The Different Kinds of Sushi: Types, Names, and Photos

Updated on March 16, 2017
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Brittany Kennedy has lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for most of her life, which means she's spent most of her life eating sushi!

Did You Know?

Feel free to eat your sushi rolls or nigiri with your hands! This is, in fact, how many in Japan eat their sushi. When eating nigiri, it's also recommended to turn the roll upside-down to dip in soy sauce to avoid absorbing too much into the rice.

If you didn't grow up eating sushi, you may be confused when looking at a sushi roll menu if the restaurant chooses to leave out the descriptions. This guide will break down some common sushi terms and recipes so you can know what to order when visiting a sushi bar or restaurant.

At a Glance

Different types of sushi: maki, temaki, uramaki, sashimi, and nigiri
Different types of sushi: maki, temaki, uramaki, sashimi, and nigiri

5 Main Types of Sushi

Type of Sushi
A topping, usually fish, served on top of sushi rice
Not all nigiri is raw, though this dish is best for people who want to appreciate the flavor of the fish, shellfish, or other toppings
Fish or shellfish served alone (no rice)
This is best for people who really love to taste the fish or shellfish since it comes with nothing else
Rice and filling wrapped in seaweed
This is what most people think of when they think of sushi rolls
Similar to the above, but rice is on the outside and seaweed wraps around the filling
These rolls often have lots of toppings and sauces — they may either be cooked or raw
Sushi that has been hand-rolled into a cone shape
The cones are not as easy to share as the rolls (though very delicious!)

Here's a brief run-down on what's what. For pictures and more information about each type, you can scroll to the sections below.

What's the Difference Between Sushi, Sashimi, and Nigiri?

Sashimi is just the meat, served without other ingredients. Sushi also uses rice and other ingredients, such as vegetables, which are all rolled up in a sheet or nori (seaweed) and sliced into pieces.

You'll either see it as maki (which means roll), where the seaweed is on the outside, uramaki, where the seaweed is on the inside and rice is on the outside, or temaki, a cone-shaped piece of sushi that's rolled by hand.

Nigiri is the dish that's halfway in between. Nigiri is sashimi that's served on a molded rectangle of rice.

Lastly, while most sashimi is raw fish, some sashimi is not raw and some sashimi is not fish. For example, unagi is cooked freshwater eel, and sashimi also encompasses other types of seafood, which you will see below.

Types of Sashimi

Sashimi Name
So What Is It?
Tuna (raw)
Spanish Mackerel (raw)
Sweet Shrimp (raw)
Saltwater Eel — usually deep-fried or boiled
Round Clam (raw)
Albacore White Tuna (raw)
Skipjack Tuna (raw)
Tiger Shrimp (cooked)
Butterfish (raw)
Yellow Tail (raw)
Hamachi Toro
Yellowtail Belly (raw)
Halibut (raw)
Surf Clam (cooked)
Scallop (raw)
Squid (the body is served raw, the tentacles are cooked)
Salmon Roe (fish eggs)
Sardine (raw)
Crab Meat (cooked)
Amberjack (raw)
Tuna (raw)
Mackerel (raw)
Salmon (raw)
Sake Toro
Salmon Belly (raw)
Red Snapper (raw)
Octopus (cooked)
Sweet Egg Omelet (cooked)
Blue Fin Belly (raw)
Whelk Clam (raw)
Umi Masu
Ocean Trout (raw)
Barbequed Freshwater Eel
Sea Urchin (raw)
There are many different kinds of sashimi — these are some of the more common items that you might see. Spellings might vary.

Sashimi is to sushi as a fillet is to a taco. Any sashimi meat can be made into a sushi roll. And any chef can get creative and create specialty sushi rolls by combining multiple meats and vegetables. However, there are a few specialty sushi rolls that can be found at most restaurants, though the exact preparation can differ significantly.

