What Does Sushi Taste Like? Exploring The Taste of Japan

What does sushi taste like? We’re covering the intriguing flavors of this iconic Japanese dish in this helpful guide!

Nigiri sushi variety with text "taste of sushi".

Maybe you’ve never tried sushi before and are wondering what sushi tastes like. Sushi offers a wide range of flavors, from fresh seafood’s oceanic essence to the subtle sweetness of vinegared rice.

Before you take that first bite, let me provide some helpful guidance on sushi’s flavor, taste, and texture.

    This recipe is for you if:
  • You wonder what sushi taste like.
  • You haven’t tried sushi before.
  • You are not sure which sushi you should try.

Let’s dive in!

A Brief Overview of Sushi

Nigiri sushi illustration.

Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish with two main parts: sushi rice (seasoned white rice) and different ingredients, primarily raw seafood. While fresh fish is common, you can also find sushi with ingredients like meat, veggies, and eggs.

Although we call it “sushi,” there are many types and styles to try, which I will introduce in the following section.

What Does Sushi Taste Like?

While some may mention a subtle fishy taste, it’s essential to understand that the taste of sushi isn’t defined by a single flavor. Instead, it’s a fusion of a variety of flavors.

Let’s explore each component that makes up sushi to understand its taste and texture.

Fresh Seafood

Sashimi, a piece of raw fish on a tray.

Sushi’s primary ingredient is fresh seafood, and its taste largely depends on the type of fish used. Some fish make sushi taste rich and creamy, while others give it a lighter, milder flavor.

For instance, fatty fish like raw salmon and tuna offer a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth experience, while white fish like snapper have a milder, slightly sweet taste. Squid, on the other hand, introduces an incredibly chewy texture.


Cooked Japanese rice in a pot.

The special sushi rice is a key part of sushi, adding a hint of sweetness and tanginess. It’s made from Japanese rice (short-grain rice), flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt, perfectly matching all the sushi flavors.

This rice is a bit sticky and helps the rice stay together when making small sushi pieces and gives a nice contrast to the soft fish.


Nori sheet.

If you’re enjoying sushi rolls, you’ll notice a satisfying crunchy texture thanks to the nori seaweed wrapping. The nori provides a pleasant contrast to the softness of the rice and the seafood.

Taste Example: Tuna Sushi

Tuna sushi illustration.

Let’s explore the taste of fresh tuna sushi, known as “Maguro” in Japanese, which is one of the most popular and versatile sushi choices. Tuna sushi offers a range of taste experiences, depending on the cut.

Lean Tuna (Akami):

Akami is a lean cut of tuna with a deep red color. It has a clean and mildly sweet flavor with a firm texture. This cut showcases the pure essence of the tuna.

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro):

Chutoro boasts a beautiful marbling of fat, giving it a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth quality. It offers a rich, luxurious flavor that strikes a delightful balance between leaner and fattiest cuts.

Fatty Tuna (Otoro):

Otoro, the most indulgent cut, is recognized for its high-fat content. It’s exceptionally tender and has an incredibly creamy texture that practically dissolves in your mouth. Due to its luxurious qualities, Otoro tends to be a bit pricier than the other cuts.

Tekka Maki (Tuna Sushi Roll):

Tekka maki sushi served on a plate.

Tekka Maki, or tuna roll sushi, is a popular Japanese sushi roll known for its simplicity and bold flavors.

It features sushi-grade tuna as its star ingredient. The tuna strips are rolled with seasoned rice and wrapped in nori seaweed sheets, resulting in a compact and flavorful cylindrical sushi roll.

Different Types of Sushi

Sushi comes in various forms, each offering a different taste experience. Let’s explore different kinds of sushi in this section.

1. Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri sushi takeout.

When it comes to sushi, a lot of people refer to nigiri sushi. It’s hand-pressed sushi that sushi chefs show their skill.

The taste of nigiri sushi is a harmonious blend of rice’s sweet and sour taste and the natural savory flavor of seafood.

People in Japan typically enjoy this authentic sushi at sushi restaurants or by taking takeout. Nigiri sushi is often enjoyed for family gatherings and special events like birthdays!

