Best nakiri knives
A nakiri is a Japanese vegetable knife with a rectangular body and flat blade. These knives make light work of veg, fruits and greens – find out which came out on top.
In Japanese, “nakiri” means “leaf cutter”. Unsurprisingly, therefore, this knife is ideal for prepping greens, fruits and vegetables.
Nakiri knives look a bit like a miniature cleaver. They’re rectangular in shape and characterised by their square tip, flat cutting profile and tall blade. Each of these features shows you exactly how the knife is meant to be used: the blade height allows you to guide the knife up and down accurately while resting against the knuckle. The flat blade means chops are direct, and either done in an up-and-down or 45-degree chopping motion. And, the blade’s large surface area means chopped foods can be easily scooped up.
A nakiri is the knife to reach for when you’re prepping fruits and veg. Have crudités with chipotle aïoli ready in a flash, chop through ingredients for this radish and peanut salad, or perfectly slice garnishes for Swedish mushroom soup. Gochujang roasted root veg and sticky miso roast sprouts also call for lots of vegetable prep, which a nakiri knife can do quickly. Due to the flat blade and square tip, a nakiri knife isn’t one to use when cutting meat – opt for a chef’s knife instead.
All the nakiri knives we tested are made from either carbon or stainless steel. Carbon steel is sturdy and robust, but prone to rusting if not taken care of correctly. Stainless steel is budget-friendly and not as high maintenance. Nakiri knives have short, stout blades; all the models we tested have blades between 16-17cm long. The optimal blade length for these knives is down to personal preference, but we think between 15-17cm is more than enough; remember, you don’t slice with these knives – you chop – so you really don’t need a long blade.
A nakiri knife isn’t an essential, but it's a versatile workhorse of a knife that will make a welcome addition to your kitchen if you eat a lot of vegetables.
Jump to section:
- Best nakiri knives at a glance
- Best nakiri knives to buy 2023
- What is a nakiri knife used for?
- What to look for in a good-quality knife?
- How to sharpen a nakiri knife
- How we tested the best nakiri knives
- Best nakiri knife: Nashiji nakiri knife, £125
- Best European nakiri knife: Zwilling Pro 17cm nakiri, £109
- Best long nakiri knife: Miyabi 5000 FC-D nakiri, £249
- Best-value nakiri knife: ProCook nakiri nihon, £44
- Best budget nakiri knife: ProCook Professional X50 Chef nakiri knife, £26
Nashiji nakiri knife
- Available from Kin Knives (£125)
Best nakiri knife
Star rating: 5/5
Blade length: 16.5cm
- Comfortable handle
The Nashiji knife got its name because of the unique textured surface on the side of the blade – “nashi” means "pear" in Japanese, and the rough pattern and texture is similar to that of a pear.
This is a truly beautiful knife. The handle is comfortable and sits neatly in the contours of the hand, plus the blade is ultra-sharp. It comes packaged in a lovely box.
This nakiri is on the weightier side, though it’s very well balanced and a joy to use. We chopped a variety of hard and soft vegetables, including onion, carrot and celery. We achieved the finest dice with this knife – it sunk through onion and celery like butter. It performed superbly when julienning carrot matchsticks, too. Our chefs were equally impressed, praising this knife for its sharp blade, beautiful construction and comfort.
Zwilling Pro 17cm nakiri
- Available from Zwilling (£109)
Best European nakiri knife
Star rating: 4.5/5
Blade length: 17cm
- Large blade
- Angular handle
Although just half a centimeter longer than the Nashiji nakiri above, this knife felt notably larger. It’s a weighty knife that divided our testers: some loved the robust and reassuring nature of this knife, while others felt it was a little too heavy. Though, they all agreed that the knife is balanced.
We cut through onion and celery with total ease. Regardless of whether we were slicing through or finely dicing, we felt in total control when chopping. We noticed a little bit of resistance when slicing through the carrot to make matchsticks, but once cut, it diced with ease.
This substantial knife looks and feels good-quality. We liked the pinky rest on the handle, though felt that the handle on the whole was a little angular and bulky. We also experienced a little rubbing on the forefinger as a result of the bolster.
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Miyabi 5000 FC-D nakiri
- Available from Zwilling (£249)
Best long nakiri knife
Star rating: 4/5
Blade length: 17cm
- Smooth handle
- Easy to use
- Overall quite large
- Weighted towards handle
Sporting an attractive Damascus blade and smooth wooden handle, this is a striking knife. Like the knife above, the Miyabi felt notably large in the hand. It’s weighty, but generally comfortable to hold, though one of our testers felt that the knife was a little unbalanced and weighted towards the handle.
All chopping and cutting tasks were easy and comfortable to complete. We finely diced carrot, onion and celery, and felt very little resistance when doing so.
Overall, some of our testers felt the knife was a little too long, while others were happy with the length. In truth, this knife almost felt like a hybrid of a nakiri and a chef’s knife, which may be appealing to some. But, if you’re after a classical nakiri, there are others to choose from on this list.