Types of Popular Sushi Rolls

Roll Name
So What's in It?
Contains Raw Fish?
You Should Order If . . .
Tiger Roll
Avocado, shrimp tempura, cucumber, tobiko (flying fish roe — fish eggs)
Usually not — double check to make sure
You like fried shrimp and avocado
Philadelphia Roll
Salmon, avocado, cream cheese
You like cold and creamy
Crunch Roll
Spicy tuna, crispy seaweed, tempura
You like crispy, crunchy and raw tuna
Dynamite Roll
Shrimp tempura, yellowtail, bean sprouts, carrots, avocado, cucumber, chili, spicy mayo
You like warm, creamy, and crunchy
Rainbow Roll
Fish cake/imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, tuna, avocado, salmon, shrimp, yellowtail
You like different kinds of sashimi
Dragon Roll
Eel, crab, cucumber / avocado outside, eel sauce
You love eel — which is warm, buttery, and a little sweet
California Roll
Crab or imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds
You don't like raw fish and like avocado
Spicy Tuna Roll
Tuna, mayo, chili sauce
You like cold and spicy
Caterpillar Roll
Eel, cucumber, avocado
You like eel (cooked and warm) and avocado
Spider Roll
Soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, spicy mayo
You like crab and crunchy tempura
Vegetable Roll
Cucumber, fresh carrot, scallion, avocado, asparagus, cream cheese
You like veggies
Shrimp Tempura Roll
Shrimp tempura, avocado, tempura flakes, eel sauce
You like crunchy and fried shrimp
Surf and Turf Roll
Cucumber, fish cake/imitation crab, beef, carrot, tuna, salmon, avocado
You like raw fish and cooked beef
Tempura Roll
One or more of the parts is deep-fried in a light batter
You like crunchy, fried foods.
Volcano Roll
Contents will differ, but it will have some kind of topping that makes it looks like the roll is exploding.
Most of these are uramaki — the kind where the rice is on the outside. Sushi rolls vary fairly significantly from one restaurant to the next, even though the names might be the same. You can always ask what is in a roll at a particular restaurant

There are also vegetarian sushi ingredients that have the added bonus of being on the cheaper side. These include:

  • Egg (tamago)
  • Cucumber (kappa)
  • Avocado

Common Sides and Condiments

Before we begin, you must know what to eat with sushi. I usually start my meal with miso soup and possibly some tempura—fried vegetables in a crunchy batter.

With your sushi, you will probably get wasabi (green paste made from Japanese horseradish) and ginger (pink pickled slices).

The Japanese use ginger to clear their palettes between courses. The wasabi should be mixed with shoyu (soy sauce) as a dipping sauce for your sushi.

The sushi roll you get might have brightly colored orange spheres or tiny black spheres on it — these are both roe, which are fish eggs.

  • Tobiko is the roe of flying fish and is usually a bright orange, though it can be colored to be black or even green
  • Masago is the roe of capelin — this is also usually orange-colored unless it is dyed

Meet Some Common Sushi Fillings

All of these pictures are of the fillings in nigiri form (on a bed of rice).


Sashimi is raw fish. When placed on rice (sometimes with nori, or sheets of seaweed), it is sushi. The following raw toppings can be found on sushi menus:

Ahi (tuna)

Ahi tuna nigiri
Ahi tuna nigiri

Ebi (shrimp)

Ebi (shrimp) nigiri
Ebi (shrimp) nigiri

Sake (salmon)

Sake (salmon) nigiri
Sake (salmon) nigiri

Unagi/anago (eel—unagi refers to freshwater and anago to saltwater)

Unagi/anago nigiri
Unagi/anago nigiri

Hamachi (yellow tail)

Hamachi (yellow tail) nigiri
Hamachi (yellow tail) nigiri

Ika (squid)

Ika (squid) nigiri
Ika (squid) nigiri

Kani (crab meat — artificial crab meat is pictured)

Artificial crab meat nigiri (made from a combination of fish)
Artificial crab meat nigiri (made from a combination of fish)

Hotate (scallop)

Hotate (scallop) nigiri
Hotate (scallop) nigiri

Tako (octopus)

Tako (octopus) nigiri
Tako (octopus) nigiri

Uni (sea urchin)

Uni (sea urchin) nigiri
Uni (sea urchin) nigiri | Source

Sushi Japanese Cuisine Vocabulary Quiz

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Sushi Rolls

Spicy Tuna Roll

Spicy Tuna Roll
Spicy Tuna Roll

Ahi (tuna) rolls usually have a dark pink layer of raw tuna in them.

However, spicy tuna (or spicy ahi) usually includes diced or shredded tuna with hot peppers. The spicy sauce that sushi chefs use is usually orange and is about as hot as a banana pepper or sandwich jalapeño.

Tempura Roll

With the wrapper prepared tempura
With the wrapper prepared tempura

Tempura is a Japanese style of deep frying that uses a light batter. Tempura rolls can be made in two ways.

