These are the popular and best roasted seaweed (nori) for sushi, toppings, and snack brands eaten by the Japanese community at home, by restaurants, and you. Unless you click away to shop for a kitty mansion instead, that is seriously a thing.
Originally posted on Feb 24th, ’22. Updated on Aug 24th, ’23
I started this blog because I got tired of reading such basic mistakes and silly articles referencing Thailand or China when mentioning anything Japanese cuz “Asia.” Like, *waves hand over map,* it’s that region with all those orientals (and “it’s all the same, right?”). Well, it may be for some, but if you are here reading this, I know you are interested in content that is specifically about Japanese food and culture.
If you are shopping for a nori (seaweed) for sushi, this is your one-stop-shop for all the Japanese brands you can purchase online.I do not stack the odds in my favor over a buck, and doing legit content comes first, so I have included Amazon, their competitors, and direct purchases.
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain Amazon and other affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.
Types of seaweed used for sushi nori
What kind of seaweed is used in nori:
it is made from a species of red algae, laver sheets (Porphyra).
50 to 80% of the world’s oxygen supply is from marine algae– CNBC, Why Demand For Seaweed Is About To Boom
If you are interested in learning the other types of seaweed used from laver, kelp, to tengusa, I suggest you watch the YouTube video “Seaweed in Japan, Japanology” by NHK World which always does great content (I love every episode they put out).
The top sushi nori brands by popularity and availability are Nagai, Takaokaya, and Yamamotoyama (the latter has the BEST customer service and the other two really do not have customer service). There are also various grades usually categorized by color: blue, red, silver, to gold.The various grades of nori is based on where the product was sourced from, China, Korea, to Japan.
These are all the Japanese brands from Japan and they are the top 6 brands in the US:
The brands distributed to restaurants:
Hime Brand (JFC)
Yaki Nori (Shirakiku)
As a Japanese American who has worked in a Japanese owned and operated restaurant, these are some of the most popular brands and products.
If you are going to be doing sushi, I will not be generically saying “seaweed,” and I will say nori (海苔) specifically because it is a Japanese word and sushi is Japanese.Now, you’ll sound like an OG sushi chef.
Japanese sushi nori grades
“Our Original Nori comes from the waters off of China, and is our most basic grade of nori. Our Silver and Gold Nori comes from the waters off of the coasts of Korea and is a slightly higher grade of nori than our Original; and our Special Reserve is sourced from the waters off of Japan and is also our highest grade of nori.”– Yamamotoyama
Before you buy
Don’t be a Lisa complaining about a naturally flavored roasted seaweed (yaki nori) saying: “Meh, It would probably be good for rolling sushi. Not-so-much for it’s flavor,” because there are various types or nori, and she bought the wrong one:
Types of dried Japanese nori (seaweed)
Dried/roasted “yaki” seaweed “nori” sheets.
Seasoned “aji” dried seaweed
(I used to eat this as a kid as a snack and what Lisa should have bought).
Shredded dried seaweed used as a topping.
Seaweed simmered in soy sauce and sweetened rice wine.
When it comes to the best nori for sushi, please be aware that Japanese (nori) and Korean (gim) seaweed products are not the same.
The way the seaweed is processed to the flavoring may differ such as being seasoned with sesame/olive oil and salt because sesame oil is used heavily in Korean cuisine such as with kimbap (Korean seaweed rice rolls).Korean rice rolls and are not the same as Japanese sushi, kimbap is distinctively Korean, along with the seaweed being a little more coarse and not so dense (I like the coarseness, it feels more natural, or “rustic” for eating more casually, but not for rolls). A Japanese seaweed will typically be very smooth and have a sheen to it.
Best nori from Japan for sushi
This is the highest grade of nori by Yamatoyama.
Yamamotoyama: “Pomona, California is home to our state-of-the art, SQF (Safety Quality Food) Institute accredited U.S. production facility. We are certified with the Quality Assurance International (QAI) Organic Certification and KOF-K, kosher-certified, and institute the highest level of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards and certifications.”– Yamamotoyama
A “product of Japan” will reflect the centuries of experience producing nori, whereas American brands are typically private-label marketing brands.
The American marketing brands source ingredients/products from Asia, like China, package, and apply all of their marketing buzzwords: “organic, raw, vegan, non-GMO, cruelty-free, paleo, kosher, all-natural, etc.” (marketers would add it to water because they know it works).Brands like Earth Circle Organics out of Las Vegas, Nevada “are an importer and international distributor” of seaweed sheets from China (zaicai 紫菜).
The quality of Japanese nori
The vast majority of these Japanese brands are typically organic, non-GMO, have no preservatives, and are vegan. Although, Japanese brands consider these characteristics too obvious or an inherent quality (the full article on the quality of Japanese ingredients). Although, surprise, surprise, seaweed is vegan.
