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.
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.
What is 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 soy sauce 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’re feeling adventurous, try using this delicious sauce on BBQ chicken for a flavor fusion that’s out of this world.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- 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. Mirin adds 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 to Make Unagi Sauce at Home
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.
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.
Ways to use Unagi Sauce
There are so many delicious ways to enjoy unagi sauce. It’s an extremely 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-sweet sauce. Of course, unagi sauce is simply delicious with sushi and can add unbelievable flavor to rice balls.
What Does 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.
What are Substitutes for Unagi Eel Sauce?
If you can’t find eel sauce (or the ingredients to make it), you may be wondering about substitutions. Teriyaki sauce can be used in a pinch, since it has a similar flavor to unagi sauce and it is often more readily available.
Is Unagi 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!
Is Unagi sauce the same as eel sauce?
Yes! These terms are interchangeable. Unagi sauce is commonly referred to as eel sauce because of its traditional usage – being served with grilled eel or with meals that feature grilled eel.
How Long 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.
Where Can I Buy Unagi Sauce?
Homemade eel sauce has the advantage of being freshly made and can be customized to your flavor preferences. Still, you may wish to purchase readymade 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.
Best Unagi Sauce Brands
There are a number of brands of unagi sauce available in the U.S. Here are some of the most commonly available 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.
If You Like This Recipe Try These Out
If you tried this recipe, let me know how your Unagi Sauce turns out in the comments below!
Unagi Sauce Recipe
- 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.