As shown in the photo above, one way to make this crunchy delight is to make the entire roll tempura. In the photo above, the chef created sashimi rolls, covered it in tempura batter, and deep-fried the whole thing.

Tempura Style #2

With the contents prepared tempura
With the contents prepared tempura

Another way to make this crunchy delight is to prepare the contents tempura. For those rolls, shrimp tempura or some other kind of vegetable tempura is put inside the nori (seaweed paper).

Unagi Sushi

Unagi sushi
Unagi sushi | Source

Unagi is a saltwater eel. Sushi usually uses a grilled slab of unagi coated or marinated in either oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce, or some other sweet-and-salty glaze. Unagi tastes like tender steak.

California Roll

California Roll
California Roll

A California roll is usually made with crab and avocado. If you purchase a California roll in a supermarket, you may get one with mayonnaise in it. In the California roll above, there is crab, ahi (tuna), and avocado. Sometimes it will be served with a slab of ahi on top.



Inari is breaded-rice sushi. The bread is thin and sweet and sometimes filled with vegetables such as carrot strips or cucumber.

Rainbow Roll

Rainbow Roll
Rainbow Roll

A rainbow roll is a sushi roll topped with many different types of sashimi.

The sushi roll underneath the sashimi is usually a California roll (avocado and crab).

To make this type of sushi, the chef prepares a California roll and adds the toppings afterwards.

Dragon Roll

Dragon Roll
Dragon Roll | Source

Dragon rolls are usually unique to the chef, and many get creative with the appearance of the dragon roll—some making them look like dragons. So there is some variation as to the ingredients chosen by different chefs, but dragon rolls are usually filled with eel and cucumber and topped with thinly-sliced avocado, producing a scale effect.

Philly Roll

Philly Roll
Philly Roll

The Philly roll is a popular kind of sushi that you will find on many menus around the country. It usually has salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber, though it might come with other ingredients like avocado, onion, and sesame seed. It's named the Philly roll because of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, not because it's from Philadelphia.

Temaki With Crab

Temaki with crab
Temaki with crab

This is an example of a cone-shaped hand roll, which is called temaki. This one has crab in it — you can tell it's real crab because it's stringy. Imitation crab usually comes in stick form and is not stringy.

Spider Roll

Spider Roll
Spider Roll

The Spider roll has soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, and spicy mayo on it. Sometimes the chef will construct it so it looks like it has spider legs coming out of the sides.

Vegetarian Roll

Vegetarian Roll
Vegetarian Roll

There's even something for people who don't eat fish at a sushi restaurant! Many places offer a veggie roll, which will — no surprise here — contain different kinds of vegetables like cucumber or avocado.

Volcano Roll

Volcano Roll
Volcano Roll

The contents of volcano rolls tends to vary, but the one thing they have in common is that there is usually some kind of topping on the rolls that makes it look like the sushi is exploding — hence the term "volcano roll."

Other Common Words on Sushi Menus

What Is It?
Soft tofu coated with potato starch and deep fried
Bowl of rice mixed with fish, vegetables, and additional ingredients of your choice
A type of radish
Japanese "rice bowl dish" consisting of fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients simmered together and served over rice
A dish made of unripened soybeans
Vegetable dish made with sesame dressing
Japanese pan-fried dumplings
Salmon roe
Imitation crab meat
Deep fried cutlet
Generic term for skewered and grilled meat and vegetables
Rice and fillings wrapped in seaweed (commonly called sushi roll)
Capelin roe (fish eggs) — orange in color
A traditional Japanese seasoning
Chewy dessert made from rice
Green onion
Raw fish served over pressed, vinegared rice
Chef's choice
Raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and sometimes as an entree
a Japanese dipping sauce made from soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and fish flakes
Fish eggs
Thinly sliced meat served without rice
A kind of Japanese herb
A type of sweet and spicy sauce
Chicken wings
A type of Japanese condiment
Hand-roll: rice and fish in a cone-shaped seaweed wrapper
Japanese breaded frying preparation
A Japenese tempura dip
Flying fish roe
Belly area of fish
Type of thick noodle made with wheat flour
A type of pickled plum
A type of seaweed
A type of Japanese herb similar to horseradish
Yaki Tori
Japanese type of skewered chicken
Fried buckwheat noodles
Japanese pickled burdock root
A type of citrus fruit


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    • profile image

      Sushi_eater_1000 10 days ago

      GOod info for essays and presentations. Like the lists of types of sushi and shashimi.

