nigiri vs sashimi

Sashimi vs Nigiri – What Are The Differences?

If you like Japanese food, and especially sushi, then you have heard of sashimi and nigiri. However, these two are not the same thing, and you should know what these are before ordering. Don’t worry, it is a common mistake, but this article will help. 

Take a look at what sashimi and nigiri and why you should order one or the other!  

What Is Sashimi?

salmon tuna sashimi

Sashimi is a piece of raw and fresh fish, usually tuna or salmon. Because freshwater fish have a higher risk of parasites, most sashimi is made with saltwater fish. Sashimi is served on top of daikon, a large white Japanese radish, and not on top of rice.  

This dish requires only fresh and raw ingredients, so it may be easy to confuse it with rice. It is often a delicacy depending on the type of fish used and can be very expensive at times. 

Nutrition Facts

Salmon sashimi is a good source of omega 3, vitamins, and minerals. Half a fillet (148 g) has the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 281 calories
  • 39.3 g protein
  • 12.6 g fat
  • 0 g carbohydrate
  • 0 g fiber
  • 23.8 mg calcium 
  • 57.4 mg magnesium
  • 396 mg phosphorus 
  • 970 mg potassium
  • 87.1 mg sodium
  • 15.6 mg niacin 
  • 49.5 µg thiamin 
  • 0.636 g n-3 (EPA) 
  • 0.568 g n-3 (DPA)
  • 2.21 g n-6 (DHA)

Tuna sashimi is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and a small amount of essential fatty acids. Half a fillet (100 g) has the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 109 calories
  • 24.4 g protein
  • 0.49 g fat
  • 0 g carbohydrate
  • 0 g fiber
  • 4 mg calcium 
  • 35 mg magnesium
  • 278 mg phosphorus 
  • 441 mg potassium
  • 45 mg sodium
  • 90.6 µg selenium 
  • 65 mg choline 
  • 69 IU vitamin D 
  • 0.012 g n-3 (EPA) 
  • 0.004 g n-3 (DPA)
  • 0.088 g n-6 (DHA)

Which sashimi is the best? 

Sashimi is a dish in many Japanese and some Asian cuisine restaurants. However, you will most likely see either salmon or tuna sashimi on the menu.  

While salmon sashimi contains more calories and fat, it also has a higher omega 3 and 6 content, making it a good source of essential fatty acids. It is also a good source of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. 

This type of sashimi is often served with soy sauce, ginger, wasabi, and garnished with daikon or seaweed.  

Tuna sashimi contains fewer calories and less fat, but it also has fewer essential fatty acids. However, tuna can be a good source of some vitamins and minerals for those that dislike salmon. 

This sashimi is also served with soy sauce, ginger, wasabi, and garnished with daikon or seaweed.  

These two are not the only types of sashimi, though they may be the most common ones around the world. In Japan, sashimi can also be made with meat, including chicken, horse, or deer, and tofu. 

While there is not necessarily one type of sashimi better than the other, salmon sashimi may be the highest in nutritional content. In some cases, though, people that need to watch their calories and fat may want to alternate between salmon and tuna. 


What Is Nigiri?

salmon tuna shrimp nigiri

Unlike sashimi, nigiri is a type of sushi. Nigiri is essentially raw fish on top of sushi rice, but it does not come wrapped in seaweed as maki sushi does. In some cases, a small piece of wasabi goes between the fish and rice. 

Some variations on nigiri may also include toasted nori, a type of seaweed. Unlike sashimi, nigiri can only contain seafood, such as fish, shrimp, octopus, squid, and eel. This type of sushi is not garnished but may come served with some sauce. 

The word nigiri translated to “two fingers”, which may be a way of referring to the size of the fish and rice. Most nigiri found in sushi restaurants is prepared with tuna, salmon, or halibut. 

Nutrition Facts

One tuna and salmon nigiri combo, which is two servings (200 g) have the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 285 calories
  • 17 g protein
  • 701 g fat
  • 36 g carbohydrates
  • 2.02 g fiber
  • 671 mg sodium
  • 20.2 mg calcium
  • 6.3 mg iron 
  • 1.01 g saturated fatty acids 

Which nigiri is the best? 

