Use of this website is subject to mandatory arbitration and other terms and conditions, select this link to read those agreements.

Unadon (Unagi Donburi) 鰻丼

Jump to Recipe Discussion
  • Have fun making one of the Japanese favorites, Unadon (grilled eel rice bowl), in your own kitchen. Sweet caramelized homemade unagi sauce drizzled over perfectly grilled unagi and steamed rice, this recipe will make any Japanese food enthusiasts mouth water.

    A lacquer bowl containing Unagi (Eel) over steamed rice.

    Unagi sushi is pretty popular and available at most sushi restaurants, but the satisfaction of eating the perfectly grilled unagi on top of warm rice is completely different and can not be compared. This classic dish is called Unadon (鰻丼). The aroma of the sweet caramelized unagi sauce alone is enough to make my mouth water. 

    A lacquer bowl containing Unagi (Eel) over steamed rice.

    What’s Unadon?

    Unadon is a classic Japanese dish that consists of steamed rice topped with grilled eel fillets that are glazed with a sweetened soy-based sauce (called tare) and caramelized, preferably over charcoal fire. Unadon is a short word for Unagi (eel) Donburi (rice bowl dish).

    For those of you who are not familiar with Japanese cuisine, you might think we are barbaric eaters! Well, to be honest with you, I grew up eating eels without thinking they were strange food. When unagi was served, it always looked like a typical fish fillet to me. Don’t you agree by looking at the picture above?

    I was surprised when I found out what eels actually looked like in the aquarium at a young age. It was hard to connect the dots between the snake looking fish in the water and “the fish” I was eating. For better or for worse, that experience did not stop me from enjoying unagi all these years.

    Rich in vitamins A and E, and Omega-3 fatty acids, the great nutritious benefits of eel is another reason why Japanese people enjoy eating unagi. From Edo Period (1600-1850), we have a tradition of eating unagi on a particular mid-summer day called doyō-no ushi-no-hi (土用の丑の日) in order to gain stamina from the hot summer heat.

    A lacquer bowl containing Unagi (Eel) over steamed rice.

    How Unagi is Prepared

    Most Japanese home cooks don’t buy a live eel to cook at home. We buy pre-grilled unagi or the ones that are grilled and vacuum-packed.

    My local Japanese supermarket sells imported unagi from Japan. They are usually cost between $18-$25 USD each (Frozen unagi from other countries are usually around $9 USD each.). If you are able to find Japanese unagi in your local market, you are in for a real treat! The unagi can be kept frozen until you’re ready to enjoy since they come in a vacuum-sealed package. This unagi is from Kagoshima, Japan.

    Packaged cooked Unagi on the table.

    The style of cooking unagi is called kabayaki (蒲焼), similar to Teriyaki. It’s a very typical way to prepare unagi and other fish that can be prepared the same way as well. Basically, the fish is split down the back (or belly), gutted and boned, butterflied, cut into square fillets, skewered, and dipped in a sweet soy sauce based sauce before broiled on a charcoal grill.

    In the Tokyo region, the skewered eel is first broiled without the sauce, and we call it Shirayaki (白焼き). Then the unagi is steamed, before being dipped in the sauce and grilled again.

    When unagi is served in a big rice bowl, it’s called Unadon (鰻丼) and when it’s served in a fancy square lacquer box, it is called Unaju (鰻重) because the tiered lacquered boxes are called jubako (重箱).

    Unaju, cup of soup and pickles in a small dish on the table.

    Unagi Sauce (unagi no tare) for Unadon

    Today I will share how to prepare Unadon with my homemade unagi sauce. You can buy premade Unagi Sauce from a Japanese (or Asian) market, but you can easily make it at home.

    Homemade unagi sauce in a glass jar.

    With just 4 ingredients, you can quickly whip up a sweet caramelized sauce to flavor the grilled eel. If I have any leftover unagi sauce, I’ll also use it to dress Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Rice Balls). For the minimal effort, it takes to make delicious unadon, it’s truly worth it.

    A lacquer bowl containing Unagi (Eel) over steamed rice.

    Don’t want to miss a recipe? Sign up for the FREE Just One Cookbook newsletter delivered to your inbox! And stay in touch with me on FacebookGoogle+Pinterest, and Instagram for all the latest updates.

