Nakiri Or Santoku: Which Knife Is The Ultimate Choice?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 01/24/21 •  8 min read

When shopping for Japanese kitchen cutlery, two knives that many people come across are the Nakiri and Santoku.

Both are great pieces for any kitchen, but which one is the better option?

For most chefs, the Santoku is the ideal option for the kitchen.

Santoku knives are designed to be workhorses in the kitchen, handling a variety of ingredients and tasks.

The Nakiri is still a great piece to have in the kitchen, but it is mostly used for slicing and cutting vegetables only.

In this Nakiri vs Santoku comparison, we dive deep into the features and benefits of both knives to see which one is the better fit for your kitchen.

What is it used for?Cutting & slicing vegetablesCutting and slicing meat, vegetables, and other ingredients
Sharpness10-15 degrees per side10-15 degrees per side
ShapeRectangular blade with a straight edgePointed blade with a straight edge

Related: best santoku knives

Nakiri vs Santoku: Detailed Comparisons

The Uses

To fully understand the unique application of Nakiri knives in the modern days, we need to go back in time and learn about how this product first came into use.

This knife type is the creation of the Japanese in the Edo era. During that time, four-legged animals were not considered legal food. Therefore, people considered vegetables as one of the main food sources.

The knives were invented during that time and were made specifically to cut vegetables. Its sole use as a vegetable cutter was passed down through generations and remained the same up to these days.

On the other hand, the latter can perform more cutting tasks than just chopping vegetables. Their creation was in the late 1940s, later than its competitor.

At that time, the Japanese used a particular knife to prepare each dish, and it became more and more complicated over time. They needed a more versatile cutting knife, and thus, the Santoku knives.

With the design considerably similar to the standard modern knives, they can handle various foods. From delicate ingredients to tough substances like meat, fish, and hard cheese, you can put your confidence in these knives.

The Blade Design of These Japanese Knives

At first glance, you can notice the knife’s blade for cutting vegetables has a rectangular shape. Its edge is straight, symmetrical with a rounded tip. It is an optimized design for ribboning the most uniform, pencil-thin slices. You can’t go wrong with this buddy when it comes to julienning tomatoes, carrots, etc.

Also, the straight edge tends to be in full contact with the cutting board’s surface, allowing you to create cleaner cuts without extra hand force. Opting for this knife type when mincing onions or peppers will completely prevent them from sticking together.

The second has a curved spine going downward. Instead of a rounded one, its edge and spine intersect at a sharp, pointed one.

Typically, they are thicker than the former. The blade design partly explains why Santoku knives are good at handling foods with similar textures.

The Cutting Motion

With a straight and flat edge, the first knife is made for even, constant up-and-down chopping motion. To cut through the vegetables or fruit, you press the blade straight down in one clean vertical cut.

Some people are familiar with standard knives, so they tend to push and pull the knife instead of up-and-down cuts. However, it only takes more time and won’t offer great finishing products.

Unlike the former, the Santoku knives’ subtle curves work perfectly with the vertical cutting technique. You can perform rock chop by creating pressure downward with more brute hand force.

Also, instead of pressing the knife down horizontally, vertical chop requires mostly push-down movements. There is no need to push the blade across the meat surface. You only have to push down the knife when you slice the meat and let it do the cutting job.

The Length

The length difference between the two competitors is not significant. It is mainly because it hardly affects the knife’s cutting performance.

With the original design, both knives have gone through many variations to fit the current trend. It usually depends on the manufacturers rather than the knife model.

Also, be it as it may, the multipurpose knives are usually manufactured with a greater length. A typical model will range from five to seven inches. A few extra inches give you more blade area to work with the large chunk of meat or a long fish.

The average length of Nakiri knives is about five inches or might be an inch more. Their only role is cutting vegetables, so it is understandable that they are made to be shorter.

If you prefer your knife to be longer, you can easily search for the longer version. Many manufacturers have produced new models of more than seven inches to meet users’ needs.

The Sharpness

The knife’s sharpness is often mentioned by another name, “the blade angle.” It is the key factor to determine the knife’s cutting efficiency. When comparing the two knives, you should also consider their sharpness.

The first is sharpened on both sides of the blade called the “Ryoba edge.” Each side is angled to achieve 15-degree sharpness.

This specific angle was determined from day one, and it was proved to be a perfect degree for creating the thinnest, most even vegetable slices.

Regarding the Santoku knives, besides the Ryoba-edge model, you can also get the Kataba-edge one. The one with Kataba edge has only one side sharpened.

The angle ranges from ten to 15 degrees on the Ryoba version, equal to 30 degrees on the Kataba one. Since the second offers a wide range of uses, there is no standard angle for all knives.

Some knives with Kataba edges can have blade angles of less than ten degrees, requiring some experience before use. For that reason, the blade angle depends greatly on what purpose you are using the knives for.

The Weight

The weight plays an important role in determining the knives’ ease of use. Both are much lighter than standard kitchen knives because the handle material is more lightweight, and the blades are thinner.

The vegetable knives tend to be the heavier ones when comparing the two, which can be explained by the cutting action of each.

Chopping vegetables with classic Nakiri knives requires constant up-and-down movement, the extra weight is ideal for creating a stronger pull when the blade is on its way down the food.

For the latter, due to their multifunctional nature, the lightness enables them to be more maneuverable and flexible when dealing with different food types.

The Price

The model is an essential factor when it comes to the price. Generally speaking, the multipurpose knives come at a higher price compared to the other competitor.

With that said, the knife is not the only thing that influences the final cost. The manufacturer, the materials used, and the knife’s overall quality are also worth considering.

Nakiri Knife Or Santoku Knife – Quick Rundowns

Nakiri Knife

Pros of Nakiri knives:

Cons of Nakiri:

Santoku Knife

Pros of Santoku Knives:

Cons of Santoku Knives:

Santoku Or Nakiri: Which Is The One?

Coming out of a blow-by-blow comparison post, you might be facing the dilemma of choosing between the traditional, single-purpose knife or the more versatile knife. Should you have both of them if they serve different purposes?

Our answer is: It depends!

Nakiri knives’ strength comes down to their lighting speed and uniformity. Therefore, it is the best choice to chop your vegetables and fruits in the most efficient way.

There will be no rocking motion needed, no unnecessary hand force shredded, and no time wasted.

Investing in a Nakiri knife will be the best decision for vegans, vegetarians, or fruit and vegetable lovers.

On the other hand, if you have no interest in using various knife models in the kitchen, opt for the multifunctional one. They are more versatile and can tackle nearly any kind of food.

However, the versatile knives might ask you for some prior experiences in using knives because there is a certain level of finesse in an all-purpose one.

Should You Always Have a Santoku in Your Kitchen?

The answer is no.

You don’t have to, but it’s always a good thing to have one of these Japanese knives, nonetheless.

In case you want to buy a new one, then Santoku knives from Shun or Wusthof would be decent choices.

Santoku vs Nakiri – The Bottom Line

This is finally the end of our comparison post. It surely has been an informative ride, and we hope you have gained a good understanding of these two knife types.

Each performs better at different tasks because they are designed for specific purposes. Therefore, it will be unfair to state that one is superior to the other because it is subjective and largely depends on the users’ needs.

For that reason, to make the right decision, it is essential to determine what you are looking for in a knife beforehand, then choose the knife accordingly. All in all, we wish you luck and see you next time!

Further reading:

5 Tips for Caring for Kitchen Knives: Dos and Don’ts

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.