How To Make Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri is one of the most popular types of sushi. It is not the easiest sushi to make but you can do it.

What is Nigiri Sushi?

The actual Japanese meaning of nigiri is “gripped sushi.” This meaning refers to the way it is made. You will grip the rice and fish to bond it together and make nigiri. When you look at the beauty and complexity of sushi rolls you might think that they are the pinnacle of difficulty when it comes to making sushi.

However in my experience Nigiri can be just as difficult if not more so. There are a few steps to making nigiri that need to be learned in order to make not only acceptable nigiri, but beautiful well-balanced nigiri that is the centerpiece of your meal. In this article we will talk about why I say that and also I will show you the techniques needed. When we are finished you will know how to make nigiri sushi. So here we go.

Sourcing Suitable Fish


We won’t spend a lot of time on this subject here because I already discussed this topic in this article on this site. I will remind you though that you just can’t go down to your local grocery store and pick up fish that looks good.

With that said though, I know the butcher at a small grocery store close by and I have on more than one occasion purchased Atlantic salmon from him because I knew the day that it arrived and I knew that it was fresh.

It also passed the smell test which I talked about in the aforementioned article. Bottom line is, make sure the fish is sushi grade and fresh. There is one exception to the rule. I get vacuum packed frozen albacore loins that I keep in the freezer and pull out when I have a hankering for sushi.

Here is a short list of what you will need to make nigiri sushi:

1- Rice

2- Fish

3- Wasabi

4- Sushi knife

5- Cutting board

Again this is a short list that may lead you to think that nigiri is somewhat easy. At this point though I will remind you again that patience and skill are required if you want to learn how to make nigiri sushi that looks like the presentations at your favorite sushi bar.

Cutting the Fish


The first thing you will need is a good sushi knife. You may think that the filet knife you keep in your knife block will do but trust me you will want to get a good quality knife for sushi.

First you will need to cut the fish into suitable pieces. For this article we will be using salmon. Different fish will need to be cut in different ways. Salmon can be cut in a number of different ways which will also add to the artistic style of your nigiri. Notice how beautiful this salmon nigiri is, and it has been cut in several different ways



The belly section of the fish is more fatty which is the same with most other fish as well. This allows you to cut the fish in such a way that the fat layers make for a nice design in your nigiri.



It will take a few times to get the hang of cutting your fish perfectly but with practice you will get the hang of it. You don’t want it too thin or too thick. The optimal thickness is around 1/4 of an inch or maybe just a little under that. Also, different fish will need to be cut a little thicker because of the texture and make up of the fish.

Fish Meets Rice

If you are right-handed take a piece of fish and place it in the palm of your left hand about at the spot where your fingers meet your hand. Now moisten your right hand in with some warm water, be careful not to soak your hand you are only getting it moist so the rice won’t stick to it.

Pick up a little bit of rice with your right hand, it takes a while to get the amount just right but it will be about the size of a ping pong ball or just a little bit less. This is where the definition of nigiri that we talked about at the beginning of the article starts to come into play.

Gently start molding the rice into an oblong ball by softly pressing it together and rolling it in the palm and fingers of your hand. Be careful not to squeeze the rice and crush the individual kernels. You are just trying to form it gently so it sticks together when you place the fish on it. It is important to note that it is critical to have rice that is the correct consistency. You can find the instructions for how to make perfect sushi rice on this site.

Take a small bit of wasabi on your right index finger and apply it to the center of the piece of fish.



When you have a nice consistent oblong rice ball place the fish over the top of the rice. Cup your hand so that the fish and rice are cradled in your right hand. Press the fish down on the rice with your index and middle fingers, again not too hard, you don’t want to crush the rice and have to start over. As the definition of nigiri says, it feels like you are “gripping” it.

You will continue to form the fish and the rice together until the fish seems to just drape over the top of the rice. This technique will take you some time to master. Not only that but since each fish is different in texture you will need to adjust your technique a little with each kind.


A Few Tips

One of the most important things I can tell you as you learn how to make nigiri sushi is not to get too upset if it doesn’t come out perfect. It will still be edible although it may not look like what you get at sushi bar.

Remember that it takes a light touch when working the rice and the fish together.

When you are working with the rice don’t get your hand too wet or you will ruin the consistency of the rice, the moisture is only used to keep the rice from sticking to your hand.

You are now ready to try to make your own nigiri, I know you can do it!


Where to Buy Sushi Grade Fish

We all know how important the rice is, but what about the fish?

Sourcing Sushi Grade Fish

If you read the “About Aaron” post on this site then you know I have been making my own sushi for about 20 years. When I first started out, the most difficult thing was finding sushi grade fish.

