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The 25 Best Sushi Types Ranked | Which Sushi is the Best?

The 25 Best Sushi Types Ranked | Which Sushi is the Best?

Sushi, Japan's iconic dish, goes beyond raw fish and rice. With its intricate artistry, involving skilled knife techniques and simple yet crucial ingredients like sumeshi, sushi has become a global phenomenon, even being produced locally in the United States.

Comprising nigiri, maki, and sashimi, sushi offers a diverse range of flavors. Kiichin has curated a list of popular Japanese and American styles, showcasing the elegance of traditional Japanese sushi and the creative innovations found in the U.S. For a unique twist on this culinary tradition, explore the 25 Best Sushi Types with Kiichin, adding a distinctive touch to the timeless Japanese delicacy.

25. Sanma (Pacific saury)

The first type of sushi in the list of 25 Best Sushi Types Ranked - Sanma, a seasonal Pacific saury delicacy, embodies the rich flavors of the ocean, especially during the fall. It can be relished in its raw state or prepared aburi-style, where searing with its inherent oils enhances the juiciness of the meat. However, the challenge lies in the seasonal availability of this sought-after fish and the skill required for its intricate preparation.

Pacific saury, a fall delicacy, offers a deep oceanic taste—raw or aburi-style

Pacific saury, a fall delicacy, offers a deep oceanic taste—raw or aburi-style

24. Philadelphia Roll

The creation of the Philadelphia roll in the city itself was no surprise, inspired by Jewish cuisine and innovatively crafted by Madame Saito, also known as the "Sushi Queen." Saito, renowned for her inventive skills, shared that the idea for the Philadelphia roll emerged during a breakfast at a friend's house in the 1980s. Drawing inspiration from the meal and customer suggestions, she aptly named this sushi roll, skillfully combining succulent salmon with the velvety richness of Philadelphia cream cheese.

Similar to other Americanized sushi rolls, the Philadelphia roll was designed to make raw fish more appealing to Americans. While the concept of cream cheese in sushi might initially seem unconventional, Saito's flavorful combination makes perfect sense. As she discovered in that fateful brunch, the common pairing of cream cheese and smoked salmon in bagels inspired her to roll it into sushi rice, creating the delectable Philadelphia roll. Philadelphia Roll is a must-try dish, one of the best types of sushi rolls.

This sushi delicacy skillfully combines salmon and creamy Philadelphia cream cheese to enhance the appeal of raw fish for American palates

This sushi delicacy skillfully combines salmon and creamy Philadelphia cream cheese to enhance the appeal of raw fish for American palates

23. Tako

Unlike most other sushi ingredients, preparing octopus, or tako, requires several hours before it can be served. This is because fresh octopus is too tough to be eaten directly (according to Sushi University). Improperly processed octopus will be chewy and practically inedible, making this seafood a challenging ingredient to master. To prepare octopus, sushi chefs manually tenderize it or simmer it gently in water or a mixture of soy sauce, sake, and mirin (known as sakura-ni), enhancing its flavor.

After this process, the octopus is thinly sliced and placed on top of sushi rice to create nigiri. Meticulously crafted octopus sushi should be tender with a pleasantly firm texture, highlighted by the aromatic essence of the meat. This is one of the 25 Best Sushi Types.

In summary, crafting octopus sushi is a meticulous process

In summary, crafting octopus sushi is a meticulous process

22. Inarizushi

Inarizushi, also known as "sushi pockets" or "tofu skin sushi," goes beyond traditional seafood sushi. Made with thick sushi rice, it features sweet tofu pouches filled with ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), and sesame seeds. The name is derived from the Japanese folk belief that foxes (cáo) love this particular ingredient. Inarizushi is characterized by its rich flavor, varied textures, and sweetness from seasoned aburaage (deep-fried tofu pouches) marinated in soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sometimes dashi. It is commonly enjoyed in Japan as part of bento boxes or during outdoor activities.

