Tuna Nigiri is made with sashimi-grade tuna and vinegared sushi rice – so much easier to make than maki sushi rolls! We’ll show you some simple techniques and tips so that you can make this delicious tuna sushi at home. Plus you’ll find how to cut raw tuna and customize this recipe by using cooked tuna, other seafood, or alternatives like vegetables.
Nigiri sushi is the most common type of sushi with a slice of raw fish on top of a mound of vinegary rice. It’s not rolled like maki (such as Tekkamaki). Usually a small amount of wasabi is placed between the fish and rice. This tuna nigiri is really easy to make and completely melts in your mouth!
What is Tuna Nigiri?
Tuna nigiri is a type of sushi with thin slices of raw tuna over pressed vinegared rice.
Tuna Nigiri Ingredients
- Tuna: Use sashimi-grade or sushi-grade tuna for this recipe. I recommend you purchase the tuna from a reputable place, and smell it before buying. The traditional tuna nigiri sushi recipe uses raw tuna, but you can substitute cooked tuna.
- Sushi Rice: It’s best to use Japanese short grain rice for the best fluffy rice.
- Sushi vinegar: If you don’t have sushi vinegar, you can mix rice vinegar, sugar, and salt as a replacement. It adds more flavor to cooked sushi rice.
- Wasabi: It’s an optional ingredient, but will bring out the flavor and can kill microbes in the fish. It also helps stick the tuna topping to the rice.
You’ll also need a sharp knife to cut the fish properly and easily.
How to Make Tuna Nigiri Sushi at Home
1. Cook Sushi Rice: Use 1:1 ratio between rice and water for nigiri so that the rice is not too mushy. Once cooked, transfer it to a large bowl and let it cool down slightly. When it’s still very warm, season with white vinegar, sugar and salt.
2. Cut the Tuna: You’ll need to cut against the grain, usually about 30 to 45 degree angle. Cut your tuna into thin slices. I recommend cutting it to 3-inch long, 1-inch wide, and 1/4-inch thick.
3. Shape the Rice: Take about 3 tablespoons of rice in your right hand. Squeeze it together until it rolls into a firm “log” sized oval shape. Try to make the bottom flat with the rounded top. (Don’t squeeze too tight, and it should still contain a little bit of air in the rice.)
4. Assemble Tuna Nigiri: Place the tuna slice on the root of your fingers. Then take a pea-sized portion of wasabi, and spread in the middle of the fish.
5. Place the rolled sushi rice onto the tuna, and bend your fingers to cover both the fish and rice together. Press down the rice using the index finger from the other hand.
6. Turn the fish and rice and let the tuna slice sit on top of the rice.
Serve tuna nigiri with optional wasabi, soy sauce, along with pickled ginger.
Tips for Making the Perfect Tuna Nigiri
- Use Japanese short-grain sushi rice. You’ll need to add less water than cooking regular rice. I recommend using a 1:1 ratio between rice and water so that your rice won’t get mushy once squeezed.
- To prevent rice from sticking to your hands, you can make Tezu, a hand-dipping liquid made with water and rice vinegar. Wet your hands with Tezu before handling rice.
- Cut your tuna into the right thickness for nigiri. If your tuna is too thick, it won’t be shaped properly on top of the rice, but if it’s too thin, it will lose its flavor. The best thickness is about 1/4 inch.
- To prevent nigiri sushi from falling apart, you’ll need to squeeze the rice into an oval shape, and then press it into the tuna slice.
Nigiri vs Sashimi
Both nigiri and sashimi are staples of traditional Japanese cuisine. Nigiri is a type of sushi consisting a slice of raw fish served over pressed vinegar rice. Sashimi is not sushi, and it refers to just slices of fresh fish, often served over shredded daikon radish.
What is the Difference Between Nigiri and Sushi?
Sushi is the general term for Japanese delicacies that consist of rice, vinegar, and fish (or some other protein). Nigiri is a type of sushi. Nigiri is made by placing a topping of sliced fish or shrimp on top of a rounded ball of sushi rice.
Tuna Nigiri Variations
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Tuna Nigiri Raw?
Traditional tuna nigiri calls for raw tuna, and that’s what you’ll find at most sushi restaurants. However, you can cook the tuna slightly and then assemble it with the rice at home.
How to Cut Tuna for Nigiri?
Make sure to cut the tuna against the grain with about 30 to 45 degree angle. Cut it into thin slices, about 1/4-inch thick. I recommend cutting it to 3-inch long and 1-inch wide. You’ll need to adjust the angle from time to time in order to get the right size.
What Does Tuna Nigiri Taste Like?
Tuna nigiri tastes creamy and slightly sweet due to the combination of soft rice and the right amount of melt-to-your-mouth raw tuna. Tuna has a texture almost like rare filet mignon, and doesn’t have a “fishy” taste.
What Kind of Tuna is The Best for Nigiri Sushi?
The most commonly used tuna for nigiri recipe is Maguro, which is a type of tuna with red flesh. There are mainly 3 types of Maguro used for sushi in Japan: bluefin, yellowfin, and bigeye. In the U.S., many sushi and sashimi recipes also use Albacore tuna, which is called white tuna.
Should You Eat Nigiri in One Bite?
You’re encouraged to eat nigiri in one bite! Dip the nigiri in soy sauce or a sauce you enjoy. Turn the nigiri upside-down so the fish will touch your tongue. Eating nigiri fish-down prevents the rice from falling apart after it’s dipped in the sauce.
How Many Calories in A Tuna Nigiri?
One piece of tuna nigiri has about 60 calories.
More Japanese Sushi Recipes
Tuna Nigiri Recipe
For Sushi Rice
For Tuna Nigiri
- 8 oz sashimi-grade tuna
- 2 teaspoon wasabi optional
Optional for Serving:
- soy sauce
- pickled ginger
- Make Sushi Rice: Wash the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Then add the rice and water to the rice maker. Cook according to the instruction.
- Once cooked, transfer the hot rice to 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).
- Prepare the Tuna: Cut against the grain, about 30 to 45 degree angle. Cut your tuna into thin slices. I recommend cutting it to 3-inch long, 1-inch wide, and 1/4-inch thick.
- Shape the Rice: Take about 3 tablespoons of rice in your right hand. Squeeze it together until it rolls into a firm “log” sized oval shape. Try to make the bottom flat with the rounded top. (Don’t squeeze too tight, and it should still contain a little bit of air in the rice.)
- Assemble the Nigiri: Place the tuna slice on the root of your fingers. Then take a pea-sized portion of wasabi, and spread in the middle of the fish.
- Place the rolled sushi rice onto the tuna, and bend your fingers to cover both the fish and rice together. Press down the rice using the index finger from the other hand.
- Turn the fish and rice and let the tuna slice sit on top of the rice. Serve tuna nigiri with optional wasabi, soy sauce, along with pickled ginger.
- To prevent the rice from sticking, it’s best to wet your hands with tezu water before handling the rice. To make tezu water, simply mix together 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar.
- It’s best to eat tuna nigiri the same day, as the raw fish won’t taste as fresh the next day.