Sushi-Grade Fish: 5+ Characteristics to Watch for

Sushi-grade fish must be clean, parasite-free, safe to eat raw, with the right texture, color, and smell; types like tuna and salmon are ideal choices.

what makes fish sushi grade

Sushi is a delicious Japanese delicacy that has made its way to the global food scene. If you are a fan of the dish, you may have, at one point, thought about making it at home. However, like most people, you might also find it challenging to prepare sushi since it uses a primary ingredient that is tricky to handle: raw fish.

As a rule of thumb, you should remember to use only sushi-grade fish. Using high-quality fish ensures your homemade sushi is safe to consume and has a clean taste. But what makes fish sushi grade?

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What Does It Mean if Fish Is Sushi Grade?

So what makes fish sushi grade? There are several factors and considerations in classifying fish as sushi grade. First off, the fish should be thoroughly inspected to guarantee it is clean and free from parasites or other harmful toxins and bacteria. 

Simply put, sushi-grade fish can be safely consumed by humans, even when raw. To further help you identify sushi-grade fish, we have created a checklist that contains five things that answer the question: what makes fish sushi-grade?


You cannot simply buy any fish on display since some species are more prone to parasites, such as cod worms, seal worms, and tapeworms. Aside from that, each type of fish has a unique texture that can affect the overall quality and taste of your sushi. 

We have narrowed down the best and safest types of fish to use for sushi and sashimi:


Portioning tuna at fish market

Tuna is a commonly used fish for raw dishes and is even considered by many as the embodiment of sushi. Several species of tuna can be used for sushi, like:

  • Yellowfin
  • Bluefin skipjack
  • Albacore


Salmon fish at market

Salmon is another popular fish of choice for sushi. It’s important to note that to be classified as sushi grade, the salmon should be fresh and not previously frozen.


what does yellowtail taste like

Referred to as yellowtail in English, this jackfish is a staple in high-quality Japanese restaurants.


hirame flounder Sushi-Grade Fish: 5+ Characteristics to Watch for

Also known as halibut or flounder, it has a unique texture that is slightly crunchy and chewy, making it an excellent addition to your sushi platter.


Aside from the type of fish, it is crucial to examine the color of its flesh. For example, tuna has a pale pink to deep red hue, depending on its fat content. But, you may see tuna with an unnaturally vibrant red color with a plastic-looking sheen. 

These fish are most likely preserved with chemicals through cold smoking, a process where tuna is treated with carbon monoxide to create a red finish, giving tuna the appearance of freshness. 

While this practice is not innately harmful, some suppliers use this practice to sell old stock. As such, you should exercise caution and take a good look at the fish that you are planning to buy


As you may have already noticed, freshness is paramount in selecting sushi-grade fish. Another excellent way to determine whether raw fish is still fresh is to check its smell. Fish that have been freshly caught have a natural and distinct fish scent reminiscent of a mild ocean smell.

On the other hand, fish that are no longer fresh have a pungent odor that is typically sour and rancid. A surefire way for you to know if the fish has gone bad is the telltale sulfur smell, which can be likened to that of the stench emitted by rotten eggs. 

Texture and feel

As for the texture, you should look for a slightly firm feel, as it is an indicator of fresh fish. On the other hand, if it is mushy to the touch, you should choose a different fish. Fish that has already gone soft is no longer fresh and is, therefore, unsafe to be eaten raw. 

In addition, spoiled fish will have a slimy texture and, in some cases, might even feel slippery because of the thin layer of slime coating them. 


While it is essential to focus on the physical aspects of the fish, knowing where it comes from is just as important. After all, there are so many places where you can obtain your fish, and finding a reliable source can make all the difference.

There are various providers in the market, making selecting the right option overwhelming for consumers, especially those who are doing it for the first time. Here are the best places to get sushi-grade fish.


Although many are hesitant to purchase fish online, there are reliable online seafood delivery providers (we like FarmFoods) that guarantee to provide fresh and high-quality fish.


Grocery Store Steak

Your local shop, especially one with international selections, is the most accessible option for finding sushi-grade fish.

Fish Markets

fish market

These are often found near fishing areas and usually have the freshest fish as you purchase them directly from fishermen and fishmongers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you want to make sushi at home? Here are some common questions about what makes fish sushi grade.

How do you make fish safe for sushi?

There are several ways to ensure that the fish you purchase remains safe for making sushi or sashimi. While we have highlighted the importance of using fresh ingredients, this can only be applied to ideal scenarios wherein the fish is immediately prepared and served after buying.

However, realistically speaking, not everyone can do that due to several factors, such as time constraints and logistics challenges. For those who cannot prepare their sushi right away, the FDA has created a guide on safely storing and freezing fish for raw consumption.

What makes a fish sashimi grade?

Sashimi is another beloved delicacy that originated in Japan, but unlike sushi, it doesn’t use vinegared rice and seaweed. Instead, the dish only consists of thinly sliced raw fish, and, as such, it is subjected to the same standards as sushi-grade fish.

It is important to note that sushi grade is not a standardized classification. No specific governing body provides a seal of approval or a stamp marking fish as sushi grade. Rather, it is a guideline created by the Food and Drug Administration to help suppliers and consumers determine which fish are safe to be eaten raw. 

Can any fish be sushi grade?

Since sushi and sashimi use uncooked fish, the biggest concern is ensuring they are safe for consumption. After all, raw ingredients, especially seafood, can be hosts for various food-borne illnesses. Given this, not all fish will be considered sushi grade. 

Furthermore, you should pay close attention to the fish you purchase, as not all selections available in the market are fit for making sushi.

What are the dangers of eating raw fish?

There is always a risk associated with eating raw animal products. However, eating sushi-grade fish reduces the chances of getting sick. Some of the risks involved with eating raw fish include being exposed to dangerous bacteria and getting a parasitic infection.

Bacteria such as Vibrio, Salmonella, Listeria, and Clostridium can be detrimental to human health. If you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or severe stomach cramps after consuming raw fish, consult your doctor. Additionally, always buy high-quality fish from reputable sources to reduce your chances of getting an infection.

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