Cut Roll Vs Hand Roll Sushi – The Complete Guide

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Everybody loves sushi and today it is so easy to come by! And thanks to the internet we are seeing more and more different varieties every day. Maki, sashimi, nigiri, temaki, uramaki – the list goes on and on!

But unfortunately, all the menus and guides seem to expect you to know what you are buying without even explaining what you are getting!

Luckily that’s where we come in – to help clarify all the confusion and give you a better idea of what the basics are.

So, starting at some of the most common categories, what is the difference between a cut roll and a hand roll? Cut rolls, or maki, are made by rolling the ingredients into a long log and cutting it into 6-8 bite-sized pieces. Hand roll sushi, or temaki, is much easier to make and doesn’t require any cutting. You simply roll the ingredients into a cone, creating a much larger portion.

In today’s article, we will have a look at exactly what maki and temaki are and compare them side-by-side to help clarify the differences.

Then, we will have a look at the different types of maki and temaki you can make, and also exactly how to make them!

Ready to roll?!

What is Sushi?

Before we dive deep into the differences between the different types of sushi, let’s first discuss what sushi actually is. 

Sushi is a Japanese dish consisting of vinegar-flavored sticky sushi rice that is served with (or garnished with) raw seafood, vegetables, or egg.

The bite-sized portions consist of simple and extremely fresh ingredients that are beautifully arranged to create sometimes elaborate and colorful pieces. 

Despite this generic definition and a popular belief, sushi actually refers to the rice itself, not the seafood part of the dish.

As a matter of fact, sushi doesn’t have to contain any seafood at all! There are tons of vegetarian rolls like Shiitake Mushroom Nigiri or Avocado Nigiri.

And, even though sushi is most often made with raw ingredients and served cold, it can also be cooked like California rolls (which contain cooked imitation crab) or tempura fried prawns. 

As we’ve mentioned, a staple ingredient used in all types of sushi is vinegar rice.

Seafood is also a very common ingredient and includes fish (like salmon, tuna, yellowtail, or halibut to name a few), mollusks (like clams, scallops, and abalone), crustaceans (like prawns, crayfish, and shrimps), and lastly squid and crab.

These are only some of the most popular seafood used in sushi.

Another very common ingredient you will often see, and an especially important one we will be discussing today, is nori. Nori is a dried edible seaweed sheet that is used to wrap or roll sushi in. 

So, let’s have a look at two of the main categories of sushi; hand roll and cut roll.

What is Cut Roll Sushi?

In Japan and on virtually all sushi menus, “cut roll” or simply “roll sushi” is called “maki”. In some areas, you will also see the term “makizushi” being used.

Maki is made with sushi rice, raw seafood, vegetables, and fruits. The ingredients are arranged on top of a whole nori sheet which is roughly 8×7 inches (20x18cm).

The sheet is then rolled tightly with the help of bamboo rolling mats to form a kind of open-ended burrito.

This 8-inch roll is then cut into 6-8 pieces with a special type of sushi knife. The exact size of the piece depends on the type of sushi it is. These pieces are arranged on a plate and served alongside soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi.

Maki is usually shared between a group of people and eaten with chopsticks, one piece at a time.

What is Hand Roll Sushi?

The Japanese term for “hand roll” is “temaki”, but to avoid confusion, most non-Japanese restaurants won’t use this term.

Hand-rolled sushi is made using very similar ingredients to cut-roll sushi. A sheet of nori is cut in half to form a sheet roughly 4×4 inches (10x9cm). The ingredients are laid on top of the sheet and then folded by hand, hence the name.

It usually has a cone-like shape, but this can vary depending on the type of sushi being made.

Hand-rolled sushi pieces do not have to be cut and usually range between 3-5 inches long. These pieces are much larger compared to cut-roll sushi.

They are also eaten immediately after being rolled, compared to cut rolls that can be stored. 

Temaki can also be served with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi, but is much more difficult to dip depending on the folding technique used.

Traditionally, temaki should be eaten with your hands and will require a few bites to finish. Naturally, it isn’t a piece to be shared between people because of its portion size and shape.