As with sashimi, nigiri’s flavors all come from the fish that it is made with. However, this does change the nutritional content. Tuna and salmon are the most common fish used in nigiri, and they contain a good amount of fat, but also some minerals. 

Other types of nigiri may contain things like shrimp, eel, salmon roe, flounder, and squid. 

These are all relatively good sources of essential fatty acids, but they may not be as nutritious as salmon or tuna. However, the flavor can be better when you work with something like an eel, which is incredibly flavorful. 

When it comes to choosing the best nigiri, you will want to go with the fish or seafood that you like best. Some people find eel and salmon roe to be too intense or salty, while others prefer a safer choice, like shrimp.

In the end, if you go to a place and are not sure about the quality, order the safer choice, which is the traditional salmon or tuna nigiri. 

What Are The Key Differences Between Sashimi and Nigiri?

Because they are both made with raw fish, many think of sashimi and nigiri as being the same thing. While they are both Japanese dishes, they are not equal. Sashimi is considered a dish on its own, while nigiri is simply a type of sushi.  

Another important difference between these two dishes is their presentation. Since sashimi is not sushi, it does not contain any rice and will likely never be served with any rice. It can contain some decorative but edible things underneath, like daikon or seaweed. 

Nigiri, on the other hand, is a type of sushi, so it by definition will always be served on top of sushi rice. Depending on the restaurant and chef, some nigiri may also include things like wasabi or seaweed in between, but this is not always the rule. 

In terms of preparation, they are both very similar, but sashimi is quicker. Nigiri requires the rice to be cooked and ready before serving, while sashimi almost always comes served with raw ingredients. 

To make things more confusing, however, both sashimi and nigiri can be served with the same condiments. These often include soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. 

However, your nigiri may come with heavier sauces, like mayonnaise horseradish, depending on the sushi restaurant.  

Finally, both sashimi and nigiri require fresh fish and top-grade fish for the flavor and texture to be right. Your sashimi may only require a few things, such as a sharp knife, fish, and garnish. The nigiri will require a sharp knife, fish, garnish, and rice, which means it requires more time and preparation as well. 

Nigiri vs Sashimi DifferenceSashimiNigiri
ShapeLong and wide cut of fish Long and wide cut of fish 
SizeLong and thinLong and wide 
ColorDepends on the fish Depends on the fish, but the rice is white 
OriginJapan Japan
Taste and SmellSashimi tastes only of the fish used but may have aromatic or peppery hints when consumed with daikon. The dish smells of fresh fish with hints of horseradish due to the daikon. Nigiri tastes like fresh fish and sushi rice, but may also contain wasabi, which alters the flavor to horseradish and is more pungent. This dish smells of fresh fish and rice vinegar from the sushi rice. 
How To CookThere is no cooking process in sashimi. This dish is raw, and so are the garnishes.  The only cooked part of nigiri is the sushi rice. It requires pre-washing the rice, using rice vinegar, and salt. 
Cooking TimePrep time: 10 minutes – Total time: 10 minutesPrep time: 10 minutes – Cook time: 30 minutes – Total time: 40 minutes
Calories per 100 gram servingSalmon: 142 calories; Tuna: 109 caloriesSalmon: 207 calories; Tuna: 118 calories

Is Sashimi or Nigiri Healthier? 

Even though sashimi consists of only fish and has no carbohydrates, some of the fish used can be high in fats. Nigiri, though, may contain added sugar and too much sodium, depending on the cooking methods used. 

Sashimi is still healthier because it contains higher protein content and no added preservatives or ingredients. 

Nigiri remains relatively healthy, but if you are not sure of the preparation, then you can’t be sure of what is in your sushi. Some cooked sushi rice may also contain added salt and sugar. 

If you want the best flavor and cleanest choice, sashimi is the best choice, particularly because the fish used tends to be high in protein and essential fatty acids. When there isn’t the choice of sashimi, go with nigiri, or pick this dish too when you are not sure about the quality of the fish. 


Conclusion

Never be confused again when ordering food at your favorite Japanese restaurant. Since sashimi is healthier, you can start trying all the fish available in this form next time you go out to dinner. 

In terms of flavor and substance, nigiri is the better choice, but it also comes with added calories and ingredients like salt and sugar. No matter what you decide, you can now safely make the decision based on this knowledge. 

*image by mrsiraphol&vichie81/depositphotos

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