Nakiri vs. Santoku Knives: Know the Differences Before You Buy

Japanese knives are known to be high-quality items. Both Nakiri and Santoku knives are excellent cooking and cutting knives, but there are some differences between these types of knives that you should know about.

Key Differences Between Nakiri and Santoku Knives

Salmon sliced with Santoku knife instead of Nakiri knife
A Santoku knife is great for slicing fish, such as salmon.

Nakiri knives have a different length than knives made by Santoku, with the Nakiri design being five to seven inches in length and Santoku being six to eight inches long. While the Nakiri design is perfect for chopping veggies up quickly, look to the Santoku design if you want to slice or dice meat, fish, and other foods. Another main difference between the two knives is the shape and design of the knives. While the Nakiri knife has double bevels, a Santoku knife can have either single or double bevels and is a little smaller.

Because of the double bevels of the Nakiri knife, it can handle precise cuttings a little better than the Santoku knife. The former can slice meat and vegetables, as well as mince herbs, make fish filets, and so much more. While the weight is similar for both knives, it’s good to note that Santoku knives weigh 5.5 to 8 ounces, while the Nakiri knives weigh 5 to 7 ounces. Clearly, Nakiri makes a more lightweight knife, so this is good to remember if this feature is important to you.

What About the Way the Knives Cut?

Naturally, when you buy any type of knife, especially a Japanese knife, you want it to be a well-made knife that is built to last, and both Santoku and Nakiri make knives that satisfy that requirement. Think of Nakiri as a versatile, almost all-purpose knife. It can chop veggies in a slicing motion on a cutting board and it does a good job of slicing and dicing meat and fruits. With the Santoku knife, you can execute a rocking, up-and-down motion that perfectly slices meat, fish, and vegetables. Santoku makes a narrow blade and is mainly used for cutting vegetables.

Sharpening Nakiri knife instead of Santoku knife
A Nakiri knife has double bevels.

If you’re curious about the cost of the knives, a good Nakiri knife will cost, on average, $30 to $50, while the average cost of a Santoku knife is $40 to $100. Nevertheless, they are both excellent, high-quality knives that are built to last. When trying to decide between the two knives, you’ll want to first consider exactly what you’ll be doing with the knife most of the time.

The Nakiri knife has a straight edge with a squared tip, which is perfect for chopping different foods, especially vegetables. On the other hand, the Santoku knife can not only chop but also slice fish and meat, which is something else to consider. So to review:

  • A Nakiri knife cuts vegetables but can also cut through meats such as chicken.
  • A Santoku knife can slice, dice, and mince and is a great for meat and fish.

Both knives have a rectangular blade, but the Santoku knife has a pointy tip, whereas the Nakiri knife has a flat edge. As far as the way they are sharpened, Nakiri knives are usually sharpened to 30 degrees total, translating into 15 degrees on each side. This makes them super-sharp so you can get very precise cuts. The Santoku knife is sharper because it is sharpened to a 20-degree angle, or 10 degrees on each side. That being said, Santoku knives can range between 20 and 30 degrees, depending on who makes them.

Comparing Other Features Side by Side

At this point you might be wondering if you should purchase both a Nakiri knife and a Santoku knife. In reality, it probably won’t be necessary to own both of these knives. Santoku has blades that serve many purposes, and if you buy one that is double-beveled, it will be able to do everything a Nakiri knife can do, and more. Think of a Nakiri knife as a more specialized knife. These knives are used mostly to chop fruits and vegetables.

With the Nakiri knife, you get the advantages of uniformity and speed, which makes it a great knife to have if you work in a commercial kitchen. You get even, uniform cuts because the flat edge makes full contact with the cutting board. You don’t even need to rock the knife back and forth in order to complete each cut. Nakiri knives are great for vegans or vegetarians.

Vegetables chopped with Santoku knife instead of Nakiri knife
You’ll have no problem chopping vegetables with a Santoku knife.

Let’s compare these two knives side by side so you can get a better look at some of their best features:

The Nakiri Knife

  • Best for fruits and veggies
  • Straight, long blade with squared edges
  • Straight up-and-down cutting action
  • Double-bevel edge grind
  • Sharpness of 28–34 degrees total

The Santoku Knife

  • Best for meat, fish, fruits, veggies, and cheese
  • Straight edge with rounded tip
  • Straight up-and-down cutting, as well as rocking and slicing
  • Double- or single-bevel edge grind
  • Sharpness of 20–30 degrees total

What Do You Need in a Kitchen Knife?

Once you decide what you need the knife for, it becomes much easier to choose the right one.

If you’re a person who loves to cook but doesn’t have any specific needs in the kitchen, you might want to go with the Nakiri knife since it is considered by many experts to be a good all-purpose knife. Even though it is designed specifically to chop veggies, it can really do almost anything when you’re cooking or baking.

On the other hand, the Santoku knife is a bit more personalized and is great for professional chefs or people who tend to cook frequently or for large groups of people.

A Good Choice Either Way

Only you can decide which of these knives will work best for you. The good news is that they are both sturdy, well-built, and functional knives that you’ll find tons of uses for. They are not that expensive, and they can make your time in the kitchen a whole lot easier.