Sweet, savory, and full of flavor, this delicious Homemade Eel Sauce recipe is the dream sauce for Japanese broiled eel fillets and BBQ dishes. You only need four ingredients!
Eel sauce, or unagi no tare (うなぎのたれ), is a thick and sweetened soy sauce. Traditionally, it is used on grilled eel or dishes that feature grilled eel, such as unagi don or unagi sushi, and doesn’t contain eel.
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What Is Eel Sauce
What is that caramelized brown sauce with a syrup-like consistency that goes with unagi? Well, the irresistible glossy sauce is Eel Sauce or Unagi Sauce.
Although many commercial sauce brands are available, the best eel sauce is the homemade version.
What Does It Taste Like
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.
If you want authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce, get my recipe here.
How to Make Eel Sauce
Making homemade unagi sauce is as simple. You only need four ingredients to create a rich, umami-packed sauce.
The Ingredients You’ll Need
- Sake (Japanese Rice Wine) – Adds umami to the sauce (the alcohol will burn off during cooking, so it’s suitable for all ages).
- Mirin (Sweet Rice Wine) – Adds a mild sweetness and luster to the sauce.
- Soy sauce – Use Japanese soy sauce as it tastes different from Chinese, Korean, or Thai. Use Gluten-Free Soy Sauce or Tamari to make a gluten-free sauce.
- Sugar – Besides sweetness, sugar is a thickener, so it’s easy to pour.
Sake, mirin, and soy sauce are essential staples for Japanese cooking, so it’s worth stocking up if you’re thinking of cooking your favorite Japanese recipes.
Note: Authentic unagi sauce does not use rice vinegar as it adds an acidic tang and does not contribute to the integrity of the sauce. Also, don’t add garlic, ginger, or cornstarch to the sauce. It wouldn’t be unagi sauce with all these additions or it’ll overwhelm the unagi.
The Cooking Step
- Combine the mixture in a small saucepan and simmer on medium heat until the sauce caramelizes and thickens to your desired richness.
The great thing about making the sauce instead of buying the bottled variety is you can decide on the balance of sweet and salty. Plus, there are no additives or preservatives.
How To Use Eel Sauce
Aside from unagi dishes, unagi sauce is finger-licking delicious on BBQ. Think grilled fish, pan-fried chicken, tofu, mushrooms, and onigiri rice balls. All you need is a light brush or a drizzle of this sweet-savory sauce to heighten the flavor. In addition, you can use it as a marinade for meats or as a dressing for noodles.
Recipes for Eel Sauce
Where To Buy Eel Sauce
You can purchase the bottled variety in the condiment section of Japanese grocery stores and well-stocked Asian supermarkets. If that’s not an option, find it on Amazon.
How To Store
Store leftovers in an airtight container or jar in the fridge or freezer for 2-3 months.
More Authentic Japanese Sauces to Make at Home
- Teriyaki Sauce – the way we make it in Japan!
- Tonkatsu Sauce
- Ponzu Sauce
- How to Make Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise
Homemade Eel Sauce (Unagi Sauce)
- Gather all the ingredients. To make a larger batch of Unagi Sauce, see Notes below for the ingredients list.
- In a small saucepan, add ¼ cup mirin, 1½ Tbsp sake, and 2½ Tbsp sugar. Turn on the heat to medium and whisk all the ingredients together.
- Then, add ¼ cup soy sauce and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Toward the end of cooking, you will see more bubbles.
- Turn off the heat and let it cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It‘s now ready to use.
- You can store the sauce in an airtight jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 months.
For the full amount Unagi Sauce (extra will keep for 3 months)
- ¾ cup (180 ml) soy sauce
- ¾ cup (180 ml) mirin
- ½ cup (100 g) sugar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) sake
Editor’s Note: The post is originally published on May 6, 2013. The new images have been added to the post in May 2019.