It boasts rich flavors, various textures, and sweetness from seasoned aburaage, and is often consumed in Japan as part of bento boxes or for outdoor dining

It boasts rich flavors, various textures, and sweetness from seasoned aburaage, and is often consumed in Japan as part of bento boxes or for outdoor dining

Related Post: Sushi vs Sashimi: What is the difference between them?

21. Spicy Tuna

Another in the 25 Best Sushi Types. The spicy tuna roll, a popular item in American sushi restaurants, originated in Seattle's Maneki in the 1980s. Inspired by their love for chili, chefs combined leftover tuna scraps with spicy ingredients, creating a surprisingly delicious dish. Despite being made from "scraped tuna," the roll's bold flavor appeals to spice enthusiasts.

Seattle's Maneki introduced the spicy tuna roll in the 1980s

Seattle's Maneki introduced the spicy tuna roll in the 1980s

20. Temaki

Beyond nigiri and maki rolls, temaki stands out as another popular type of sushi. Translating to "hand roll," temaki, as described by Serious Eats, essentially involves sushi rice and ingredients wrapped in a nori cone. Considered by many as the easiest sushi to make, temaki allows for a variety of ingredients, ranging from vegetables to cooked or raw fish, even pickles. Due to its diverse composition, diners typically dip only the nori tip in soy sauce to avoid overshadowing the roll's nuanced flavors.

While temaki is straightforward to prepare, it plays a crucial role in many omakase meals. Chef Jay Zheng of Kōyō in Queens, New York, expressed to The Manual that he enjoys serving temaki to conclude a multi-course dining experience.

Temaki, or hand rolls, a popular sushi type, appreciated for its simplicity

Temaki, or hand rolls, a popular sushi type, appreciated for its simplicity

19. Squid Sushi

Japan boasts over 100 squid varieties, making it a widely used and cost-effective ingredient in Japanese cuisine, according to Sushi University. When fresh and expertly sliced, live squid transforms into a delectable sushi component, prized for its distinctive soft texture and pleasantly resilient bite, along with its subtly sweet and mild flavor. While squid sushi pairs well with common accompaniments like soy sauce and wasabi, it particularly benefits from the addition of freshly squeezed yuzu juice. In Japan, numerous sushi chefs prefer to serve squid sushi with a sprinkle of salt and sudachi, a petite citrus fruit akin to yuzu.

Freshly sliced, live squid becomes a delicious sushi choice, prized for its unique texture and subtle, sweet flavor

Freshly sliced, live squid becomes a delicious sushi choice, prized for its unique texture and subtle, sweet flavor

Related post: How To Roll Sushi: The Easiest Guide for Home Cooks

18. Crab Sushi

From crispy soft-shell crab in spider rolls to Dungeness crab in California rolls, crab is a common sushi ingredient. In Japan, it's often served as nigiri, with sweet crab legs as a highlight. Traditionally, crab wasn't used in Japanese sushi, as explained by Sushi University. However, modern Japanese sushi embraces various crab species, from snow crab to impressive king crab. Typically, crab legs, not the body, are used for sushi, with male snow crab legs especially prized for their sweetness and tenderness.

Crab, which will be your favorite type of sushi, is one of the 25 Best Sushi Types

Crab, which will be your favorite type of sushi, is one of the 25 Best Sushi Types

17. Buri Sushi

Buri, the fully grown form of yellowtail, is esteemed alongside kampachi as a luxurious fish. Recognized for its lusciously fatty taste, Buri reaches its prime dining season from December to February, accumulating fat in preparation for winter.

Buri, the mature yellowtail, is considered a premium fish

Buri, the mature yellowtail, is considered a premium fish

16. Salmon

Another in 25 Best Sushi Types - Salmon, potentially the most widely enjoyed fish for sushi after tuna, is prized for its delicious albeit somewhat dry texture. Of the various salmon varieties, king salmon, known as masunosuke, stands out as the premier choice for sushi (according to Sushi University). With its splendid blend of richness and flavor, king salmon is ideal for crafting exquisite nigiri.

