There could not be a better partner to your chef's knife than a Santoku.
Santoku’s are knives designed specifically for cutting vegetables with efficiency and ease.
Santoku means “The Three Virtues,” which are chopping, dicing, and slicing. Or a variation of that phrase, depending on whom you ask.
Santoku are similar to a chef's knife in that they can handle a variety of tasks with ease. They differ from the chef's knife in that they are typically shorter, have a rounded nose, and the blade is often scalloped to assist in pushing food off of the knife.
About the Santoku
Santoku was created as an alternative to the nakiri (a short cleaver with a tall blade) that Japanese home cooks often used.
The santoku retains the tall blade, which is handy for scooping chopped product, but the rounded tip makes it a much better tool for intricate tasks, like coring a bell pepper.
A good santoku should have a thin blade, ideally 2mm or less. This will keep products like carrots from breaking apart when the knife is forced down through them.
The blade should be no less than 6.5 inches in length, ideally 7", depending on the size of your hands.
Though the blade was traditionally made straight in the style of the nakiri, these days, most santokus have a curved blade that makes it easier for rocking through vegetable cuts.
The santoku was a Japanese invention, though many retailers have copied the design and now there are a multitude of santoku’s to choose from. This is partially in thanks to Rachel Ray’s shout out to her Wusthoff santoku knife on her Food Network show in the early 2000’s.
Our #1 Santoku Pick
Miyabi Rocking Edge Santoku 7”
Miyabi knives make up almost 60% of my rather substantial knife collection. The first knife I ever bought was a Miyabi very similar to this one.
Nearly 10 years later, it is still my favorite knife and the first one I reach for in the kitchen.
The rocking edge and the pointed tip are both useful features for getting through a large pile of vegetables or small delicate tasks with ease.
Miyabi knives are all hand-made, they are extremely high quality, and will last you forever. Not to mention, they are absolutely gorgeous and tend to steal the thunder of other knives in a collection.
See more santoku recommendations below.
Qualities to Look for in a Santoku (vegetable) knife
Stainless steel or similar, thin blade
Approx 7 inches long / 2.5mm or less in width
Non-slip, fits well in your hand
Rounded, or semi-rounded tip and edge
Santokus are meant to be put to heavy, regular use, so stainless steel is going to be your best bet for these knives.
Damascus steel is also a good option and maintains many qualities similar to stainless steel.
Avoid carbon steel, unless it is coated in stainless steel, as it will rust very quickly and is not ideal for chopping a lot of vegetables with a high water content.
Santokus are typically shorter than your average chef's knife.
Unless you have very small hands, you typically want at least a 7-inch blade or close to it, to ensure you can get through bigger vegetables like splitting a long carrot or cutting through winter squash.
Additionally, you want the blade to be rather thin. A thin blade will cut more cleanly through your product rather than breaking it apart. 2mm is ideal, though on a few knives, you can get away with 2.5mm width.
The best type of knife is a knife that feels comfortable in your hand.
If you can, go to a store like Williams Sonoma and ask to try out some knives. Even if you don’t purchase a knife there, you can get a feel for what sort of knife is comfortable for you.
Personally, after chopping vegetables for eight hours a day in professional kitchens, I am partial to wooden or plastic handles. I’ve found they rub less, are less affected by hot or cold temperatures, and generally hold up well to heavy use.
Most wooden handles will be coated and sealed to avoid cracking or swelling.
A rounded edge is your best friend. The rounded edges are made for slicing down and forward, then rocking back to repeat the motion.
Basically, the knife does more work and you do less when you have a rounded edge.
A rocking santoku means the edge is even more rounded. Not necessary, but a nice feature for sure.
A rounded or semi-rounded tip is a core feature of the santoku knife. The tips make it very easy to cut a bad spot out of a potato, core a pepper, or perform other delicate tasks.
Don’t be fooled though, the rounded tip doesn’t mean the knife is any less sharp.
A sharp knife is a safe knife, as it will slice through the product as you intend. A dull knife is likely to bounce off the product and cut you.
5 Best Knives for Cutting Vegetables
#1 Miyabi Rocking Edge Santoku 7”
Why? Miyabi is a fantastic Japanese knife brand. The knives are all hand-made, beautiful, durable, easy to clean and care for, and will last you forever.
The rocking feature makes it even easier to glide naturally between your cuts with a “down and forward” motion.
Who It’s For? Anyone who wants a gorgeous and efficient knife that will last a very long time, and can be put to heavy use.