ProCook X50 nakiri nihon
- Available from ProCook (£44)
Best-value nakiri knife
Star rating: 4/5
Blade length: 16cm
- Good length on the blade
- Attractive and petite
- Nicely weighted
- Granton edge
- Long warranty
- A little angular on the handle
- Not very sharp
Despite being one of the more cost-effective knives on our list, it’s one of the most attractive. We particularly loved the handle; it’s made from ash and tapers towards the blade, making the wooden element comfortable to hold. We also liked the chilli-red ring that sits between the handle and bolster, offering a pop of colour. While the wooden handle was comfortable to hold, we felt the bolster was a little angular, meaning it began to rub after a long chopping session.
It’s not the sharpest knife we tested, even straight out of the box. There was some definite resistance when chopping onion and carrot, and we found ourselves needing to apply more pressure than normal just to cut through these everyday items. We were able to cut controlled slices of celery, however.
The knife is a good weight and feels like an extension of the hand. It also comes with a 25-year guarantee.
ProCook Professional X50 Chef nakiri knife
- Available from ProCook (£26)
Best budget nakiri knife
Star rating: 3.5/5
Blade length: 16.5cm
- Pinky rest on handle
- Granton edge
- Good weight
- Long warranty
- Not overly sharp
- Very simple looking
- Thick blade
ProCook’s Professional X50 Nakiri knife is the familiar shape of a Japanese nakiri, dressed up in European materials. The handle is a classic European shape with rivets, and the blade is thicker than Japanese steel. In the hand, the knife feels sturdy and good-quality, though it’s weighted slightly towards the handle. We liked the slimline feel, making it easy to grip, though the bolster is thick and angular meaning – like the ProCook knife above – it rubbed on the forefinger.
We chopped through celery with ease, but felt resistance when chopping carrot and onion. We struggled to produce as fine a dice as we’d have liked because of the thickness of the blade.
If you’re looking to add a nakiri to your collection for very simple chopping tasks, this will get the job done, but if you’re after something to use most days, there are better options on the list.
A nakiri knife is a Japanese vegetable knife. It’s used to chop, slice and dice vegetables using two different chopping methods.
- The push cut: pushing through vegetables at a 45-degree angle
- The downward chop: chopping through a stack of vegetables, straight down
These knives differ from chef's knives because they tend to have a straight, flat belly, meaning the entire length of the blade sees full contact with the chopping board, as opposed to chef’s knives, which have curved blades. Nakiris, therefore, give you perfect cuts every time.
These versatile knives are also great for herbs, mincing garlic and chopping fruit. Although these knives aren't essential, if you find you eat a lot of veg, the nakiri will make a welcome addition to your kit.
- Blade length: nakiri knives have short, stout blades to make very direct chops. A blade between 15-17cm is enough for a nakiri knife
- Blade height: the majority of the blade side comes into contact with the knuckle to produce the most controlled chop, so choose a nakiri with a tall blade – 5cm+ is a good choice
- Blade thickness: thick blades make it more difficult to cut through vegetables seamlessly, so opt for a thinner blade for clean slices
- Flat profile: a knife with a flat belly (non-curved blade) cuts efficiently and makes full contact with the chopping board, so food is cut all the way through – there’s no concertina vegetables with a flat-profiled nakiri
- Rounded tip: while we favour a flat belly, a nakiri with a nicely rounded tip allows you to make a slight rocking motion when chopping through lots of produce. A rounded tip also prevents the knife from getting stuck in your chopping board and potentially snapping
- Comfortable handle: the handle should be pleasant to hold and fit seamlessly in the hand. If the knife has a metal bevel, it should be smooth and not rub on the fingers
A nakiri knife is one of the easiest knives to sharpen thanks to its straight, rectangular profile. If you’ve got a nakiri made from Japanese steel, we’d recommend only sharpening your nakiri using a whetstone. If your nakiri is made from European steel, use either a whetstone or a handheld sharpener.
Remember to sharpen your nakiri at the correct angle for your steel type: Japanese steel needs to be sharpened to a 15 degree angle and European to 20 degrees.
Unsurprisingly, to test these Japanese vegetable knives, we chopped a range of hard and soft veg, including celery, carrot and onion. We also gave these knives to our chefs in the test kitchen to use while they were recipe testing and developing. They gave their feedback in real time as they used these knives.
We julienned and brunoised using push cuts and a downward chop, as these are the two cuts nakiri knives are designed to do. If the knife had a slightly rounded tip, we tested how well the knife chopped with a rocking motion.
All knives were tested against the following criteria:
Comfortable to hold: we looked for knives that were comfortable to hold, whatever your knife-holding style. Handles should be comfortable and smooth, but still offer some grip
Seamless chopping: knives with sharp blades that allowed us to chop through veg like butter scored highly compared to those that required some force
Balance: a knife should feel comfortable in the hand and not be weighted too heavily either to the handle or front of the blade
Sustainable: we like to see sustainably packaged knives with no plastic and long, realistic warranties
Good shape: a nakiri knife should have a relatively flat belly for full push cuts and downward chops – knives that were too rounded were scored down
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Recipes for nakiri knives
White chocolate panna cotta with stewed rhubarb
Sweet potato and chickpea curry
Pear and blue cheese toasts
Cucumber and tomato salad
Sweet-sour griddle aubergines
Vegetarian BBQ flatbreads