7 Reasons Why Sushi Is So Expensive and How to Save Money on Your Favorite Food

Sushi is one of the most popular foods in the world today. Whether it’s raw fish, rice, and vegetables, it’s delicious and nutritious. But it’s also expensive. So, do you need to fork over $10 per roll to enjoy a piece of sushi? The short answer is no. You can eat sushi for a lot less than that. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why sushi is so expensive and how to save money on your favorite food. 

Why is sushi so expensive? Sushi is so expensive because it takes high-quality, expensive ingredients (fish, rice) and skilled chefs to make delicious sushi. Sushi ingredients are imported, so the transportation fees and taxes bump up the price. Sushi is also so expensive because its ingredients are perishable and need to be kept fresh.

Here are the 7 Reasons Why Sushi Is So Expensive:

  1. Sushi ingredients are expensive
  2. A lot of preparation
  3. High labor costs 
  4. You pay for what you do not or cannot eat
  5. Sushi is perishable
  6. Import fees and taxes
  7. High demand

In this article, we will dive into each reason why sushi is so expensive and see how you can save money on your favorite food. Read on!

Sushi Ingredients Are Expensive

One of the main reasons why sushi is expensive is its ingredients. Sushi requires expensive high-quality seafood and rice for sushi to taste good. For example, one pound of premium sushi rice can cost up to $12-$15, while seafood can cost hundreds of dollars per pound. Also, sushi requires ingredients from all over the world rather than homegrown, which bumps the price significantly.

Sushi restaurants offer various rolls with different ingredients that need to be available. The most common ingredients used in sushi are shrimp, fish, squid, cuttlefish, octopus, tuna, salmon, mackerel, flounder, swordfish, sea bass, eel, etc. And restaurants have to order each ingredient from different places, for example, a restaurant can order scallops and sea urchins from Japan, tuna from Europe, and amberjack fish from Australia or New Zealand.

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However, not only seafood in sushi is expensive. Think about avocado or matsutake mushrooms that are often used in sushi. These ingredients also need to be imported and used only fresh to make sushi really delicious. When all sushi ingredients are graded, the sushi price cannot be low.

A Lot of Preparation

Sushi making is a true art, and art is expensive. Since sushi requires a lot of preparation (marinating, slicing, frying, boiling various ingredients), chefs dedicate a lot of time to making just one roll.

Sushi is made in different stages that all occupy plenty of time, and that raises the price significantly. So chefs have to multitask and ensure all ingredients remain fresh to provide the best tasting sushi for you. Also, to make sushi, chefs have to use expensive equipment like sushi chef tools, rice barrels, thermal rice warmer, tweezers, fish-scale remover, rolling mats, pots, pans, rice pressers, and molds, sushi serveware, and spatulas.

High Labor Costs

It takes years to learn how to make real Japanese sushi to make it taste good and safe to eat. Chefs keep a lot of things in mind when making sushi – they need to know how to handle all the ingredients to avoid contamination and food poisoning from bacteria.

The sushi-making process is very time-consuming, so it cat take hours for a chef to make a batch of rolls. Chefs also prepare rolls with different ingredients and, at the same time and have to structure their process to use the time more efficiently and at the same time reduce the chance of bacteria spread.

Sushi chefs at fine restaurants are paid a lot for their skills, experience, and expertise. Each sushi roll is considered an art, and it cannot be cheap. Fish needs to be fileted, shrimp have to be boiled, cooled down, de-shelled, avocado needs to be thinly sliced, and sushi rice needs to be boiled properly to make it the right texture. Restaurants do not want to lose highly-skilled chefs (especially Japanese) to competitors, so they have to encourage them financially.

You Pay For What You Do Not or Cannot Eat

Seafood is already expensive, but seafood for sushi is extra expensive because we are served only the best parts, mainly fillets. So, when the fish is filleted, there is a lot of waste (bones, fins, head, tail), and that doubles or even triples the initial price of the fish, which is already high. All sushi ingredients are expensive by themselves, but when you are served only the best parts, it bumps the price even more, so no wonder we have to pay $15 per roll at a casual sushi restaurant!

