Unagi Sauce (Homemade Eel Sauce Recipe) (2024)

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Published by Izzy

on Jan 15, 2021, Updated Nov 19, 2023

5 from 2 votes

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This homemade Unagi Sauce or Eel Sauce is sticky, sweet, savory, and flavorful! Popular in Japanese cuisine, it’s traditionally used on grilled eel (unagi), barbeque dishes and sushi rolls. Unagi sauce is made by simmering 4 simple ingredients to a sugary, salty reduction that’s perfect atop your favorite dish.

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Unagi sauce is often served at restaurants that feature Asian cuisine, and particularly Japanese restaurants. You may even have seen little packets of it in your takeout. It’s thick, sweet, salty, and packed with umami – that unique fifth category of taste in food.

This sauce is available in the Asian cuisine aisle of most grocery stores. But once you’ve tried this easy and delicious homemade alternative, you won’t believe how such a complex medley of flavors is made from just 4 ingredients.

Whatis Unagi Sauce (Eel sauce)?

Unagi Sauce, also known as Unagi no Tare (うなぎのたれin Japanese) or eel sauce, is a thickened golden brown soysauce made with caramelized sugar. It’s traditionally served with grilled eel,but these days, it’s popularly served with all kinds of sushi. If you’refeeling adventurous, try using this delicious sauce on BBQ chicken for a flavorfusion that’s out of this world.

Ingredients and Substitutes

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  • Soy Sauce: I used low-sodium soy sauce in this recipe. You can sub regular soy sauce.
  • Sugar: Adds a nice and sweet flavor. It also helps to thicken the sauce.
  • Mirin: It’s a popular condiment in Japanese cuisine.Mirinadds a sweet and tangy flavor to the sauce. you can sub in dry sherry or sweet marsala wine.
  • Sake: Another popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. You can substitute Chinese cooking wine.

How toMake Unagi Sauce at Home

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1. Add the mirin, sugar, and sake to a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add soy sauce to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves.

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3. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.

4. Remove from heat and let it cool. Serve and enjoy!


  • Make sure NOT to over-thicken the sauce as it will become thicker as it cools.
  • Let the sauce cool to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container. It’ll last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Waysto use Unagi Sauce

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There are so many delicious ways to enjoy unagi sauce. It’s anextremely versatile sauce that can even be used in many ways:

  • Dipping or Drizzling Sauce: Drizzle it over grilled eel, fried chicken, sushi or other BBQ dishes. You will find that unagi sauce is a welcome addition to BBQ dishes and is delicious with grilled meats and grilled mushrooms.
  • As a Marinade: Use it to marinate the meat before cooking.
  • As a Stir-fry Sauce: Sauté the food with unagi sauce. You can use it with traditional Asian meals or branch out and incorporate it into non-Asian meals too.

Vegans and vegetarians will love tofu smothered in this sticky-sweetsauce. Of course, unagi sauce is simply delicious with sushi and can addunbelievable flavor to rice balls.

WhatDoes Unagi Sauce Taste Like?

This sauce is often compared to BBQ sauce because of its flavor profile – sweet, savory and full-bodied. Unagi sauce has that unique umami taste that’s typical of soy sauces. Imagine a thick, caramelized soy sauce and that’s unagi sauce for you.

Whatare Substitutes for Unagi Eel Sauce?

If you can’t find eel sauce (or the ingredients to make it), you maybe wondering about substitutions. Teriyaki sauce can be used in a pinch, sinceit has a similar flavor to unagi sauce and it is often more readily available.

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IsUnagi Sushi sauce made of eel?

Unagi sauce is commonly referred to as eel sauce because of its traditional use – being drizzled over grilled eel or used in meals that feature grilled eel. The sauce itself is made with just 4 ingredients (and NO eel!): soy sauce, sake, sugar and mirin. That’s it!

IsUnagi sauce the same as eel sauce?

