The Best Knife for Cutting Veggies – Hint: It’s Not Just One
“Eat your veggies!”
Most of us have probably been told that our entire lives – and as adults, the responsibility of making sure we do it falls upon ourselves. Sure, it’s easy enough to throw some canned or frozen veggies into a meal and call it a day, but unless you’re making a soup, stew or any other meal where you’d expect to bite into some mushy veggies, nothing beats fresh vegetables! Well, maybe except the whole cutting them up part.
But, just imagine using frozen veggies to cook up some fajitas, only to end up with a mouthful of mushy peppers and onions with every bite. Crisp veggies are a must for this dish, along with many others. And you may be thinking, “But, cutting up bell peppers and onions is a pita!” – as in a pain in the you know what 😜
But it doesn’t have to be this way! All you need is a good, sharp knife – and maybe a little practice.
Here's what you'll learn in this F.N. Sharp guide:
The Best Knives for Slicing, Dicing and Mincing Veggies
While you could have a one size fits all knife that you’re accustomed to working with, not all veggies are made the same. This is why your knife collection should have a few options in case your go-to knife just isn’t the best choice for the job. And since there are so many types of knives to choose from, we’ve broken down some of the best ones to keep on hand for slicing, dicing and mincing fresh vegetables and herbs.
Must-Have Veggie-Cutting Knives for the Home Cook
While some of the knives on this list can be used for cutting the same things, which one you choose will really depend on personal preference. For example, you could choose to use a Santoku, utility or chef’s knife to cut up an onion – whichever feels most comfortable to you!
Now, let’s take a look at some of the veggie-cutting knives you’ll find with most kitchen knife sets – but keep in mind that if you can only have one knife in the kitchen, you’ll definitely want to make it either the western-style chef’s knife or the Japanese Santoku – and be sure to check out this post on the differences between the two!
The Western Chef’s Knife
As we grow as cooks, our knife collection grows as well. For most home cooks, the first knife to find its forever home in their kitchens is the Western chef’s knife, often referred to as simply the chef's knife or even just "chef knife".
This classic knife is often referred to as the most important tool in the kitchen. And, although there are many different styles of chef knives, anytime “the chef’s knife” is mentioned, it’s usually in reference to the Western chef’s knife.
The western chef’s knife comes from either German or French origin and is the kitchen workhorse. The blade features a curved cutting edge, known as the “belly”, with a thick heel and pointed tip (learn more about the parts of a knife with this F.N. Sharp guide). This design goes hand in hand with the rocking motion technique known as the “rock chop” – and once you’ve mastered the rock chop, along with other knife cuts, you’ll breeze right through most of your veggie cutting tasks with the chef’s knife.
A larger knife by scale of kitchen knives, the chef’s knife can be used to break down and cut up anything (think whole chicken) that may pass over your (hopefully) wooden cutting board – learn more about why wooden cutting boards are better for your knives with this F.N. Sharp guide.
Anyway, the chef's knife is great for the hearty veggies like winter squash due to its hefty heel, and it's one of the best knives for mincing a large amount of garlic or onion, as well.
Although it’s considered a multipurpose tool, it can be a bit too heavy and chunky when it comes to working with delicate ingredients or tasks that involve detailed handwork. This is where the paring knife comes in, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Up next is the Japanese style chef’s knife.
Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Chef’s Knife
See the chef’s knife in action with these videos on how to cut a bell pepper, how to slice and dice tomatoes, how to julienne zucchini, how to julienne peppers, how to dice an onion, and how to chop and mince garlic:
The Santoku Knife
Another ideal kitchen knife for working with veggies comes from the East and has been steadily gaining popularity in home kitchens over the last two decades. Known as the Japanese chef’s knife, the Santoku knife features a unique shape and cutting edge.
Smaller and lighter than the Western chef’s knife, the Santoku knife features a blade with a rounded tip, rather than coming to a sharp point like its Western counterpart. Many refer to its shape as a “sheep’s foot” due to its flat cutting edge; however, some Santoku knives – like the F.N. Sharp Santoku knife, for example – feature a slight belly to allow for the rocking motion while slicing strips of vegetables.
Another unique trait of the Santoku knife is its scalloped edge, better known as a “Granton'' edge. This refers to the small indentations along the flat of the blade near the cutting edge which allow tiny air packets to make their way between your ingredients and the blade to help prevent sticking between cuts – perfect for sticky or delicate ingredients like garlic and fish.
Translating as “three virtues” or “three uses”, the Santoku knife is great for slicing, dicing, and mincing a variety of vegetables, from cucumbers and zucchini to garlic and herbs. Like the Western chef’s knife, it’s also considered a multipurpose tool, however, its small size and lightweight feel bows down to the chef’s knife when it comes to dense veggies like winter squashes.
