As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more
Nakiri knife vs cleaver

6 Differences Between Nakiri Knife vs Cleaver You Should Know

When handling larger meat cuts, bones, and even thick fruits and vegetables, a larger knife does the trick. You can find a long list of large knives specially crafted for a wide selection of functions and uses. Therefore, you may spot a few options that resemble each other, but boast two completely different functions.

To effectively carry out your cutting tasks and achieve the best results, you have to pick the right type of knife. The same applies to when you are dealing with a nakiri knife and cleaver.

While the two knives look similar to each other, they also hold significant differences. Do you want to know what they are? Check out this detailed nakiri knife vs cleaver comparison to find out.

The Reason Why Nakiri Knife and Cleaver Is Not the Same

The main difference between a nakiri knife and a cleaver is their design and functionality. Both knives feature a wide and rectangular blade. But, a nakiri knife has a thinner blade thickness compared to that of a hefty and thicker cleaver.

Furthermore, a nakiri knife is primarily used for chopping vegetables. A cleaver is more geared towards cutting meat along with vegetables and fruits with thicker skins.

What Is a Nakiri Knife?

What is a nakiri knife
Anatomy of a Nakiri knife

A nakiri knife is designed with a wide and rectangular blade, similar to that of a cleaver. However, it tends to have a thinner and incredibly sharp blade designed to chop and slice vegetables and fruits.

Unlike cleavers from Europe and other parts of Asia, a nakiri knife originates from modern Japanese cuisine. A nakiri knife’s rectangular blade has a slightly rounded edge while remaining straight throughout. Therefore, the entire edge comes in contact with the cutting board and entire vegetable during slicing.

This explains why many cooks and chefs use the nakiri knife in a lift-up motion compared to the standard rocking chop motion. The flat blade paired with this cutting style facilitates straight and even cuts for a more precise cutting experience.

What Is a Nakiri Knife Used For?

Thanks to the thinner and sharper blade, a Nakiri knife is used for cutting and slicing vegetables and fruits. Due to the thinner blade profile, the knife cannot withstand the roughness and toughness of thick meat cuts or bones. Therefore, it is not ideal for such tasks.

What Does Nakiri Mean in Japanese?

Nakiri literally translates to knife for cutting vegetables and greens. The nakiri knife traces back its origins to the Edo period. During this time, by law, the typical Japanese culture consisted only of fish, rice, and vegetables. This explains why the knife is specially designed to cut and slice vegetables.

Benefits of a Nakiri Knife

Here are the benefits of the nakiri knife;

Great for Vegetables

The nakiri knife is fitted with a thin, sharp, and wide blade. This, in turn, facilitates the neat chopping and slicing of delicate vegetables, without tearing them.

Cutting Performance

The ultra-sharp, thin, and wide blade of the nakiri knife allows for excellent cutting performance. This design also promotes quick and fluid chopping.

Tip to Tail Usable Design

In addition to its double bevel design, the nakiri knife has a durable tip-to-tail design. This means you can use the knife for chopping, slicing, crushing, and even scooping up vegetables or fruits from the surface.

Is a Nakiri Knife Single Bevel?

A nakiri knife features a double bevel design, with a slight incline on both sides, running down to the edge. Ground and sharpened symmetrically, a nakiri knife is much easier to use and delivers an impressive cutting performance. However, you can also find a range of nakiri knives with single bevels.

Can You Use a Nakiri Knife to Cut Meat?

A nakiri knife cannot be used to cut meat. This is because it has a thinner blade that can easily bend, chip, or break when used on thick foods, such as meats or bones.

The thinner blade makes it a better option for cutting vegetables and delicate fruits. However, if you want a knife for cutting meat you can check this post here.

Is a Nakiri Knife Worth It?

A nakiri knife is definitely worth the investment if you want a good knife option for cutting vegetables and fruits. Its thinner blade design makes it a perfect option for cutting delicate vegetables without damaging them, maintaining their structural integrity, appearance, and overall meal flavor.

What Is a Cleaver?

What is a cleaver knife
Anatomy of a meat cleaver

A cleaver is a generic name that refers to a wide and rectangular-shaped knife used for cutting thick meats along with vegetables or fruits with thick skin. Cleavers tend to have thicker and heftier blades which are capable of disjointing meat and bones.

What Is a Cleaver Knife Used For?

A meat cleaver is primarily used for cutting and chopping meat, disjointing it from bones, and tackling thick joints and ligaments. However, you can also use a cleaver for seafood and vegetables or fruits with thick skin.

Why Do Meat Cleavers Have a Hole?

A cleaver features a holed blade to facilitate better cutting and chopping, particularly when handling thick cuts of meat or disjointing meat from bones. The hole allows you to hold on to the blade’s upper part using your fingers to enhance grip and cutting balance.

Furthermore, the hole allows juice to drain through and drip down the blade when cutting meat for a mess-free process.

Moreover, thanks to the holed bladed, cleaning a cleaver is mess-free. You can also hang your cleaver on the knife holder on the wall through the hole.

Is a Butcher Knife and a Cleaver Same?

A butcher knife and cleaver are quite different from one another due to their blade design and use. Compared to a butcher knife, a cleaver tends to have a thinner and lighter blade. On the other hand, a butcher knife has a rather thick and heavy blade.