Yes! These terms are interchangeable. Unagi sauce is commonly referredto as eel sauce because of its traditional usage – being served with grilledeel or with meals that feature grilled eel.

HowLong Does Homemade Eel Sauce Last?

While store-bought eel sauce can last for months due to the presence of preservatives, your homemade eel sauce should be used within 5 days. If you’ve made too much, you can freeze the sauce and use it for future meals.

WhereCan I Buy Unagi Sauce?

Homemade eel sauce has the advantage of being freshly made and can becustomized to your flavor preferences. Still, you may wish to purchasereadymade eel sauce because it’s far more convenient and will last longer.

Look for unagi sauce in the Asian aisle of your supermarket. You may also have better luck looking in the condiment aisle of an Asian supermarket. It can also be found online at retailers like Walmart and Amazon.

BestUnagi Sauce Brands

There are a number ofbrands of unagi sauce available in the U.S. Here are some of the most commonlyavailable brands:

Kikkoman Unagi Sushi Sauce is highly regarded as one of the best brands that you can buy. This sauce is made with the highest quality ingredients and contains no artificial flavoring or coloring.

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If you tried this recipe, let me know how your Unagi Sauce turns out in the comments below!

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5 from 2 votes

Unagi Sauce Recipe

By: Izzy

This homemade Unagi Sauce or Eel Sauce is sticky, sweet, savory, and flavorful! Popular in Japanese cuisine, it’s traditionally used on grilled eel (unagi), barbeque dishes and sushi rolls. Unagi sauce is made by simmering 4 simple ingredients to a sugary, salty reduction that’s perfect atop your favorite dish.

Prep: 5 minutes mins

Cook: 10 minutes mins

Total: 15 minutes mins

Servings: 16 tablespoons

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  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake


  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the mirin, sugar, and sake. Mix well.

  • Add soy sauce to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves.

  • Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes until you see many bubbles on the surface. Stir occaionally.

  • Remove from heat and let it cool. Use as directed in the post. Enjoy!


  • The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
  • Store the unagi sauce in an airtight container and it’ll last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.


Calories: 33kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 461mg | Potassium: 15mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate only and will vary based on ingredient brands and cooking methods used.

Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

Unagi Sauce (Homemade Eel Sauce Recipe) (13)

About Izzy

I'm Izzy, a food lover and photographer. Here you’ll find a collection of simple recipes that are perfect for busy people. My blog aims to help you make and enjoy delicious and healthy food at home.

Read More About Me

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Unagi Sauce (Homemade Eel Sauce Recipe) (2024)


What is unagi sauce made of? ›

So, What Ingredients Are In Eel Sauce? Eel sauce is a simple reduction of only four ingredients: sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Due to its sugar and salt content, the sauce keeps quite well, so don't be afraid to make too much (you can even freeze it).

What are the ingredients in Kikkoman unagi sauce? ›

Sugar, Water, Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Wheat, Salt), Caramelised sugar syrup, Salt, Modified starch, Ethyl alcohol, Molasses, Yeast extract, Spirit vinegar, Thickener: Xanthan gum, Seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) powder.

What is the difference between unagi sauce and eel? ›

Eel Sauce

Also known as unagi sauce, eel sauce is a sweet and savory sauce that is typically drizzled over eel sushi rolls. Made from soy sauce, sugar, and mirin (a sweet rice wine), eel sauce has a caramelized flavor that pairs perfectly with the rich flavor of the eel.

Is eel sauce just teriyaki sauce? ›

No, they are not the same, but similar. Eel sauce is less sweet than teriyaki. It's a bit saltier, though both contain sugar. Teriyaki uses brown sugar, elk uses white.

What is similar to unagi sauce? ›

It tastes savory-sweet from the sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Since the ingredients are the same as teriyaki sauce, you might wonder if eel sauce is the same. Yes, both sauces are similar, but you'll notice the slight differences in the richness and sweetness.