See the Santoku knife in action with this F.N. Sharp video on how to cut an onion (without crying):
The Utility Knife
Another multipurpose tool for the kitchen, the utility knife is yet another go-to knife when it comes to cutting veggies.
Smaller than a chef’s knife but larger than the paring knife, the utility knife ideal is for slicing and dicing mid-sized veggies and herbs – plus, it’s great to have on hand for other quick meal prep in the kitchen. Think slicing up citrus or chopping just a few herbs to finish a dish.
This handy knife is also often referred to as the “tomato knife” or the “sandwich knife” because it’s perfect for prepping small meals and, you guessed it, sandwiches! While utility knives commonly feature serrated blades, they can also be non-serrated (or straight edged) which actually allows for a much nicer, cleaner cut when you keep up with maintaining its sharpness.
Take the F.N. Sharp Utility Knife, for example: it features a straight-edged blade crafted from premium Japanese VG10 steel, which is known for its strength and ability to hold an exceptionally sharp, long-lasting edge. Add on the unique feathered Damascus pattern and you get beauty and function in one!
See the utility knife in action with these videos for how to dice shallots, how to cut jalapenos, how to get to the heart of an artichoke, how to slice and dice tomatoes, and how to cut an avocado and turn the slices into a pretty rose garnish:
The Paring Knife
The baby of all kitchen knives, the paring knife is tiny when compared to the other knives on this list, but it is very unique to its purpose.
Paring knives come in different shapes and sizes, and each has a specific purpose. The Spear Point, which every kitchen should have, is the classic straight-edged, sharp-tipped paring knife that is used for all general-purpose paring and slicing.
The Bird’s Beak, just as it sounds, is slightly curved and is perfect for peeling rounded fruit or citrus. The Sheep’s Foot, or flat paring knife, is slightly longer and larger than the Spear Point and is ideal for small items like garlic, shallots, ginger and the like.
Straight-edged paring knives are perfect for paring, peeling, segmenting and slicing smaller veggies. Quickly making thin slices of cucumber to top your gazpacho or cutting up that apple while on a picnic are just a couple of ideal uses for the paring knife. They can also be used to peel veggies (and fruits) using carefully honed skills, but be careful because the blade may be tiny but it’s still sharp!
Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Paring Knife
The Boning Knife
Veggies may not come with bones, but it doesn’t mean the boning knife can’t come in handy during veggie prep!
Featuring a long and thin, semi-flexible blade with a sharp point, the boning knife is perfect for getting creative with your veggie prep when you don’t have a paring knife on hand!
For example, you can easily use the boning knife for peeling veggies like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, parsnips, radishes, butternut and spaghetti squash, or whatever your recipe calls for!
The boning knife is also a great option for creating bell pepper curls (as pictured) to add a fun garnish to your favorite dishes! To do this, you’ll cut off the top and bottom of the bell pepper, remove the seeds and cut through one of the sides of the pepper to flatten it out skin side down.
Next, use your boning knife to remove the ribs (the white part) and about 50 percent of the meat. So you’ll basically slide your boning knife almost between the meat and the skin, kind of like removing the skin from a fish fillet. Then simply slice into thin julienne style strips and then give them a nice ice water bath for about an hour or so and voila – you’ve got a pretty pepper garnish!
Bonus Tip: The longer you leave the pepper strips soaking in ice water, the more they’ll curl and the brighter the color! You can even leave them soaking overnight if needed since the ice water will keep them nice and crisp!
Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Boning Knife
The Bread Knife
Just like the boning knife, the bread knife doesn’t have to stay true to its name! This is especially true if it has the right edge!
Bread knife blades typically come in two different styles: the classic pointed edge which features several sharp and aggressive teeth, and the scalloped edge which features more rounded serrations that are spread further apart. The rounded serrations, like you’ll see on the F.N. Sharp Bread Knife, create cleaner cuts that will not only save you time on cleanup, but will also give an aesthetic appeal to just about anything you put it up against.
Try using your bread knife to cut through large, dense veggies like butternut and spaghetti squash. When it comes to these tough veggies, using a straight-edged knife can actually be dangerous – especially if it isn’t sharp enough! – as they can trap the blade and require you to use more force to either push it downward or pull it back out.
Pro Tip: If you plan on cutting a spaghetti squash using a bread knife, be sure to use a pointed edge bread knife for uncooked spaghetti squash or the scalloped edge bread knife for cooked spaghetti squash.
Get All of the F.N. Sharp Essentials: The 6-Knife Set & Magnetic Knife Block
Specialty Veggie-Cutting Knives for the Professional Chef
While the next two knives have made their way into home kitchens, they’re more commonly used by professional chefs, which means you probably won’t find them included in most kitchen knife sets. And when you’ve got all of the other essential knives we’ve mentioned on hand, these next two are clearly not needed but still worth the mention.
