RECIPES:
May 13, 2024

Eel Sauce (Unagi Sauce)

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Eel sauce, also called unagi sauce, is easy to make at home and can be brushed on eel, used as a marinade or drizzled over sushi rolls.
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Eel sauce, also called unagi sauce or unagi no tare in Japanese, is based on a Japanese condiment nitsume which contains eel broth, but mine one does not.  A question I hear a lot is, “Does eel sauce have eel in it?” The answer is no, it doesn’t. Eel sauce is a misnomer – it’s named for what it’s used for, not what it contains. It’s a thickened and sweetened soy sauce used as a glaze over broiled slices of eel (unagi), on BBQ dishes or drizzled over the top of sushi rolls served at many American sushi restaurants. 

While you can find eel sauce in many grocery stores, Asian grocery stores and Japanese markets, it’s easy to make at home! A benefit to making your own is you can balance the sweet and sally flavors depending on your preference. Plus if you live in a place where it’s unavailable in stores, you can still enjoy the glossy caramelized brown sauce with a sweet and savory flavor. 

Homemade Eel Sauce (Unagi Sauce) 

how to serve homemade eel sauce drizzled over sushi roll.

Key Ingredients in this recipe

  • Soy sauce – Soy sauce adds a savory depth of umami-packed flavor. I prefer to use low-sodium soy sauce so the salt can be easier controlled. 
  • Sugar – Not only does the sugar provide a sweet balance to the savory soy sauce, it also helps the sauce to thicken into a sticky sauce.
  • Mirin – Mirin is a seasoned rice wine used in Japanese cooking. It’s made by fermenting cooked mochi rice, koji (fermented rice) and sochu which give it a sweet and tangy flavor. To substitute, I recommend using a combination of 3 parts sake and 1 part sugar. 

How to Make Eel Sauce

soy sauce sugar and mirin combined in saucepan
Step 1: Combine ingredients. 

Add the sugar, mirin and soy sauce to a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.

Step 2: Simmer eel sauce. 

Cook, stirring occasionally over medium heat until the mixture thickens and has reduced to about ¾ cup (253g), about 15 minutes.

Note that it will thicken more as it cools. It should be the consistency of honey.

simmered unagi sauce in saucepan.
homemade eel sauce drizzled over shrimp tempura and eel roll.
Step 3: Cool and serve or store. 

Let cool completely and use or store refrigerated in a resealable container for up to 2 weeks. 

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe 

Troubleshooting eel sauce 

  • If the sauce is too thin. Return the sauce to heat and continue to reduce it until it thickens to the desired consistency. 
  • If the sauce is too thick. If you lost track of what you were doing and accidentally thickened the sauce too much, whisk in a bit of water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.  

Swaps and substitutions 

  • If you’re impatient, you can thicken the mixture with a cornstarch slurry though I prefer to take the time to let the sauce simmer and thicken. 
  • The mirin can be substituted for sake. 
  • Some versions use ½ cup (115g) of dashi broth as a base for a deeper flavor. 

Is eel sauce different than teriyaki sauce

While similar to teriyaki sauce, it’s thicker and while it is similar, eel sauce doesn’t contain any additional aromatics like ginger or garlic. 

What to serve with eel sauce: 

In addition to traditional broiled eel, give this a try on these sushi-inspired recipes and follow me on Instagram for more updates: 

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this homemade sauce recipe, give these a try: 

Eel Sauce (Unagi Sauce)

homemade eel sauce drizzled over a shrimp tempura and eel sushi roll.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup Mirin

Instructions:

  • Add the sugar, soy sauce and mirin to a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally over medium heat until the mixture thickens and has reduced to about ¾ cup (253g). Note that it will thicken more as it cools. It should be the consistency of honey.
  • Let cool completely and use or store refrigerated in a resealable container for up to 2 weeks.

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