Salmon nigiri is a popular type of sushi consisting of cooked rice shaped into a small oval topped with a slice of raw salmon. Nigiri means “hand squeezed” in Japanese, referring to the method of shaping the rice. Salmon nigiri provides a taste of fresh raw salmon, complemented by the sweet vinegar flavor of the sushi rice. But besides being delicious, many sushi lovers may wonder just how many calories are in this tasty morsel of fish and rice.
A Brief Overview of Salmon Nigiri
Salmon nigiri is one of the most commonly found types of nigiri sushi in sushi restaurants and grocery stores. Nigiri sushi means hand-pressed sushi, as the sushi chef shapes a small mound of sushi rice and tops it with a slice of fresh fish or other topping. For salmon nigiri, the rich, fatty salmon is complemented by the sweet and tangy flavors of the sushi rice. The rice provides a base for the topping while the fish provides the dominant flavor. Besides salmon, other popular nigiri toppings include tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, crab, and sweet egg omelet.
Compared to maki sushi rolls, nigiri sushi has the rice on the bottom and does not contain nori seaweed on the outside. It is meant to be eaten with fingers rather than chopsticks. Nigiri is served with a dab of wasabi and a brushing of soy sauce to enhance the flavors. The wasabi in particular helps cut through the natural oiliness of the fish. Salmon nigiri is more of a fresh, light bite compared to the larger maki rolls which often contain multiple fillings.
Nutritional Profile of Salmon Nigiri Components
To determine the calories in salmon nigiri, it’s helpful to first break it down into its two main components – salmon and sushi rice. Here is a look at the basic nutritional profile per serving for each:
A 3 oz or 85 gram serving of raw salmon contains:
- Calories: 156
- Protein: 20g
- Fat: 8g
- Carbs: 0g
Salmon is prized for its high amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains several B vitamins like B12 and niacin as well as minerals like potassium and selenium.
A 1/2 cup or 100 gram serving of cooked sushi rice contains:
- Calories: 228
- Protein: 4g
- Fat: 0g
- Carbs: 51g
Sushi rice is slightly starchy short grain white rice flavored with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. It provides carbohydrates and some plant-based protein but minimal fat.
Calories in Salmon Nigiri Pieces
Now that we know the basic nutritional components, we can estimate the total calories in a piece of salmon nigiri:
- Typical serving size: 2 pieces
- Salmon per piece: around 1 oz or 28g
- Rice per piece: around 2 Tbsp or 35g
Calculating the math:
- 1 oz salmon: 78 calories
- 2 Tbsp rice: 81 calories
- Total per piece: 78 + 81 = 159 calories
For two pieces of salmon nigiri:
- 159 calories x 2 pieces = 318 calories
So for a typical serving of two pieces of salmon nigiri, the total calories adds up to around 318 calories.
This calorie estimate may vary slightly depending on the exact size of the fish and rice portions, but offers a good general guideline. Larger cut pieces with more generous rice will be higher in calories, while smaller compact pieces will be a bit lower.
Salmon Nigiri Calories Compared to Other Foods
To put the 318 calories for two pieces of salmon nigiri in context, here’s how it compares calorie-wise to some other foods:
|1 slice plain medium pizza
|1 cup vanilla ice cream
|2 chocolate chip cookies
|1 bagel with cream cheese
|2 pieces salmon nigiri
As you can see, two pieces of salmon nigiri contains more calories than two cookies but less than a bagel with cream cheese. The calorie count is moderately high compared to other bite-sized foods. But keep in mind that the salmon also provides high quality protein and healthy fats.
Ways to Make Salmon Nigiri Lower in Calories
For those looking to reduce the calories in salmon nigiri, here are some tips:
Use leaner fish
Fattier fish like salmon or tuna contain more calories than leaner white fish. Opt for nigiri made with halibut, tilapia, snapper or seabass to cut calories.
Reduce rice portion
Request less rice under the fish to reduce the calorie contribution from carbohydrates.
Limit soy sauce
Soy sauce contains about 10 calories per teaspoon, which can add up if poured liberally over many pieces.
Fill up on vegetables
Round out the meal by filling up on lower calorie sushi options like cucumber or avocado rolls and sashimi. This way you can still enjoy the salmon nigiri without overdoing the calorie count.
Health Benefits of Salmon Nigiri
Despite the moderately high calorie count, salmon nigiri and sushi in general offers several benefits as part of a balanced diet. Here are some of the top health perks:
Between the fish and rice, nigiri provides protein needed for muscle maintenance, wound healing and overall healthy body function.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The salmon contains anti-inflammatory omega-3s EPA and DHA which promotes heart health and brain function.
Salmon is one of the richest food sources of selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that supports immunity and thyroid health.
Essential B12 is plentiful in salmon and helps prevent anemia and promote nerve function.
Sushi makes an easy, nutritious meal or snack with minimal cooking at home.
The Bottom Line
Two pieces of salmon nigiri contain approximately 318 calories. This moderately high calorie count comes mostly from the fatty salmon as well as the carbohydrate-rich rice. However, the salmon also contributes high quality protein, healthy omega-3 fats, and important micronutrients. Enjoy salmon nigiri in moderation along with plenty of vegetables as part of a healthy, balanced diet.