Due to their blade, a butcher knife does a better job at cutting and splitting meat. On the other hand, a cleaver’s thinner and lighter blade is designed for precision meat cutting and vegetable chopping.

Is a Cleaver Good for Cutting Meat and Slicing Vegetables?

Thanks to its wide and sharp blade, a cleaver is great for cutting meat and bone, particularly thick cuts of meat.

You can also use it to cut and slice larger vegetables and fruits with thick skin. A cleaver is also good for slicing and crushing vegetables, such as garlic and ginger.

What Can You Use Instead of a Meat Cleaver?

You can use a butcher knife or a chef knife instead of a meat cleaver. Going for a meat cleaver alternative depends on how the type of meat you want to cut and how you want to cut it.

If you are tackling thicker cuts, joints, and ligaments or want to disjoint your meat from bones, a butcher knife is a better option.

However, if you are dealing with regular cuts of meat, a regular chef or kitchen knife will do the trick. This type of knife is typically used for various cutting tasks in the kitchen, making it a great everyday knife.

Is a Cleaver Knife Worth It?

A cleaver knife is certainly worth the investment. It is a great option for dealing with large and thick cuts of meat and bones. However, it is also quite versatile in the kitchen due to this blade design.

The wide, thick, and sharp blade can also chop through vegetables and fruits, crush garlic, cut seafood, and even scoop up food items from the counter.

6 Main Differences Between Nakiri Knife vs Cleaver

Meat cleaver and nakiri knife
As evident from the comparison above, a nakiri knife and cleaver do hold vast differences.  Below, we’ve outlined the six key differences between these two types of wide and rectangular blade-shaped knives;


A nakiri knife and cleaver significantly differ based on their functions and uses. Originating from the Japanese modern cuisine, a nakiri knife is primarily used for cutting and chopping vegetables. On the other hand, a cleaver is primarily used for cutting and chopping meat. You can also use a cleaver for seafood and vegetables with thick and tough skin.


Both a nakiri knife and cleaver are built with a wide and rectangular blade. However, their blades are still distinct from one another. A nakiri knife features a thin and lighter blade, while a cleaver has a rather thick and hefty blade.

The thinner blade design of the nakiri knife allows it to smoothly chop and slice vegetables. You can also use this lighter and thinner blade to make clean cuts on delicate vegetables, without the risk of tearing them. The cleaver’s thicker and heavy blade is great for tackling thicker meat cuts and bones, without chipping at them or breaking them.

Additionally, a nakiri knife has a slightly different handle design to that of a cleaver. A cleaver is typically designed with a flat/straight handle. On the other hand, a nakiri knife can come with a round, octagonal (similar to other traditional Japanese knives), or flat/straight handle.

Edge Type

When it comes to the edge type, a nakiri knife is usually double beveled, ground, and sharpened symmetrically. However, you can find a few varieties designed with a single bevel.

Typically, a nakiri knife is sharpened at 16 to 18 degrees, like many other types of Japanese knives. The degree to which a nakiri knife is sharpened, makes it extremely sharp.

On the other hand, a cleaver can be single or double beveled, depending on the subtype. For example, most Chinese vegetable cleavers tend to have a double bevel blade design.

A cleaver is usually sharpened at around a 25-degree angle to make it sharp enough to tackle thick cuts of meat and bones in a clean cut, but also robust enough to withstand abuse.


A nakiri knife typically has a smaller blade than that of a kitchen or chef knife, suited for cutting smaller and delicate vegetables. Therefore, most are fitted with 5-inch blades.

On the other hand, a cleaver is fitted with a 5-inch to 8-inch long blade, to be able to cut through thicker meats, although you can also find some with 9-inch blades.


When it comes to weight, a nakiri knife tends to weigh much lighter than a cleaver, due to its thinner and shorter blade.

The lightweight nature of the nakiri knife is perfect for its functions since it prevents the knife from damaging delicate vegetables, producing cleaner cuts and slices.

Fitted with a heftier and thicker blade, a clever is much heavier. However, the heaviness isn’t just for the sake of the design. It helps to tackle thick meat and bones without the risks of snapping, chipping, or breaking.

Price Range

A nakiri knife and cleaver pretty much have price tags around the same range. Typically, you should expect to pay anywhere between $25 for cheaper options and as high as $100 for more premium and expensive options.

However, a cheaper knife doesn’t mean low quality. You can still find some of the best nakiri knives or cleavers at an affordable price.

Nonetheless, if you want a nakiri knife or cleaver made from premium quality materials, you are better off spending more. You should aim to pay at least $100 for a premium nakiri knife or cleaver.

Should You Buy a Nakiri Knife or Cleaver?

As proven in the detailed comparison above, both nakiri knives and cleavers add great value to your kitchen. However, it is important to pick the right knife for your particular needs. You should opt for a nakiri knife if your main focus is vegetables.

These knives are skillfully crafted particularly to cater to your vegetable cutting needs. On the other hand, if you want a knife to cut through thick cuts of meat, ligaments, and disjoint bones, a cleaver is the right choice.

In fact, a cleaver even comes with some versatility. Depending on the type of cleaver you opt for, you can also use it for seafood and vegetables. These include chopping larger and thicker vegetables, crushing garlic, and even scooping up vegetables you have chopped from the countertop.

Scroll to Top