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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!

the-different-kinds-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

Nigiri

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

Sashimi

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

Maki

Rice and filling wrapped in seaweed

This is what most people think of when they think of sushi rolls

Uramaki

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

Temaki

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

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

Sashimi NameSo What Is It?

Ahi

Tuna (raw)

Aji

Spanish Mackerel (raw)

Amaebi

Sweet Shrimp (raw)

Anago

Saltwater Eel — usually deep-fried or boiled

Aoyagi

Round Clam (raw)

Bincho

Albacore White Tuna (raw)

Katsuo

Skipjack Tuna (raw)

Ebi

Tiger Shrimp (cooked)

Escolar

Butterfish (raw)

Hamachi

Yellow Tail (raw)

Hamachi Toro

Yellowtail Belly (raw)

Hirame

Halibut (raw)

Hokigai

Surf Clam (cooked)

Hotate

Scallop (raw)

Ika

Squid (the body is served raw, the tentacles are cooked)

Ikura

Salmon Roe (fish eggs)

Iwashi

Sardine (raw)

Kani

Crab Meat (cooked)

Kanpachi

Amberjack (raw)

Maguro

Tuna (raw)

Saba

Mackerel (raw)

Sake

Salmon (raw)

Sake Toro

Salmon Belly (raw)

Tai

Red Snapper (raw)

Tako

Octopus (cooked)

Tamago

Sweet Egg Omelet (cooked)

Toro

Blue Fin Belly (raw)

Tsubugai

Whelk Clam (raw)

Umi Masu

Ocean Trout (raw)

Unagi

Barbequed Freshwater Eel

Uni

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 NameSo 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

Yes

You like cold and creamy

Crunch Roll

Spicy tuna, crispy seaweed, tempura

Yes

You like crispy, crunchy and raw tuna

Dynamite Roll

Shrimp tempura, yellowtail, bean sprouts, carrots, avocado, cucumber, chili, spicy mayo

Sometimes

You like warm, creamy, and crunchy

Rainbow Roll

Fish cake/imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, tuna, avocado, salmon, shrimp, yellowtail

Yes

You like different kinds of sashimi

Dragon Roll

Eel, crab, cucumber / avocado outside, eel sauce

Sometimes

You love eel — which is warm, buttery, and a little sweet

California Roll

Crab or imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds

No

You don't like raw fish and like avocado

Spicy Tuna Roll

Tuna, mayo, chili sauce

Yes

You like cold and spicy

Caterpillar Roll

Eel, cucumber, avocado

No

You like eel (cooked and warm) and avocado

Spider Roll

Soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, spicy mayo

No

You like crab and crunchy tempura

Vegetable Roll

Cucumber, fresh carrot, scallion, avocado, asparagus, cream cheese

No

You like veggies

Shrimp Tempura Roll

Shrimp tempura, avocado, tempura flakes, eel sauce

No

You like crunchy and fried shrimp

Surf and Turf Roll

Cucumber, fish cake/imitation crab, beef, carrot, tuna, salmon, avocado

Yes

You like raw fish and cooked beef

Tempura Roll

One or more of the parts is deep-fried in a light batter

Sometimes

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.

Sometimes

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

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

Read More From Delishably

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

Sushi Japanese Cuisine Vocabulary Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What is octopus in Japanese?
    • Unagi
    • Tako
    • Sashimi
  2. What is Kani?
    • Crab
    • Tuna
    • Squid
  3. What is "squid" in Japanese?
    • Hotate
    • Uni
    • Ika
  4. What is Ikura?
    • Salmon
    • Tuna
    • Sea Urchin
  5. What is Ebi?
    • Tuna
    • Shrimp
    • Scallop

Answer Key

  1. Tako
  2. Crab
  3. Ika
  4. Salmon
  5. Shrimp

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 sashimi rolls, 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

Inari

Inari

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 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

ItemWhat Is It?

Agedashi

Soft tofu coated with potato starch and deep fried

Chirashi

Bowl of rice mixed with fish, vegetables, and additional ingredients of your choice

Daikon

A type of radish

Donburi

Japanese "rice bowl dish" consisting of fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients simmered together and served over rice

Edamame

A dish made of unripened soybeans

Gomae

Vegetable dish made with sesame dressing

Gyoza

Japanese pan-fried dumplings

Ika

Cuttlefish

Ikura

Salmon roe

Kaki

Persimmon

Kanikama

Imitation crab meat

Kappa

Cucumber

Katsu

Deep fried cutlet

Kushiyaki

Generic term for skewered and grilled meat and vegetables

Maki

Rice and fillings wrapped in seaweed (commonly called sushi roll)

Masago

Capelin roe (fish eggs) — orange in color

Miso

A traditional Japanese seasoning

Mochi

Chewy dessert made from rice

Nasu

Eggplant

Negi

Green onion

Nigiri

Raw fish served over pressed, vinegared rice

Omakase

Chef's choice

Poke

Raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and sometimes as an entree

Ponzu

a Japanese dipping sauce made from soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and fish flakes

Roe

Fish eggs

Sashimi

Thinly sliced meat served without rice

Shiso

A kind of Japanese herb

Sriracha

A type of sweet and spicy sauce

Teba

Chicken wings

Tekka

A type of Japanese condiment

Temaki

Hand-roll: rice and fish in a cone-shaped seaweed wrapper

Tempura

Japanese breaded frying preparation

Tentsuyu

A Japenese tempura dip

Tobiko

Flying fish roe

Toro

Belly area of fish

Udon

Type of thick noodle made with wheat flour

Ume

A type of pickled plum

Uzura

Quail

Wakame

A type of seaweed

Wasabi

A type of Japanese herb similar to horseradish

Yaki Tori

Japanese type of skewered chicken

Yakisoba

Fried buckwheat noodles

Yamagobo

Japanese pickled burdock root

Yuzu

A type of citrus fruit

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