There was one restaurant in Salt Lake City that also had a little counter where they would sell fresh raw sushi grade fish, and that was my go to place for the first few years.

There were several problems with this however. First, they only carried salmon and yellow fin tuna. I really like both of those fish but after a while I find myself wanting a little variety.

Second, their prices were pretty high which made me feel like bagging the idea of making my own sushi and just going out to my favorite sushi bar. Of course that would defeat the purpose. What to do?


My Prayers Were Answered!


I was still constantly on the lookout for anywhere that I could get sushi grade fish. I started to hear from different sushi chefs and other commercial seafood suppliers that there was talk of a retail fish store opening soon. I did my due diligence and stayed on top of the rumors. It was about a 6-month wait but it finally happened.

The shop is called Aquarius Fish in downtown Salt Lake City. Dan, the owner and I became fast friends. I also got pretty close to the guys working the counter.

This is something you will want to do if you find a market that has suitable fish for sushi. The reason I say that is they usually treat you better if they know and like you. I have even taken them a pizza for lunch and that went a long way.

So, Where To Buy Sushi Grade Fish?

You may already have a market in mind or may even shop there now, and that is great. But if not you may need to go on a quest. Honestly when I first started making my own sushi it was hard to find things online as few of these type of stores had a website (boy that really dates me). Now however you have the world at your finger tips.

So of course the best place to start is to do a google search in your area for fresh fish markets. Even if you do find one or more that does not necessarily mean that it will be a good one. You will need to scope it out in person and see what they have and the level of quality that they maintain. So what are the things you should look for?

Your First Trip To The Market

I have to tell you that the first time I set foot in what is now my go to place to buy fish, I was giddy. I felt like I was five and had been handed the key to a candy store. Fortunately over the years they have not disappointed me. So now you have found a promising place on google and you begin your quest.

The moment you step into the market, depending on the size and layout, should give you your first clue: Does it smell like fish? That may seem to be an odd question since that is why you are there in the first place, but it is not.

You see, other than the fact that it may smell a “little” fishy, it should not have a STRONG smell of fish. Why not?

That question takes me back to my very beginnings with sushi. I had the misconception that raw fish was going to taste and smell fishy, boy was I wrong.

Now there are a few species of fish that are a little fishier than others such as mackerel, but for the most part fresh fish has a fresh smell, not a fishy one. Think ocean mist, not seaweed. If they pass that test, then its on to the next step. Look the fish over very carefully and also ask when it was brought in.

If the fish was brought in whole and is kept properly then it should last a few days. I personally like to get fish that has shown up that day if at all possible. I’m a little bit of a snob that way, but after all you are about to pay a premium price for sushi grade fish and you want your money’s worth, right?

Another thing to be on the lookout for is the smell of bleach, yup sometimes in an attempt to sell fish past it’s prime they will bleach it to take the fishy smell away. I know, you just threw up a little in your mouth right?

It is pretty disgusting that some shops would do that but they do. As with anything you can usually tell how fresh it is by looking at it, if it looks good and smells good and they say that it is fresh, then it probably is.

What To Do Now?

That seems kind of obvious, go home and make sushi! Hold on, there are a few things that might seem kind of duh at this point but I am going to include them anyway.

First thing is, take some kind of cooler and cold packs or ice. The shop I go to has ice there and most good ones will. They will give you a bag of ice to keep your fish cool.

Also, if you are going to be doing any other shopping do it first, try to make the fish stop the last one, so you can keep the fish as fresh as possible. I hope this helps answer the question of where to buy sushi grade fish.

By the way if you can’t find a suitable market to buy sushi grade fish, try these guys: and use discount code: STICH20 for 20% off.

I hope you find that nice little shop like I did to buy sushi grade fish.

Aaron Stich

How To Choose The Best Sushi Rice Cooker

If you want to cook the best sushi rice you need a good rice cooker.

Can’t I Just Use The Stove And a Pan?

The short answer to that question is yes. The problem is that sushi rice is hard enough to make without making it even harder by not having the right tools. In your quest to become at least a competent sushi maker or even better, a very proficient once-or-twice-a-week semi-pro, you will want to shorten the learning curve as much as you can while still not leaving any steps out.

As I stated in this article, it can take an apprentice sushi chef two years to learn how to make the perfect sushi rice. With that in mind you don’t want to make one of the hardest parts of making your own sushi any harder. So with that said let’s just agree that you should invest in the best sushi rice cooker. There are a lot of brands out there so let’s take a quick look at a few.

Where To Start?

There are a lot of brands on the market and you don’t need to spend a fortune to get one that should do the trick. Zojirushi is a brand that you will see quite a lot and for good reason, they make good stuff. To spare you the techie stuff, lets just say that they put a lot of thought into their rice cookers and the proof is in the pudding, I mean rice.

