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Nori 101: Which Type is Ideal for Perfect Sushi Rolls?

Nori 101: Which Type is Ideal for Perfect Sushi Rolls?

Long gone are the 1970s, when the first sushi restaurant in the US was opened in Hollywood, catering to only the elite. Nowadays, sushi restaurants are as typical as any other and a much-loved cuisine enjoyed globally. You can even take sushi lessons or teach yourself how to make sushi at home. The quality of your sushi won’t just be in the proteins, rice, or vegetables you use, but also in the type of nori.

Nori (also called laver) is Japanese seaweed from the Porphyra genus. It’s typically used for sushi, with Yaki and Kansou being the most common. The best type of nori for sushi depends on the color grading of the nori, with gold being the best and green being the lowest quality. 

It can be overwhelming to choose between so many wide varieties of nori. Still, it is vital to research where it comes from, what type is more pliable, what the size options are, and what quality is suitable for your intended use.

Five Types Of Nori

Nori is the Japanese name for a type of red algae (genus Porphyra) that grows wild, like other sea vegetables. This seaweed grows mainly off the rocks along the coastal shorelines in the Pacific Ocean, North Atlantic, and the Irish Sea. 

Kansou Nori 

Kansou nori is dried nori. It is produced as thin rectangular sheets made from dried Nama nori (raw, unprocessed, wet nori). Kansou nori can be eaten on its own but is ideal for sushi because of its malleability.  

Yaki Nori 

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Yaki nori is toasted seaweed, Japan’s supermarkets’ most common type of seafood. Yaki nori is convenient and used in many dishes, including sushi, ramen, tempura, salad, and mochi. Although popular, many believe it to be inferior to Kansou nori.

Ajitsuke Nori

Ajitsuke nori is dried nori sheets that are seasoned. These nori sheets are typically more miniature and enjoyed as a snack but are not used in sushi.

Kizami Nori

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Kizami nori is dried unseasoned shredded nori. It is typically used as a garnish with rice bowls and noodles. Although you don’t use it to make sushi, it is often seen sprinkled on chirashi sushi.

Nama Nori

Nama nori is raw, unprocessed seaweed. This wet ingredient is used as a garnish on oysters or in soups. 

The Best Types Of Nori Used In Sushi

Kansou nori and Yaki nori are the best types to use in sushi. Other nori (e.g., Ajitsuke, Kizami, or Nama) are instead eaten as a snack or used in Japanese cuisine as a garnish. 

Dried nori is manufactured and distributed as either sushi nori or temaki nori. Sushi nori is full or half sheets of dried nori used for large sushi rolls.

Temaki nori sheets are cut to a smaller size to make temaki (handrolls) and hosomaki (single sushi items). Besides sheets, nori can also be bought as dried pieces or flakes, typically used as a garnish.

Besides the type of nori, you also must consider the four quality grades assigned to each, with an A-grade or gold being the best.

Best Quality Nori For Making Sushi

There exist various categories according to which nori can be graded. The seven most common criteria for you to know are:

  • Texture: One side of nori should be smooth and glossy, and the other side rough and textured.
  • Color: The best nori has a dark, rich green color rather than light and brown.
  • Gloss: Higher-quality nori is glossier than its lower-quality counterparts.
  • Thickness: Higher-quality nori is thicker than its lower-quality counterparts.
  • Smell: Good-quality nori should have a salty sea smell, not fishy.
  • ‘Hagire’: When biting into nori, it should be crisp and initially tear and crumble like paper. 
  • ‘Kuchidoke’: Once it touches your tongue, nori should start melting away almost immediately. Lower-quality nori will be chewy.

A-Grade (Gold) Nori

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If you are looking to buy nori for making sushi and want the best quality, look for the gold-grade seaweed sheets. Many of the top-quality sushi restaurants use gold-grade nori sheets.

Manufacturers typically add a gold color to their packaging to clearly show the grading. If not, look for the Japanese word for gold on the labels, i.e., ‘kin’ (pronounced keen).

These gold-graded nori sheets are best used for premium quality sushi horns and rolls and will be:

  • Very dark green
  • Highly glossy
  • Uniform in thickness
  • Undamaged
  • Free from dead spots
  • Free from any impurities

B-Grade (Silver) Nori

The second-best grade nori, i.e., silver, is also exceptional. Look for a silver label or color code on the nori packaging or see if you can spot the Japanese word for silver, which is ‘gin.’