The Nakiri Knife
Similar to the small Chinese cleaver known as the Tao, the Nakiri is a Japanese-style vegetable knife.
With a straight and flat blade, this vegetable knife is definitely not designed for the push and pull rock chop techniques commonly performed with the Western chef’s knife, but it’s still great for processing all kinds of vegetables. However, since they generally have quite thin-edged blades, the Nakiri knife isn’t nearly as versatile as the Western chef’s knife or even the Santoku.
If used with meat or bones, or even fish, there’s a high chance of damaging a Nakiri blade. This means you’ll have to stick to just veggies, so if you’re trying to limit your kitchen knife collection or simply don’t have the space, then you may want to just stick with the essentials.
The Gyuto Knife
Another popular knife for cutting veggies is the Gyuto knife, which is another Japanese version of the Western chef’s knife. Similar in shape and size but with a thinner edge compared to the chef’s knife, the Gyuto is also double beveled, meaning it’s sharpened on both sides.
The Gyuto blade is thicker compared to other Japanese-style kitchen knives and is usually smaller but can make for a great all-purpose knife in the kitchen – just without the heft of the west. If your veggie cutting tasks cover a wide variety of vegetables, including squash and potatoes, then you’re better off with the Western chef’s knife in terms of the best multipurpose tool.
Pro Kitchen Tips for Cutting Fresh Veggies and Herbs
When it comes to meal prep, you can find all kinds of tips online – and every chef will have their own tricks of the trade. After talking about knives and working with local chefs, we’ve gathered a few tips that can help take the work out of prep work.
Know Your Knives
As mentioned earlier in this post, knowing the different parts of a knife and how to use them is a must when learning how to cut through veggies like a pro. Equally important is knowing the differences between the different types of kitchen knives and which to use for specific tasks.
For example, you won’t get very far if you try to cut through a large slab of meat with a paring knife, and a chef’s knife sure isn’t the knife for the job when it comes to peeling vegetables.
Knowing how your knives are made and the materials used to craft them is also important, since both the handle and the blade can be made from different materials. From budget and premium steels to titanium and even ceramic, you’ll find there are several different types of materials used to craft a kitchen knife blade.
When it comes to steel blades, there are two main types to choose from: high carbon and stainless steel. Made of carbon and iron, high Carbon Steel is known for its edge retention and easy sharpening, however, it’s also prone to rust, stains and oxidation. Stainless steel blades, on the other hand, are made of iron, chromium, some carbon and other alloys for higher corrosion resistance, however, they must also be sharpened often, depending on the types of stainless steel used.
Handles also play an important role when it comes to the performance of your kitchen knives. As a matter of fact, the design and materials used to create knife handles can determine several factors when it comes to overall performance, including water and temperature resistance, durability and reliability, cut performance and appeal, grip and hand control, and your level of fatigue based on each task.
Get Your Grip
Speaking of grip, not holding a knife properly is one of the most common mistakes beginner cooks make. The safest, most versatile grip is the pinch or blade grip, in which you pinch the blade between your thumb and index finger with the rest of your fingers wrapped around the handle.
When holding ingredients in place with your off-hand, be sure to practice the “claw” grip, which involves curling your fingertips under and using your knuckles as a guide for your knife. Learn all about knife safety and usage in our post, How to Grip a Knife Like a Pro, and check out the video below to see how to hold a knife in action:
Find Your Stability
When working with a round ingredient, like an onion, be sure to stabilize it on your cutting board by cutting a small slice off the top or bottom, or simply cut the whole thing in half. Stabilizing your ingredients will make slicing, dicing and mincing much easier – and faster – not to mention it’s a top tip for following the rules of kitchen knife safety.
Find Your Roll
Recipes that call for sliced greens and herbs can become quite tedious when trying to slice them all one by one or piled up in a stack that gives way mid-way through slicing it.
A pro tip for making quick work of such tedious tasks is to roll them up like a wad of Benji’s, then slice with that chef’s knife or utility knife and watch as perfect the strips fall away like rain. This technique is known as the chiffonade cut, which comes from a French word meaning “in rags”. Check out our guide for more tips on cooking with herbs and spices, and check out the video below to see how to chiffonade herbs in action:
Knife Knowledge 101: The Best Knife for Cutting Through the Meats
45 Recipes for Practicing Your Veggie Cutting Skills
Now that you know what knives to keep on hand for your veggie prep, check out these recipes to practice those veggie cutting skills! And if you’re not sure how to cut up certain veggies, then be sure to check out our A - Z guide to cutting vegetables!