The Difference Between Sushi And Sashimi

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If you go to a sushi restaurant, you will notice that sashimi is on the sushi side of the menu. Both are of Japanese origin, but they are definitely not the same dish.

For novices, it might be difficult to tell the difference between the two, so what is the difference between sushi and sashimi? Simply put, if there is no rice in the dish, it is not sushi. A sushi dish has to include vinegar-soaked rice, with additions such as raw seafood. Sashimi is specifically raw and fresh seafood, most commonly tuna or salmon. Sashimi is usually served thinly sliced on top of a bed of daikon, without rice.

Here is all you need to know about sushi and sashimi, to be able to order a little better the next time you go on a sushi dinner!

Sushi Vs Sashimi: What’s The Difference?

The surface differences of rice vs no rice are fairly obvious, but there are many other differences between the two.

What Is Sushi?

Sushi has to be prepared with vinegared rice and can include vegetables and fish. It is a nutritious and non-fattening food that is high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, all while being naturally low in fat.

Sushi is served in bite-sized pieces, making it easier to pick up with chopsticks and eat a whole piece in one go to really be able to taste the blend of ingredients together. 

Contrary to what most believe, sushi really has nothing to do with fish, and the word “sushi” actually describes the preparation of the rice used to make sushi.

Sushi rice is a specific type of short-grain rice that needs to be prepared with rice wine vinegar. The rice prepared with vinegar has a unique flavor and clumps together, which makes it easier to prepare the sushi rolls.

Sushi is most often made with fish and other types of seafood, such as prawns. It can also be made with eggs and other vegetables such as cucumber and avocado.

Sushi is also commonly wrapped in seaweed, but there are many different types of sushi, some include seaweed such as maki, and others don’t, such as nigiri.

There are many new modern takes on sushi, with inventions such as dessert sushi, chicken sushi, and sushi dripped in creative sauces.

The bottom line is that sushi is sushi because of the rice. If there is no rice, it is not considered sushi. The rice has to be vinegar-soaked, and add in whatever ingredients you want, and you have sushi. 

What Is Sashimi?

Sashimi is not sushi. The word sashimi translates to “pierced body”, which refers to a thinly sliced fish or another type of meat. Sashimi is considered a delicacy.

Sashimi is served plain without any accompaniments other than soy sauce, which is used for dipping. The soy sauce brings out the flavor of the fish and allows the individual flavor to shine without interruption from any other flavors.

Sashimi-grade fish is considered some of the highest quality of seafood. It should be caught on a single line rather than by a net and needs to be killed immediately and placed on ice. This allows it to stay as fresh as possible with minimal degradation and build-up of lactic acid.

Sashimi-grade fish is considered the safest and the highest quality of fish available.

The most common varieties of sashimi include salmon, yellowtail, fatty tuna, and squid. In Japan, other types of meat are served as sashimi, including chicken and beef, but these are not commonly served in the USA.

Sashimi is most commonly made from saltwater dwellers because of a slightly unsettling fact. Saltwater dwelling fish have a lower risk of containing parasites.

The most popular way to serve sashimi is to lay the thinly sliced fish or meat on a bed of daikon, without any rice, with a side of soy sauce.

A Quick Recap Of The Main Differences

To put it simply, sushi is a dish that has to be served with vinegared riced, and sashimi is delicately sliced pieces of raw fish, meat or vegetables.

A sushi dish often contains more than just the vinegar-soaked rice, but the rice is the common thread between all sushi dishes. Sashimi is just served as the meat alone, without any rice. 

If any raw meat such as sashimi is added to rice, it is no longer sashimi but is considered sushi.

Simon from the “Today I Found Out” YouTube channel explains why sushi does not necessarily mean raw fish in this video. Check it out.

Nutritional Differences and Health Benefits

When it comes down to narrowing the nutritional difference between sushi and sashimi, such as the number of calories, fat, carbs, protein and fiber, it is difficult to do so as there are so many different varieties of ingredients you can use. 

Sushi does tend to have more calories and carbs because of the rice, and there are often other ingredients added such as mayonnaise, which also boosts the fat and calorie count.

Sashimi does not have the addition of all of these extra ingredients, and it comes down to the type of fish or meat used to determine the nutritional count. Sashimi is high in protein from the fish or meat, and low in calorie and carbs.

However, both are considered healthy dishes and are non-fatty and low in calories.

The health benefits of sushi and sashimi need to be listed separately, as there is quite a range of ingredients between the two dishes.

The Health Benefits of Sushi

Sushi is regarded as healthy food as it often contains several nutrient-rich ingredients.


Fish is a great source of protein, iodine and multiple different vitamins and minerals. Fish is also one of the few foods that contain vitamin D naturally.

Containing omega-3 fats, fish helps to increase optimal brain health. These fatty acids help fight against medical conditions such as heart disease and stroke.


Wasabi paste is often served with sushi. It has a very strong flavor and is only eaten in a small amount.

It comes from the grated stem of the Eutrema japonicum, which is in the same family as horseradish, cabbage, and mustard. Wasabi is rich in beta carotene and glucosinolates. These have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

However, as the wasabi plant is scarce, many restaurants instead use an imitation paste which is made from a combination of horseradish, mustard powder with some green dye. This product does not have the same nutritional properties as the real thing.


Nori is the type of seaweed that is used to roll sushi. It contains many nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, iodine, sodium, thiamine and vitamins A, C, and E.

More than 44% of the dry weight of seaweed is protein, which is up there alongside high-protein plants such as soybeans.

However, one roll of sushi only provides a small amount of seaweed, so unless you are eating quite a lot of sushi, it probably won’t contribute to your daily nutritional needs.

