Salmon Nigiri (How to Make Salmon Sushi)

If you’re a big fan of sushi, then you’ll already know how expensive it can get to order sushi for takeaway or in a restaurant.

Nigiri is one of the most popular types of sushi in Japan and among Westerners, particularly salmon nigiri. If you’re into sushi and experimenting at home, you might be curious to know how to make salmon nigiri.

In this article, I will give you a guide on how to make salmon nigiri sushi,  so that next time you’re craving sushi you don’t have to order out!

Keep reading to find out more.

Nigiri sushi is a popular type of sushi with a slice of raw fish that is placed on top of vinegary rice. Traditionally, a small amount of wasabi is placed between the fish and rice to hold the dish together. It’s pretty easy to make at home with a few simple tips.

Ingredients for salmon nigiri 

  • Salmon - Traditional salmon nigiri is made with raw sashimi-grade salmon. However, if you’d prefer to make this recipe without raw fish, you can substitute smoked salmon or thinly sliced grilled salmon.
  • Sushi rice - Japanese short grain rice works best for this recipe.
  • Sushi vinegar - Sushi vinegar is used to season the sushi rice and adds flavor, too. If you don’t have sushi vinegar, you can make a substitute out of rice vinegar, salt, and sugar that will work just as well.
  • Wasabi (optional) - Wasabi adds flavor to sushi and works to stick the salmon slices to the sushi rice. Alongside this, it can kill microbes in the fish, also. However, if you don’t like wasabi, then you can skip this ingredient. 

Is salmon nigiri sushi healthy to eat?

Salmon nigiri sushi is a relatively healthy meal in moderation and is healthier than some other types of sushi. Apart from being absolutely delicious, salmon nigiri is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and is relatively low in calories.

However, salmon nigiri is healthier than some of the deep-fried dishes or mayonnaise-heavy sushi dishes that you can get. 

That being said, it is important to know that sushi rice is often made ‘sticky’ with a combination of vinegar, sugar, and salt, which will increase your total intakes of sugar and salt for the day. As nigiri is made with sushi rice, you should be mindful of this.

Things to keep in mind when eating nigiri sushi:

Don’t go overboard with soy sauce. Soy sauce is often very high in salt, and one tablespoon of regular soy sauce has 900 to 1000 milligrams of sodium – more than half of a day's worth. Bearing this in mind, it is worth using it sparingly when you are dipping your salmon nigiri in it.

Be mindful of your portions. It’s very easy to think you’re not eating a lot when sushi comes in bite-size pieces, but the calories and salt content start to add up once you eat more than 8-10 pieces.

Equipment that you’ll need 

  • A sharp knife.
  • A bowl of water.
  • Rice cooker or saucepan.


For sushi rice

  • 1 cup sushi rice (uncooked, it’s best to use Japanese short-grain sushi rice).
  • 1 cup water.
  • 1 tablespoon of sushi vinegar (or a mixture of 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt).

For salmon nigiri

  • 8 oz of sashimi-grade salmon.
  • 2 teaspoon wasabi optional.

For Serving (Optional):

  • Soy sauce. 
  • Wasabi.
  • Pickled ginger.


  • To begin this recipe, you’ll need to start by making the sushi rice. Wash and rinse the rice in cold water. Add the rice and water to the rice cooker or saucepan on the stove. Cook the sushi rice according to the instructions on the back of the package. 
  • Once the rice has cooked, drain it and place it into a large bowl and let it cool down slightly. When it’s still very warm, stir in the sushi vinegar (or the mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt).
  • Next, it’s time to slice the salmon. Slice the salmon against the grain, with an angle of 30 to 45 degrees. Cut the fish into 3-inch long, 1-inch wide, and 1/4-inch thick pieces. Note: Make sure that the knife is razor sharp. Fresh fish is really delicate, and you want to keep it looking smooth, with nice, clean edges.
  • Once you have sliced the salmon into equal slices, it’s time to shape the rice. Take about 3 tablespoons of rice in your hand and squeeze it together until it rolls into a firm oval shape. Once you’ve done this, try to make the top rounded and the bottom flat. Note: If your hands are sticking you can dip your hands in warm water or a tezu solution. Tezu is a very weak vinegar solution made from water, rice vinegar, and salt.
  • Once you have shaped the rice, the next step is to assemble the salmon nigiri. Pick a slice of salmon up in your fingers and add a pea-sized amount of wasabi and spread it in the middle of the slice of fish.
  • Next, you’ll need to place the rolled sushi rice onto the salmon, and bend your fingers to cover both the fish and rice together. Press down on the rice using the index finger from the other hand.
  • Turn the fish and rice and let the salmon slice sit on top of the rice. Repeat the process for every slice of salmon.
  • Serve with optional wasabi, soy sauce, and also pickled ginger.
  • Enjoy!

