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Nakiri vs. Santoku Knives: What’s The Difference?

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The Nakiri vs. Santoku is a tricky debate, especially considering their similar capabilities and equally top-notch craftsmanship qualities. This is not surprising given their similar heritage, but there are still many differences between these two knives.

In this review, you’ll learn about all the significant differences in design, materials, ergonomics, and price between the Nakiri and Santoku knives!


What is Nakiri?

Nakiri vs. Santoku Knives

The Nakiri is a Japanese knife made in the 17th Century around Japan’s Edo Period (1). Traditional Japanese cuisine consists of vegetables, rice, and fish. So, people developed the Nakiri knife to best cater to Japanese home cooking.

The Nakiri knife comes with a rectangular blade, resembling a Chinese cleaver, a rounded tip, and a straight-edge finish. This makes it perfect for chopping vegetables via a rocking motion.

Related: Best Nakiri Knife


What is Santoku?

what is santoku knife

A Santoku knife is a multi-purpose Japanese chef’s knife that focuses on three main cutting tasks. Translating to mean “three virtues,” the Santoku knife is designed for chopping vegetables, cutting meat, and slicing fish.

This blade was made well after the Edo Period, roughly around the World War II era (2). This was when Japanese cuisine began to include more meat dishes. During this time, all-purpose knives grew in popularity.

Related: The Best Japanese Knives Set


How are they different?

Using a Nakiri knife

The Nakiri and Santoku knives may perform many of the same tasks but vary in results. The Nakiri knife uses a square blade that resembles a Chinese cleaver, while the Santoku knife uses a Western chef’s knife design.

As such, the Nakiri blade comes with a rounded tip, while the Santoku blade comes with a sharp pointed tip.

A good way to think about the difference between these two Japanese knives is that the Nakiri is a more traditional blade. Therefore, it specializes in one type of task, whereas the Santoku is better at multitasking.

Hence, the Nakiri blade tends to be sharpened at about 14-17 degrees per side. On the other hand, the Santoku reaches a much thinner blade angle of 10-12 degrees. 

Due to the greater surface area of steel on the Nakiri blade, it’s no surprise that it’s a significantly heavier knife than the Santoku. The Nakiri specializes in cutting vegetables. So, the flat blade and thicker spine allow for a stronger up-and-down cutting motion, allowing it to chop the ingredients in a single blow.

Another key difference between the two blades is that the Santoku features single-bevel edge grind designs in addition to a double bevel. In contrast, the Nakiri only features a double bevel. In that regard, the Santoku knife is more suited to professional chefs than the Nakiri knife, as single-bevel knives require more skill.

Ultimately, the main difference between Santoku and Nakiri knives is that the former is used for many kitchen tasks while the latter is a specialist knife.

Due to the greater versatility and higher demand for Santoku knives, it’s no wonder they are slightly more expensive than the Nakiri knife. However, you can find them at various prices, depending on brand reputation, material quality, and construction methods.


How are they similar?

using a santoku knife

As you may have guessed by now, the similarity between the Nakiri and Santoku knives is that they can chop down vegetables efficiently and effectively. In addition, both these knives are typically forged. Thirdly, they each feature cutting prowess, long-lasting durability, and edge retention.

They build the stainless steel blade with premium Japanese materials (usually super steels). In addition, it contains high carbon and chromium content to resist rust and corrosion from moisture exposure.

Another similarity between these knives is their ergonomics, handle materials, and design options. Traditionally, both knives featured D-shaped Pakkawood or Tagayasan wooden handles. This is a trademark of Japanese knives in earlier centuries.

Nowadays, both the Nakiri and Santoku knives have taken on the handle designs of the Western chef’s knife.This is from the influences of Western chefs and the constant innovations of Japanese chefs.

The Western chef’s knife places a greater emphasis on ergonomics with its handles. As a result, it often comprises additional features like finger safety locks and triple rivets. These handles are also made with synthetic materials. These provide extra grip security, enhanced durability, and dishwasher-safe benefits.

The Nakiri and Santoku also offer double-bevel edge grind blades in their collections, making them more appealing to home cooks and professional chefs.

Related: Best Chef Knife Under $100

What’s better about Nakiri?

better about Nakiri knife

The Nakiri knife is the clear winner when it comes to chopping vegetables. That is because it’s not an all-purpose knife, but a specialist blade designed to chop vegetables in a clean motion.

The flat edge and squared tips enable larger volumes of vegetable ingredients to be chopped in one motion. No slant on the blade’s edge would cause an uneven cut.

In addition to the superior uniform cuts achieved with the Nakiri, it also features hammered patterns along the blade length. This helps eliminate friction. It also ensures no food gets stuck to the cutting edge.


