A santoku knife is a Japanese-style knife that's becoming more popular in the United States, with many versions being made in America and abroad. Santoku translates as “three virtues” or “three uses” and refers to the three types of cuts the knife is made for: slicing, dicing, and mincing. The blade has a flat cutting edge, and the handle is in line with the top edge of the blade. The end of the blade has a rounded curve called a sheep’s foot, rather than the sharp point that’s more common with Western blades.
Because of the flat blade, the santoku doesn’t rock on the cutting surface the way that the blade of a chef’s knife does, so it might take some practice to get used to the style. Santoku knives are shorter, lighter, and thinner than Western-style chef’s knives; Most have a 6- or 7-inch blade, compared to the more common 8-inch length.
When selecting the best santoku knives for your kitchen, it's important to look at the length, strength, and thickness of the blade. Likewise, you may want to keep an eye out for additional features like hollow edges to prevent food from sticking to the knife. To help you choose, we researched and tested some of the leading brands on the market.
Henckels Zwilling Twin Signature Hollow Edge Santoku Knife
Gently curved front end allows rocking cuts
Should be hand washed
Blade is stamped rather than forged
After extensive testing, the Zwilling Twin Signature 7-Inch Hollow Edge Santoku earned our best overall rating for its lightweight design and extreme sharpness. Made in Germany with an ice-hardened stamped blade, this santoku knife is a worthy addition to any cook’s kitchen. It has a full tang that provides the best weight and balance, and three rivets for security. Since the handle shape positions the hand for proper cutting technique, it is particularly comfortable and especially good for new cooks.
The 7-inch blade has a razor-sharp edge that makes it perfect for fine cuts and cutting meat or fish into small pieces for stir-fry dishes or fajitas. Meanwhile, the contoured edge makes it ideal for chopping vegetables, and the hollow grind helps keep food from sticking to the blade.
We love how effortlessly this santoku knife cut through tomatoes and other veggies during testing. It could even be used to cut super thin slices of roast. And while most people will still choose to keep their serrated bread knives, we were also impressed by this santoku's ability to slice bread.
Price at time of publish: $78
Blade Material: Zwilling special formula stainless steel | Blade Length: 7 inches | Handle Material: POM | Weight: 8.8 ounces
Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery Fibrox Pro Santoku Knife
Flat spine for extra power
Handle is a bit thin
A good santoku at a budget price, this has a stamped blade with a Granton edge that prevents food from sticking to the blade and minimizes friction. Because the 7-inch blade is stamped, this knife is lighter in weight, which some cooks might prefer, and its unique shape allows it to be used as a spatula to scoop up the ingredients you're chopping. The handle is made from a patented material that’s slip-resistant and ergonomically designed for comfortable cutting.
Although it's lightweight, this santoku knife's flat spine gives it extra power while slicing through hard-skinned produce like squash. The knife is also technically dishwasher safe, which can be handy in a pinch, but the manufacturers recommend hand washing to maintain the long-term quality.
Price at time of publish: $37
Blade Material: Stainless steel | Blade Length: 7 inches | Handle Material: Thermoplastic rubber | Weight: 3.2 ounce
Best Mid-Sized Santoku
Wusthof Classic Hollow Edge Santoku Knife 4182, 5"
Sharp out of the box
Prone to scratches
Shorter than most santoku knives that are typically about 7 inches long, this is a great knife for folks with smaller hands or simply for those who prefer a smaller blade. It’s also great as a substitute for a utility knife for everyday cutting. This is an attractive knife with a comfortably shaped handle, made from a very durable material that has a traditional look and feel. It has a full tang for better balance and three rivets that hold the handle securely.
The blade is forged rather than stamped and is made in Germany with a proprietary edge that enhances the sharpness and lasts longer before sharpening is needed. It has a Granton edge that keeps food from sticking for easier slicing, dicing, and chopping, as well as a full bolster that protects the cook’s hand.