Best mid-tier sushi nori
Yamamotoyama is the major provider of nori seaweed to Japanese restaurants worldwide, and continually develops deliciously healthy and sustainably-grown seaweed products to reintroduce to fans around the world.
Best cost-effective nori for sushi
“Nagai Nori was established in 1947, and have been manufacturing and selling seaweeds since then. Our head office and two factories are in Toyohashi, Aichi.
“We have acquired ISO9001 in 2003 for the higher quality and safety. We also acquired Halal certificate for roasted seaweed from Nippon Asia Halal Association last year and we are planning to spread Japanese seaweed to the world.”– Nagai Nori Co. Ltd.
3 Japanese restaurant brands
Every day, JFC serves growing numbers of Asian-American retail outlets, restaurants, and major North American retailers. And every day, they deliver healthy, safe, high-quality Asian food products across the continent from their strategically located distribution centers.
Mutual Trading Company is probably my favorite Japanese food distributors in the United States.
Shirakiku is one of the largest Japanese food distributors in the United States which supplies restaurants.
Best for handrolls and hosomaki
If you are specifically looking for the best nori for handrolls, product wise, you will want to purchase half cut to make the process a whole lot easier.If you watch sushi chefs, they will fold a full sheet, then run their blade down the middle to cut it in half.
Sheets are used for all sorts of sushi and are cut up into sizes for rolls, gunkan, onigiri, to handrolls.
Full/half sheets are used for rolls/makizushi, but can be cut down for gunkan (6 strips).
Sheets are half cut for temaki (handrolls) and hosomaki (single item).
You can use this product for anything and it does not have to be sushi, such as with shoyu ramen.
This is a product of convenience, and you can buy full sheets and cut them in half.
The best seaweed alternative
Non-GMO soy protein and non-GMO soy flour are the common base ingredients.
Sold by a Japanese market in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.
How is Japanese nori produced
Takaokaya: “Harvested in the ocean without any additives, Nori is produced in a rack drying process similar to paper making. It is most commonly used to wrap sushi and onigiri rice balls or cut in thin strips and used as garnish.”– Takaokaya USA, Inc.
A great topping for all sorts dishes from age dashi (fried) tofu, soba (buckwheat noodles), takoyaki (octopus fritatta), to whatever you can think of (yea, even fish food for marine herbivores).
Best nori (furiukake) topping
A common sight in Japanese and Japanese American pantries because it goes great on rice to popcorn.
Nori topping (tsukudani) to eat with rice
If you are wondering what it’s like, imagine you’re a mama bird eating some seaweed, chewing it up with her beak, then regurgitating it into her baby birds mouth (into a paste like consistency), BUT with the addition of soy sauce and a slight sweetness, yum.
soy sauce (including wheat and soybeans / Japanese produced), water candy, sugar, seaweed (natural rock seaweed 50%, seaweed 50%), bonito dashi, kelp dashi, agar
Nori rice crackers
Aside from senbei, I have had my fill of nori rice crackers to last a lifetime. As a kid you don’t question why you are eating a rice cracker wrapped in seaweed, which would be vegan and gluten-free, all things you would trade for Big League Chew and Sour Patch Kids any day. As an adult, I can appreciate not downing diabetes levels of sugar.
All the other Japanese sushi nori brands
The United States is approximately 247 years old, yet Japan is several thousand years old, and in that time, for upwards of 1,200 years, the country was pescatarian to vegetarian. So nori and vegan to vegetarian ingredients are something Japan has centuries of experience producing.
- Hime Brand (JFC) / jfc.com
- Kaneyama / kaneyamausa.com
- Miyako (MTC) / nymtc.com
- Nagai / nagainori.co.jp
- Shirakiku (Wismettac) / wismettacusa.com
- Takaokaya / takaokayausa.com
- Urashima / urashima.co.jp
- Yamamoto / yamamoto-noriten.co.jp
- Yamamotoyama / yamamotoyama.com
Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker
Kathleen Baker is hailed as the “Mother of the Sea” in Japan, and a statue in her memory, along with the “Drew festival,” are all dedicated to celebrate her every April 14th.
“The celebration takes place in the city of Uto, Kumamoto, where revellers come together at a memorial erected in Drew-Baker’s honour in 1963. The monument is decked in flower garlands and overlooks the Ariake Sea.”– University of Manchester: ‘Mother of the Sea’ – How Kathleen Drew-Baker saved sushi.
In between you buying nori, you can also read about Kathleen Mary Dew-Baker, the Brit who saved the Japanese seaweed industry after World War II even though she had never been to Japan.