Nakiri vs santoku

Nakiri vs Santoku: Japanese Vegetable Knives

By Bobby B.  |  August 6, 2019  | Japanese Knives

Both are great Japanese knives, but there are some major differences between a nakiri knife and the santoku knife, which has become more popular here in the United States in recent years.  In Japanese, they are called the nakiri bocho, a knife for cutting greens, and santoku bocho, a knife for three uses.   

In short, a nakiri knife is used primarily for cutting vegetables, where a santoku knife is more multi-purpose and used for vegetables, fish, and meat.  Let’s take a deeper dive into this and help you figure out which knife you need in your kitchen.  

Nakiri Knife

A nakiri knife has a unique look with its thin, flat blade that doesn’t have a point.  It’s not as tall and the blade is not as thick, but a nakiri almost looks like an usuba or a meat cleaver.  It’s made more for finesse work on vegetables than it is for heavy duty meat and bone work.

The best nakiri knives have blades that are roughly 5-7 inches in length and due to their thin blades are light weight and easy to use.  Their flat, dual edge blade is perfect for using a chopping technique and the handle gives plenty of room for your fingers so your knuckles don’t hit the cutting board.

Nakiri Knife Example – Shun Classic 5″ Nakiri Knife

Nakiri Knife

Nakiri Knife Review

One of our favorite nakiri knives is the Shun Classic.  Made from VG-10 Japanese Super Steel and wrapped in 32 layers of Damascus steel, it’s both high performance and beautiful at the same time.  This knife is hand made in Japan by skilled artisans at Shun Cutlery and carries their popular lifetime warranty.

This amazing knife has terrific customer feedback and regularly gets great reviews online.  Shun knives are some of the most popular Japanese knives available in the United States.  They are hand-made with top materials, and while not the lowest cost option, are affordable when compared to other high-end Japanese knife manufacturers. 

Santoku Knife

Similar to a Japanese nakiri knife, a santoku works well chopping vegetables, however it’s not limited to this task.  As you might have seen in our previously published santoku knife buying guide, they are perfect for slicing, dicing, and chopping veggies as well as proteins like meat or fish. 

Just like the nakiri, santokus often come in blade lengths between 5-7 inches and they use flat, thin blades.  They are starting to morph into more of a rock-chopper as their design matures in the Western part of the world.  You can read more about this in our Santuku vs Chef’s Knife article.

The Compare – Shun Classic 7″ Santoku Knife

Santoku Knife

Santoku Knife Review

For comparison purposes, we’ll compare a santoku also from Shun’s Classic knife collection.  You can see that it has a pointed tip, allowing the user to do more than just chop with it.  This makes a santoku knife more user-friendly with proteins.  Besides the pointed top and ever-so-slightly more curved blade at the bottom, these are very similar knives.

Like the nakiri, this santoku from is also make from Japanese super steel, VG-MAX in this case, and wrapped in Damascus steel.  Like all Shun Classic knives, it’s also hand-made in Japan and includes their lifetime warranty.  These are all features that make Shun’s Classic series so popular.  Not to mention, they come in nearly all the Japanese knife types.

Nakiri vs Santoku:  Which is Better?

This question is very subjective.  On the whole, santoku knives are much more popular among Western chefs.  This is many due to their all-purpose features.  They are often used as a Chef’s knife replacement.  Their long, thin, and sharp.  Perfect for cutting many different foods. 

However, that doesn’t make a nakiri worthless.  They are great for slicing and chopping greens, vegetables, and fruits.  Since they have no point and a tall blade, they tend to a be a safer choice around the kitchen if all you’re using it for is slicing veggies. 

Don’t forget the cool factor!  A knife without a point?  You have to have at least one pointless knife to hang up on your magnetic knife holder to show off.  It makes you look like a real chef, even if you’re not.