    4.42 from 17 votes
    A lacquer bowl containing Unagi (Eel) over steamed rice.
    Unadon (Unagi Don)
    Prep Time
    10 mins
    Cook Time
    10 mins
    Total Time
    20 mins
     
    Have fun making one of the Japanese favorites, Unadon (grilled eel rice bowl), in your own kitchen. Sweet caramelized homemade unagi sauce drizzled over perfectly grilled unagi and steamed rice, this recipe will make any Japanese food enthusiasts mouth water.
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: donburi, grilled eel
    Servings: 4 servings
    Author: Nami
    Ingredients
    Unagi Sauce (Unagi Tare): Please see Notes below
    • ¼ cup soy sauce (Use GF soy sauce for Gluten Free)
    • ¼ cup mirin
    • 2 ½ Tbsp sugar
    • 1 ½ Tbsp sake
    Instructions
    To Make Unagi Sauce
    1. In a small saucepan, add mirin, sake, sugar. Turn on the heat to medium heat and whisk all the mixture.
      Unagi Sauce 1
    2. Then add soy sauce and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to the low heat/simmer and continue simmering for 10 minutes, or until the sauce slightly thickens. Toward the end of cooking, you will see more bubbles

      Unagi Sauce 2
    3. Remove from the heat. As it cools, the sauce will thicken more. You can store the sauce in an airtight jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

      Unagi Sauce 3
    To Broil
    1. Preheat the broiler* with a rack placed about 6" (15 cm) away from the top heating element (in the middle) for 3 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleaning (Brush/spray the foil with oil). Cut the unagi in half (or thirds, depending on the serving bowl size to fit the unagi fillet) and place it on the foil, skin side down. Broil it medium/high until the surface is blistered a bit, about 5-7 minutes. No need to flip. *Typical broiler setting: Low/450ºF/232ºC, Medium/500ºF/260ºC, and High/550ºF/288ºC.

      Unagi Don 3
    2. In half way through, brush the unagi with the sauce once.

      Unagi Don 4
    3. Broil again for 30-60 seconds until you see bubbles on top of Unagi.

      Unagi Don 5
    To Bake
    1. Preheat the oven to 425°F/218ºC with a rack placed in the middle and bake the unagi on parchment paper until the surface is blistered a bit, about 10-12 minutes. No need to flip.

    To Pan Fry
    1. Wrap the unagi in foil (similar to this recipe) and reheat on low heat for 5-8 minutes. You won't get nice blisters/chars if you use this method.

    To Serve
    1. Serve rice in a bowl and pour or brush Unagi Sauce on the rice. Serve Unagi on top of rice and pour/brush more Unagi Sauce. Serve immediately. You can also sprinkle Japanese sansho pepper.

      Unagi Don 6
    Recipe Notes

    Unagi Sauce (Unagi Tare): I updated the sauce recipe to ⅓ of my original recipe for just 2 fillets (However, the step-by-step pictures above show my original recipe portion). I usually make unagi sauce with the following recipe below and store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 months.

    My original Unagi Sauce Recipe:

    • ¾ cup soy sauce
    • ¾ cup mirin
    • ½ cup (3.5 oz/100 g) sugar
    • ¼ cup sake.
    1. Combine the ingredients in the saucepan.
    2. Reduce the sauce for 20 minutes, or until thicken (instead of 10 mins as written above).

    Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

    Update: The post was originally published on May 31, 2012. The recipe was updated in July 2012. The images and content have been updated in November 2017.

    Just One Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

    Make It Into A Meal

  • Just One Cookbook Essential Japanese Recipes

    Love Our Recipes?

    Leave A Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe Rating




    What type of comment do you have?

    Discussion

  • Candice wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • thor wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Kate wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Karina wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • rueben dela cruz wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • ken fujiwara wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Sal wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Siyun wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • siyun wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
          • Siyun wrote:
            • Nami wrote:
  • vianice Ng wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Pam wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Hanaconda wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Damie wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • T.J. wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Caroline Jusak wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Elaine Fukumoto wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • EstherT wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Joey wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Joey wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
  • Lacey wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Karin wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Jonathan wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • hfriday wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • fen wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Fen wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
  • Airi wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Lee wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • hmucha wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Sylvia92 wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Sylvia92 wrote:
      • Sylvia92 wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
  • Grace wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Grace wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
  • jackie wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Shlomi Harif wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
    • Tobias wrote:
      • Nami wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Nancy Murakami wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Tobias wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Tobias wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
          • Tobias wrote:
            • Nami wrote:
  • Levina wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Audrey wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Rose wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Alice wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • STEVE S. wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • STEVE S. wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Angel Wang wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Blake wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Blake wrote:
  • Erin Uber wrote:
  • Kristen W wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Maria wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Demariea wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Olesya wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Gary Cohen wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Gary wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
  • Hiro wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Marco Dias wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Karen Sakuda wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Christine wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Victor Castañeda wrote:
  • Jolene wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Junias wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • David wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
  • Miah wrote:
    • Nami wrote:
      • Miah wrote:
        • Nami wrote:
  • Gyoza served on a plate.
    Just One Cookbook logo
    Just One Cookbook logo

    free email series

    5 Secrets to Japanese Cooking

    Making flavorful Japanese food is

    EASIER than you think.

    You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.