What is Maki? Everything You Need to Know About Maki Sushi

March 5, 2024

When you think about sushi, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? For many, it's the beautifully rolled, seaweed-wrapped delight known as Maki. But what is Maki, and why has it captivated the taste buds of so many around the globe? 

Whether you're considering adding this Japanese delicacy to your restaurant's menu or simply curious about expanding your culinary horizons, understanding Maki is essential. 

So, what is Maki sushi, and what makes it a must-have on your dining table? Let's find out.

What is Maki?

Maki, derived from the Japanese word "maku," is a type of sushi roll. It involves wrapping vinegared rice and various ingredients in a sheet of seaweed called "nori." This culinary masterpiece offers a delightful combination of flavors and textures, making it a staple in Japanese cuisine. Also known as "Maki Sushi" or "Makizushi," this roll is often served alongside other Japanese dishes or as part of a larger meal experience.

The beauty of Maki lies in its versatility. You can fill it with various ingredients, including seafood, vegetables, and even tropical fruits. This diversity allows you to cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences, making Maki a crowd-pleaser at restaurants, parties, and catering events.

Types of Maki Sushi

To appreciate the full spectrum of Maki, it's essential to understand its various forms. Each type brings its unique twist to the table, offering an array of choices for your future sushi bar.

1. The “Inside” Maki Rolls

Inside Maki Rolls are characterized by their traditional roll format, with the nori on the outside. This category branches into three main types, each with its distinct appeal.

  • Futomaki, or "thick roll," is often around 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter and is known for its generous size. Wrapped in nori, Futomaki is sliced into bite-sized pieces and is typically filled with a mix of vegetables and sometimes fish, such as unagi or anago. Ingredients like tamagoyaki, kanpyo, shiitake mushrooms, and cucumber make up the vibrant filling, offering a rich taste experience.

  • Chumaki, or “medium roll,” is approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. It’s made with a careful selection of 2 or 3 ingredients, offering a balance of flavors. Chumaki can accommodate a variety of fillings, including fish and vegetables, making it a versatile option for those looking to add diversity to their menu.

  • Hosomaki, or “thin roll,” epitomizes simplicity with its slender size and single-ingredient filling. Common fillings include cucumber, pickled vegetables, and raw fish, creating a minimalist yet flavorful bite. Known for its elegance, Hosomaki is an excellent choice for those seeking to offer a classic sushi experience.

2. The “Inside Out” Maki Rolls

Uramaki stands out as the inside-out variation of Maki, where the rice is on the outside and the nori is inside. This inversion not only adds a textural contrast but also allows for a creative presentation, with sesame seeds or fish roe often adorning the rice. Uramaki’s unique structure and aesthetic appeal make it a favorite among those looking to explore beyond traditional sushi.

3. The “Handrolls”

Temaki, or hand rolls, offer a more personalized sushi experience. These cone-shaped delights are made by wrapping nori around rice and fillings, creating a casual, interactive dining option. Temaki's versatility and hands-on nature can attract a diverse clientele, adding a dynamic element to any sushi bar's offering.

Key Ingredients of Maki Sushi

Understanding the components of Maki sushi is crucial for crafting authentic and delicious rolls.

  1. Sushi Rice: The foundation of Maki sushi, sushi rice, is seasoned with a blend of vinegar, sugar, and salt. This gives it a sticky texture and a slightly sweet, tangy flavor that complements the fillings.

  2. Nori: This edible seaweed wrapper holds the sushi rice and fillings together. Nori’s crisp texture and oceanic flavor are essential, contrasting the rice's softness and the fillings' richness.

  3. Fish: Often the star ingredient, fish in Maki can range from raw slices of tuna or salmon to cooked options like crab meat. The choice of fish adds depth and variety to the flavor profile of Maki sushi.

  4. Vegetables: Crisp cucumber, tender asparagus, or creamy avocado are commonly used, adding freshness, crunch, and a contrast in flavors.

  5. Tropical Fruits: An unconventional twist in some Maki rolls includes tropical fruits like mango or pineapple, introducing a sweet and tangy element that can elevate the overall flavor profile.

How is Maki Served? 

Maki sushi graces the table in neatly sliced pieces, arrayed on a platter or individual serving dishes to delight the eye as much as the palate. The secret to its presentation lies in meticulous cutting and arranging techniques:

1. Cutting

Each roll is sliced into uniform bite-sized portions, typically six to eight per roll, using a sharp, water-dampened knife to achieve clean, non-stick cuts.

2. Plating

These slices are then artistically arranged on a plate, often fanned out or presented in a pinwheel formation to captivate the diner’s visual senses.

3. Accompaniments

To enhance the tasting experience, Maki is served with:

  • Soy sauce (shoyu) adds depth with its salty umami richness.

  • Wasabi offers a spicy kick that complements the sushi’s flavors.