Who It’s Not For? Someone on a budget.
#2 Mac Knife MSK-65 6.5”
Why? Though it’s not the flashiest knife on the market, this knife is lightweight, sharp, and sure to do a good job.
The Mac is a bit shorter and has a wider blade than is generally recommended, but it still managed to beat out 15 other santoku knives in a test from Serious Eats.
Who It’s For? Anyone who wants a gorgeous and efficient knife that will last a very long time and can be put to heavy use. Anyone with small hands.
Who It’s Not For? Someone on a budget. Someone who wants a longer knife.
#3 Tojiro "Oboro" VG10 Santoku 6.8”
Why? Also of Japanese make, the Tojiro of the Oboro series is a stunning, well-made santoku knife that comes in at just over $100.
Made in Japan with stainless steel and hand-sharpened, this knife is a bargain and will last you forever.
Note: The knives sold through Burrfection are often one-of-a-kind and will frequently sell out. They almost always have a similar option for value and price point.
Just search “santoku” if the one you want is sold out and you’ll likely find a very similar knife.
Avoid carbon steel blades as they rust easily.
Who It’s For? Anyone who wants a gorgeous and efficient knife that will last a very long time and can be put to heavy use.
Who It’s Not For? Someone on a budget.
#4 Imarku Santoku Knife 7”
Why? With over 3,000 five-star reviews, this knife is a bargain at under $60. It goes on sale frequently so keep an eye out.
This knife is pretty, well-made, and will do a great job. Though this knife’s blade is 2.5mm, which is slightly thicker than recommended, its users had very few complaints about its functionality.
Who It’s For? Anyone who wants a gorgeous and efficient knife that can be put to heavy use. Anyone who wants a good knife for an affordable price.
Who It’s Not For? Someone who wants a higher-quality knife, someone who wants a very thin blade.
#5 FINDKING Dynasty Series Japanese Santoku Knife
Why? Also with over 3,000 five-star reviews, this knife is absolutely stunning and is under $50 dollars.
This knife is prized for its sharpness and the good quality for the price. It would make a gorgeous present or a great addition to a collection.
The only downside to this knife is that some consumers have had a few problems with the blade rusting. But if you hand wash and dry it immediately after each use, you should have no issues.
Who It’s For? Anyone who wants a gorgeous and efficient knife that can be put to heavy use. Anyone who wants a decent knife for an affordable price.
Who It’s Not For? Someone who wants a higher-quality knife, someone who wants a knife that will not rust.
Can a Santoku Knife Tackle Any Vegetable?
It sure can! The only exception to this is if your knife becomes dull, or if the blade is too short for the project.
For example, I would avoid breaking down a giant pumpkin with your santoku and opt for a 12-inch chefs knife instead. Possibly even a cleaver.
Could Another Knife Get the Job Done?
If you have a good chef's knife on hand, it can do just about anything a Santoku can and vice versa.
However, never underestimate the advantages of having a knife designed to do a specific task.
Why is My Knife Bouncing Off of Vegetables?
The blade is dull. Run it over the honing wand a few times and if that doesn’t help, it’s time to get it sharpened.
Honing your knife every time you use it will help keep the edge sharp for a long time.
Why Does a Vegetable Stay Attached in Some Spots When I’m Cutting it?
You need to follow through with the back of the blade. When you cut vegetables, generally you want to cut down and push the knife forward at the same time.
The back of the blade should connect with the cutting board and slide forward.
That final sliding motion is often what gets all the way through that last bit of vegetable.
How Do You Care For a Good Knife?
Use your knife only for tasks it was designed for. For example, don’t use a santoku to chop through chicken bones.
Avoid using it on extremely hard surfaces like fruit pits, frozen items, or stone cutting boards.
Hand-wash your knife and dry it immediately. Hone it regularly and store it in a knife block or a magnetic rack.
If you’re going to leave it loose in a bin or drawer, keep a knife cover on it so the blade doesn’t get banged up.
There is not a better knife on the market for cutting vegetables than a Santoku. Santokus are designed specifically for cutting vegetables. The name Santoku means “The Three Virtues:” Chopping, slicing, and dicing.
While I recommend investing at least $100 in a Santoku, as a high-quality knife will last you forever, you can certainly find some decent options at a lower price.
A Santoku can tackle just about any vegetable, as long as the blade is long enough and you’ve kept it sharp.
Hone your knife often and get it sharpened when it becomes dull and the knife will always be a joy to use.