Sushi Grade vs. Sashimi Grade Fish | What is the Difference?

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  December 6, 2020

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‘Sushi grade fish’ and ‘sashimi grade fish’ are common labels given to fish being sold in grocery stores or by seafood vendors at markets.

The grade is a rating sellers use to market their fish, but it is not based on any official standard or criteria. It can however indicate the freshness of the fish.

There is no real difference between the terms ‘sushi grade’ and ‘sashimi grade’, and the two are often used interchangeably.

So why do these gradings still seem to matter so much when it comes to eating raw fish? Let’s find out.

Sushi vs sashimi grade fish

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Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Meaning

The terms ‘sushi grade fish’ or ‘sashimi grade fish’ are commonly used to identify fish that is considered safe enough to be eaten raw in dishes like sushi and sashimi.

About sushi and sashimi

Sushi and sashimi are two popular Asian dishes that originated in Japan.

Sashimi translates to ‘pierced body’, and consists of raw thinly sliced fish or meat.

On the other hand, there are several types of sushi dishes and each comes with a variety of toppings and ingredients.

However, the shared ingredient in all types is vinegared rice.

For more info on the differences between sushi and sashimi, read: Sushi vs. Sashimi | the differences in health, cost, dining & culture.

Fish grade labels for marketing

Since there is no official regulator or governing body that grades the standard and quality of the fish, the terms have no true meaning and can be thrown around falsely.

Some sellers may even exploit these phrases as a marketing strategy, claiming their fish is ‘sushi grade’ or ‘sashimi grade’ to then sell it at a higher price.

Since these terms carry no real credibility as to the safeness of the raw fish, it is therefore even more important to double-check its freshness before consumption.

Food safety issue

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) outlines a series of freezing conditions for fish that is intended for raw consumption, stated under the Parasite Destruction Guarantee.

This advises retailers to store fish at a temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for a minimum of 7 days, or -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours.

Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Dangers

There are several reasons why the idea of a grading system for raw fish is important. Some species of fish may contain parasites that cause illness in humans if that fish is eaten raw.

Of course, vendors don’t want to sell fish that is not safe. That’s not in their best interest.

So when they claim that their fish is ‘sushi grade’ or ‘sashimi grade’, it simply means that they have judged it to be so.

Hence, it comes down to the individual judgment and trustworthiness of the market. For this reason, most sellers reserve these labels for their freshest fish.

Unfortunately, freshness doesn’t always mean that the fish is safe to eat raw, as there is also the risk of cross-contamination.

This could happen when a ‘sushi grade’ or sashimi grade’ fish is cut with the same knife or on the same board, or stored in the same place as a ‘non-sushi’ or ‘non-sashimi grade’ fish.

Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Difference

So we’ve understood that fish labelled ‘sushi grade’ or ‘sashimi grade’ have not gone through any tangible or universal grading system.

Rather, suppliers set up their own guidelines, and you would hope that their products with this label are the highest quality fish on offer and can confidently be eaten raw.

As a result, there is no real difference between the terms ‘sushi grade’ and ‘sashimi grade’, though the former is more commonly used.

As long as the fish has been deemed safe to be eaten raw, you can use either. It most likely depends on which dish the seller is trying to advertize for.

Let’s have a look now at the types of fish used in these flavorful dishes, comparing their taste, uses, and nutrition.

Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Types

The ingredients inside sushi are called gu, and common fish varieties used include tuna, salmon, Japanese amberjack, yellowtail, mackerel, and snapper.

With tuna, the fattiest portion of the fish is the most valuable for sushi. This fatty cut is referred to as toro.

Sashimi also uses tuna and salmon varieties, as well as cuttlefish and squid.

Although the fish in sashimi and sushi is often raw, this is not always the case like with these non-raw types of sushi.

Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Taste

Sushi tends to have a tangy taste due to the vinegared rice.

A special vinegar is used to prepare sushi rice.

The raw sushi grade fish can make it fishy in some types of sushi, though other dishes are described as mild flavored.

Tuna and salmon typically give a lighter flavor. Dippings like soy sauce can also contribute, providing a salty yet sweet taste.

Sashimi, as a delicacy, is characterized as having a mild fish flavor with a delicate texture.

It is commonly eaten with soy sauce, which adds a complimentary salty-sweet flavor.

But also other sauces go well with sushi. Have a look at 9 best Sushi Sauces You Must Try! + recipes.

Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Uses

Sushi grade and sashimi grade fish are highly versatile and can be used in several other Western and Asian dishes.

Tuna is great in salads, pasta dishes, and sandwiches. It is also commonly grilled or seared in Korean cuisine and can be served as steaks with an Asian sesame crust.

Salmon is great in stir-fried noodles and goes well with vegetable sides. It can also be combined with Asian-style glazes and marinades and tastes fantastic when done so.

The other types of fish used in sushi work great as a main dish with a range of vegetables and herbs, and can be grilled, steamed, or roasted.

Shrimp and prawns can also be deep-fried or pan-fried in Cantonese style or served as appetizers with a garlic dip or soy sauce.

Sushi Grade vs Sashimi Grade Fish: Nutrition

Fish, in general, is filled with omega-3 fatty acids. These acids are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce blood pressure and the risk of cancer and heart disease.

It can also be a great source of vitamins (B2, D) and minerals (iron, zinc and magnesium), and is rich in calcium, which is vital for strong bones and teeth.

Tuna, in particular, is a source of high-quality protein with little fat. The amino acids it contains are essential for body growth and muscle maintenance.

Salmon and shrimp are rich in the antioxidant, astaxanthin. This is what gives these fish their pinkish color.

Astaxanthin is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, high cholesterol, and several other diseases.

Overall, both sushi grade and sashimi grade fish varieties have great nutritional benefits.

Their versatility and flavorful tastes only add to the appeal of these fine dishes.

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Looking for more fish recipe inspiration? Why not try this Tinapa Recipe (Filipino Homemade Smoke Fish)?

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.