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Sushi Is Perishable

Sushi needs to be eaten fresh, just hours after it was made, so if the roll is not eaten within a day after it was made, it is thrown away. Since sushi contains raw fish, eating it the next day can lead to bacteria spread and food poisoning. The life shelf of sushi ingredients is short, so sushi restaurants throw away a lot of already expensive food.

Also, all sushi ingredients require proper storage conditions. For example, fish must be stored at certain temperatures to avoid spoiling, and different fish requires different temperatures (some fish needs to be refrigerated, and some frozen). So restaurants have to have expensive equipment (fridges, freezers, thermal rice warmers, etc.) to keep sushi ingredients fresh and tasty. All this makes fish transportation and storing an expensive process that defines the sushi price. 

Import Fees and Taxes

Since almost all sushi ingredients are imported, there are huge transportation fees and taxes that increase the already high sushi price. Restaurants need to organize their logistics to find the best suppliers and get the freshest seafood. Top-tier restaurants get daily delivery from Japan, Australia, and the Mediterranean. Some restaurants located on the coast can use local ingredients and lower the sushi price, but fine dining restaurants that use the best ingredients from different parts of the world have to keep the price high to profit.

High Demand

The last but not least reason why sushi is so expensive is high demand. Sushi restaurants are always overflowing (or at least good ones), which skyrockets the price. It is not uncommon to struggle to book a sushi restaurant even a few days in advance. With demand exceeding the supply, sushi prices are not likely to go down.

How Do You Eat Sushi on a Budget?

There are several ways to enjoy cheap sushi. You can always eat at a discount store like Walmart or Target instead of going to an expensive restaurant or buying sushi from a supermarket. Another way to eat sushi on a budget is to make it yourself at home using our recipe below!

You can make this sushi in about 30 minutes, and it tastes just as fresh as the real thing. All you need is a few simple ingredients: rice, nori sheets, sushi vinegar, salt, and sugar. Now let’s get to the fun part – making the sushi!

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First, soak your rice in cold water for 10 minutes or so. Then mix up your sushi vinegar according to package directions and set it aside. Next, place a small handful of rice on a nori sheet and use your hands to shape the rice into a circular shape. Add your filling (for example, cucumber, salmon, tuna) on top of the rice and smooth out any creases with your fingers. Finally, take another sheet of nori and place it on top.

Press down firmly with your hands to make sure there are no gaps between loose pieces of nori. If you want to add more flavor to your sushi rolls, sprinkle some salt or sugar on top before pressing it down with your hands.

The Bottom Line

The first reason sushi is so expensive is that it requires high-quality ingredients. The fish must be fresh, and the rice must have a perfect texture for the sushi to be safe to eat. This means that there are many costs involved in getting these good ingredients, such as buying from a reliable supplier or hiring a good chef.

In addition, there are also costs associated with storing and preparing these ingredients. For example, fish must be stored at certain temperatures to avoid spoiling, which bumps the price.

Sushi also requires skilled chefs to make it safe to eat. Sushi chefs have high levels of training, which requires them to spend a lot of time learning about their craft before they can even work on their own. This takes away from their ability to work and make money while they are training, which adds up over time as well.

In addition, sushi chefs tend to get paid quite well because they are able to do something that most people cannot – it is not uncommon for chefs to learn how to make sushi for years before they can get into a fine dining restaurant with a lucrative salary.

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Why Is Sushi Expensive FAQ

How expensive should sushi be?

In casual US restaurants, one sushi roll costs $9-$15, while at a fine dining restaurant, one sushi roll can cost up to $30. Expect to pay $30-$40 per person in a casual US sushi restaurant and up to $100-$120 per person in a fancy Japanese sushi restaurant in big American cities.

Is it cheaper to buy sushi or make it?

It is much cheaper to make sushi at home than buy it. One store-bought sushi roll in the US costs $7-$10, while one roll from a casual restaurant costs $9-$15 and $30-$40 in a fine dining restaurant. When making sushi at home, you can keep the cost as low as $2 per roll provided that you have all equipment.

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