    • profile image

      Yohana 7 weeks ago

      Great information!

      just a piece of feedback, only westerners put wasabi inside the soy sauce, traditional Japanese customs advise to NEVER mix the wasabi with the soy sauce.

    • profile image

      SUSHIPERSONZ 3 months ago

      THIS BE GOOD SUSHI!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Kathie 3 months ago

      This is the most informative article I've ever read! I now feel I can go to a sushi restaurant and know what to order rather than have my daughter do it for me! Thank you for making every imaginable item so clear.

    • profile image

      Anon 3 months ago

      This was great! Going to have dinner with my friends and this just gave me everything I needed to pick what I would like to eat.

    • profile image

      MattYs 4 months ago

      Tempura - Japanese breaded frying preparation

      Really? Breaded?...

    • profile image

      Chris 7 months ago

      i work at a sushi restaurant, and this page gave me exactly what i need to make better recommendations to my customers

    • profile image

      Annie 7 months ago

      Last month I was on Europe trip with my sis and our friends. In Warsaw (Poland) we tried a sushi in Sakana (Moliera street? This one who wrote La Tartuffe) and it was so amazing! I eat sushi a lot, but this one has had an amazing taste of Japan!

    • profile image 9 months ago

      its a helpful.thanx

    • profile image

      Shanice 9 months ago

      Wow! this is fantastic. Thanks!

    • profile image

      debbie 9 months ago

      what is the rice shaped crunchy garnish used in some sushi, it looks similar to freeze dried rice?

    • profile image

      Ema Fernandes 10 months ago

      My favorite dish.... for me all Sundays are Sushi day...

    • profile image

      Jamie Goodwin 11 months ago

      Katsuo is Skipjack Tuna, Bonito is often used as a substitute, but is not the same fish. Just noticed it on your list, and thought I would point it out. They share the same Subfamily, but they are different species of fish. Wonderful post though.

    • profile image

      Christine Nguyen 12 months ago

      When was this made ?

    • profile image

      Mayt 13 months ago

      Excellence post!

    • profile image

      Decstar 19 months ago

      Visuable and can correlate own visualization of an idea from the above publication. Photos are vividly clear (It can help a new chef see the end result), explanation on each dish was short and meaning was derived.

      Suggestion to expand on regions and cultures what sushi do they prefer.

      Relaxing read!!! Thanx

    • profile image

      Lori 20 months ago

      This was helpful for because i want eat sushi but didnt know what eat. Thanks

    • profile image

      Bianca McGill 2 years ago

      Mmmmm I love sushi, my first time eating it I thought wasabi was guacamole lol so I did a big dip of that And my mouth was on fire My nose lol was burning

    • profile image

      ms. lady 3 years ago

      love sushi!!! very hungry now

    • profile image

      sushilover101 3 years ago

      this helped alot with my homework

    • profile image

      HungryGal 3 years ago

      I have always liked sushi, but lately I have been craving it. These beautiful pictures have only made me hungry for more!

      Great write up, I learned a lot reading this. I can't wait to try a dragon roll! Thank you.

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      I'm not a fan of raw seafood, but my musician friend loves it (in fact she has written songs about sushi and sashimi). Perhaps I'll start with unagi sushi since the eel is cooked. I love the plating, as the Japanese are so good in it. :)

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      I think that the tempura rolls are my favorite. This is a great guide, especially for those who have never tried sushi.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      One of my favorite foods! The spicy tuna rolls are my absolute favorite - with lots of ginger and wasabi! Yumm! I appreciate the breakdown of all of the different types of sushi; I know that I'm always looking them up. ;)

    • Guitarforlife profile image

      Guitarforlife 5 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Your hub is making me hungry. I could use some sushi right about now.

    • Global-Chica profile image

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      I grew up eating Japanese food but still learned so much from your hub. For instance, I didn't know soy sauce is called "shoyu". Your photos are amazing and just made me really hungry! Thanks for a great hub.

    • brittanytodd profile image

      Brittany Kennedy 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      Thank you, Teresa! Sushi is intimidating to a lot of people because of the raw fish, but there is a different kind for everyone. Thanks again!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've always wondered what the 'sushi' rolls were made of besides raw fish. I'm quite sure you have not converted me to eating sushi, but I did love your colourful hub which for me was quite enlightening. I learned a lot! Voted up!