This Is Why Wasabi Is Served With Sushi

These days, sushi is among the most popular healthy convenience foods. It seems like nearly every grocery store in town has a sushi bar, and many convenience stores carry it prepackaged. In addition, restaurants that serve sushi are cropping up everywhere, even in smaller cities, and you’ll often find sushi served with pink shavings of pickled ginger, but why is wasabi served with sushi?

Wasabi is served with sushi for three reasons. First, it’s a traditional accompaniment to the dish and has been for centuries. Second, the flavor of wasabi compliments the other flavors in your sushi beautifully. Third, wasabi covers the fishy smell of sushi, so you’ll focus on taste.

This article will look at each of these answers to why wasabi is served with sushi. We’ll also discuss how to enjoy wasabi with your sushi, thoughts on home preparation, and whether you can make sushi the night before a party.

Why Is Wasabi Served With Sushi?

It’s pretty natural to ask why wasabi is served with sushi. The truth is, wasabi is a traditional condiment that goes with a lot of things. Sushi is simply the most famous dish associated with wasabi. Let’s take a look at why wasabi is an essential addition to sushi dishes.

Wasabi Is a Traditional Condiment in Japan

Although most of us in the West have only learned about wasabi in the past few decades, wasabi has a very long history in Japan. Experts in Japanese cuisine will tell you that real wasabi has doubled as a condiment and medicine for centuries. The value of wasabi in both contexts is well-known. 

Wasabi in the West is mainly associated with sushi. Still, a careful look at the Asian food section in many grocery stores these days shows other culinary uses. For instance, wasabi peas and soybeans are popular. Western adaptations even have it added to potato chips and other snacks, meaning it’s trendy. So, our first reason is that it’s an integral part of Japanese cuisine.

The Flavor of Wasabi Complements Other Sushi Ingredients

Another answer to our question revolves around the flavors. According to many sushi chefs, the spiciness of wasabi goes well with fatty fish and tangy soy sauce. Slight spiciness is highly beneficial to the palate in this case and makes the overall dish more flavorful. Interestingly, the fattier your fish, the more wasabi complements the flavors. Spice and fat mix well in your mouth. Sushi can be pretty bland without the kick.

The Smell Covers the Fishiness To Enjoy the Taste Better

For most of us in the United States, the raw fish smell of sushi often goes relatively unnoticed. After all, very fresh fish tends not to smell that much. At least, not with the milder fish we’re used to eating in North America. Many of us associate fish that doesn’t smell much with freshness and quality.

However, the situation is somewhat different in Japan. As one Japanese restaurateur in Australia points out, Japanese sushi is much more pungent. That’s because the Japanese often ferment some of their fish, and in addition, many fish varieties used in Japan have a stronger odor. By adding wasabi to each sushi plate, the smell is less noticeable. The flavor-enhancing properties of wasabi can contribute to a diner’s enjoying the food more. 

Dos and Don’ts in Enjoying Wasabi With Your Sushi

Now that you understand why we serve wasabi with sushi, let’s look at the best way to enjoy it. Sushi chefs, restaurants, and the everyday consumer have disagreements on the best use of wasabi. However, almost everyone agrees that it’s the perfect addition to your sushi dinner. Let’s look at some general rules.

Don’t Add a Little Wasabi to Your Soy Sauce

While some sushi restaurants say it’s OK to add wasabi to your soy sauce, most experienced chefs disagree with this practice. In fact, according to chef Nobu Matsuhisa, adding wasabi to your soy sauce is the worst thing you can do. It encourages the use of too much soy sauce and damages the taste of both.

Do Add Wasabi on Top of Your Sushi

Chef Matsuhisa gives us the best way to use wasabi. After dipping your sushi into soy sauce, smear a bit of wasabi on top of each piece. Then, eat the whole piece at once. Chefs recommend this because it allows the flavors to mix on your tongue rather than in the dish.

Don’t Use Too Much Wasabi

Just like most other spicy condiments, wasabi can kill the taste of your fish if you add too much. It’s easy to kill the flavor because of the delicate tastes of fish and rice. If you did add too much wasabi a few times, don’t worry. A lot of new sushi eaters make this mistake. Remember, there’s always the next time.

Do Start With Just a Little Bit

As with many other things, it’s easier to add a bit more wasabi the next time than make up for having too much. Similarly, you can ask the sushi chef to add a bit of wasabi for you, rather than serving it on the side. Sushi chefs know how much wasabi to put with each kind of fish, and they’ll make your sushi with extra care this way. In this case, you’re genuinely showing you know why wasabi and sushi pair so well together.

How To Prepare Sushi at Home

Finally, we’d like to offer some thoughts on the home preparation of sushi. The main concern with home preparation is always going to be cleanliness. Because you won’t cook any ingredients after final assembly, food safety is critical. And, if you’re making a raw fish variety, sanitation is even more critical for warding off food poisoning. Here are a few more tips:

Invest in a Sushi Tool Kit & a Rice Cooker

Your first concern is having the right tools. Watch any sushi chef, and you’ll find that they have special knives, reed sushi rollers, and other equipment. You can get sushi tool kits on Amazon inexpensively, like this Delamu Sushi Making Kit.

Another thing to watch out for is a rice cooker. It’s best to cook sushi rice so that it sticks together easily. Among other brands, the Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker can cook rice perfectly. 

Buy Sushi Rice, Seaweed Sheets, & High-Quality Fish

To successfully make sushi at home, you’ll need to get the right ingredients. For instance, there’s a type of rice called “sushi rice,” a Japanese import. Many sushi recipes also require seaweed sheets, which you can usually get at an Asian food market and some supermarkets. Finally, get the best fish possible. Since the fish is eaten raw, you don’t want to take chances on quality.

Can You Make Sushi the Night Before?

Technically speaking, it is possible to make sushi the night before a party. With meticulous planning and storage, you can keep it safe to eat overnight. However, experts all agree that sushi is best when eaten fresh. The texture and taste of ingredients deteriorate very quickly, meaning that day-old sushi isn’t as flavorful. 

If you choose to make sushi the night before, experts recommend ensuring that everything you store the sushi in is spotless. Cleanliness will help prevent the growth of bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. In turn, never refrigerate it for more than a day. If you have a big party where you’ll be serving sushi, consider making everything else first. Then, make the sushi soon before guests arrive. 


Wasabi is served with sushi because first, it is a traditional Japanese condiment with a long history. Second, wasabi complements the other flavors in sushi while also masking the stronger odors of some conventional sushi varieties. For these reasons, sushi is also better served with wasabi.

However, you can “overdo” wasabi, and it kills the taste when you do. If you know how to add wasabi to your sushi, though, the chances are much smaller. Finally, we recommend only preparing sushi soon before you eat it. Freshness improves the overall quality of your experience and reduces the risk of food poisoning.

Here are some of my favorite sushi making tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you find it useful as you make sushi at home. Here are some tools I’ve used that I hope you’ll find helpful, too. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to use any of them, I will earn a commission. But honestly, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my family.

Rice cooker: For getting started, I really like Zojirushi Rice Cooker. The Zojirushi Rice cooker does not only make rice-cooking dirt simple, but it is a quality gadget that cooks better than most chefs can. Unlike most kitchen gadgets, it does not sacrifice quality for convenience.

Knife:The Kai Knife is one of the best sushi knives in the market. Made in Japan’s famous knife-making capital, Seki city.