Is Sushi Raw Fish? (Solved!)

Sushi is a world-famous dish typically associated with rice and raw fish. However, sushi doesn’t stop there.

So, is sushi raw fish? The answer is both yes and no. Although varieties are made with raw fish, this isn’t the case for all types of sushi.

While raw fish might be the most popular ingredient, sushi can also contain cooked fish and vegetables, and other types seafood or meat. Continue reading to find out more.

is sushi raw fish

Is There Raw Fish in Sushi?

The basic ingredient of sushi is cooked vinegared rice. It’s the same across all varieties.

However, the toppings, fillings, condiments, and sauces make the sushi rolls different. Sushi can include anything from seafood, vegetables, meat, to even fruit.

When talking about seafood and fish in particular, both raw and cooked slices of fish can be used for sushi.

However, the variety of sushi served with raw seafood and its popularity has given rise to the notion that sushi just contains raw fish.

Is Sushi Cured or Raw?

In food preparation, curing refers to a food preservation method that entails fermenting, smoking, or pickling the fish. The main objective is to preserve its safety and flavor.

Curing fish is connected to the early stages of sushi. It dates back to the second century A.D., when the process was devised to keep the meat fresh without refrigeration.

Interestingly, this was in China, not Japan.

The fish would be cured with salt, packed in rice, and stored in a cool place to preserve its freshness.

The fermenting rice would produce vinegar, contributing to a strong umami flavor and longer preservation. The fish would then be eaten, but the rice discarded.

Over time, this technique spread to Japan, where the process was tweaked to include eating the rice. This was the inception of sushi as we know it today.

Nowadays, curing fish isn’t a prerequisite for preparing sushi. However, it is usually necessary when preparing sashimi.

Sashimi and sushi are often confused. Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish, typically salmon or tuna.

Sushi is most commonly thought of as “raw fish.” This might be because it is frequently served cold.

However, unlike sashimi, sushi can contain both raw and cooked fish.

Why Is Sushi Fish Raw?

The invention of modern sushi is widely credited to chef Hanaya Yohei.

Although sushi was already being served in Japan, it entailed a long fermentation process that affected the final product’s flavor.

Sushi was also often cooked due to a lack of refrigeration.

Hanaya Yohei realized that the rice used to ferment sushi could be tossed with vinegar and served with a bite-sized piece of fish on top.

His goal was to make sushi preparation quicker, but this opened the door for a variety of flavors to be added to the rice.

Without the fermentation process, the raw fish was allowed to shine. This sushi was known as “nigiri-zushi.”

Nigiri remains the most popular type of sushi. The process has remained the same – molding the rice by hand and topping it with a strip of raw fish.

Typically, nigiri is made with tuna or salmon and doesn’t have seaweed.

Although raw fish isn’t the only topping used today, it is the most popular. Only high-quality fresh fish is used to ensure food safety.

If most sushi items on a restaurant’s menu are cooked, this might indicate that the fish used is old or of poor quality.

Is All Sushi Raw Fish (What Sushi Has Raw Fish)?

The Japanese refer to sushi’s topping as “neta.” The neta can be both raw and cooked fish, although the use of raw fish is more widespread.

One of the most used sushi ingredients is tuna.

Historically, tuna fish has also been the most preferred type of sushi. It’s expensive and holds a traditional value. Any sort of tuna can be eaten raw.

The most popular tuna sushi varieties are:

  • Yellowfin
  • Skipjack
  • Albacore
  • Bluefin

Apart from tuna, salmon is the most common raw fish used for sushi.

Unlike tuna, sushi was usually cooked, simmered in stews, or grilled. As a result, raw salmon was deemed inedible.

This changed in the 1980s when Norway started shipping their excess salmon to Japan.

A frozen food company called Nishi Rei began selling salmon as sushi, and the rest is history.

Nowadays, there are many varieties of salmon used for sushi. However, masunosuke, or King Salmon, is considered the ultimate choice.

Other popular seafood sushi ingredients include:

  • Mackerel
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Octopus
  • Eel

However, there are plenty of sushi varieties made from cooked food. These might be the best option for first-time sushi eaters, especially if they’re uncomfortable with raw seafood.

Here are some examples:

  • Anago: made from saltwater eel. As sushi, anago is always cooked, usually in a broth made from repeated cooking of eels.
  • Unagi: made from freshwater eel. As sushi, unagi is never served raw. Instead, it can be prepared in various ways, with the most popular grilling or searing.
  • California Roll: made from cooked imitation crab meat. The only raw part is the cucumber and the avocado.
  • Ebi: made from boiled tiger shrimp.
  • Shrimp Tempura Roll: made from baked and battered shrimp. The roll also includes cucumber and avocado.

To help you navigate the ever-expanding world of sushi, check out the most common types of sushi rolls and their preparation methods below.

SushiToppingCookedCooking Method
Maguro nigiriTunaNo 
Ika nigiriSquidNo 
Sake nigiriSalmonNo 
Tekka makiTunaNo 
UnagiEelYesBroiled
SabaMackerelNo 
ToroTunaNo 
AkamiTunaNo 
IwashiSardineNo 
AmaebiShrimpNo 
Ebi nigiriShrimpYesBroiled
TakoOctopusYesGrilled
AnagoEelYesBroiled

In Summary

If sushi has raw fish is one of the most frequently asked questions for those interested in these bite-sized delights.

This article has shown that raw fish is merely one of the many ingredients used as a sushi topping.

If you can’t stomach raw fish, you can choose any other option mentioned. No matter which ingredient you opt for, you’re sure to enjoy this unique culinary experience.