Differences Between Cut Roll and Hand Roll Sushi

So, now that we have discussed what each of these types is, let’s compare them side by side.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, hand roll sushi is much easier to make and requires a lot less equipment and effort.

First and most importantly, the main difference between the two is that maki is rolled with a mat and then cut into smaller pieces, whereas hand roll temaki is folded by hand and doesn’t require any cutting.

Temaki (hand roll sushi) always uses nori sheets, whereas maki can sometimes be made without any. In terms of other ingredients used, sushi rice is always a must-have and the rest of the ingredients are equally versatile and flexible.

Maki pieces are much smaller than hand roll pieces and are often shared between people. Maki is also consumed using chopsticks, whereas temaki can be eaten with your hands.

Despite their differences, both of these categories have delicious, nutritious, and filling options to choose from.

Cut RollHand Roll
NameMaki Makizushi (traditional) Roll Cut rollTemaki (traditional) Hand roll
Size8-inch roll 6-8 small pieces per rollSingle piece 3-5 inches long
ServingShared Eaten using chopsticksSingle serving Eaten by hand

Types of Cut Roll (Maki) Sushi

To recap, maki sushi is rolled using bamboo mats and cut into smaller bite-sized pieces.

This category is divided into three subcategories; hosomaki (small) and futomaki (large). Another category we will discuss is uramaki.


Hosomaki is a very common type of sushi characterized by its thin shape. This is because it only contains one filling (ingredient) enclosed by rice and then wrapped in a sheet of nori. 

Types of hosomaki roles include;

  • Kappa Maki (cucumber and rice sushi roll)
  • Shinko Maki (pickled yellow daikon and rice sushi roll)
  • Natto Maki (soybean and rice sushi roll)
  • Tekka Maki (tuna and rice sushi roll)


Futomaki is the other extremely common and probably more well-known variety of maki sushi. This is another type you will often find in restaurants. When people talk about maki, they usually refer to futomaki.

Futomaki is thicker than hosomaki as it contains a variety of fillings (ingredients). This can range anywhere between 3-10 fillings. Again, sushi rice encloses these ingredients, which are then wrapped together in a sheet of nori. 

On the 3rd of February each year, one day before spring has officially started in Japan, futomaki turns into “ehomaki”. Ehomaki contains exactly 7 different ingredients for the filling, to symbolize the lucky number 7 in Japanese culture.

Other popular types of futomaki rolls;

  • Spicy tuna roll (spicy tuna, mayonnaise, avocado)
  • Spider rolls (deep-fried soft-shell crab with cucumber, avocado, daikon sprouts, and spicy mayonnaise)


Urakami is any type of sushi roll (hosomaki or futomaki) that doesn’t have nori sheets on the outside, but rather rice. This is an extremely popular type of cut sushi roll and requires a lot of skill in assembling and cutting.

Popular types of Uramaki sushi rolls;

  • California roll (imitation crab, avocado, cucumber)
  • Alaska roll (smoked salmon, avocado, cucumber, asparagus)
  • Philadelphia roll (smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese)

Types of Hand Roll (Temaki) Sushi

Hand roll sushi contains sushi rice and other ingredients, rolled or folded inside a nori sheet by hand. This type of roll doesn’t require any cutting and is much larger compared to cut roll sushi.

Hand roll sushi consists of three elements; the sushi rice, the nori sheet, and the filling, which can consist of any combination of ingredients you’d like.

Unlike cut roll sushi, hand rolls don’t have specific types of names and they are extremely flexible. Depending on where you are located, they will most likely have descriptions with a unique name.

How To Make Cut Roll Sushi (Maki)

Making maki is more difficult than one might think and requires a lot of patience and practice. 

Before you start preparing any of the ingredients, make sure you have the correct equipment.

You will need a sushi mat (or bamboo rolling mat) and an extremely sharp knife. There are knives specifically meant to cut sushi, however, any sharp and thin-bladed knife will work fine too.