What’s better about Santoku?

best Santoku knife

The Santoku (or Santoku Bocho) is the more versatile knife of the two. It does better than the Nakiri in tasks other than vegetable chopping. The Santoku kitchen knife uses a thin blade with a sharp pointy tip. This enables the user to make more precise cuts of meat and fish, an essential requirement in Japanese cooking.

The slight slant on the blade and the curved spine allow for a more mobile cutting technique. This is helpful for intricate and delicate slicing tasks that require a rocking motion.


Who should get Nakiri and why?

should i get a Nakiri knife

The Nakiri is a great knife for homeowners and restaurant workers alike. They allow you to prepare large masses of vegetable ingredients for immediate or later use. For example, a home cook may need to put together a quick salad as a side for dinner. As such, the vegetables need to be chopped up as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Restaurants that require chopped vegetables on hand will benefit from a Nakiri knife. This is because it can ensure uniform results through repetitive chopping motions.


Who should get Santoku and why?

getting a santoku knife

Most homeowners would benefit more from a Santoku knife than a Nakiri, as the number of tasks you can accomplish with this knife is simply unmatched. On that note, those who prefer a multi-purpose knife will benefit more from the Santoku knife.

Restaurants offering delicious meat and fish dishes will thrive with multi-purpose Santoku knives in their culinary arsenal.





blade of santoku knife

Both Nakiri and Santoku knives feature high-carbon stainless steel blades that are long-lasting, strong, and resistant to rust and corrosion. They usually score around 60 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness Scale, a typical score among Japanese knives.

A key difference between the blades lies in the sharpness levels. Santoku knives come in as sharp as 10 degrees per side, while the Nakiri caps at about 15-degree sharpness.

Another key difference in the blade is the squared tips of the Nakiri, which differs from the Santoku’s pointed tips. This is because the Nakiri was made for chopping, while the Santoku can also slice with a rocking motion and utilize that sharp tip.

Overall, the multi-purpose facets of the Santoku blade make it superior to the Nakiri overall, but the Nakiri wins specifically in cutting vegetables.

Winner: Santoku



durability of Nakiri knife

In terms of durability, it would be difficult to tell these two blades apart based purely on their material, as they are typically made from the same source. However, the blade’s shape, the tang’s design, and the intended use of each ultimately contribute to how long the knife lasts.

The Santoku knife has a thinner blade. It is a more versatile knife in terms of the variety of tasks it accomplishes. So, it’s no surprise that the edge can dull faster than other knives like the Nakiri.

That being said, the Nakiri’s flat edge and squared tips help it to overcome all kinds of cutting board tasks with minimal damage to the blade. This is also partly because of the wider blade angles of the Nakiri, which, while not as sharp as the Santoku, can last significantly longer before going dull and mandating sharpening.

As far as the Santoku vs. Nakiri debate goes, the Nakiri will usually last longer than the Santoku due to fewer maintenance requirements.

Winner: Nakiri



ergonomics of santoku knife

When they first released Santoku and Nakiri knives, they came with wooden D-shaped handles designed in the style of Japan’s best artisans. Since then, the Santoku and Nakiri have expanded their design options to feature Western-style grips inspired by the West’s regular chef’s knife.

As such, you can purchase both the Santoku and the Nakiri knife in Eastern and Western handle designs. These choices include synthetic, wood, steel, and plastic handle materials available in D-shaped or riveted designs.

Winner: Tie

Related: Santoku vs. Gyuto: Which is the right one?


Nakiri vs Santoku FAQ

Questions about Nakiri knife

What is the difference between a Santoku and a Nakiri knife?

The main difference between a Santoku and a Nakiri knife is the whole blade design and their distinctive intended purposes. Designed for chopping vegetables, the Nakiri knife features a flat blade and squared tip, while the Santoku features a curved blade and pointed tip for various cutting tasks.


Can you use a Nakiri knife for everything?

No, a Nakiri knife is not a multi-purpose knife like the Santoku, and is designed to only chop vegetables using up-and-down cutting techniques. Nevertheless, the Nakiri is among the best knives for cutting greens effortlessly, and its design helps the user achieve uniform cuts across large volumes of vegetable ingredients at a time.


What do you use a Nakiri knife for?

The Nakiri knife is used for chopping vegetables and should not be used for any meat-cutting tasks as it could compromise the blade’s edge and damage it beyond repair. However, it is a great knife for repetitive vegetable-chopping tasks. It would suit any homeowner who frequently includes vegetables in their recipes.


What is a Santoku knife best for?

The Santoku knife is optimal for tackling complex recipes with various vegetable, meat, or fish ingredients in the mix. It can slice, dice, and chop thanks effortlessly to its slanted edge and pointed tip that is sharpened to 10-degree angles per side.

Nikiri knife and santoku knife

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