Sushi Rolls vs Hand Rolls: What’s The Difference?

Sushi is one of the most popular foods in Japanese cuisine. For most people who live outside Japan and unaware of the country’s diverse cuisine, all types of sushi are the same. Truth is, there are many ways to make sushi. Two of the most popular are cut roll (or simply roll) and hand roll.

In this short guide, we will be comparing cut roll vs hand roll sushi. We’ll talk about their similarities and differences to help you elevate your knowledge about mouthwatering Japanese food. kni

What is Sushi?

Before anything else, let’s first talk about what sushi is. It is a quintessential item in the menu of many Japanese restaurants. To understand Japanese culture and the nation’s rich food scene, you have to understand sushi.

Sushi goes beyond raw fish. The main ingredient in sushi is sashimi, which means raw fish in English. Sushi refers not to the ingredient in the food but to a manner of rice preparation. It is mandatory for sushi to have rice, but it does not always have fish. It is made using Japanese rice and seafood, such as fish and prawn. The medium grain rice used in making sushi is traditionally seasoned with vinegar, which gives it a unique taste.

There are two main types of sushi – cut roll and hand roll. To know more, the next section will talk about what makes them similar and different.

A cut roll or roll is locally known as maki por makizushi in Japanese food lingo. The name implies to coil or wrap, which is a reference to the manner of its preparation. A hand roll, on the other hand, is called temaki in local language.

Cut Roll vs Hand Roll Sushi

To set the record straight, here is a quick look at their similarities and differences.


In understanding the two foods, one of the first things that you should be looking at is the ingredients that are used. This will have a huge impact on the overall flavor. Especially for a picky eater, knowing what goes in your food is important to have an enjoyable culinary delight.

There are two ingredients that are always present in both types of sushi – rice and nori (a seaweed wrapper). Raw fish, other seafood, fruits, and vegetables are added. Between the two, cut roll often contains more raw ingredients compared to hand roll sushi. If you are going to make this food by yourself, you can get creative with what to add but stick to the basics to keep it authentic.


When talking about cut roll vs hand roll sushi, one of the biggest differences to note is the shape. This is directly related to how the two foods are made. Later, we’ll give you a quick step-by-step guide on how to prepare these mouthwatering Japanese foods.

In the case of a cut roll sushi, the shape is tubular or cylindrical. This is because it is first prepared as a tube, then it is cut after to divide it into smaller round pieces. On the other hand, a hand roll sushi is shaped like a cone.


Aside from their differences in shape, the two will also be different in terms of their size. Cut roll sushi is smaller if you count in based on a single piece and not the entire tube before it is cut. Because hand roll sushi is shaped like a cone, you can expect that it will be usually larger.


The two types of sushi are also different in terms of the way they are eaten. The proper way to eat cut roll sushi is to use chopsticks. On the other hand, because of the cone shape of the hand roll sushi and since it is larger, you will eat it with your hands instead. This is the best way to enjoy it instead of trying to look sophisticated by using chopsticks.


The manner of preparation is another huge difference between the too. To illustrate this better, below, we’ll have a quick look at how you can prepare two of the types of sushi you will encounter in Japan.

How to Make Cut Roll Sushi

To make cut roll sushi, the first thing that you need to do is to boil 20 cups of short-grain Japanese rice. Choosing the right rice is a crucial step as this will have a huge impact on the overall quality of the sushi you will be making.

In a stovetop, simmer about half a cup and one tablespoon of rice vinegar. Add one teaspoon of salt and ¼ cup sugar. Pour it over rice and stir until you achieve the desired consistency.

Prepare a bamboo mat or makisu. This will act as the roller, and one of the most important tools you will need. On top of the bamboo mat, lay your nori. The seaweed sheets will cover the rice.

Cut vegetables in thin and long strips. Carrots and cucumber are two of the most popular choices. Start on the safe side and stick to the basic ingredients.

Wet your hands so that rice will not stick. Pick rice from the bowl and assemble it on the top of the nori. Spread the rice evenly and add the vegetables that you want. Add crab meat, fish, shrimp, or any other ingredient you like. Roll the mat firmly. Once it is in a tube shape, take the bamboo mat off. Chop using a clean and sharp knife. This is an important procedure, so make sure that you will be making a cut as clean as possible.

How to Make Hand Roll Sushi

Like when making a cut roll sushi, the first thing you will need to do is to prepare the rice. The preparation will be similar to the steps mentioned above.

Once the rice is cooked, you can now begin with the assembly. You will not need a bamboo mat when making hand roll sushi. Before you start with the assembly, slice the raw fish, vegetables, and other ingredients you wish to add in your sushi.

Cut the nori into half. Cut it into another half if you want your rolls to be smaller. In most cases, half of the sheet is enough. With hands completely dry, lay the sheet on the top of your non-dominant hand. Next, use your dominant hand to scoop rice. Flatten the rice and add slices of your preferred ingredients.

Fold the bottom left corner of the wrapper into a cone shape. Keep rolling until you are able to form it into a cone.

Tips and Tricks for Preparing Sushi

Regardless if it is cut roll or hand roll sushi you intend to prepare, below are some of the most important things to keep in mind.

As mentioned above, your choice of rice is crucial. Japanese chefs agree that older and harder rice is better. When mixed with the seasoning, this will make excellent texture. It will also be easier to prepare as it won’t be too sticky.

Learn the art of sushi rolling. Whether you are using a bamboo mat to form a tube or you are using your hand to create a cone shape, roll smoothly and with light pressure. Before rolling, press the rice firmly so that it will be flat. When you roll with excessive force, you might end up ruining the shape. On the other hand, when you roll with too little force, the shape of the sushi might not hold up.

When you are cutting sushi, which will be the case in a cut roll, it is a good practice to wipe the knife with a wet cloth after every cut. This will remove the rice on the surface and prevent the blade from being sticky. This way, the cuts will look cleaner.

Experiment with several sauces. This will largely impact the taste of sushi. In most cases, it will be a matter of personal preference.
Presentation has a key role to play in enjoying good sushi. Arrange it nicely in a plate and it will look more impressive. It will be a treat not just for the appetite but also for the eyes.


Now that you have reached the end of this short guide on cut roll vs hand roll sushi, we hope that you have learned a thing or two. The two types of sushi use similar ingredients, but the main difference lies on the preparation and appearance. Cut roll sushi is tubular or cylindrical. On the other hand, hand roll sushi is conical. Also, you eat a cut roll sushi using chopsticks while you eat hand roll sushi using your hand. Regardless of the differences between the two, one thing is for sure – they both taste good!

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