Tips when making salmon nigiri 

One of the best tips to know when making salmon nigiri is to wet your hands. As I mentioned above, tezu is a weak vinegar solution made from water, rice vinegar, and salt that you can wet your hands with when it comes to shaping the rice. Wetting your hands before you shape the rice prevents the rice from sticking to your palm or fingers as you shape it.

Another tip that you need to remember is to use a really sharp knife. Fresh fish is delicate and you need a sharp blade to ensure that you keep the fish intact and cut it with clean edges.

Another important tip is to eat your salmon nigiri the same day that you make it. Generally speaking, raw fish won’t taste as fresh the following day. If you’re going to the effort of making fresh salmon nigiri, you want to make the most out of your salmon! Bearing this in mind, you should make sure that you’re not making too much that you can’t finish the dish that day.

Making nigiri is all about a delicate balance. Without the right pressure from your hand, sushi can fall apart easily. However, practice makes perfect. You might struggle in the beginning to shape your nigiri, but don’t feel disheartened. People train for years to become sushi chefs, so you need to allow yourself the time to perfect the technique! It’s not realistic to think that you’ll make the perfect nigiri the first time you make this dish, but that is all part of the process and the fun of making your own sushi!

What is the difference between sushi sashimi and nigiri?

Nigiri and sashimi are both staples of traditional Japanese cuisine. However, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two. Nigiri is a type of sushi made of thin slices of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice. 

Sashimi is thinly sliced raw meat - usually fish, such as salmon or tuna - that is served without rice. There are a few cooked versions of sashimi, including squid, crabmeat, and tiger shrimp.

The main difference between nigiri and sashimi, then, is the fact that nigiri is made with rice, and sashimi is made without it.

Is salmon nigiri raw?

Yes, traditional salmon nigiri recipes will call for raw salmon, and you’ll need to make sure that you are buying sashimi-grade salmon to make your nigiri. If you’re struggling to source your salmon for this dish, usually you can find it at your local Japanese grocery stores. 

Place the fish on ice before you prepare your salmon nigiri. Freezing your salmon is a safer option, as it helps to prevent any parasites from harming you when you eat raw sushi. If you feel comfortable filleting your salmon at home, you could even buy a whole salmon and fillet it yourself before you freeze it for sushi.

Something else that is important to iterate is that you should always eat salmon nigiri the same day that you make it. This is because raw fish is best when you eat it fresh as the following day it doesn’t taste as good and the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that you could become sick from eating it. 

However, if you don’t like the idea of eating raw fish, you can always substitute smoked salmon or cooked salmon that has been thinly sliced. Although this isn’t authentic, it will still taste absolutely delicious and you won’t have to worry about becoming sick from the raw fish. Grocery store sushi often uses smoked salmon as a substitute for raw salmon, so if you’re used to eating it you’ll know it’s delicious.

Should you be cautious about eating raw fish?

If you’re a woman that’s currently pregnant, trying to conceive, or are breastfeeding then you should avoid eating raw fish. Alongside this, children under the age of 16 are advised against it.

There is always a risk to eating raw fish that you should be aware of. One concern is the high amount of mercury found in some species of fish. 

It is important to mention that certain species of bacteria such as Salmonella, as well as Diphyllobothrium and Anisakis parasites, are commonly found in raw fish. The main regulation for this is that sushi-grade fish should be frozen to kill any parasites before being served. 

However, contamination during preparation is still possible, and if you’re worried about raw fish making you sick then the safest option is to avoid eating it.

What kind of salmon should I use to make salmon nigiri? 

When it comes to making your own salmon nigiri at home, you should shop for farmed Atlantic salmon or Alaskan salmon. It’s fundamental that you use farmed salmon when making nigiri, as wild salmon has a higher risk for parasites when it’s raw. 

What utensils should I use to eat salmon nigiri?

Nothing beats eating nigiri with your hands! It is not bad manners to eat nigiri with your hands. In fact, it’s almost bad manners not to use your hands. This comes down to the fact that chopsticks will pinch the rice too much and cause the nigiri to separate, and a fork isn’t suitable, either!