What’s The Difference: Kimbap vs. Sushi

These two seaweed rolls look similar.

You might be confused about sushi. There are so many kinds of sushi! However, did you know that “sushi” actually refers to fish that’s been preserved in vinegar?

The sushi we think of has changed from this simple definition to the more modern definition. It’s a dish that usually consists of raw fish with vinegared rice rolled in seaweed. Outside of Japan, there are other kinds of sushi, including the kimbap. Also known as gimbap, the kimbap looks similar to sushi but its origin is in Korea.  

So, if you are and not sure how this differs from the Korean version, here’s how one seafood roll is different from the other: 

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1 Sushi is an umbrella term. The kimbap is a kind of sushi from Korea. 

Sushi encompasses the different ways of preparing ingredients rolled in seaweed. The kinds of sushi include:

  • norimaki
  • • nigiri
  • • temaki
  • • gunkan

The norimaki is the most common, where ingredients are rolled in seaweed. Outside Japan, there are some norimaki that are inside out such as the California makiNigiri are rice balls topped with ingredients. Temaki are filled seaweed in a cone shape while gunkan are filled seaweed cups. 

The kimbap technically falls under the norimaki type of sushi. The history of the kimbap is highly debated.  

Sushi rice is seasoned with vinegar. Kimbap rice is seasoned with sesame oil. 

The rice for both kinds of sushi is short-grain sticky rice. However, how these are seasoned is different. Sushi may no longer preserve its fish in vinegar, but the dish still retains that element of sourness from the vinegar. It’s the rice that is treated with vinegar. For the kimbap, the freshly cooked rice is seasoned with sesame oil and sometimes with some sesame seeds, too. This makes the rice super aromatic as well as tasty. 

Nori for kimbap are lightly roasted and slightly thicker than those used for sushi. 

If you love Korean snacks, you know that many of the nori snacks are usually roasted. This is the same for the kimbap. The nori sheets are commonly lightly roasted before being used for the roll. These nori sheets are also usually thicker. This is because kimbap commonly has more fillings than your typical sushi


4 Sushi is served as an appetizer. Kimbap is a meal-in-one. 

Sushi is commonly served as an appetizer or at most, a light meal. That’s why you will commonly find various kinds of sushi on a plate served with one or all of these: 

  • wasabi (green horseradish paste) 
  • • pickled ginger 
  • sushi dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt)   

However, there’s a big reason why the kimbap is stuffed with filling like it is: it’s a meal-in-one. That’s also the reason why the most common ingredients for the kimbap are the side dishes you might find in your bibimbap:

  • • kimchi 
  • • sauteed spinach
  • • carrot
  • • cucumbers
  • • pickled radish or burdock
  • • beef bulgogi

A classic kimbap will have burdock root that’s been pickled as well. All this is wrapped in rice and seaweed.


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