Prepare the sushi rice

Start by rinsing the rice grains in order to wash away all of the excess starch. This will help the rice become sticky while they cook. When pressing the rice together it shouldn’t be mushy, but it has to stick together without falling apart.

After the rice has been fully cooked, it gets seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt.

Sushi rice isn’t necessarily appetizing on its own, but when combined with the rest of the sushi ingredients, it creates a well-balanced flavor profile.

Choose and prepare the filling

If you are making a specific type of maki, make sure you choose the freshest ingredients and seafood from a reputable and trusted supplier. If you are using seafood, it should be kept in the fridge at all times for as long as possible. 

You can choose traditional ingredients like cucumber, tuna, salmon, and avocado, or more unique ingredients like pickled and fruits.

If you are new to making cut-roll sushi, choose one ingredient to start with and make some delicious hosomaki.

How to Roll Maki

Again, maki requires a lot of patience, so don’t be discouraged if your first few rolls don’t come out nice. It requires patience and practice!

  • Place your bamboo rolling mat down. Your nori sheet should lay on top of the mat with its shiny side down.
  • Cover 2/3 of your nori sheet with about ½ cup sushi rice. Start at the shortest end (the 7-inch end / 18cm side). The layer should be about 1/8 – ¼ inch thick, depending on how much filling you are adding – the exact amount of rice you need, you will figure out with experimenting and practice.

Tip:  If the rice is too sticky to spread, moisten your fingers or a spatula with water to make it easier.

  • Add your fillings. Imagine the rice section divided into thirds. Add the filling in the center third, leaving a third of clean rice on each side.
  • Start rolling! Using the bamboo mat, take the bottom section of the sheet (the area with 1/3 clean rice) and fold it over the filling. 

Start rolling while pulling the mat away from you to help the nori create a perfect log. Once you feel the log has been shaped, roll it up inside the bamboo mat and give it a gentle squeeze.

How to Cut a Maki Roll Using a Knife

As we’ve mentioned, there are knives specifically meant for slicing sushi rolls, however, any sharp and thin-bladed knife will work. DO NOT use a serrated knife! It will tear the nori and pull the other ingredients, distorting the shape of your roll.

  1. Place the roll on a sturdy and flat surface, preferably a chopping board. Make sure the whole role fits on top of it.
  2. Estimate (or measure) the middle of the roll, and make a single clean cut. Do not saw as it will pull the ingredients and distort the shape.
  3. Clean and wet your knife’s blade between each cut. This will prevent the rice from sticking. Depending on the size you want your maki to be, cut each half into thirds or quarters using the same method.

How to Make Hand Roll Sushi (Temaki)

Temaki is much easier to make and a lot more forgiving. If you’re not looking to impress anyone or you are short of time, this is definitely your best option.

And you can even turn it into a fun build-your-own-temaki activity. Simply lay out all of the ingredients and allow your guests to create their own.

How to Roll Temaki

  1. Make sure to prepare all of your ingredients before starting the rolling process. This method doesn’t require a rolling mat or a knife for cutting.
  2. Cut a nori sheet in half. You can choose to make smaller portions, but we prefer the traditional size.
  3. Place the nori sheet in the palm of your hand, shiny side facing down. Make sure that your hands are completely dry to keep the nori dry and crisp.
  4. Add a generous heap of rice (about 1/3 cup) on the left third of the sheet, inside the palm of your hand. Try to angle the rice at roughly 45 degrees.
  5. Add the fillings in the middle of the rice pile at 45 degrees. This is important as it helps shape the cone instead of a log.
  6. From the bottom left corner, start rolling/folding the nori so it forms a cone. Continue rolling until you’ve reached the last tip. Place a piece of rice on it to help it seal.


  • Make sure to work on separate cutting boards. Fish should be prepared on a different cutting board to fruits and vegetables. This will help prevent cross-contamination which may lead to food poisoning.
  • Keep all of your prepared ingredients inside the refrigerator for as long as possible to prevent the cold chain from breaking. Raw fish can be extremely dangerous if left outside for too long.

Up Next: Boston Roll Sushi

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