Unagi Sushi Rolls are filled with bbq eel, crunchy cucumber, then rolled in nori seaweed sheet and sushi rice! I like to drizzle it with delicious unagi sauce for an extra flavor. This eel sushi is a popular Japanese sushi item and one of my favorite sushi rolls. In this homemade recipe, you will learn how to make sushi rice, how to prepare unagi, and how to roll the sushi!
I love making Japanese sushi at home, some of my favorites are Boston Rolls, Tuna Nigiri, California Roll, and this delicious unagi roll.
What is Unagi Sushi?
Unagi Sushi is a type of Maki sushi (rolled sushi) made by rolling ingredients in nori seaweed sheet and seasoned rice. The key ingredient is unagi or freshwater eel, which is known for the bold, rich, naturally sweet flavor, and soft texture. It’s a popular ingredient in many Japanese dishes.
For this recipe I made it into an inside-out roll where the rice is on the outside and the nori is on the inside, wrapping the filling.
What Does Unagi Taste Like?
Unagi is a freshwater eel with a rich, savory and slightly sweet taste and a flaky, tender texture. It’s quite mild and doesn’t have an overpoweringly fishy taste.
The texture of unagi allows it to really absorb the flavor of sauces, seasonings and other ingredients.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Unagi: Traditional unagi sushi contains grilled BBQ unagi (eel), a cooked fish flavored with teriyaki sauce or unagi sauce. It’s available in the frozen section at local Japanese grocery stores, or you can order canned unagi online from Amazon.
- Cucumber or Avocado: You can add cucumber strips or avocado slices to your roll. I also added some green onions for extra flavor.
- Sushi Rice: Use Japanese short-grain rice for the best result.
- Sushi Vinegar: For seasoning the rice and adding more flavor to the dish. If you don’t have sushi vinegar, you can mix rice vinegar, sugar, and salt as a replacement.
- Nori Seaweed Sheet: Look for seaweed sheets with a black color with a slightly green hue.
- Unagi Sauce: It’s optional, but it’ll take your unagi roll to the next level. Buy it at a Japanese grocery store, or order it online.
- Sesame Seeds: You can use black, white, or a combination of white and black sesame seeds. I recommend toasting them in a frying pan for 5 minutes, and it’ll add a wonderful nutty flavor and aroma to your rolls.
You’ll also need a sushi rolling bamboo mat for easy rolling.
How To Make Unagi Eel Sushi
Step 1: Cook Sushi Rice
A great sushi roll starts with good sushi rice, which will stay fluffy even after it’s tightly rolled. So use high-quality short-grain rice for sushi rolls. I recommend using less water than cooking regular rice. The best water to rice ratio is 1:1 (or use 1.2:1 if you prefer softer rice). Once cooked, transfer the hot rice to a large bowl and let it cool down slightly. When it’s still very warm, stir in the sushi vinegar (the mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt).
Step 2: Prepare Unagi
Take the unagi from the package and bake at 360F for 10-12 minutes or according to the package instruction. Then cut it into 1/2 inch strips.
Step 3: Make The Unagi Roll
For this recipe, the rice is on the outside, covering the nori and fillings.
1. You’ll need half of a nori sheet for one roll. So cut the sheet into two halves with kitchen scissors.
2. Lay out your bamboo mat with a piece of plastic wrap on top. Then place the nori sheet on top of the bamboo shining side facing down.
3. Evenly spread rice (about 3/4 cup) over nori. And sprinkle sesame seeds.
4. Then flip the sheet and add unagi slices and cucumber, green onions (or any other fillings) to the middle of the nori sheet.
5. Place the thumbs underneath the bamboo mat and lift the edge up and over the filling. Roll the bamboo mat away from you and press the rice and filling together. Keep rolling until the ends meet.
6. Cut the roll into 8 pieces. Drizzle unagi sauce on top of the sushi for some extra delicious flavor. Serve and enjoy immediately.
