Back to top

(773) 465-3900


EZcRc Login

[email protected]



By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator

Q. Sushi seems pretty simple – just rice and vegetables.  Are there any kashrus concerns?

A. As with most kashrus issues, the first thing to think about is the ingredients, and the ones which most obviously need hashgachah are the vinegar, seaweed, soy sauce, and fish, as follows.  Briefly, vinegar can be made from wine (stam yayin) or processed on the same equipment as wine vinegar, certain types of seaweed are potentially infested with insects, soy sauce is a fermented product which raises ingredient and equipment issues, and fish cannot be considered kosher unless it has scales on it.  [Many of these issues were discussed in more detail in previous columns in this series.]

Assuming all ingredients are kosher, it is also important that a Jewish person be involved in the cooking of the rice and fish, to ensure that they are bishul Yisroel.   A particular challenge Mashgichim have in creating bishul Yisroel for sushi rice is that many rice cookers automatically turn off when the rice is fully cooked and/or when the pot is lifted out.  This means, that each time a new batch of rice is cooked, the Mashgiach must be there to turn the cooker on.  [In contrast, once the Mashgiach turns on an oven or stovetop at a restaurant, it tends to stay on for many hours, and he does not have to repeatedly turn it on.]

A question that comes up is that since some create sushi with raw fish, does that mean that nowadays fish is considered “edible raw”, in which case bishul Yisroel should never be required for any fish?  Three answers are given to this question:  Firstly, it is not clear that most people in the United States (or a given city there) are willing to eat sushi made with raw fish.  Secondly, eating pure raw fish (known as sashimi) is quite uncommon in this country.  Thus, even if people eat raw fish when it adds a tanginess or spice to their food, that does not yet mean that it is considered “edible raw”.  Lastly, only the freshest and finest fish is suitable for use in sushi, while the fish used for smoking, canning, etc., are generally not “sushi-grade”.  Thus, even if sushi-grade fish is edible raw, the other forms are not.

Two other questions relevant to kosher consumers are the bracha on sushi and whether rolls of sushi can be made on Shabbos.  As relates to berachos: what do you do when the roll is made of components that have different brachos (rice – mezonos; avocado – ha’eitz; vegetables – ha’adamah; and fish – shehakol)? In turn, the answer depends on two questions: Firstly, is the sushi viewed as one item for which you recite just one bracha (see below) or as separate items, each of which deserves their own bracha? Secondly, if it is considered one item, as a general rule, the bracha is determined by whichever is the “main” ingredient; is that the rice (the one with the most volume and which is where the name “sushi” comes from) or the fish, vegetables, etc. which give this roll its unique appeal?  The answers to these questions depend partially on personal preference and also on different opinions in the Poskim, and consumers should ask their personal Rabbi for guidance.

There are different possible reasons why one would be forbidden to create sushi rolls on Shabbos.  One is that one may not cut food into small, fine pieces, since that is considered a variation of tochein (grinding).  This can be avoided by cutting the vegetables and fish before Shabbos, or being sure to make pieces which are not too small, and some say that this concern does not apply at all if it is done right before the meal.  A more significant concern is that it might be considered a form of boneh (building) to mold the disparate components into a combined unit.  Here again, contemporary Poskim have voiced different opinions: some forbid it outright, while others say that boneh only applies if the rolls are made in a professional manner, where the finished sushi rolls are beautiful and presentable.  As with the bracha question, consumers are encouraged to speak to their Rabbi for guidance on this and other matters of halacha.

This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, May 31, 2024.