Aroma is another brand that is a bit cheaper depending on the model, it will run you approx. $50-$100 and this is one of the rice cookers I have used for a long time. Cuckoo also makes some nice rice cookers at a price point between Zojirushi and Aroma. Another choice that is also worth mentioning is the Instant Pot.

In the fall of 2019 I had a cousin stay for a few days after a family reunion. He is a long time fireman and he likes to cook. He kept talking about how they loved their Instant Pot at the firehouse. Being the generous soul that he is, two days after he left I came home to an amazon package on the porch, you guessed it.

That was a nice gift and we are just now learning how to properly use it. I have made some amazing sushi rice with the Instant Pot and I have also made some goo. I think that it was more user error than anything. I have yet to perfect the process with the Instant Pot, but I will tell you, when I do it right, the rice comes out amazing. As you start to make your own sushi rice you will come to appreciate when you get the rice “just right.” It is so much easier to work with.

As with any of these rice cookers there is a learning curve to using them correctly so please read all the instructions. The bottom line is, spend as much as you can afford to and you will be able to make great sushi rice. The most important thing once you get the best sushi rice cooker you can afford, is to learn how to use it properly. This may take a little time. I’m not going to go into how to make the perfect sushi rice in this article, but you will find that one on this site as well as a video showing some of the more important steps.

Use It To Make Other Stuff

The nice thing about your new sushi rice cooker is that it can be used for so many other things, after all you can’t have sushi every night, or can you? Anyway, there are a lot of things that your new toy can help you make. For instance, the Zojirushi rice maker has a cake setting, yes you read that right. It can also steam vegetables.

An added bonus to the Instant Pot is that it is a pressure cooker and you can make all kinds of wonderful dishes with it. It comes with a recipe book filled with great ideas. One that caught my eye but I have not tried yet (and my cousin continues to ask why not) is the cheesy buffalo chicken dip recipe. (my cholesterol just bumped 10 points) There is also a setting for soups, broth, stews, and with it being a pressure cooker it gets the job done a lot quicker.

My wife and I also like to cook beans in the Instant Pot because you don’t have to soak them overnight and they come out fantastic.


Final Thoughts

We started out talking about which is the best sushi rice cooker and kind of ended up taking a little detour, but that’s OK. As you mull over your decision you basically need to ask yourself a few questions: How much can I afford to spend? How good of sushi rice do I want to be able to make? How often do I think that I will use the rice cooker to make other things?

I am confident that you will come up with the right answer for you.
In my case I find myself using my Instant Pot about 2 times a week. Once to make sushi rice of course and then usually to make a brown or wild type of rice to go along with another dinner. I still have yet to really crack the code on my Instant Pot, but I am going to continue to work with it until I can use all of its fun features.

Take your time and narrow it down to two, then look over the reviews for both of them and make an informed decision. I know that you will get a sushi rice cooker that will work great and you will be well on your way to making amazing sushi at home!

Aaron Stich


How To Make Your Own Sushi Rolls


Supplies Needed to Make Your Own Sushi Rolls

There are several things that you have to have in order to make sushi rolls. The first is of course a rice maker but we will cover that in the next topic. (Believe me it needs its own category) Here is a list of the tools you will need:

1- Bamboo Mat

2- Sushi Knife

3- Sushi Oke, a flat bottomed wooden bowl to prepare the rice (optional but recommended)

4- Bamboo rice paddle

5- Plastic wrap (if you are going to be making uramaki rolls with the rice on the outside)

6- Roasted seaweed wraps (nori) Make sure you get roasted

7- Short grain sushi rice

8- Rice vinegar

It All Starts With the Rice


Here is where it gets a little tricky. Whenever I talk to someone about making my own sushi invariably they ask how I can make the rice so that it is right for sushi and not just a sticky mess. Then I usually hear the war stories of how they tried it “once” and it didn’t work out.

Many times I find that they were simply using the wrong kind of rice. You will need to get a good quality short grain sushi rice. There are some medium grain rice that will work OK but short grain is really best.

Don’t let this part of the process intimidate you. An apprentice sushi chef in Japan will spend his first two years just making rice. Yes that’s how important it is. So if you end up with a glob of goo (and I have more than once) don’t worry, you can do this.

We are going to skip forward to making the rolls in this article, we will now assume that you have learned how to make sushi rice. For a tutorial on how to make sushi rice, see the post “make perfect sushi rice” on this site.

Choosing the Ingredients


This is where it gets fun and you can let your creative side loose. We probably all have our favorite roll at our local sushi bar. The nice thing about sushi rolls is that there are literally hundreds of combinations you can come up with to make a tasty roll.