  • Pickled ginger (gari), refreshing the palate between bites to appreciate each flavor nuance

  • Garnishes such as toasted sesame seeds or slivers of green onion might adorn the Maki, adding color and texture.

Maki sushi can also accompany other traditional dishes like miso soup or pickled vegetables, making it a versatile choice for various dining occasions, including bento boxes and special events.

What Goes with Maki?

To create a memorable sushi dining experience, it's crucial to pair Maki with sides that highlight its flavors. Here's how to complement your sushi menus with traditional Japanese sides:

  1. Miso Soup: This comforting soup, featuring a savory blend of dashi stock and miso paste, tofu, and spring onions, provides a warm, umami-packed start to any sushi meal. The richness of the soup contrasts beautifully with the freshness of Maki rolls.

  2. Gari (Pickled Ginger): Served as a palate cleanser, gari's slightly sweet and tangy profile prepares your taste buds for each unique bite of sushi. Its vibrant pink color also adds a visual pop to your plate.

  3. Tempura: Whether it’s vegetables or shrimp encased in a light, airy batter, tempura offers a delightful crunch and a hint of indulgence, making it an irresistible companion to Maki sushi. The dipping sauce further elevates the tempura experience.

  4. Edamame: These steamed and lightly salted young soybeans are a simple yet satisfying addition, offering a burst of freshness and a contrast in texture that complements the softness of sushi rolls.

  5. Tsukemono (Japanese Pickles): Adding a tangy crunch, tsukemono, like pickled cucumber or daikon radish, introduces an acidic element that balances the sushi's richness

  6. Wakame Salad: The light and refreshing taste of seaweed salad dressed in sesame dressing enhances the oceanic flavors present in Maki, creating a harmonious blend of tastes.

  7. Ohitashi: Blanched spinach seasoned with soy sauce and bonito flakes offers a subtly flavored, nutrient-rich side that contrasts well with the complexity of sushi rolls.

  8. Sake: This traditional Japanese rice wine, with its varying flavor profiles, can complement the delicate tastes of Maki, rounding out the dining experience.

Remember, the key to a great sushi menu is balance. Each side should enhance, not overshadow, the delicate flavors of Maki.

Maki vs. Sushi

While Maki is a beloved member of the sushi family, it’s important to clarify that not all sushi is Maki. Sushi is a broad term encompassing various forms of this Japanese delicacy, ranging from Nigiri (slices of fish over rice) to Sashimi (sliced raw fish). Maki’s defining characteristic is its roll form, setting it apart from other types of sushi that might feature rice and ingredients in different arrangements. 

Maki vs. Sashimi

Sashimi represents a different Japanese culinary tradition focusing on the purity and taste of the ingredient, usually seafood, without rice. It consists of thinly sliced raw fish or meat, served without rice, and is appreciated for its texture, flavor, and freshness. Sashimi is often garnished with daikon radish, shiso leaves, and served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger on the side.

The key differences between Maki and Sashimi include:

  • Preparation: Maki involves rolling ingredients in vinegared rice and seaweed, while Sashimi is purely slices of raw fish or meat without rice.

  • Presentation: Maki is served in bite-sized pieces as part of a roll. Sashimi is elegantly arranged slices that highlight the ingredient's quality.

  • Consumption experience: Maki offers a mix of flavors and textures in each bite, including the tangy taste of the vinegared rice. Sashimi focuses on the singular, unadulterated taste and texture of the seafood or meat, accompanied by condiments.

Maki vs. Nigiri

Nigiri is another form of sushi that consists of a slice of raw fish or seafood placed on top of a small, oblong mound of vinegared rice, often with a small amount of wasabi between the rice and the topping, and sometimes tied together with a thin band of seaweed.

The differences between Maki and Nigiri are as follows:

  • Construction: Maki is rolled with ingredients inside and wrapped in nori. Nigiri is crafted by hand-pressing rice with a topping of fish or seafood.

  • Visual and taste experience: Maki rolls combine various flavors and textures within the roll, including the savory taste of the nori. Nigiri focuses on the individual taste of the fish or seafood, complemented by the subtle flavor of the vinegared rice.

  • Serving size and presentation: Maki is served in slices that reveal the cross-section of the roll’s ingredients. Nigiri is served as individual pieces, showcasing the sushi chef’s craftsmanship and the topping quality.

Popular Maki Sushi Rolls in the US

As you venture into the vibrant world of sushi, you must acquaint yourself with the rolls that have captivated palates across the USA. These favorites not only appeal to a wide audience but also showcase the versatility and creativity inherent in Maki sushi.

  1. California Roll - A classic and accessible choice for many, the California Roll is a perfect blend of crab meat, avocado, and cucumber. Its inside-out presentation with rice on the outside makes it a visually appealing option that's easy to love.

  2. Dragon Roll - This roll is a feast for the eyes and the palate, featuring eel and cucumber inside, topped with thinly sliced avocado to resemble dragon scales. A drizzle of sweet eel sauce adds the final touch to this masterpiece.

