Should I Use Toasted or Untoasted Nori for Sushi?

One of the most popular questions bothering beginner home sushi chefs is whether they should use toasted or untoasted nori for sushi. Thankfully, the answer is pretty straightforward.

While both types have their benefits, only one is suitable for sushi, and that is to use toasted nori for seaweed. This is because toasting it reduces the moisture content, which prevents it from becoming chewy, and is therefore much easier to bite into.

In this guide, I’ll explain which nori type you should use for sushi and how to prepare the seaweed properly. In addition, I’ve included tips for storing, toasting, and handling nori during preparation. Read on to level up your sushi-making game.

toasted or untoasted nori for sushi

Do You Toast Nori for Sushi?

Nori is sold both fresh and toasted. It’s highly recommended to use toasted nori for preparing sushi as it’s supposed to be crispy from the first bite, then melt in your mouth.

The more water is left in the seaweed sheet, the harder it is to bite, so the heat helps to get rid of excessive moisture.

Untoasted nori is excellent for salads, rice dishes, and stir-fries. It has a stronger taste and a chewy, thick texture preferred by some individuals but unsuitable for preparing sushi.

Toasting nori on your own rather than buying pre-made toasted seaweed helps to preserve more taste.

Also, toasted seaweed can be re-toasted for a crispier and lighter texture. That’s especially useful if your nori has been already opened and stored for a while. Nori tends to collect moisture during storage and gets chewier when exposed to air.

How to Toast Nori for Sushi

So, how do you toast nori? These instructions can be used both for already toasted and fresh seaweed.

First, spray both sides of the sheet lightly with an oil of your choice. Remember that oil also gives flavor. For instance, if you choose sesame oil, the nori will have a slightly nutty taste and smell.

Optionally, spray a sheet of baking paper and place the nori on it for a short time.

You can get creative and season seaweed with wasabi powder, soy sauce, or vinegar. Don’t over-season it, though, as nori initially has a strong taste.

Once the nori is covered in a thin oil coating, turn your stove to medium heat. You can either use a pan or toast nori over an open fire. Use tongs to hold one of the sheets and wrap it a couple of times over the flame.

Optionally, place it on the pan and leave it for about 20 seconds on each side.

Another way to toast nori is in the oven. Preheat it to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and place the nori inside on a cooking sheet. The nori is ready when it turns golden brown in some areas, though not entirely.

When the process is completed, place the nori on a baking sheet or paper towel and salt it if desired. Use the toasted nori straight away.

4 maki rolls in row on plate

Tips for Preparing Nori for Sushi

To make perfect sushi, you should learn how to store, prepare, and handle nori properly. Here are some of the best tips to get crispy and tasty seaweed.

Ensure the right storing conditions. Seal your nori packet without gaps after using it and consume within four weeks after opening it. If you’ve found a pack of nori that’s been lying in your kitchen cabinet for months, toasting is a must. Nori is excellent at capturing moisture from the air, which leads to chewiness. Store it in a dry, cool place.

On this topic, for information on how to properly store fish used for sushi, check out my article here.

Toast your nori regardless of whether it’s raw or already toasted. Follow the instructions provided in the previous section for best results. This helps to avoid chewiness and achieve a crisp and light texture.

Place the nori with the rough surface facing upwards. It’s crucial as the glossy side of nori is sticky when wet. If you mess up the sides, your sushi may open up.

Choose high-quality Japanese nori. Low-quality nori is often mixed with other seaweed types, resulting in uneven texture and a fishy smell.

Experiment with seasonings used for toasting. You can use only oil to preserve the natural taste, or go for a spicy mix of chili pepper, sesame, and soy sauce. Keep in mind that even the oil on its own can change the nori taste drastically. Sunflower and olive oil aren’t typically a good fit for nori. Various nut and vegetable oils, such as canola, peanut, or avocado, are a much better option.

To cover nori sheets with an even layer of oil, use a spray bottle instead of a brush. A brush will leave more oil in certain areas, and after toasting, the sheet will have an uneven texture.

If you don’t have a spray bottle, cover a baking sheet with a generous layer of oil, then place the nori on it and press slightly. Change the side and repeat. When you press the seaweed sheet, it soaks the oil, distributing it evenly on all surfaces.

Don’t cut nori into small pieces before toasting. The smaller and thinner a sheet is, the more likely it is to catch fire. When cutting the sheets after toasting, ensure you’re using a sharp knife to keep the nori from crumbling.

Wipe your hands and the sushi mat after every contact with water. You should also ensure that rice is free from excessive moisture. Water makes nori chewy and tasteless.

Don’t over-toast the nori. Its color should be slightly golden, not burned black. If you keep the sheet above the flame too long, it will become dry and start crumbling when cut or rolled.

After you roll the sushi, let it rest for a while before cutting it. The nori should soak slightly to prevent tearing.

In Summary

Hopefully, the answer to whether you should use toasted or untoasted nori for sushi is now clear.

Although the toasting process initially seems simple, it may take some practice to understand how to do it correctly. After toasting nori a couple of times, you’ll find the perfect timing for achieving crispy texture and golden color.

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