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

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!

Sushi 101

Sushi 101

Types of Sushi

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.

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.

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 SushiDescriptionNotes


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 features the meat and adds rice and other ingredients, such as vegetables, which are all rolled up in a sheet of nori (seaweed) and then 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 a dish that's halfway in between sashimi and sushi. 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

There are many different kinds of sashimi — these are some of the more common items that you might see. Spellings might vary.

Sashimi NameWhat 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)

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.

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

Roll NameWhat'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.


Vegetarian Sushi Ingredients

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.

Common Starters

  • Miso soup: Traditional Japanese soup made with dashi stock and miso paste.
  • Edamame: Young soybeans in their pods.
  • Tempura: Fried vegetables or shrimp in a crunchy batter.


  • Wasabi: Green paste made from Japanese horseradish. This should be mixed with shoyu (soy sauce) as a dipping sauce for your sushi.
  • Pickled ginger: The Japanese use ginger to clear their palettes between courses.


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: Roe of flying fish. Usually a bright orange, though it can be colored to be black or even green.
  • Masago: Roe of capelin. 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) nigiri

Ahi (tuna) nigiri

Ebi (shrimp) nigiri

Ebi (shrimp) nigiri

Sake (salmon) nigiri

Sake (salmon) nigiri

Unagi (freshwater eel) or anago (saltwater eel) nigiri

Unagi (freshwater eel) or anago (saltwater eel) nigiri

Hamachi (yellow tail) nigiri

Hamachi (yellow tail) nigiri

Ika (squid) nigiri

Ika (squid) nigiri

Kani (artificial crab meat) nigiri is typically made from a combination of fish.

Kani (artificial crab meat) nigiri is typically made from a combination of fish.

Hotate (scallop) nigiri

Hotate (scallop) nigiri

Tako (octopus) nigiri

Tako (octopus) nigiri

Uni (sea urchin) nigiri

Uni (sea urchin) nigiri

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.

With the wrapper prepared tempura

With the wrapper prepared tempura

Tempura Roll

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 a sashimi roll, covered it in tempura batter, and deep-fried the whole thing.

With the contents prepared tempura

With the contents prepared tempura

Tempura Style #2

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 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 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 at sushi restaurants for people who don't eat fish! 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 tend 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

ItemWhat 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