Popular Choice Of Nigiri Sushi

  • Tuna (Maguro), Salmon, Mackerel (Saba), Bonito (Katsuo), Snapper (Tai), Eel (Unagi), Small amberjack (Hamachi), Salmon Eggs (Ikura), Shrimp, Squid (Ika), Scallop (Hotate), Octopus (Tako), Crab Meat, Sea Urchin (Uni), Egg (Tamago)

2. Maki Sushi

Salmon maki sushi served on a plate.

Maki sushi, Sushi rolls, norimaki, or maki rolls are made by wrapping vinegared rice, seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients in a nori sheet. The taste varies depending on the ingredients used, and they can be mild and refreshing or spicy and bold, offering a wide range of flavors.

Popular Choice Of Maki Sushi

3. Temaki Sushi

Temaki sushi served on a plate.

Temaki sushi, which translates to hand-roll sushi, is popular for gatherings and parties in Japan. It doesn’t require a bamboo mat and offers a hands-on sushi experience.

Here’s how it works: set up vinegared rice, various ingredients, and sheets of nori seaweed right on the table. Take the nori sheet, add a scoop of rice, and then pile on your favorite toppings. Wrap it up in the seaweed, and you’re ready to enjoy.

What’s excellent about temaki sushi is that you can eat it immediately and enjoy the crispy seaweed. It’s a fun way to make sushi, perfect for sharing and creating tasty combinations.

4. Inari Sushi

Inari sushi served on a plate.

Inari sushi is a unique and delightful sushi variety known for its sweet and savory flavors. It’s one of the vegetarian options that’s perfect for a simple lunch!

Unlike traditional sushi, it doesn’t feature fish or seafood as the main ingredient. Instead, inari sushi is made by stuffing vinegared rice into pockets of sweet, seasoned tofu skin known as “aburaage.”

How to Eat Sushi

Eating sushi is a great experience, but it’s essential to do it the right way to enjoy its flavors fully. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to eat sushi:

  1. Prepare your condiments: Pour a small amount of soy sauce into a shallow dish and mix in a touch of wasabi (Japanese horseradish). Wasabi adds a spicy kick, reduces the fishy odor with its spiciness, and safeguards against potential foodborne illnesses due to its antibacterial properties.
  2. Pick up your sushi: Traditionally, sushi is eaten with your hands for a tactile dining experience, but chopsticks are also widely used today.
  3. Dip in soy sauce: Gently dip the slice of raw fish side of the nigiri sushi into the soy sauce, using a light touch. Avoid dipping the rice side, as it can make it fall apart.
  4. Enjoy in one bite: Sushi is designed to be eaten in a single bite. This ensures you experience all the different flavors and textures at once.
  5. Gari (Pickled Ginger): Enjoy a bite of pickled ginger between different sushi types to freshen your palate and savor each flavor distinctly.

Thanks For Stopping By!

Small child holding a small maki sushi.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog♡. If you’ve tried this recipe (or any other recipe on the blog), please give it a star rating below!

Also, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions. I love hearing from you!

Chef JA Cooks is a Japanese food blog that shares simple and healthy Japanese home cooking recipes, including vegan and vegetarian. From traditional Japanese recipes to modern recipes with step-by-step instructions.

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  1. We were in Japan for 3 1/2 weeks back in May-June from north to south: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto (Tokyo, Chiba, and Yokohama), Kansai (Kyoto), and Okinawa (Ishigaki-jima). And of course lots of incredible sushi and sashimi at every stop. Besides eating at various sushiya, we had some spectacular sashimi in some small local izakayas that specialized in sashimi.

    I believe you live in Yokohama. If so, one of our favorite sushiya in Yokohama is a very small place called Sagamiya. It’s across the street from the Yokohama Wholesale Seafood Market. And being next-door to the market, it’s not a fancy upscale sushiya, but don’t let that fool you. The itamae-san buys fresh fish every morning at the wholesale market. My wife’s cousin lives only a 10 minute walk from Sagamiya, and we go for both breakfast sushi and dinner sushi. The prices are reasonable and the seafood is as fresh as can be and of the highest quality.

    1. Hi, Rick! From Hokkaido to Okinawa, you covered so much ground and enjoyed sushi and sashimi all across the country – that’s amazing! I didn’t know about Sagamiya. It sounds like the best place to eat fresh sushi! Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey and dining experiences with us!