What is an Ulu Knife and What is its Purpose?

Alaska Ulu knife

You may not have heard of the Ulu knife, probably because Japanese knives are more popular. But its reputation as a kitchen powerhouse remains valid. Over time, ulu has maintained its place as a cleaver with multipurpose qualities. 

So, what makes the knife so outstanding? Let us look at the Ulu knife’s history, Uses, features, and how it has evolved over the years. 

western ulu knife
Woman’s Knife Ulu

Ulu knife History and uses

The Ulu’s existence and relevance go back to 2500 BC. The native Ulu knife, known as Uluurag, means the woman’s knife. Ulu was popular among the Yupik, Inuit, and Aleut natives in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. 

The ulu knife is characterized by its distinctive crescent-shaped blade, which makes it ideal for working in tight spaces or around curved surfaces.

The Eskimo women and Inuit women used the Ulu knife for a variety of tasks to skin animals, chopping meat chunks, and cutting the children’s hair. Ulu also had widespread use as a defensive weapon.

The native Eskimos made the Ulu blade from materials such as quartzite, slate, or shale. They used ivory, wood, and sometimes bone to make the handles.

Apart from its domestic uses, the Ulu knife also held a high cultural value. The communities would award an ulu to the people who emerged victorious in contests.

The Present Ulu Knife 

The influence and symbolism of the Ulu knife in the Inuit culture remain consistent. But ulu has also penetrated the market and modern kitchens worldwide. 

To date, Ulu still maintains its multipurpose qualities. You can use it to perform most kitchen chores, whether vegetable or meat-related. 

The Ulu is especially ideal for cutting food on the chopping board.  Its curved blade holds on to the surface providing the rocking motion that you need while chopping.

One of the most outstanding qualities of the knife is its user-friendliness. For instance, it is pretty easy for someone with arthritis or short fingers to use the knife. And with a variety of blade sizes, you can choose which knife works best for you. 

Features of the Ulu knife 


The Ulu knife comes in different sizes, depending on the intended purpose. The short two-inch Ulu knife is ideal for cutting small ingredients and vegetables. 

The traditional 12-inch Ulu was popular for chopping meat and herbs. This knife has evolved into a multipurpose blade in the modern kitchen. 

The design

The modern Ulu knives feature high carbon steel and stainless steel blades. They also boast wooden, G10, Micarta, or plastic ergonomic handles. 

western ulu knife
Woman’s knives (ulu) from Greenland

By looking at the blade design, you can tell where an Ulu knife originated. The Canadian Ulu blade is attached to the handle in the center by a single stem. 

An Ulu from the western Greenland origins has pointed blades. If it is from the eastern Greenland, you will identify it with the triangular blade.

Alaska Ulu knife
Alaskan Style Ulu

The Alaskan Styled blade, also known as the Inuit, is more popular. The blade has a centerpiece cut out so that both ends fit into the handle. 


The Ulu blade is curved such that the force concentrates in the middle. This feature lessens the energy you need when cutting through rigid objects. 

Coupled with the strong handle, the shape of the ulu knife also makes it perfect for one-hand users. Like its traditional counterpart, the modern Ulu knife is also versatile. Thus, it is friendly to even the less experienced handlers. 


As seen, the Ulu knife boasts a curved blade that makes the cutting experience easier. Also, the Ulu knife maintains the sharp edges for a long time. Moreover, it is easy to sharpen the blade using a whetstone. 

But some modern Ulu knives feature high carbon steel blades, which are prone to rust. Thus, it is good to note that you need to apply some vegetable oil to the blade to keep corrosion away. It would be best if you also were extra vigilant when cleaning the edges. The curved edges are quite sharp and can skim into your skin. 

The Experts recommend the traditional whetstone is sharpening the knife. All you need to do is apply gentle pressure on the blade and rub it through the whetstone. If you notice some chippings along the edges, use sandpaper to remove them. 

Ease of carrying 

The Ulu knife comes with a leather shield that provides full coverage to the blade. You can hang the knife on your belt when performing your outdoor activities. Thus, ulu is the perfect fit for camping activities.

Ulu Knife Vs Mezzaluna 

From the first look, it is easy to confuse the ulu with the Mezzaluna. Most people refer to the Mezzaluna as the Italian version of the Ulu. But on closer look, the two blades are different. Let us have a look at these differences and how they translate to the knives’ functionalities. 

  1. The Ulu knife has only one handle. The Mezzaluna has two handles and is ideal for two-hand use.
  2. The Ulu has one curved blade. The Mezzaluna has either one curve blade or a pair that are parallel to each other. 
  3. The Mezzaluna is ideal for chopping herbs. The Ulu knife is suitable for various uses, and thus it is a multipurpose knife. 

The pros and cons of the ulu knife 


  • The ulu has a beautiful design
  • It is versatile and easy to handle for the less skilled user.
  • You can use it to perform a variety of tasks
  • It has an ergonomic handle 
  • Ulu is disability friendly 


  • Not suitable for piercing tasks
  • Does not allow precision cuts

The Ulu Knife Shopping Guide

The Ulu comes in a variety of brands. Thus, like other knives, shopping for one may not always be a smooth experience. Below are some factors you need to consider when buying the ulu knife.

Handle and build materials

The modern ulu versions are made from wood or plastic. Whereas the wooden handle provides a more comfortable grip, plastic is easier to clean.

You can choose between stainless steel and high carbon steel for the blade. Stainless steel is rust-free but dulls quickly. The high carbon steel rusts if not well maintained but stays sharp for longer.


The small blade ulu knife is ideal for cutting small items. Go for a longer blade if you intend to perform heavy-duty tasks with the knife. 


The Ulu knife is affordable, with an average price of 30 to 50 dollars. But these prices vary depending on the size and the blade material you want.


The Ulu knife is a multipurpose knife that can be used for a variety of tasks in the kitchen. It is especially useful for cutting food on the chopping board. The Ulu knife is referred to as a woman’s knife as it was mostly used by Yupik, Inuit, and Aleut women.


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