Sea Urchin Sushi: Guide to Common Questions

4 min readMar 14, 2020


Is Sea Urchin Sushi Poisonous?

Sea urchin sushi or uni sushi made with raw quail eggs are not poisonous. However, you must be careful with sea urchins themselves. Because they have spines which can be very dangerous and contain harmful toxins.

Especially a few species of sea urchins have venomous “bites” that can have potent deadly effects. Furthermore sea urchins can cause allergic reactions that can be quite deadly for some individuals.

But the most dangerous is the sea urchin Flower Urchin or Toxopneustes pileolus. Which is very widespread and commonly found. And can deliver a super painful sting when touched.

However sea urchin sushi made from uni are not only not dangerous they are also edible meats that can deliver great health benefits. And is a rich source of protein that helps repair and build muscle tissues.

Nonetheless, it is also a great source of Vitamin A which will promote healthy skin and eyesight. Further along has a ton of Zinc which is important for healing wounds.

And it is not just together with sushi rice to make nigiri rolls. There are also a variety of different usage for this prized food. Including being spread like butter onto food to being added as sashimi to rice and pasta.

Although it’s a sublime delicacy that is frequently found in Japanese cuisine. It’s also a delicacy of the sea that is very hard to catch. Since only few types of non-poisonous species are part of sea urchin sushi.

But this is definitely not a great idea that you should just go out and try to find out what’s edible. Because there are over 950 species of urchin that are found all over the world and in a range of depth zones. However only 18 of them are edible and are used in food.

What does sea urchin sushi taste like?

Firstly for first time eaters, the sushi uni has a very strong smell of the ocean sea. Generally people describes the sea urchin sushi as a taste of the “butter of the sea”.

And it really is like tasting a small bite of the ocean, since it got this nice creamy taste to the sushi. Moreover there’s this strong rich delicate flavor that simply melts in your mouth.

Furthermore it is very light and sweet making your tongue tingle. But it may take time to adjust to the briney and fishy mineral taste.

However not everybody likes the custardy flavor of the sea. Moreover when it is not fresh it starts to become very slimy and drippy.

And bad sea urchin uni that is not fresh has this ammonia metallic taste from its minerals that is very repulsive. So if you want to try some uni make sure it is a traditional restaurant that specializes in this type of sea urchin sushi.

How much is sea urchin sushi?

Firstly in Japan the uni themselves is a delicacy that can be quite expensive. And a plate of nigiri sushi from uni can cost ranging from ¥300 to ¥600.

Now in the US, it can also add up to be quite expensive. Generally with prices ranging on average $4.00 to $6.00 per plate.

Why Is It So Expensive?

But the high expense is due to the difficulty that arises from farm harvesting which only yields a small amount of uni meat. Additionally there’s been a surge in demand for edible sea urchins.

However, sea urchin farms are not very productive since these sea animals require a very specific climate and water environment. Also there are limits to harvesting from fishing and diving in many fishing areas.

Nonetheless the best place to taste uni is in Santa Barbara and Hokkaido where the environment is best. Though it is still hard to harvest them for cooking. Because even an hour or so can cause the uni to have a distinctly different flavor to freshly harvested uni.

In the past most urchins came from importation. But freezing doesn’t fully preserve the taste, and will alter the creamy sea taste.

Cost of Importation

Contrary to expectations, the cost for high quality sea urchins can be very expensive. For example, the average cost for a pound of urchins in 2014 ranges from $.76 to $.84.

Now in 2017 the numbers have surge to more higher levels than before. With data putting the cost to average prices at $1.53 per pound.

Sea Urchin Sushi Preparation