  3. Rainbow Roll - As colorful as its name suggests, the Rainbow Roll is a California Roll adorned with an array of fish toppings, including tuna, salmon, and avocado, creating a vibrant and diverse flavor profile.

  4. Philadelphia Roll - Cream cheese, smoked salmon, and cucumber make up this American twist on sushi, offering a creamy texture and rich flavor that perfectly complements the sushi rice and nori.

  5. Maki Cucumber - Simple yet refreshing, this roll focuses on the crispness of cucumber, wrapped in sushi rice and seaweed, serving as a light, vegetarian-friendly option.

  6. Nigiri Salmon - While not a Maki roll, Nigiri Salmon features a slice of fresh salmon atop a mound of vinegared rice, highlighting the quality and flavor of the fish with simplicity and elegance.

  7. Shrimp Tempura Roll - This roll combines the crunch of tempura shrimp with the softness of sushi rice. It is often accompanied by avocado or cucumber and a touch of spicy mayo for extra flavor.

  8. Spicy Tuna Roll (Uramaki Spicy Tuna) - A spicy mix of tuna and chili sauce, wrapped in sushi rice and seaweed, offers a kick for those who enjoy a bit of heat with their sushi.

  9. Tuna Roll (Uramaki Tuna) - Featuring the clean, fresh taste of tuna, this simple roll is all about letting the quality of the fish shine through, wrapped in rice and seaweed.

  10. Salmon Roll (Uramaki Salmon) - Similar to the Tuna Roll but with salmon, this option highlights the fatty, flavorful fish in a straightforward presentation that's always a hit.

With these popular Maki sushi rolls, your sushi bar can cater to various tastes, setting the stage for a diverse and appealing menu.


With its vast array of styles and flavors, Maki sushi offers an unparalleled opportunity to delight and surprise your diners. From the simplicity of Hosomaki to the creative flair of Uramaki, each roll serves as a testament to Japan's rich culinary heritage. Embracing Maki in your establishment not only diversifies your menu but also caters to a broad spectrum of tastes, ensuring that each guest finds something to love.

Are you ready to transform your culinary vision into a thriving reality? 

Discover how our all-in-one restaurant technology can streamline your operations and enhance your customer's dining experience. With the best Japanese Restaurant POS System on the market, we're here to support your journey from startup to success. 

Don't miss out on the opportunity to make your restaurant or sushi bar a local favorite. Book your free demo/consultation today and take the first step towards a seamless integration of tradition and technology at your venue.

All-in one Hardware

Frequently Asked Questions About Maki

This section addresses common queries, shedding light on everything from Maki’s basic definition to its distinctive components and how it compares to other sushi forms.

What is Maki Sushi?

Maki sushi, or rolled sushi, is a traditional Japanese dish featuring vinegared rice, seafood, and vegetables. These ingredients are rolled together in a seaweed (nori) sheet and then cut into bite-sized pieces. 

What Does Maki Taste Like?

Maki typically features a subtly salty and savory taste, primarily influenced by the sushi rice and nori wrap. The specific fillings inside the maki further define its flavor profile. Tuna fillings impart a seafood taste, cucumber offers a crisp freshness, spicy tuna introduces a hint of heat, mango brings a sweet tropical note, and kimchi provides a spicy, tangy, and rich umami experience.

Is Maki a Raw Fish?

Maki often contains raw fish as one of its ingredients, wrapped in sushi rice and seaweed. However, not all Maki rolls include raw fish; some feature cooked seafood, vegetables, or other fillings.

What is the Difference Between Maki and Nigiri?

Maki and Nigiri are two distinct styles of sushi. Maki is rolled sushi, typically wrapped in seaweed, containing rice and various fillings like vegetables or fish, cut into bite-sized pieces. Nigiri, on the other hand, consists of a slice of raw fish over a mound of pressed vinegared rice, often with a touch of wasabi between the fish and rice.

How is Maki Eaten?

To eat maki sushi, first, pick up a piece using chopsticks or your fingers. Lightly dip the sushi’s fish side into soy sauce, avoiding soaking the rice to prevent it from falling apart and becoming too salty. Place the sushi in your mouth with the fish side touching your tongue to enjoy the flavor fully. Chew thoroughly and savor the blend of ingredients before swallowing. Enjoy with pickled ginger and wasabi to enhance the taste experience, but remember to consume these sparingly between bites to cleanse the palate.

What is the Yellow Thing in Maki?

The yellow thing in maki is often pickled radish, known as "takuan" in Japanese cuisine. It adds a crunchy texture and a sweet, tangy flavor to the sushi roll.

What are the Orange Fish Eggs in Maki?

The orange fish eggs in maki are known as Tobiko. They are the small, crunchy eggs of the flying fish and are often used in sushi to add flavor, texture, and a pop of color.

Recommended Articles: