What’s the Difference between Sushi Rolls and Hand Rolls?

Lunch hour. You already know what you want (after all, you’ve been craving it all week!) You run into the nearby Japanese shop. The sushi menu has two options: makizushi and temaki. A line forms behind you. You have to order fast! Others might hesitate, but not you. You’re going to learn the difference between sushi rolls and hand rolls!

Sushi Roll vs Hand Roll

Sushi is an umbrella term for a wide variety of rice-and-seafood delicacies. Maki (sushi rolls) and temaki (hand rolls) are only two types. “Maki” literally means “to roll”. The word “temaki” means “hand-roll” (“te”=hand, “maki”=roll).

When you take vinegared rice and fish (or other ingredients), wrap them in seaweed, roll them in a bamboo mat, and slice that roll into pieces, you get a sushi roll (maki). When you place the ingredients on the seaweed, roll everything by hand, and hold it like an ice-cream cone, you get a hand roll (temaki).

Contrary to what many believe, the word “sushi” actually refers to the rice (“su”=vinegar, “shi”=rice), and has nothing to do with fish. Some varieties have no fish at all!

Fun fact: while some modern varieties of hand rolls exclude rice, traditionally, it isn’t “real” sushi, as sushi contains rice by definition.  What to try it. your self then For More info you can visit Ohhellobroadway.


Sushi may be a delicacy today, but originally, the rice wasn’t even edible! Let’s take a brief look at sushi’s history to understand where each style came from.

Around 400 BCE, Chinese fishermen used rice and salt to ferment fish. They would eat the fish, but toss the rice! When this method entered Japan, peasants saw this as wasteful and began eating the rice with the fish. After several hundred years of transformations, sushi evolved.

The first rolls only came about in the 1700s. Properly fermenting fish took months. Only nobles could afford to get their hands on sushi! So when a commoner discovered that rice vinegar shortened the process, he rolled everything up in seaweed (nori), and served it to the lower classes – the birth of makizushi!

Temaki’s history is even more interesting! Shortly after, entertainment flourished in Japan. People wanted an even faster way to enjoy sushi. By wrapping the same ingredients in seaweed paper by hand, they now had a grab-and-go snack they could eat without getting their hands dirty while gambling.

Sushi Roll vs Hand Roll

Where does the confusion lie? Probably in all the similarities they share!


Both maki and temaki:

  • Contain similar ingredients (seafood, vegetables, vinegared rice)
  • Are wrapped in nori
  • Can exclude fish (read: can be veganized!)
  • Can be cooked or raw

Sushi Roll vs Hand Roll: The Differences

While similar, the differences lie in the preparation and presentation.

Sushi Roll (Maki)

  • Always begins as a long cylinder using a bamboo mat
  • Always cut into 6-8 pieces
  • You can share, or mix and match varieties
  • You can leave out the nori
  • You can use chopsticks
  • Shape is important – it’s an artistic craft!

Hand Roll (Temaki)

  • Always rolled by hand (hence the name)
  • Always conical (like sushi ice cream!)
  • You can’t cut, share, or mix and match
  • You must wrap in nori (you wouldn’t be able to hold it otherwise!)
  • You eat it by hand
  • Special skills not required!


Sushi has a long history, as varied and colorful as the rolls we enjoy today. It comes in many shapes and sizes, and just as many names. But now that you know the difference between the sushi roll vs hand roll, they’ll never trip you up again. One order of tuna makizushi to go, onegaishimasu!