Why Is Wasabi Served With Sushi? (All You Need to Know)

When we speak of sushi, we always think of it together with wasabi because these two components go hand in hand. While some people eat sushi without wasabi, it rarely happens. However, when we speak of wasabi, we always think of sushi. So, you may ask:

Why is wasabi served with sushi? Wasabi is served with sushi traditionally because this component helps make the raw fish taste better and fights bacteria that the raw fish may contain. Until today, wasabi is enjoyed for that exact purpose. However, it is now meant to bring out the raw fish’s taste and not cover it.  

A bit of wasabi on top of sushi works a long way, and sushi takes a whole new level of flavor and taste when adding some wasabi. In a way, wasabi serves to disinfect the food and make it more flavorful. If you’re new to eating sushi and unfamiliar with wasabi, learning this information can help you understand their purpose.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about wasabi and why it is served with sushi. This way, you can learn more about this component and the dish and see why the two pairs well together.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

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Why do people eat wasabi with sushi?

People eat wasabi with sushi for two reasons: to make the fish taste better by bringing out its flavor and disinfecting the raw fish from the bacteria it may contain.

Since sushi contains raw fish, the flavor needs some elevation from the wasabi’s spicy kick. Further, the raw fish may contain bacteria that can cause problems, and the chemical components of wasabi can help disinfect the food, making it safe for consumption.

Wasabi, a spicy green paste, is traditionally served with sushi as a relish, but it is also used in other meals. Like traditional chili, it affects your tastebuds more than your nerve endings. It has both a pleasant and spicy burn.

Wasabi is known for its burning sensation due to a chemical called sinigrin, which belongs to a family of compounds known as glucosinolates. By themselves, glucosinolates taste bitter. However, when mixed with an enzyme, they become allyl isothiocyanate, which tastes pungent.

Aside from having a rich flavor and odor, wasabi also contains micronutrients that may help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, dermatitis, diabetes, bowel disorders, obesity, and several forms of cancer.

Are you supposed to eat wasabi with sushi?

Yes, you are supposed to eat wasabi with sushi. While some people don’t like adding wasabi to their sushi, it’s a traditional relish enjoyed on top of sushi.

If you add wasabi to your sushi, you will get the spicy kick affecting your sinuses. However, adding a proper amount should elevate the raw flavor of sushi and make it more delicious. 

However, adding more wasabi can overpower your sushi’s flavor, so it would be best not to overdo it. You’ll get the balance from both sushi and wasabi when done right.

Do Japanese eat sushi with wasabi?

Yes, Japanese people eat sushi with wasabi, a traditional combination served all the time in the country. 

In general, wasabi is a relish that you’ll either love or hate, and it’s a popular condiment in Japanese cuisine. While sushi is a condiment you can use with Japanese dishes, it’s most popular with sushi.

Some people prefer to mix it with soy sauce, but tradition says it’s supposed to be placed on top of sushi. A small amount gives a spicy kick without an aftertaste.

You can add wasabi to sushi rolls by dabbing a small piece on one side, then flipping it over and dipping the other side into soy sauce. 

Using this method, you will achieve the perfect balance of all the flavors. For example, you can add a piece of ginger into your mouth between each type when eating sushi.

What kind of wasabi is used when eating sushi?

When eating wasabi, you should add a paste supposedly created by grating the wasabi plant’s roots using a tool the Japanese people call sharkskin.

As sharkskin has a delicate, sandpaper-like texture, it preserves the flavor and texture of fresh wasabi when grated.

In high-end restaurants, especially in sushi studios, you’ll see chefs preparing the sushi fresh and wasabi. Then, they grate the wasabi using sharkskin in front of you.

With this in mind, you should note that the wasabi plant is quite rare and expensive, and you won’t get this experience from local stores that offer affordable sushi. In such cases, you’ll only get a paste.

There is no real wasabi in over 95% of the wasabi served in sushi restaurants. Fake wasabi is commonly made with horseradish, mustard flour, cornstarch, and food coloring. As a result, many people who believe they know wasabi have never tried it!

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How are you supposed to eat wasabi with sushi?

To add wasabi to your sushi rolls, dab a small amount of wasabi on the side of the sushi roll that will be facing you. 

After that, you will want to flip it over and dab it into your soy sauce on the other side. As a result, you can achieve the right balance of all the flavors simultaneously. 

Eating a piece of ginger between each type of sushi you eat is a good idea to absorb its flavor.


In a nutshell, sushi is served with wasabi because it helps make raw fish taste better. Also, it keeps the sushi safe for consumption by disinfecting it from the bacteria the raw fish may contain. Wasabi continues to be enjoyed in the same way today. On the other hand, it is now intended to enhance the flavor of raw fish rather than disguise it.  

The addition of wasabi to sushi adds a whole new level of flavor and taste. A small amount goes a long way. In a sense, it disinfects the food and enhances its flavor. This information can help you understand what wasabi is for if you’re new to sushi eating and unfamiliar with it.


Image credits – Canva

[1] Antimicrobial Effect of Wasabia japonica or Wasabi on Raw Salmon in Served Sashimi at Japanese Restaurants in Medan, ResearchGate

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