Price at time of publish: $150
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Blade Length: 5 inches | Handle Material: POM| Weight: 2.4 ounces
Zelite Infinity Alpha-Royal Series Santoku Knife 7 Inch
Attractive 66-layer blade
Performed well on typical kitchen tasks
Blade is more curved than a traditional Santoku
This blade is beautiful, but it is functional as well. While a pretty knife might not be your first priority, there’s something special about taking a knife from the rack that looks so stunning, with a tsunami rose Damascus pattern on the blade. It makes cooking just a little bit more pleasurable.
This has a full tang and good weight, and it’s designed for impressive performance. Made from carbon Japanese stainless steel, the razor-sharp edge makes slicing easy. We tested this knife by using it to slice everything from herbs and greens to radishes, tomatoes, and even nuts. It wasn't as impressive with roast beef, but that's not the main function of a santoku. Although the knife wasn't super sharp out of the box, we didn't have a problem sharpening it ourselves.
We love how the knife is hollow ground, so foods won’t stick, and is tempered in liquid nitrogen for long-lasting performance. The handle is triple-riveted for security, and even the rivets are decorative, with a three-metal mosaic pattern. It's also designed to be ergonomic, while the tapered bolster makes it comfortable to hold, with perfect balance.
Made by a multi-generational family-run business that prides itself on engineering and innovation, this is sure to be one of the prettiest knives you’ll own. Of course, you need one for yourself, but this comes in a box that would also make it a lovely gift for any cook you know.
Price at time of publish: $105
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Blade Length: 7 inches | Handle Material: Fiberglass laminate | Weight: 9.4 ounces
Best NSF Certified
Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged Santoku Knife, 7-Inch (M20707)
Non-slip handle grip
Can rust if not fully dried
While home cooks have a wide variety of knives to choose from, NSF-certified knives are most likely in the kitchens of your favorite restaurants. This one from Mercer Culinary is NSF certified but still attractive enough for a home knife block. It has a Santoprene handle for a safe, comfortable grip and a 7-inch blade made from German steel that is rust- and corrosion-resistant. The knife has a full tang for better balance and a taper-ground edge that stays sharper longer. The Granton edge keeps food from sticking and makes for easier cutting and chopping.
Reviewers rave about this knife for its quality of materials, noting how sharp it comes right out of the box. The value for the price is hard to beat, and it's also backed by Mercer's one-year warranty. The manufacturers recommend carefully washing by hand with mild soap and drying immediately.
Price at time of publish: $43
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Blade Length: 7 inches | Handle Material: Santoprene | Weight: 3.2 ounces
Zwilling JA Henckels Pro 7" Rocking Santoku Knife
Ice-hardened for increase resilience and sharpness
This model from Zwilling combines the traditional shape of the santoku with a curved blade that provides the familiar rocking action of Western blades, so you get benefits from both styles with a single knife. Made from German stainless steel, it has an ergonomic textured stainless steel grip and balanced weight for the best control.
The blade is ice-hardened to maintain its durability and sharpness, while the unique curve of the bolster helps support a professional pinch grip during use. It's also full tang with a triple-riveted handle to keep your hand stable while chopping and slicing vegetables, meats, and fish. This knife is dishwasher safe, although hand washing is recommended.
Price at time of publish: $80
Blade Material: Special formula high-carbon stainless steel | Blade Length: 7 inches | Handle Material: POM | Weight: 12.8 ounces
Sabatier Forged Stainless Steel Santoku Knife
Comes with a sharpening sheath
Can rust if it isn’t dried right away
Maintenance couldn’t be easier since this knife sharpens itself every time you insert it into the sheath or remove it, so you’ll never need to use another sharpener to keep the knife at peak efficiency. Apart from the self-sharpening sheath, it has a hand-forged, full-tang blade with triple rivets on the handle for added durability and safety.
The five-inch blade is made from high-carbon steel with an ideal cutting angle, and the handle is designed to be ergonomic and comfortable during use. The handle material is very durable, so this knife will last for many years. As with most fine knives, this should be hand washed and dried immediately.