How is unagi made? ›

Unagi is often prepared using a Japanese seafood preparation method called kabayaki, where the fish or eel is split down the back, gutted, boned, butterflied, cut into squares, skewered, then dipped in soy sauce before being broiled or grilled.

Is hoisin sauce the same as unagi sauce? ›

No, eel sauce and hoisin sauce are not the same. While both are sweet and savory condiments commonly used in Asian cuisine, eel sauce is typically made with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, whereas hoisin sauce contains soybean paste, garlic, vinegar, and various spices, resulting in different flavor profiles.

Why is unagi sauce called eel sauce? ›

So, why is it called eel sauce then? Because it's commonly used to glaze eel in Japanese cooking. Unagi (freshwater eel) is commonly cooked kabayaki style; that's where a fish is gutted, scaled, deboned, and cut into squares, then skewered, dipped in a marinade and grilled. For unagi, that marinade is eel sauce.

What does unagi contain? ›

If you enjoy other fatty fish such as tuna or mackerel, you will probably love unagi as well. In addition to a higher fat content, unagi also has an overall higher nutrient content than anago, including vitamins A, B1, B2, D, E, and omega-3 fatty acids.

What is eel sauce called in the grocery store? ›

Eel sauce is also called nitsume or kabayaki sauce, and unagi no tare in Japanese. It's a sweet and salty sauce that goes great over grilled fish or chicken and is a common drizzle over sushi.

Is ponzu sauce the same as eel sauce? ›

Ponzu Sauce: a citrus-based sauce and popular addition to soy sauce, ponzu is a popular dipping sauce for adding a tart, tangy flavor to sashimi. Eel Sauce: heated for serving, eel sauce is a thick, sweet sauce that comes drizzled on top of a variety of nigiri.

What is ponzu sauce made of? ›

A classic Japanese condiment, Ponzu Sauce is a citrus-based sauce with a tart-tangy flavor similar to a vinaigrette. It contains a mix of ponzu (citrus juice of sudachi, yuzu, and kabosu and vinegar), soy sauce, sugar or mirin, and dashi.

What do you eat with eel sauce? ›

Eel sauce is so called because it's primarily used on grilled eel dishes like unagi donbiri (unadon) and on eel sushi. It's also delicious on yaki-onigiri and other grilled treats, and of course on those brobdingnagian Western “rolls.”

Can Muslims eat unagi? ›

Eel, or Unagi in Japanese, is a traditional Japanese food ingredient, which is generally considered as Halal. With its very unique shape, people who have never tried eel may wonder how the taste is like, but it is actually very tasty.

Is oyster sauce different from eel sauce? ›

Eel sauce (蒲焼の垂れ — kabayaki no tare or 鰻の垂れ — unagi no tare) is Japanese. Kabayaki is a particular way to prepare the eels. Oyster sauce is made from Oyster extract, but Eel sauce is made to be used in the preparation of eels.

Is unagi sauce same as teriyaki sauce? ›

What is the Difference Between Eel Sauce and Teriyaki Sauce? Eel sauce at the most basic version is made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. It is thick and sticky like syrup. Teriyaki sauce typically does not include mirin which is a sweet Japanese rice wine.

Is eel sauce actually made from eels? ›

Eel sauce is very simple, and does not contain any weird ingredient, such as eel. It consists of just soy sauce and sugar, and something to thicken it. In Japan, it might be denpun (starch). It is only called eel sauce, because it is used to put on fresh water eel (unagi) and salt water eel (anago).

What does unagi taste like? ›

The Flavor Of Unagi

As eel is a fish (though it looks much like a snake, which is said to taste like rubbery chicken), unagi has more in common taste-wise with fish or seafood than it does with the ubiquitous chicken. Unagi has a delicate flavor that is often described as sweet and savory.

What kind of fish is unagi? ›

Unagi (ウナギ) is the Japanese word for freshwater eel, particularly the Japanese eel, Anguilla japonica (日本鰻, nihon unagi). Unagi is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking, often as kabayaki.


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