Tsukune vs Tsumire: Japanese Meat Dumplings

In Japanese, there are a number of similar food names that refer to similar things, and typical examples include Unaju/Unadon, Umezuke/Umeboshi, and “Tsukune (つくね)” and “Tsumire (つみれ)”.

If you are well acquainted with Japanese cuisine, you may have heard of all of these things, but how about the difference?

For those who don’t know much about them, I wrote about the first 2 pairs before as the green links show. Therefore, today I will explain the rest, how Tsukune differs from Tsumire.

Tsukune vs Tsumire

Tsukune Yakitori

As you might already know, Tsukune are meatballs typically made from finely minced chicken, while Tsumire are dumplings usually made from surimi fish paste from blue-backed fish such as sardine, horse mackerel, or saury. 

However, Tsukune can also be made from fish paste, and in contrast, Tsumire dumplings are sometimes made from chicken meat as well.

They both use thickeners and are kneaded into a dough, but are different in how they are shaped. So the difference between Tsukune and Tsumire actually doesn’t come from the ingredients used.

The Meaning of Tsukune (つくね)

Tsukune Meatballs

“つくね (Tsukune)” is written as “捏ね (Tsukune)” using Chinese characters or Kanji, which originally means “捏ねる (Koneru)” or kneading something by hand or some kitchen utensil and shaping like a ball. This is the way Tsukune is shaped.

The Meaning of Tsumire (つみれ)

Chanko Nabe with Tsumire Dumplings

On the other hand, the food “つみれ (Tsumire)” is also called “つみいれ (Tsumi-Ire)” whose origin derives from the word “摘み入れる (Tsumi-Ireru)” meaning picking (taking) something up (by hand or using a spoon or the like) and putting in (into a Nabemono hot-pot or the like). This is the way Tsumire is prepared.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia つくね, つみれ )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

2 Responses

  1. Wes Penn says:

    Tomo san, you present very good information about Japanese foods. It will help me very much as I am coming to Japan next year.

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