Pickled Ginger

Sweet pickled ginger, otherwise known as gari, is used to cleanse the palate between eating different pieces of sushi.

Ginger is a great source of potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese. It also has properties that help protect against viruses and bacteria.

The Health Benefits of Sashimi

It is difficult to ascertain the exact nutritional value of sashimi, but the average piece of sashimi weighs around 1 oz or 28.3 grams.

For the different nutritional values, you will have to look at the different fish used in sashimi.

Type of Sashimi Calories Carbohydrates Fat Omega-3
Salmon 59 kcal 0g 3.8g 667 mcg
Bluefin Tuna 41 kcal 0g 1.4g 367 mcg
Squid 26 kcal 0.9g 0.4g 139 mcg
Octopus 23 kcal 0.6g 0.3g 163 mcg
Sea bass 27 kcal 0g 0.6g 191 mcg

Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which plays a huge role in human health. Fattier cuts of sashimi such as salmon mackerel, salmon roe, and fatty tuna all contain high concentrations of omega-3.

Sashimi also provides large amounts of protein, with 100 grams of sashimi having between 20-25 grams of protein, but this also depends on the fat content of the fish. The fish used in sashimi is also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Which Is Healthier?

Both are considered healthy foods, but when compared to sushi, sashimi is slightly healthier. This is because sushi can contain fried ingredients, mayonnaise, and spices, which add calories into the dish, whereas sashimi is mostly just raw fish.

If you are wanting to make sushi at home, and are looking for a healthier option, you can use brown rice and not include fried ingredients into the sushi, but this will not taste as great as the real thing.

The Risks Of Eating Sushi And Sashimi

As delicious as both sushi and sashimi are, there are some risks with eating it. Most stores sell sashimi-grade fish, but you need to be careful with this.

The FDA has no clear guidelines on what is considered sashimi-grade. The main requirement within the USA for fish to be safe to be eaten raw is that is must first be frozen, as this minimizes the risk of bacteria and foodborne illnesses.


It does not matter whether fish is cooked or eaten raw, there is a concern of mercury or other heavy metal contaminants in the fish.

This is why women who are pregnant, or those who have compromised immune systems are advised to stay away from raw fish and to limit their consumption of certain cooked fish, which includes tuna.


This is the ugly side of sushi and sashimi. Freezing raw fish straight away will kill any parasites.

However, freezing the fish will not remove all microorganisms and pathogens, which could potentially cause health problems. Once again, those with compromised immune systems should cook fish well before eating it.


As the fish is raw and will not be cooked, storage and handling are so important. It is so important to source sashimi or sushi from a trustworthy seller to further minimize any potential issues.

The fish needs to be kept frozen below -37 degrees and it needs to thaw naturally in the fridge. Heating the fish up and placing it back in the fridge is a sure way to encourage bacteria growth, which further leads to a risk of foodborne illnesses.


Most of us prefer to eat sushi or sashimi with soy sauce, which gives it that extra kick of flavor, bringing out the flavor of the sushi or sashimi better.

However, soy sauce contains a large amount of sodium. One tablespoon of soy sauce has 900 mg of sodium, which is the same as 38% of the recommended daily intake. 

While this might not be an issue for everyone, it is a concern for those who have salt sensitivity of hypertension. There are low-sodium soy sauces available.

Related Questions

What is nigiri?

To complicate things a little further, you might see nigiri on the menu. Nigiri is usually listed near sashimi and sushi on the menu, but it actually falls somewhere between the two dishes.

Nigiri is similar to sashimi, as it is raw seafood, usually thinly sliced fish, but it is served over hand-balled vinegared rice. It is a type of sushi as there is vinegar rice involved, but it does not include other ingredients such as cucumbers or avocado.

If you cannot decide between sashimi and sushi, nigiri is the perfect meeting point between the two. Some slices of raw fish and some delicious vinegar rice.

How are sushi and sashimi served?

Both sushi and sashimi are commonly served with wasabi, pickled ginger and a serving of soy sauce for dipping. Many people enjoy having different types of sushi in one sitting, while sashimi is usually served once-off on its own as a delicacy.

Sushi and sashimi can either be a main meal or as an appetizer. 

Is sushi cooked or raw?

Not all sushi is raw, and you can make sushi entirely out of cooked food. For example, you might have a deep-fried prawn in the sushi, which has been cooked and coated in panko crumbs.

Alternatively, you might have raw salmon and avocado in the sushi. It depends on your tastes, and whether or not you are comfortable with eating raw fish or not. Sushi is sushi because of the rice it is served with, not because it has raw fish.

Which is the safest fish to eat with sushi or sashimi?

Tuna is considered to be a safer option when eating sushi or sashimi. It is a faster fish, so it is believed that it has fewer parasites.

However, this does not protect it from other contamination issues, such as salmonella, but it does lessen the risk of potential parasites.

Where do sushi and sashimi originate from?

Sushi and sashimi originate in Japan. The first historical evidence of people enjoying raw fish with rice was found in Japan, and from there Japan has worked to perfect their sushi making.

Sushi Vs Sashimi – Understanding The Difference

There are quite a few different sushi varieties, and where you are in the world will also determine what type of sushi is most popular. There isn’t much variety with sashimi, the only variety being the fish or meat used to prepare the dish.

Sushi has to include vinegared-rice and does not have to include raw fish, or any fish as all. Sashimi does not have any rice and is only sliced raw fish or meat, sometimes served with daikon. If sashimi is added to vinegar rice, it is no longer considered sashimi, but is instead sushi!

Sashimi has to include raw fish or meat, but sushi does not!

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