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Sushi vs. Maki: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
Sushi refers to dishes using vinegared rice combined with various ingredients; maki is a sushi rolled with rice, filling, and seaweed.

Key Differences

Sushi is a quintessential Japanese dish that primarily involves the use of vinegared rice, which is paired with diverse ingredients like fish, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. Maki, on the other hand, is a specific type of sushi that involves rolling this vinegared rice and other ingredients in sheets of seaweed known as nori.
The term "sushi" is often mistakenly used in the West to refer solely to raw fish. However, it's not the fish that defines sushi but the seasoned rice. Maki, as a subset of sushi, takes this rice, adds fillings like fish or vegetables, and encloses the combination in seaweed, typically presented in cylindrical pieces.
In various sushi establishments, patrons might notice the vast assortment of sushi options available. While sushi can be served as sashimi (slices of raw fish) or nigiri (rice topped with fish), maki stands out with its distinctive rolled appearance, often sliced into bite-sized rounds. Both sushi and maki can feature a wide range of flavors and ingredients, catering to diverse palates.
Sushi has evolved into an art form in many Japanese restaurants, with chefs meticulously crafting each piece. Maki rolls, too, are an artistry of their own, requiring a delicate balance of rice, fillings, and seaweed, with some chefs even opting for inside-out rolls where rice envelops the outer layer. Regardless of the presentation, both sushi and maki have cemented themselves as culinary delights enjoyed globally.

Comparison Chart


Dishes with vinegared rice
Sushi rolled with rice and fillings in seaweed

Primary Ingredient

Vinegared rice
Vinegared rice, nori (seaweed)


Can be rolls, topped rice, or just slices
Typically cylindrical rolls sliced into pieces


Nigiri, sashimi, temaki
California roll, spicy tuna roll

Origin of the term

Derived from "sour-tasting"
Means "to roll" or "rolled sushi"

Sushi and Maki Definitions


A Japanese dish featuring vinegared rice.
She ordered an assortment of sushi for lunch.


Cylindrical sushi often sliced into rounds.
He tried making maki at home with a bamboo mat.


Can be fish-topped rice or rolled in seaweed.
They serve a wide variety of sushi at the downtown restaurant.


Can be traditional or inside-out with rice on the outside.
She was intrigued by the inside-out maki rolls on display.


Not just raw fish, but a versatile dish.
Vegans can enjoy plant-based sushi options too.


A subset of sushi with fillings and rice rolled in nori.
The menu featured several unique maki combinations.


Seasoned rice combined with other ingredients.
His favorite sushi includes both fresh tuna and avocado.


Rolled sushi encased in seaweed.
The spicy salmon maki was her go-to choice.


A culinary art in Japanese cuisine.
The chef's sushi presentation was visually stunning.


Derived from the Japanese term for "to roll."
Learning the technique to roll maki took him some practice.


Cold cooked rice dressed with vinegar that is shaped into pieces and topped with raw or cooked fish, or formed into a roll with fish, egg, or vegetables and often wrapped in seaweed.


Rolled sushi that typically consists of vinegar-flavored rice and cooked or raw fish, wrapped in a sheet of nori, and usually cut into bite-size pieces.


A Japanese dish made of small portions of sticky white rice flavored with vinegar, usually wrapped in seaweed and filled or topped with fish, vegetables or meat.
For the vegetarians, she served cucumber sushi.


A ring-tailed lemur.


(proscribed) Raw fish, especially as a Japanese dish.


Makizushi, a form of sushi that is rolled.


Rice (with raw fish) wrapped in seaweed


A lemur. See Lemur.


Why is rice essential in sushi?

Sushi's definition revolves around the use of vinegared rice, which distinguishes it from other dishes.

What makes maki different from other sushi?

Maki is specifically sushi that's rolled with rice, fillings, and seaweed.

Is sashimi a type of sushi or maki?

Sashimi is sliced raw fish and doesn't include vinegared rice, so it's neither sushi nor maki.

Are there sweet versions of sushi and maki?

Yes, there are dessert sushi and maki versions using ingredients like fruit and chocolate.

Is sushi always cold?

While sushi is often served cold, certain types, like eel sushi, may be served warm.

Is all sushi raw fish?

No, sushi refers to dishes with vinegared rice; it can have raw or cooked ingredients, while maki is a type of rolled sushi.

Can vegetarians eat sushi and maki?

Yes, both sushi and maki offer vegetarian variants using vegetables or tofu.

Can maki be made without seaweed?

Traditional maki uses seaweed, but some variations use soy paper or cucumber.

What's the difference between sushi rolls and maki?

Maki is a type of sushi roll, where sushi refers to a broader category of dishes.

How long can I store sushi and maki?

It's best eaten fresh, especially if raw. If storing, it should be consumed within 24 hours.

Is sushi rice different from regular rice?

Yes, sushi rice is seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt, giving it a unique flavor.

Why is wasabi often served with sushi and maki?

Wasabi adds a spicy kick and can also have antimicrobial properties beneficial with raw fish.

How do I use soy sauce with sushi and maki?

It's customary to dip sushi or maki lightly into soy sauce, avoiding soaking the rice.

Can I make sushi and maki at home?

Yes, with the right ingredients and tools, both can be made at home.

What kind of fish is used in sushi and maki?

Various fishes, including tuna, salmon, and eel, can be used in both sushi and maki.

What does "temaki" mean?

Temaki refers to hand-rolled sushi, but unlike maki, it's cone-shaped.

Are sushi and maki considered fast food in Japan?

While there are fast-food sushi joints, sushi and maki are traditionally seen as an art form.

Is sushi rice the same as sticky rice?

While both are glutinous, sushi rice has a specific seasoning that differentiates it.

Which is more popular: sushi or maki?

Both are popular, but maki rolls are often more accessible for sushi beginners.

What's inside a California roll?

A California roll, a type of maki, typically contains imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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