conclude, both sushi and sashimi are delicacy dishes that can sometimes include raw fish, and this is more common in sashimi. They are filling and delicious, but ensure you are dining at an established, well-regarded restaurant as these establishments will have professional, well-trained staff and use only the highest grade sushi fish.

Image Courtesy:

  • Photo by Kelvin Zyteng on Unsplash
  • Photo by marine Dumay on Unsplash

Author & Researcher @ Difference 101 Master in Philosophy & Data Analysis, Sorbonne Université (Graduated 2011) Lived in New York City

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