What Is a Nakiri Knife?

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Cooks new to Japanese knives might be curious to know what is a Nakiri knife.

If you are a frequent customer of the local sushi bar, chances are, you’ve seen the chef using a classic Nakiri knife before.

This knife shares a close resemblance to a cleaver but cuts so precisely and delicately that it’s worthy of all the praise.

You use it to dice onions, julienne vegetables, and thinly slice eggplants.

If this knife has caught your eye and you are considering adding one to your arsenal, read on to know more about it.

What Is a Nakiri Knife?

The Nakiri is a Japanese vegetable knife that features a symmetrical, wide, and straight blade with a blunt nose.

The blade’s shape itself will let you know how you should be using it.

The Nakiri’s design will help you slice through tender vegetables efficiently and quickly and will provide you with a cleaner cut in the end.

Then, the knife’s wide blade allows you to pick up the slices and transfer them to a pan or into a bowl.

The Nakiri comes with more heft and forward balance than a similar-sized Gyuto or Santoku.

The reason is that there is more steel at the front of this knife.

It is particularly great for cooks who do not like putting too much effort into slicing, as the knife will do most of the work for you.

The more you use a Nakiri knife when you cook, the more you’ll begin to realize that this is more than just a good-looking knife.

Instead, it is a vegetable chopping machine.

How Does It Work?

Ever tried chopping bell peppers for a stir-fry dish, only to end up with a string of still-attached parts that resemble a paper doll?

Why does that happen?

It’s simple. It is quite easy not to slice all the way through the skin of the vegetable when using a curved blade.

The Nakiri’s flat edge means it gets complete contact with the cutting board, resulting in accurate and cleaner cuts.

However, if you have never used a Nakiri before, know that it can take a bit of an adjustment.

When you use it for the first time to chop, you will most likely notice that sliding this knife back or forth will work significantly better than rocking it.

In fact, most knives work better if you slide them, but in the West, we are all trained to rock our knives instead.

The proper use of the Nakiri will re-train your brain. And with some practice and time, your knife skills will become better than ever.

Do You Need a Nakiri?

The Nakiri is a great knife to have if you are looking to do heavy-duty prep work.

Whether you need to slice countless onions for a French Onion soup or prepare scalloped potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, this is a reliable knife to have.

In fact, even if you simply need diced onions for a stir-fry for two, the Nakiri will have all the prep work done for you in a matter of minutes.

The Nakiri is a knife that can be every bit as useful as the chef’s knife in your kitchen.

It can tackle small jobs, such as chopping herbs and mincing garlic.

Yet, more than that, it can also work well if you want to chop a five-pound cabbage or a big leafy pile of kale.

The Nakiri is a must-have knife for vegans who cut vegetables and fruits regularly.

what is a nakiri knife facts

How Do You Use a Nakiri?

As mentioned earlier, this type of knife works a bit differently from what you may be used to.

Here is the basic technique you should follow when you use a Nakiri.

Step 1: Take the knife and grab it by its handle.

Position your hand where you are grabbing a spot on the spine using your index finger and thumb, just near the end of the handle.

Doing this ensures you get more control over the Nakiri than simply just holding it.

Step 2: Make a claw with your other hand.

With your other hand, curl your fingertips under your knuckles so that you form sort of a claw.

Step 3: Start chopping.

Place your hand in this position above the vegetable you will be cutting, and make sure you keep your thumbs tucked in.

Slide the Nakiri backward and forward through the vegetable, and use your knuckles to guide the side of the knife.

This will act as a buffer and keep you from chopping your fingertips.

Since we are used to using knives in a rocking motion, following these steps may not come to you naturally.

Even so, we recommend practicing this technique often so that you get the hang of it.

We assure you that you will become a Nakiri master in just a few weeks of practice.

What Can You Cut With the Nakiri?

Now that you better understand the Nakiri knife, you will soon learn the best foods you can cut with it.

Keep in mind that this is not a meat cleaver but a knife to cut different kinds of fruits and vegetables.

Below is a non-exclusive list of fruits and vegetables you can cut with the Nakiri.

  • All kinds of melons
  • Zucchini and other types of summer squash
  • All kinds of potatoes
  • All kinds of mushrooms
  • Green, napa, savoy, and red cabbages
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Pineapple
  • Pears, oranges, limes, lemons, oranges

Sharpening the Nakiri Knife

A Nakiri knife’s blade features a straight and double-beveled edge.

Therefore, you will be able to sharpen it just like you would sharpen all of your other kitchen knives.

Simply drag this knife through a sharpener or electric sharpener, and you’d be good to go.

Alternatively, you can run the blade along a sharpening stone to hone the edge.

We also recommend sending your Nakiri knife to a professional knife sharpener once every year

This way, the blade remains perfectly sharp and maintained for a much longer period.


We hope that you now know better about what is a Nakiri knife.

Even though it looks a lot like a meat cleaver, it is actually meant to cut only fruits and vegetables.

It may take you a while to get the hang of this knife.

Even so, we can assure you that, with regular use, it will make you a true professional.

Then, sooner or later, this might just become your new go-to knife.