Interestingly, sushi featuring salmon wasn't always a commonplace in Japan. Traditionally, salmon was prepared through grilling, simmering in soup, or stewing, and consuming fresh salmon was discouraged due to potential parasites. A shift occurred in the 1980s when Norway began exporting surplus salmon to Japan. Collaborating with the Japanese frozen food company Nishi Rei, the Norwegian government promoted salmon as an ingredient, leading to Japan embracing it as a sushi staple (as reported by NPR).

Salmon, especially king salmon, is a prized choice for sushi due to its rich flavor and texture

Salmon, especially king salmon, is a prized choice for sushi due to its rich flavor and texture

15. Dragon Roll

In this sushi types list, American-style sushi rolls, typically associated with festive occasions, often incorporate tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab. These rolls are then topped with avocado and drizzled with unagi sauce.

The addition of unagi sauce might surprise Japanese diners, highlighting the distinct contrasts between American and Japanese sushi recipes. Yohei Matsuki, the Michelin-starred sushi chef at Sushi Ginza Onodera in Los Angeles, notes that American sushi enthusiasts tend to prefer a diverse array of flavors, sauces, and vibrant colors in their sushi, in contrast to the Japanese palate, which appreciates simplicity in preparation and prioritizes the quality of ingredients (via Michelin Guide).

American sushi embraces variety; Japanese sushi values simplicity and quality

American sushi embraces variety; Japanese sushi values simplicity and quality

14. Ikura Sushi

In addition to fish, salmon roe or ikura is a popular sushi ingredient, highly valued in Japanese cuisine for its unique flavor and texture. Described as sweet, savory, and rich, ikura's name is believed to originate from the Russian word for roe, "ikra," though in Japan, it specifically refers to roe from salmon (via Sushi Modern). According to Sushi Modern, before consumption, ikura undergoes multiple rinses in sweet water. Subsequently, it's marinated in a mixture of soy sauce and sake in equal proportions. For sushi preparation, ikura is often scooped onto sushi rice and wrapped in nori, similar to uni. Sometimes, the sushi is topped with quail egg yolk for enhanced flavor and a delightful sensation. Ikura Sushi is one of 25 Best Sushi Types you must try.

Ikura, prized in Japan, offers sweet, savory richness to sushi

Ikura, prized in Japan, offers sweet, savory richness to sushi

13. Spider Roll

This lively roll, a classic in the American sushi lexicon, features crispy soft-shell crab, avocado, cucumber, and sometimes jicama or daikon. Named for the crab legs that often extend beyond the sushi, creating a spider-like effect (via Delighted Cooking), this roll is credited to Hidekazu Tojo, a Japanese sushi chef in Canada and a potential inventor of the famed California roll. For those wondering how to eat the whole crispy soft-shell crab, it's crucial to note that the crab used in this roll has a soft shell. According to Serious Eats, the crab molts to replace its old shell, increasing in size by about 30% during this phase. There's a very narrow window to catch the soft-shell crab, as it exists in this state for only two to three hours before hardening again.

Classic American sushi roll with soft-shell crab and inventive flair

Classic American sushi roll with soft-shell crab and inventive flair

12. Tamagoyaki Sushi

The sushi program isn't solely dominated by fish and shellfish stars. Tamagoyaki, a Japanese rolled omelet, shines as a humble sushi ingredient. In sushi, tamagoyaki can be served on rice as nigiri or enjoyed on its own. Unlike American omelets, Japanese tamagoyaki has a sweeter taste due to the addition of sugar and mirin to the egg mixture before cooking.

Besides traditional seasonings, some sushi chefs embrace creativity. Marco Moreira of 15 East at Tocqueville in New York told Thrillist that they enjoy adding ingredients like finely ground shrimp and sweet potato to their tamagoyaki. Due to its sweet flavor, many Michelin-starred chefs like Tomoyuki Hayashi of Sushi AMANE prefer concluding an omakase sushi meal with tamagoyaki, making it a dessert sushi (via The Manual).

