We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Surimi?

By Celeste Heiter
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
DelightedCooking is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At DelightedCooking, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Surimi is an edible paste made from processed meat or seafood. The most common example is imitation crabmeat, which is made from mild white fish such as cod or pollack. The process is also used to make beef, pork and poultry products. Surimi products are used as low-fat meat alternatives or as economical sources of protein. They are often artificially flavored, molded and colored to resemble other meats and seafood.

The process of making surimi originated in Southeast Asia and was further developed in Japan in the 16th century. The Japanese word “surimi” means “ground meat.” In Chinese, it is called “yú jiāng,” which means “fish puree.” Today, the largest producers of surimi are the United States, Japan and Thailand. Surimi is also manufactured in China, Vietnam and Malaysia.

To make surimi, the meat or fish is cleaned, deboned and minced into a fine paste. Excess water is removed, and the paste is flash-frozen. The paste is then partially thawed and ground together with flavoring agents such as sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and natural or artificial flavors. Other ingredients, such as starch, vegetable oil and egg whites, may be added for texture and with sorbitol as a preservative.

After being molded into various shapes and colored to resemble the meat or seafood it imitates, it is then pasteurized in a steamer. This prevents the growth of bacteria and prolongs shelf life. Finally, the product is vacuum-packed and labeled for shipping.

In Japan, there are hundreds of surimi-based products on the market. In addition to imitation crabmeat, fish products include pink-and-white fish cakes known as kamoboko, fish squares known as hanpen and tube-shaped products called chikuwa. Sardines are used to make fish balls called tsumire. Chicken surimi is shaped into balls called tsukune, which are skewered and grilled with teriyaki sauce.

Surimi is used in many international cuisines. In China, beef or pork surimi is shaped into meatballs for soups, and pork surimi is also used to make Chinese dumpling wrappers called yèn pí. In Vietnam, pork or beef balls may be used as an ingredient for the soup known as phở, and in other Southeast Asian countries, various surimi products are served boiled, steamed or fried. In the US, the process is used to make frozen fish sticks and salmon patties. It may also be used to manufacture healthy, alternative turkey products such as bacon, sausages and burgers.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By VivAnne — On Jun 19, 2011

@Hawthorne - Processing food like this has kind of evolved out of necessity. There's an abundance of mild fish like pollock and cod, and materials like crab meat are much rarer, so people used what they had. Coloring and shaping it to look like crab is a fun addition, I think.

Surimi and chicken nuggets are both made of pureed, very processed meat because it wouldn't be sanitary to mass produce and handle that much meat, either. Making chicken nuggets in your kitchen is very different from making billions of chicken nuggets to bag and freeze and ship all over the country.

Part of the processing involves thoroughly washing and sanitizing the meat before it ends up going to some consumer's mouth, so in a way, pureeing and shaping meat helps make it safer. The same goes for precooking it.

Last but not least, all of this processing tends to wash the flavor and to some degree the nutritional contents out of the meat, so the additives are mostly adding back the vitamins that were there to begin with and also adding flavoring.

Any other additives, like spices, they add to improve the flavor. They've already mashed up and pureed the meat -- why not add a few things while they are mixing, if it will make the finished food product tastier?

By Hawthorne — On Jun 16, 2011

Does anybody else find food that is this processed a bit creepy? I mean, it tastes good, and it looks really pretty and brightly colored, but it's so altered!

Look at the average piece of surimi food you could buy in the store. By the time it reaches you, it has been chopped up and washed and mashed and minced. It has had tons of different extra ingredients added to it, including MSG and spices and maybe broth to make it taste like a different meat than it is.

It has been shaped and precooked and cooked again. It has been dyed, sometimes to look like other food that it isn't. I know there are die hard surimi fans out there who don't care, but to me it's kind of hard to eat.

By the time it gets to you, it seems more like it's a piece of somebody's arts and crafts project that you're eating than an actual food. It's not fish -- it's a fish "product".

I read that chicken nuggets are made in the same way in the United States.

By TheGraham — On Jun 15, 2011

Surimi is also the base material for naruto ramen topping.

Though you may have heard the word "naruto" in reference to a popular anime television and manga series starring a ninja of the same name, the actual word "naruto" refers to a topping for ramen noodles.

Naruto the ninja character is named after the ramen noodle ingredient, and it is referenced many times that Naruto loves to eat ramen.

Enough about ninjas. The naruto in ramen is a distinctive "fish log". It is made by making a big flat layer of white surimi, then topping it with a thin layer of bright pink surimi -- likely the same way that imitation crab meat has a red coating on the outside.

Then the naruto is rolled up into a log and the outside is machine-formed to have points on it like a star only more numerous. The Naruto logs are sold like this; when you buy one it is wrapped up in clear plastic.

To use the naruto log, you slice it into thin rounds and pile them on top of finished bowls of ramen in groups of one to three. Yummy and very cute!

By chrisatl8 — On Jun 15, 2011

The best surimi can be found in authentic Japanese restaurants - the ones where most of the menu isn't in English. A group of us went to one on a semi-dare, but came out pleasantly surprised by how good the chicken and pork surimi was.

By livlife40 — On Jun 15, 2011

Very interesting - I never would've guessed that fish sticks and imitation crab are made with the same process.

DelightedCooking, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

DelightedCooking, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.