What Is A Nakiri Knife Used For?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 04/02/21 •  5 min read

The Nakiri is a knife that originated in Japan and is used specifically for slicing and chopping vegetables. With its wide heel, straight spine and belly, and flat tip that is parallel to the heel, this is shaped much like the meat cleaver. The only difference is it is thinner and sharper since it is used, as aforementioned, for fruits and vegetables.

Japanese knives can be categorized into two groups: the traditional single-serving pieces which were made before the Meiji period and the more modern ones patterned after Western-style blades designed after they opened their borders to foreigners.

Directly translated as ‘knife for cutting greens’, the Nakiri can be cataloged under the former.

A lot of people nowadays – even in Japan – don’t go for task-specific knives when there are more versatile pieces available such as the Gyuto.

But you might wonder why this particular knife is becoming quite popular all over the world…

Related: The best nakiri knives for your money

What is it?

A Nakiri Knife is a rectangular-shaped knife that usually doesn’t have a sharp tip.

Being a vegetable cleaver, it is much thinner and lighter compared to a meat cleaver.

The lightness makes it comfortable to use even for longer periods of time.

It has half the size of a Chinese vegetable cleaver’s blade surface.

It has a straight blade of about 6 to 7 inches (approximately 15 to 17 centimeters) that allows the user to use it in an up and down motion, compared to those curved ones that will allow a rocking movement from heel to the tip.

Like all other straight-edged knives, have to be used with a chopping board for easier use.

Modern Nakiri knives retain the same characteristics but have ‘dimples’ on them.

These dimples are called grantons that help the item being sliced not stick on the blade’s surface.

It allows air to pass through, making the sliced item detach easily from the knife.

This makes the item being sliced keep its shape while continuously being sliced.

Some may force the knife to go down while the item is stuck to it, which can cause the bottom part to get deformed.

What is it used for?

A Nakiri is considered to be the Japanese version of the usual vegetable cleaver in Western and Chinese markets.

There’s a lot of reviews from cooks and professional chefs that it is great for chopping, julienne, and dicing.

The wider surface compared to a chef’s knife can be used to transfer the more sliced items to the pot or another area easily.

It is great for vegetables that have enough firmness such as eggplants, cucumber, zucchini, and the likes.

It can julienne, chop, slice, and dice for food preparation.

Aside from vegetables, it is great for fruits too.

You can use the Nakiri to make great slices of apples for your apple pies, mangoes for cake garnishing, and a whole lot more.

It might remove your need for a corer as it can assist in getting the fruit flesh easier with the thin blade profile.

It may have a tall rectangular shape but it can deal with small items such as garlic, shallots, onions, and herbs.

The wider surface compared to a chef’s knife can be used to transfer the sliced items to the pot or another area easily.

You may also use it on fish due to its thinness.

You may slice through tuna, salmon, and other fish that have fewer bones perfect for sashimi or sushi.

However, there is a better Japanese knife that can be used for slicing fishes.

Tips for maintenance

The Nakiri is usually made with stainless steel that makes it easy to clean and store.

It has a high resistance to corrosion even if it gets wet most of the time.

You may place it in the dishwasher, but check first the material of the handle as it could not be dishwasher-safe.

It is recommended to keep it if the knife’s attached user guide is included.

This will help you know how to properly take care of the knife with consideration of the materials they have used in manufacturing.

This will make the knife last longer.

Taking care of knives does not only mean cleaning and storing them – but they should also be kept sharp.

Using dull or chipped knives can make chopping and slicing consume more time.

It could also cause serious accidents and injury.

Having a thin and straight-edged blade, it can be sharpened using an electronic knife sharpener.

Remember to follow the instructions in using the automatic sharpener to see the compatibility too.

If you don’t own one, you can still use a whetstone which can also assist in sharpening other straight-edged tools that you might own such as scissors or garden shears.

Where to get one?

It is popular with chefs and professional cooks, but not with a lot of household kitchen cooks.

Just like most Japanese knives (except for the santoku knife which is very popular even in western kitchens), they could not be easily available in standard kitchen supply stores or supermarkets.

The internet will help you get a Nakiri by just typing it on the search bar! Most importantly, just like when buying any other item on the internet, always check first the item thoroughly before checking out.

Browse through the photos given by the seller, look for customer reviews, or watch YouTube videos about the brand and item.

Online marketplaces and official online stores of popular knife makers should make this type of knife available.


A lot of people could be unfamiliar with the Nakiri, which is a very helpful kitchen knife.

Its characteristic makes it a perfect kitchen companion to those who love vegetables.

Once you own it, you might be curious about how other Japanese knives could be more helpful in the kitchen!

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.