Facts You Need To Know About The Nakiri Knife

Nakiri knife after chopping herbs
There’s no cuisine in the World that doesn’t include cutting or chopping vegetables. This is an every day, several-times-a-day task in restaurants and households alike. Just like you worry about having a good roasting pan or a good dutch oven, a Nakiri vegetable knife is a fine asset to include in your cookware set along with chefs knives and paring knives. 

Japanese knives are well known in the culinary industry. Most chefs choose to have at least one Japanese knife in their knife bags. Graceful, sharp and precise, these knives have a lot to offer. 

But the Japanese, meticulous as they are, have designed different knives for different purposes, so it’s only respectful for us Westerners to get and use the right one. Today we study one of the most humble, loyal Japanese knives: The Nakiri.

1. What is a Nakiri Knife?

Dalstrong Shogun Series 6'' Nakiri Knife beside a platter of chopped vegetables.

The Nakiri is a Japanese vegetable knife. The word “Nakiri” stands for something like “leaf cutter” in Japanese. This Japanese blade has a clear purpose: to slice, chop, mince or dice vegetables or fruits.

The Nakiri has an unmistakable shape that makes it easy to recognize (although it is common to confuse it with a Chinese cleaver). The blade is long, thin, rectangular and with a straight cutting edge. 

The most common lengths for a Nakiri blade are 165mm, 170mm or 180mm. But they can come in sizes between 120mm and 210mm.

Advantages of a Nakiri knife:

  • A Nakiri performs ideally when you need delicate, thin slices.
  • This kitchen knife also makes it easier to cut uniform or same-size pieces.
  • Fast cutting: cut more vegetables in less time.
  • Easy cutting: Nakiri knives do the job with a single motion and require less effort than, for example, regular paring knives.
  • Especially recommended for delicate veggies that must be treated gently. Chop delicately without damaging food.
  • Double bevel, making straight cutting even easier and also suitable for both left-handed and right-handed chefs.
  • The Nakiri design allows knuckle clearance.
  • Unlike knives with a curved blade, the size of a Nakiri blade won’t change in size after being sharpened.

    2. The Nakiri vs. Other Types of Knives

    6'' Nakiri Knife | Shogun Series | Dalstrong ©

    What makes a Nakiri unique? First, the blade design is not traditional, it is long and rectangular with a straight edge. Also, this is a double bevel knife. Moreover, the Nakiri is a specialty knife designed for a specific purpose: cutting vegetables to perfection. 

    But with so many types of knives, it’s easy to be confused. This is why we list the major differences regarding similar and common kitchen knives:

    Nakiri vs. Usuba

    • The Nakiri is double bevel, while the Usuba is single bevel.
    • The Usuba’s blade is usually heavier and thicker than the Nakiri.
    • The Usuba is mostly used by professional chefs, while the Usuba is common in any type of kitchen, including homes. 

    Nakiri vs. Cleaver

    • They are easily confused because of their similar shape, but they’re quite different.
    • The cleaver is great for meat, while the Nakiri is designed for cutting vegetables and fruits.
    • The Chinese cleaver is versatile and can also be used for fish and some vegetables, while the Nakiri is not recommended for other foods other than veggies.
    • The blades are similar but the Nakiri is thin and the Cleaver is thick, for tougher foods.

    Nakiri vs. Santoku knives and Chef’s Knife

    • The Western Chef’s knife, as well as Santoku knives (Japanese chef’s knife), feature a traditional knife shape, and not a rectangular one like the Nakiri.
    • Chef’s knives and Santoku knives are multi-purpose, while the Nakiri is mostly meant for chopping vegetables.
    • In general, you can use a chef’s knife (Western or Japanese) for the same things you would use a Nakiri; but not the other way around.

    Nakiri vs. Deba 

    • The Deba knife is originally meant for cutting chicken and fish. It is too thick for cutting delicate vegetables, which is Nikiri's specialty.
    • The Deba’s blade is curved and pointed, while the Nakiri is rectangular with a straight edge.
    • The Deba is single beveled, while the Nakiri is double beveled.