This silver-grade nori is also suitable for high-quality sushi rolls, with minor differences compared to the gold-grade. The characteristics of silver nori include:

  • Deep green color
  • Glossy appearance
  • Uniform in thickness
  • Undamaged
  • Free from dead spots

C-Grade (Blue) Nori

Blue-grade nori is a safe option if you’re making sushi at home and are not particularly concerned about getting the highest quality. It is a good grade for its price tag and will satisfy in taste.

Like gold and silver, the manufacturer generally colors their packaging with its graded color, so you will know what you are buying. You can use blue-grade nori for sushi, but it is more suitable for serving in salads or as a garnish.

The most common features of blue-grade nori:

  • Green color
  • Glossy
  • Undamaged
  • Occasional dead spots are visible
  • It might contain chlorella and diatom

D-Grade (Green) Nori

D-grade or green-grade nori is the lowest quality. This type of nori is better suited in salads and as a garnish rather than featured in sushi.

Even if you tried, this grade of nori is firm, so it will crack when rolled. The products appear in green packaging in grocery- and specialty stores and are much cheaper than the other higher-grade nori. Some characteristics of green-grade nori to note:

  • Yellow-green color
  • Dimmed appearance
  • Some damage to the sheets
  • Occasional dead spots are visible
  • It might contain chlorella and diatom

Best Brands Of Sushi Nori

Many sushi die hearts believe that the best nori comes from Japan. When you are out shopping, ensure thus to inspect the packaging to confirm whether the product was manufactured in Japan. If you can’t find it in your local supermarkets or online, don’t worry. Other countries, like South Korea and China, also make versions of nori, some of which are pretty decent. 

Some of the most reputable nori brands to look out for include:

  • Daechun Sushi Nori® produces the best sushi nori overall. Their gold-grade nori has a natural umami flavor yet is relatively affordable.
  • Hime Seaweed® offers the best kind of nori when you’re on a budget. They produce unsalted versions, yet it is tasty enough to eat on their own and inexpensive.
  • One Organic Premium Roasted Organic Seaweed® produces the best organic nori. Their products are certified USDA-approved, contain only ten calories per sheet, and are affordable. 
  • Nagai Deluxe Sushi Nori® offers the best deluxe sushi nori. Their products have no added salt or sugar yet have a great taste and are very pliable, so you don’t have to worry about breaking when rolling.
  • Earth Circle Organic® produces raw nori sheets grown in certified organic rising waters in the Sea of Japan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Nori Is Best For Sushi?

To choose the best nori for sushi, you must consider the type and grade of nori. Firstly, Kansou nori and Yaki nori are the most common nori used for sushi. The nori is unseasoned, pliable, and comes in various sheet sizes tailored for making sushi items, like handrolls and single items. 

Secondly, you must consider the grading. Grade A or gold nori is the best nori that will give you top-quality sushi. So for the best sushi nori, you will need to buy Kansou or Yaki Nori Gold.

How Do You Pick Nori For Sushi?

Most products will clearly state which type of nori it contains, e.g., Kansou or Yaki nori. If not, some packaging states ‘sushi nori’ to make it easy to distinguish it from flavored nori (e.g., Ajitsuke nori) eaten on its own as a snack. 

The next step is considering your budget and quality preferences and choosing a grade accordingly. For better quality sushi, choose silver or gold grade. If the packaging doesn’t show the color code, look for glossy seaweed sheets with a deep, dark green color.

What Type Of Nori Is Used In Sushi?

Unseasoned Kansou nori and Yaki nori, often labeled as ‘sushi nori,’ is the best type to use for sushi. The size of the sheets will depend on what kind of sushi you intend to prepare. 

Choose sushi nori (full or half sheets) if you want to make large sushi rolls and then cut them into pieces after. Or opt for temaki nori sheets, which are cut to a smaller size, to make temaki (handrolls) and hosomaki (single sushi items). 

Does All Nori Taste The Same?

No, not all nori tastes the same. Firstly, some nori is unflavored (sushi nori). In contrast, others are seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, salt, and spices (e.g., curry powder). The latter nori is typically eaten on its own. High-quality sushi nori, like gold and silver grades, is unseasoned. Yet they have a much stronger umami taste than the lower quality, unflavored, relatively tasteless varieties.


For the novice sushi chef going shopping, remember to look for products that are, ideally, from Japan. Then inspect the labels to see which types are ‘sushi nori’ and give you a color or letter indicating their grade quality.