Tamagoyaki, a sweet Japanese omelet, adds flair to diverse sushi

Tamagoyaki, a sweet Japanese omelet, adds flair to diverse sushi

Related post: How to Make Sushi Rice: Perfecting the Heart of Your Sushi Rolls

11. Rainbow Roll

Found on most U.S. sushi menus, the vibrant rainbow roll is essentially an upgraded California roll with colorful sashimi slices and additional ingredients (such as avocado, salmon, tuna, and yellowtail), as explained by The Japan Bar. Beyond creating the "rainbow" effect, these raw slices add extra flavor and texture to the well-balanced sushi roll. While the fillings may vary slightly depending on the chef, you can generally expect a rainbow roll to contain crab (real or imitation), avocado, and cucumber inside.

Similar to the California roll, the rainbow roll is an inside-out roll, meaning the rice is on the outside, and it's an American invention. Though the exact originator of this roll is unclear, it is believed to have appeared on menus around the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The rainbow roll elevates the California roll with vibrant sashimi slices

The rainbow roll elevates the California roll with vibrant sashimi slices

10. Toro

Much like all fish varieties, different sections of tuna boast varying fat content. While akami offers a lean and delightful taste, sushi aficionados often favor the opulent and fatty toro, derived from the more generously marbled portions of tuna. Tuna's fatty spectrum includes two primary cuts: chutoro and otoro, with the latter being the richest (via Sushi Modern). Indulging in a slice of toro presents a distinct culinary experience compared to leaner tuna, cherished for its mouthwatering, melt-in-the-mouth texture, particularly appealing to those with a taste for buttery richness. Some sushi enthusiasts assert that Toro maintains a consistent flavor, irrespective of the tuna's overall quality, a sharp departure from the distinct taste of lean akami.

Toro, prized for its buttery richness, offers a distinct sushi experience

Toro, prized for its buttery richness, offers a distinct sushi experience

9. Iwashi (sardine)

Another in this Best Sushi Types list. Sardines are often perceived as salty and pungent, a reputation stemming mainly from canned versions. Served fresh, they can exhibit a mild sweetness and rich flavor. Considered healthy and tasty, they are often enjoyed with a touch of ginger and negi to balance their natural oiliness.

Fresh sardines, not canned, offer mild sweetness and rich flavor

Fresh sardines, not canned, offer mild sweetness and rich flavor

8. Shrimp Sushi

You may know tempura shrimp in American-style rolls, but sushi shrimp differs. In Japan, shrimp is often enjoyed raw, preserving its natural sweetness, umami, and texture. Various shrimp types, like ama ebi and botan ebi, offer unique flavors. Unlike American-style spicy mayo, Japanese sushi shrimp is best paired with a touch of wasabi and soy sauce to enhance its natural taste.

Japanese sushi shrimp: raw, sweet, paired with wasabi and soy sauce

Japanese sushi shrimp: raw, sweet, paired with wasabi and soy sauce

7. Uni Sushi

Uni, a prized sushi ingredient, gained popularity in Japan post-World War II. The soft, orange tongues offer a unique complexity with a wise flavor profile, combining a creamy texture and umami, along with natural sweetness and the ocean's salty essence. According to Sushi Modern, the most common way to serve uni in sushi is Gunkan-maki, named for its resemblance to a battleship, where sushi rice forms an elongated ball wrapped in nori, resembling a cup, with uni placed on top, surrounded by nori.

Uni, a sushi delicacy, gained fame in Japan

Uni, a sushi delicacy, gained fame in Japan

6. California Roll

One of America's most popular sushi rolls, the California roll, wasn't invented in Japan. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it was created in the 1960s by Japanese chef Ichiro Mashita at Tokyo Kaikan in Little Tokyo, LA. However, there's debate, with other sources attributing its creation to Hidekazu Tojo in Canada, head chef at Tojo's Restaurant in Vancouver (via South China Morning Post).

Every aspect of the California roll was precisely designed to suit American tastes. At that time, Americans were cautious about eating raw fish and seaweed. To address this, Mashita replaced raw fish with cooked crab and avocado. The chef also employed a different technique for this dish - the "inside-out" roll. Essentially, it's a sushi roll with nori inside the rice, effectively hiding seaweed from consumers. While the California roll can be made with Pacific Dungeness crab, imitation crab has become the default ingredient in most versions.