    3. How To Use a Nakiri?

    A nakiri knife against a dark grey background next to seven tomatoes on a vine6'' Nakiri Knife | Phantom Series | Dalstrong ©

    1. Use the Nakiri to cut and chop vegetables, fruits, herbs and greens. 
    2. When using a Nakiri knife, apply a vertical cutting motion (up and down).
    3. Use a “pull/push” technique with cabbages and lettuce (Nakiris are great for coleslaw meal prep).
    4. The straight edge actually touches the cutting board, so the cuts are cleaner when using a Nakiri.
    5. Most of the time, you’ll get the job done with a single downward movement. You’ll be surprised how good it works with foods like green onions or tomatoes, where it’s usually not so easy to cut with a single, clean stroke. 
    6. It is not recommended to use a Nakiri for heavier work (like cutting through bones).
    7. You don’t need to use a rocking motion.

    4. What To Consider Before Buying A Nakiri Knife

    Nakiri Knife laying beside pile of salt
    • The steel type is a good place to start. High carbon stainless steel is a good bet when shopping for a Nakiri knife. The edge retention is better than regular stainless steel. However, stainless steel is still very durable and resistant to corrosion and rust. Damascus steel is another great option as it combines the perks of the two (stainless steel and carbon).
    • When talking about handles; it all comes down to personal preferences. Nakiris can come with different handle designs, the most common ones are the “wa” Japanese handle and traditional Western handle. Consider the type of grip you’re most comfortable using.
    • One important thing to consider is that vegetables tend to stick to the knife’s blade, so buying a Nakiri knife that offers extra features against sticking is a huge plus (for example, divots on the blade).
    • Regarding size, 7” is a safe choice if you are unsure about the length you want. If you do know what you want, however, there are bigger and smaller Nakiris out there for you.

    5. Unique Dalstrong Nakiri Knives You Should Try

    1. Nakiri Knife 7"- Gladiator Series

    Nakiri Knife 7"- Gladiator Series

    The best thing about Dalstrong’s Gladiator Series is that all designs are focused on comfort and practicality. When you add these attributes to such a humble, noble knife like the Nakiri, what you get is a love story. 

    PROS:

    • High-carbon German steel in a single piece with added Chromium.
    • Rock-hollow divots on the blade to prevent the food from sticking. 
    • The blade is tall enough to give your knuckles a rest.
    • Ergonomic and ambidextrous handle for full comfort when cutting vegetables.
    • The hand polished bolster brings a feeling of balance and protects your fingers.
    • It comes with a water and stain resistant sheath.   

    CONS:

    • The Gladiator Series is perfect for those with an elegant, rather sober personality. Those looking for a flashier design, take a look at our next Nakiri recommendation below.
    • This knife is strong and sturdy, meant to feel empowering. Some people prefer lighter knives.

    2. Nakiri Vegetable Knife 6"- Shogun Series ELITE

    Nakiri Vegetable Knife 6"- Shogun Series ELITE

    I personally love the Japanese models from the Shogun series. Somehow it’s like reinforcing the “Japanese” flair of it all. Besides, this Dalstrong series features really beautiful knives and knife sets that feel more like legendary samurai blades.

    PROS:

    • The blade is made of no less than 67 layers of high carbon stainless steel.
    • Brutally sharp (after going through the Japanese Honbazuke method).
    • The hammered finish on the blade reduces the chances of food sticking to the blade or dragging along. 
    • Hand-polished, comfortable handle.
    • If you use a pinch grip you’ll be glad to find extraordinary smoothness on the blade’s spine.

    CONS:

    • Quality comes at a price, and this is not the cheapest option on the list.
    • Depending on what you will be slicing and cooking, a 6” knife might not be enough for you. 

    3. Nakiri Knife 6.5" - Frost Fire Series

    Nakiri Knife 6.5" - Frost Fire Series

    The Frost Fire series is a collection of high performance knives with a very unique “icy” look. As a result, this “icy” Japanese Nakiri will become a very special addition to your kitchen, and a pleasure to pull out and use for your veggie-packed meals.

