Can Frozen Fish Be Eaten Raw for Sushi?

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  January 26, 2021

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When you eat sushi, you expect the raw fish in it to be nice and fresh. There is something about fresh fish that makes it seem tastier and even healthier for you.

Raw fish comes with its share of dangers. Freezing fish beforehand will help eliminate potential health risks like parasites. So frozen fish is actually better for sushi than completely fresh and raw.

According to the FDA, some species of fish contain parasites. When you freeze the fish, it gets rid of the parasites.

Can frozen fish be eaten raw for sushi

However, it will still contain bacteria. The only way to get rid of the bacteria is to cook the fish.

That said, there are some types of fish that are not as likely to have dangerous levels of bacteria.

If this is the case, the fish will still have to be frozen at some point, but it does not necessarily have to be cooked. This type of frozen fish can be eaten raw for sushi.

But if the fish is not frozen at some point, it will be illegal to serve in the United States.

This article will review which types of fish can be eaten raw for sushi and provide tips on how you can make sure your seafood is safe.

What Types of Fish Can Be Eaten Raw for Sushi?

There are certain fish that can be eaten raw for sushi. However, they will still need to be frozen in advance at some point.

They include the following:

When buying these products in a store, look for labels that say that they are sushi grade.

This means that they have been frozen at very low temperatures using a process that can not be achieved with a home freezer.

According to health regulations, fish must be frozen in this matter before it can be sold or served.

FDA standards dictate the fish sold for raw consumption must be frozen in one of the following manners to kill parasites:

It should also be noted that even sushi-grade fish often contain some parasites. After fish defrosts, the parasites can come back to life making for fish that is not safe to eat.

To reduce the likelihood of this happening, keep fish refrigerated at temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit until it is ready to be eaten.

Read more about the best fish to use for sushi: 14 Sushi Fish Types & tips on handling sushi grade fish.

Can Any Raw Fish Be Eaten if It’s Not Frozen First?

It is said that certain types of tuna-like yellowfin, southern and northern bluefin, Thunnus alalunga, Thunnus atlanticus, Thunnus obesus, are less likely to cause foodborne illnesses and therefore don’t need to be frozen.

However, it is best not to take any risks.

What Fish Should Never Be Eaten Raw?

Mackerel, saba, and cod should not be eaten raw.

These fish will need to be cured first. Curing the meat may not kill bacteria but the salt will inhibit them.

The Freshness of the Fish Matters

Fish must be frozen when it’s relatively fresh in order to be safe once it’s defrosted.

If there are any signs of deterioration, it will not be safe in any state.

Also read: Is Sushi Raw Fish? Not always, read about these different types.

Is Fresher Better?

It may be disappointing to find out that most of the fish you eat in sushi is frozen in advance. After all, many people think that fresh foods are tastier than those that have been frozen.

But according to experts, it’s very hard to tell the difference.

Shin Tsujimura, Nobu’s Sushi Chef says, “Even I cannot tell the difference between fresh and frozen in a blind taste test”.

What Do Japanese Restaurants Do?

The FDA rules that prevent fish from being sold in the US if they are not frozen in advance do not apply in Japan.

All the same, many restaurants serve sushi with fish that has been pre-frozen to avoid sick customers and possible lawsuits.

However, fish sold and served in Japan comes with its share of dangers.

For instance, one study showed that 98% of the horse mackerel one Japanese market was carrying contained the Anisakis parasite.

This resulted in 1000 cases of anisakis in seafood-heavy dieters living in Japan for the year.

The rate of parasitic infection in the United States, where raw fish must be frozen before it’s served, is much lower.

To give you some perspective, only 60 cases of the Anisakis parasite have been reported in the United States EVER.

How to Make Sure Your Fish is Safe

If you are buying fish for sushi, here are some steps you can take to increase the likelihood that it will be safe.

If you are eating sushi, and think you are eating fresh fish, you may be disappointed to find that the fish has been frozen in advance.

However, knowing that your chances of getting sick are significantly reduced should offer you some comfort.

Here’s hoping you stay safe while eating delicious Japanese meals.

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Rather skip the fish altogether? Check out: Sushi without fish | Delicious tofu recipe & more fillings discussed.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.