nakiri knife or japanese vegetable cleaver

The Best Nakiri Knife: Choosing the Best Japanese Vegetable Cleaver

The Nakiri knife

The Nakiri knife is a Japanese style knife with a rectangular shaped blade. The edge is double beveled, meaning it is sharpened on both sides, and the cutting edge is long and flat. This long flat edge ensures maximum contact with the cutting board and is optimal for an up and down cutting motion (as opposed to a rock chop). It is best for slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing fruits and veggies. The Nakiri knife typically has a thin blade and is lightweight. It’s a wonderful vegetable knife that is enjoyable to use and is perfect for many prep tasks in the kitchen.

The Vegetable Cleaver vs Nakiri Knife

Due to the rectangular shape of the blade, the Nakiri is sometimes referred to as a vegetable cleaver. Vegetable cleaver is an appropriate name but the word “vegetable” in “vegetable cleaver” is important; the Nakiri is not a typical cleaver. A typical cleaver has a thick heavy blade and the cutting edge is sharpened to a very wide sharpening angle. It is used for heavy duty tasks like chopping through bones. The Nakiri is not designed for such tasks. It’s thinner blade and narrow sharpening angle optimize it as a fruit and vegetable knife.

vegetable knife, nakiri, and vegetable cleaver

Nakiri vs Santoku

The Santoku knife, which has the shape of a sheep’s foot, is similar to the Nakiri with respect to the flat cutting edge of the blade. Since both knives have a straight cutting edge, both are therefore designed for an up and down chopping motion where the blade makes maximum contact with the cutting board.

The Nakiri, however, is shaped like a rectangle, while the Santoku is shaped like a sheep’s foot. The rectangular shape of the Nakiri spreads the weight more equally along the cutting edge, while the sheeps foot shape of the Santoku means the blade is lightest at the tip. Another consequence is that the Santoku will become shorter over time as the knife is sharpened, while the cutting edge length of the Nakiri will remain constant after repeated sharpenings.

Nakiri vs Usuba

Both the Nakiri and Usuba knife are Japanese knives with rectangularly shaped blades. They are very similar in appearance. The main difference is that the Usuba knife is a single bevel (edge only sharpened on one side) while the Nakiri knife is double bevel (edge sharpened on both sides). If you don’t want to get into sharpening a single bevel knife, then a Nakiri knife is probably the way to go. The Usuba is also typically a little thicker and heavier than a Nakiri.

Best Nakiri Knives

The following list contains some of the best Nakiri knives. These Japanese knives will make quick work of your veggies; plus they look pretty cool in the kitchen.


Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri Knife

Shun is a popular Japanese knife manufacturer, and the Shun classic line is one of their most popular. Their knives are crafted in Seki, Japan – the center of Japanese sword and knife manufacturing. The Shun Classic Nakiri knife is both beautiful and functional – from the pakkawood handle to the VG10 steel blade with Damascus pattern. Overall a fantastic Japanese Nakiri that you’ll enjoy every time you dice onions and julienne carrots.


ZWILLING Gourmet 6.5 Nakiri Knife

This German Nakiri knife is from Zwilling JA Henckels, a German knife manufacturer located in Solingen. The Western style handle is triple riveted with full tang construction. This helps with comfort and balance of the vegetable knife in your hand. Henckels boasts a special formula German steel that they have been perfecting for over 285 years. If you’re already a JA Henckels fan, then you’ll be very happy with this vegetable cleaver.


Wusthof Classic 5″ Hollow Edge Nakiri Knife/Vegetable Cleaver

Wusthof is another German manufacturer located in Solingen. The Wusthof classic line is popular among both home cooks and professional chefs. If you are a Wusthof fan, this Wusthof Classic Nakiri knife is a sure thing. The Western style handle is made of POM, a comfortable and highly durable plastic. It is also triple riveted and full tang. This vegetable cleaver has indentations along the blade, reducing friction and drag while cutting. The thin blade and acute sharpening angle allow this vegetable knife to make quick work of any veggie you throw at it.


Kai Wasabi Black Nakiri Knife 6.5″

This Kai Nakiri knife is a good buy at around $40. Kai is a 111 year old Japanese knife maker, and this knife is crafted in Seki, Japan. The Japanese style handle is made of polypropylene, a very durable plastic. The vegetable knife is made of high carbon stainless steel, giving it superior edge retention while still maintaining resistance to rust and corrosion. This vegetable cleaver will make quick work of your veggie prep at a very reasonable price.


Mercer Culinary M22907 Millennia 7 Nakiri Knife, Black

This Mercer Nakiri knife is a great value at around $20. Mercer is an american company, and the knife was made in Taiwan. The steel, however, is Japanese, and is able to retain a sharp edge over time. The handle of this vegetable knife is Santoprene, a mix between plastic and rubber. This provides grip and comfort while also being extremely durable. Definitely an excellent vegetable cleaver on a budget.


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