California roll, not Japanese, created in the 1960s, debated origins

California roll, not Japanese, created in the 1960s, debated origins

5. Kampachi Sushi

Kampachi, also known as greater amberjack, delights with its crispy texture and balanced richness. Best savored in summer and early fall, it's a prized choice for nigiri, and its sustainability adds to its appeal (via Monterey Bay Aquarium). Despite being undervalued in the U.S., chefs like William Selin appreciate its beautiful texture and hint of sweetness, especially when paired with citrusy notes like yuzu or Meyer lemon (via Thrillist and PBS). This is one of this Best Sushi Types list, you should try it when you get a chance.

Kampachi's delightful texture and rich taste shine in sushi creations

Kampachi's delightful texture and rich taste shine in sushi creations

4. Saba Sushi

Despite being underrated in the U.S., humble mackerel, or saba, is a must-try for any sushi enthusiast. While some may find mackerel divisive due to its oily and bony nature, when fresh and expertly prepared, it offers a rich and savory flavor like no other. As one of the oldest sushi ingredients, mackerel is often cured with salt and vinegar before turning it into sushi, not to eliminate parasites, as commonly believed, but to enhance its taste. Served with scallions and grated ginger instead of conventional wasabi, the combination creates a perfect balance with the mackerel's natural richness and sweetness.

Mackerel, often underrated, dazzles sushi enthusiasts with its rich, savory flavor

Mackerel, often underrated, dazzles sushi enthusiasts with its rich, savory flavor

3. Engawa (flatfish fin)

The folded, textured section of the fin, engawa, is a delectable dish. Thin, tender, and slightly chewy with a buttery taste, engawa can be served either raw or aburi-style, sprinkled with salt or drizzled with ponzu (yuzu and soy sauce).

Engawa, a delicate delight, served raw or aburi-style

Engawa, a delicate delight, served raw or aburi-style

2. Anago (saltwater eel)

Anago, or saltwater eel, best sushi types, is a popular ingredient in sushi. Known for its tender and flavorful meat, Anago is often grilled and brushed with a sweet soy-based glaze before being rolled in sushi. The eel's delicate texture and subtle sweetness make it a sought-after choice, providing a unique and delightful experience in sushi cuisine. It is commonly enjoyed as nigiri, where a slice of grilled Anago sits atop a small bed of rice, or as part of sushi rolls, adding depth and richness to the overall flavor profile.

Anago, a sushi delicacy, features tender, sweet, grilled saltwater eel

Anago, a sushi delicacy, features tender, sweet, grilled saltwater eel

1. Akami Sushi

Finaly, this is the best in 25 Best Sushi Types - Akami Sushi. While taste preferences may differ, the profound influence of tuna in sushi is undeniable. Beyond its widespread acclaim, tuna's impressive size adds to its allure; for example, the Pacific bluefin tuna can reach lengths of up to 10 feet and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds (via Monterey Bay Aquarium). Due to its sheer magnitude, tuna is segmented into various portions, akin to the butchering of beef, each offering a distinct richness. Interestingly, professional sushi chefs often age tuna (as well as other fish) for two to 10 days to intensify its umami flavor (via Sushi Modern).

Despite the acclaim for the fatty portions of tuna, many sushi aficionados lean towards akami, the leaner tuna. As this section consists of pure lean meat, high-quality akami showcases the most natural umami, distinguishing it from other cuts and reflecting the unique characteristics of each fish. The prevalent use of back-cut akami in sushi is due to its softer texture and superior consistency compared to belly-cut akami.

Though individual preferences vary, tuna's profound impact on sushi remains undeniable

Though individual preferences vary, tuna's profound impact on sushi remains undeniable

In conclusion, explore The 25 Best Sushi Types Ranked. Indulge in the rich flavors and unique textures each type offers. Follow Kiichin for an immersive journey into the culinary wonders of Japan.

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