    PROS:

    • Agile and lightweight Nakiri model.
    • Sandblasted finish to increase non-stick properties.
    • Premium 7-ply high-carbon steel.
    • Ultra-durable white resin handle.
    • Full tang for greater strength.
    • It comes with a beautiful Dalstrong leather sheath.

    CONS:

    • For more conservative cooks, the all-white design of this knife can feel too exotic or difficult to combine with another cookware set, knife sets and knife bags.
    • Again, if you’re looking to buy your first ever Nakiri knife or if you’re unsure about the best size for you; maybe you should start with a 7”.

    4. Nakiri Knife 7" - Omega Series

    Nakiri Knife 7" - Omega Series

    Very few Nakiri knives can offer such an original, groovy-looking blade like this one from the Omega series. It’s called the “LiquidMetal” pattern and it’s not randomly beautiful: it is meant to facilitate meal and vegetable prep. 

    PROS:

    • Ultra-premium American hyper steel.
    • 63+ Rockwell which translates into greater edge retention.
    • The “LiquidMetal" pattern increases efficiency in cutting tasks.
    • The G10 fiberglass offers extraordinary durability and strength.

    CONS: 

    • While Dalstrong offers more affordable options, they also offer higher-end knives (like this one) that require more flexible budgets.
    • Following the same line of thought, it’s a considerable investment for such a specific blade. If you were looking for a multi-purpose knife, a Nakiri might not be it.

    5. Nakiri Vegetable Knife 7" - Shadow Black Series

    Nakiri Vegetable Knife 7" - Shadow Black Series  

    This double-bevel Nakiri is characterized by its elegant, sober, black aesthetics: some kind of midnight vibe. But the choice is not superficial, it is the result of a non-reflective titanium-nitride coating that enhances resistance and non-stick properties.

    PROS:

    • Forged in high carbon steel with a vacuum treatment at +58 Rockwell.
    • Original, geometric handle that promises a comfortable grip and maximum maneuverability.
    • Sophisticated style, for those who like the innovative and futuristic.
    • Great price for the quality and exclusive design. 

    CONS:

    • I am aware the geometric, black design may not suit the taste of everyone. Personally, it’s my favorite.
    • While some cooks are happy trying new things and innovative designs, others are more traditional and will prefer a Japanese D-shaped handle for their Nakiri.

    6. How To Care For Your Nakiri Knife

    • Always clean your Nakiri knife immediately after every use (always by hand, never in the dishwasher!). Warm, soapy water should do just fine. Dry thoroughly after washing.
    • Use a sharpening stone or a whetstone to sharpen your Nakiri knife every time it is needed. The frequency of sharpening will be determined by the frequency of use but also by the material and quality of the blade.
    • Speaking of which; using a proper cutting board is also part of your knife’s maintenance routine. An end-grain wooden board will keep your knives sharper for longer.
    • Proper knife storage is key to keeping them at their best performance. A knife block would be ideal. In any case, never put them in piles or loose inside a drawer.
    • You should do an oil treatment to the blade every once in a while.

    7. Frequently Asked Questions About Nakiri Knives

    What can I cut with a Nakiri knife?

    All vegetables and fruits you can think of! Cabbage, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, lemons, oranges, pineapples… These are just examples!

    What are the best steel types for a Nakiri?

    High carbon steel is a great choice. Damascus steel is also a safe bet for a Japanese knife. Stainless steel is still a good choice.

    How to sharpen a Nakiri knife?

    You can use a whetstone, a sharpening stone or a honing rod to sharpen a Nakiri knife. Actually, this is one of the easiest knives to sharpen! The process is no different than sharpening another knife.

    SHOP DALSTRONG NAKIRI KNIVES TODAY

    Written by Eva Contreras
    Food & travel writer based in Buenos Aires. Superpowers include relentless curiosity and high tolerance to spicy foods.

    Facts You Need To Know About The Nakiri Knife

    Table of Content