One of my personal favorites is spicy crab and avocado. An easy and fairly inexpensive roll to make is smoked salmon and avocado. Whatever your taste you can’t go wrong.

Just a few things to remember, first make sure if you use a shell fish that it is really well drained so the moisture content is low.If you don’t the roll will be soggy and can turn the Nori into mush. And second, don’t over stuff the roll when you are adding the ingredients. If you do if will be hard to roll and also hard to eat.

Putting it all Together


OK, so you have your ingredients together and you are ready to go. Place your bamboo mat on your cutting board so the slats are left to right in front of you. Place a sheet of Nori on your bamboo mat so the lines you see in the Nori are running toward you, you will notice if you look closely that Nori has two distinct sides, a rough side and a smooth side, place it smooth side down.

Take a handful of rice, about a cup, and place it on the Nori, here’s a good tip, get your hands a little moist with water, it makes it easier to handle the rice and it won’t stick to your fingers as much. Spread the rice evenly over the Nori leaving just a little strip, about 1/2 an inch, on the end away from you with no rice. Be careful not to use too much rice, just enough to cover the Nori and so no green is showing through.

Place the ingredients on the rice about a third of the way from the front edge. Now lift the mat and slowly begin to turn the leading edge over on itself rolling it away from you. Don’t roll it too tight or too loose, this can take some time to get just right. Once the leading edge of the Nori has folded on to the rice continue to move the bamboo mat forward with one hand while applying a little pressure to the mat with the other hand.

As you get to the end stop and wet your finger with a little water and run it along the edge of the Nori that you left the rice off of. Finish rolling the rest of the way until the wet end of the Nori has bonded with the dry side.

Now take the mat and using both hands shape the roll by pressing down gently on the roll. And there you are your first sushi roll! Next take your knife and dip the tip in some water and hold the blade tip up so that the water runs down the sharp edge, this helps your knife cut through the roll without sticking. Now cut your roll into 6-8 equal pieces and its time for dinner.

If you want to make Uramaki rolls with the rice on the outside watch for that post on this site. The principles are the same but there are a few things that you want to get right.

Now You Can Make Your Own Sushi Rolls

Now that you have made your first sushi roll you probably think that it wasn’t that hard, and you know what, your right. You can now practice until it is second nature. I like to have one night a week that is Sushi Night, its usually Friday at our house. I suggest you do the same so you can hone your newly found skill.

I hope you feel confident enough now to make your own sushi rolls. I know that reading an article can be a hard way to learn so please watch for video tutorials on this site that I am sure will give more clarity to this wonderful art. Please feel free to leave comments and if you have questions reach out to me and I will try my best to answer them as soon as I can. Happy Rolling!



About Aaron

Growing up I had many good cooks in my life. First of course was my mom, then my grandmother, and I also had an Italian aunt who made amazing Italian food. And although I had a large variety of foods in my life, sushi was not one of them. It’s not that my parents were not adventurous, it’s just that living in rural Utah would have made it difficult to get the needed supplies and fish. Sure my dad would occasionally splurge on some king crab legs, but that was pretty rare. It would not be until about 10 years after I left home that I would be introduced to what is now one of my favorite foods, Sushi!

Why Making Your Own Sushi is a Good Idea

I was introduced to sushi by a contractor friend who I also did business with from time to time. I grew to enjoy it very much but never gave much thought to making it myself. Then we moved about 45 minutes away from Salt Lake City where my favorite Sushi hangout was and I started to think about the possibility of making my own sushi. Of course this would not completely take the place of my occasional trip to town to visit my favorite spot, but for those times in between when I had a hankering for some, now I would be able to make my own. I had given thought to it but had not yet taken action, and then tragedy struck.

Our dog who had been getting increasingly sick had to be put down. My wife and I were devistated. As we sat there in our car in the garage in tears, neither one of us wanted to be at home. So we decided to take a drive to Salt Lake. It was on that day that I decided that I was going to get the needed supplies and once and for all learn how to do it. That was 20 years ago and as they say: “the rest is history.” Having gone through the ups and downs of making my own sushi over the past 20 years, I can truly say that it has been most satisfying. I wanted to be able to pass what I have learned on to you so you can learn to make your own sushi at home. That is the main purpose of this website and I hope you find it informative.

How to Make Your Own Sushi

So in this website you are going to find videos and other content that I hope will help you to become a master at making your own sushi at home. From making the perfect rice, to rolling beautiful rolls, to mastering Nigiri. If you follow along and apply yourself I know you will soon be making your own sushi. I hope you enjoy this journey and feel free to reach out with any questions.

To your sushi success!