Price at time of publish: $18
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Blade Length: 5 inches | Handle Material: Polypropylene | Weight: 5 ounces
Best Mini Santoku
Oxo 23081 Good Grips Mini Santoku Knife
Ideal for detailed work
Thin blade is a bit flimsy
Cooks who like their larger santoku knives will love this mini version that can take the place of a utility knife or a paring knife. It’s great for all those small tasks, whether it’s slicing citrus for a cocktail or chopping chives for a garnish. The small size also makes it handy for tucking into a picnic basket or for keeping in the desk at work for lunch needs. The soft, comfortable handle is easy to hang onto, even when hands are wet, and the stainless steel blade stays sharp and is easy to resharpen when needed. If you're short on space but still want to add a high-quality knife to your collection, this Oxo mini santoku will fit the bill.
Price at time of publish: $11
Blade Material: Stainless steel | Blade Length: 4 inches | Handle Material: Rubber | Weight: 3.2 ounces
For a top-of-the-line santoku knife with a razor-sharp blade perfect for fine cuts, we recommend the Zwilling Twin Signature 7-Inch Hollow Edge Santoku Knife. Looking to splurge on something extra special? The Wusthof 5-inch Santoku Knife is a beautiful tool that will stand the test of time.
What to Look for in a Santoku Knife
Blade length should not be based on the size of the cook’s hands, but instead on what the knife will be used for, the size of the food to be cut, and the size of the cutting surface, as well as the comfort of the user. A 7-inch blade can be used to cut a variety of foods, while a 5-inch is better for smaller ingredients.
Blade Thickness and Strength
Santoku knives are designed for delicate, fine work. In order to get thin, uniform slices, the blade itself must be rather thin. Thicker blades are less accurate than thinner ones. The best santoku knives are also sturdy and inflexible. Strong metals, like high-carbon steel or high-carbon stainless steel, are often best for santoku blades. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid knives that are stamped out of a sheet of metal, as they tend to be weaker than forged knives.
Another thing that helps with overall strength is a handle that is triple riveted, meaning the blade is fully attached. If you can find a full tang knife, even better. Full tang means that the metal of the blade extends fully through the handle, giving it a sturdy construction and preventing the blade from snapping off.
You may have noticed that many santoku knives are quite tall. This helps balance the food as you slice downwards, giving you even slices each time. Additionally, a bigger surface area on the blade means you can transport your sliced or diced ingredients to the pan with ease.
Many santoku knives have ovular indentations on the blade. These are known as hollow or Granton edges. Little dimples in the blade help prevent food sticking to them, so you don’t have to risk running your hand down the blade to push off accumulated ingredients.
What is a santoku knife?
A santoku knife is a Japanese-style tool with a thin blade and a curved spine. Most santoku knives will also have hollowed edges, are 5 to 8 inches long, consist of hard steel types, and are lightweight. They can be single or double bevel. The word “santoku” means “three virtues,” which refers to the blade’s three primary uses: slicing, dicing, and chopping.
What is a santoku knife used for?
Santoku knives are designed for precise chopping, slicing, and dicing. Unlike a chef’s knife, santoku knives are known for creating paper-thin cuts. This makes santoku blades ideal for mincing herbs, slicing seafood thinly, or dicing fruits and vegetables. It is an incredibly versatile knife.
How do I sharpen a santoku knife?
Though santoku knives are known for durability and longevity, they will still need to be sharpened from time to time. Sharpening with a whetstone at a 20-degree angle (15 degrees for those with hollow edges) is ideal for this type of knife. Since it does have a thinner blade, steel sharpening rods can cause damage. Both pull-through sharpeners and electric sharpeners aren’t recommended for santoku knives since they have a unique shape that doesn’t typically fit in those conventional tools.
If you’re worried about sharpening on a whetstone, you could always get your blade professionally sharpened. There are a number of services available that will know exactly how to hone your santoku knife.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This roundup was written by Donna Currie, cookbook author, food writer, and product tester. She personally tested two of the santoku knives on this list, in addition to over 100 products for The Spruce Eats.
Allison Wignall, who updated this article, is a writer who focuses on food and travel. She’s always in the kitchen trying to recreate recipes from around the world. Her work has been featured in publications, such as Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Living.