- To prevent the rice from sticking to your hands: Before handling rice, you can dip your hands in Tezu water, which is a hand dipping liquid made with 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar.
- To prevent sushi rolls from falling apart: You’ll need to squeeze the roll gently while rolling. Once you finish, you can place the bamboo mat over the sushi roll and gently squeeze the roll again.
Also called eel sauce or kabayaki, unagi sauce is a sweet and salty sauce that’s often used to drizzle grilled chicken or fish in Japanese cuisine. You can buy them at local Japanese grocery stores or order online.
To make homemade unagi sauce, simply add 1/4 cup mirin, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 ½ tablespoons sake to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.
How To Serve Unagi Sushi?
After you’ve rolled your unagi sushi rolls, use a sharp, wet knife to cut it into 8 equal pieces. Drizzle with unagi sauce and arrange the roll on a plate.
Add a small dollop of wasabi and a few pieces of sushi ginger and serve with chopsticks.
How Long Does Unagi Sushi Last?
Like most sushi rolls, unagi sushi is best enjoyed as soon as it’s made. This ensures you get the best, freshest taste.
As a cooked roll, leftover unagi sushi can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Store your sushi in an airtight container and consume it as soon as possible.
Where To Buy Unagi Sushi Ingredients?
An Asian or Japanese grocery store is likely your best place to find all the ingredients needed to make unagi sushi at home.
You can find unagi in the frozen section of most Japanese grocery stores or order canned unagi online. If your regular supermarket has an Asian section or aisle, you should be able to get sushi rice, vinegar, nori and unagi sauce.
Is Unagi In Eel Sushi Cooked Or Raw?
Yes, in this recipe we used cooked unagi. If you use the frozen unagi from the package, you’ll need to bake it at 360F for 10-12 minutes or according to the package instruction. Then cut it into 1/2-inch strips. You can also use canned unagi.
How To Select Nori Sheets?
Best nori sheets have a black color with a slightly green hue. They should have the same thickness without any holes. The fresh ones are crisp and easy to break when folding in half.
What is Nigiri?
Nigiri is a type of sushi made by topping a ball of seasoned sushi rice with raw, sashimi-grade fish.
Unlike maki sushi, nigiri isn’t rolled. Also known as nigirizushi, they are usually topped with salmon, tuna, or yellowtail.
Nigiri may also be served with boiled, butterflied shrimp or grilled eel on top. The name translates to ‘two fingers’ which can help you to visualize the size of each piece of nigiri.
Is Unagi Eel Sushi Healthy?
Eel is a healthy pescatarian protein that’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B12 and E, as well as other nutrients.
With a healthy serving of healthy unsaturated fats, it’s a good idea to get more unagi in your diet. Made with rice, cucumber, seaweed and eel, this roll is a light, healthy option for lunch or dinner.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Unagi Sushi?
We don’t recommend pregnant women consuming raw fish to avoid any risk of foodborne illnesses. The same goes for undercooked eggs and rare steak. However, this unagi sushi recipe features fully cooked BBQ eel, which is safe to consume during pregnancy.
More Cooked Sushi Recipes
I hope you like this recipe. If you try it, please comment below and let me know how it turns out!
Unagi Sushi Recipe
For Sushi Rice
- 1 cup sushi rice short-grain sushi rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ tablespoons sushi vinegar (or mix 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt )
For Unagi Sushi
- 4 oz unagi (you can also use canned unagi)
- 1/2 cucumber cut into ½-inch strips
- 2 sheets nori seaweed
- 2 green onions
- sesame seeds
Make Sushi Rice:
- Rinse the rice and add it to the rice cooker. Then add water. Cook the rice in a rice cooker or according to package instructions.
- Once cooked, transfer to a large bowl and let it cool down slightly. When it’s still very warm, mix in the sushi vinegar (or the mixture of rice vinegar, sugar and salt).
- Take the unagi from the package and bake at 360F for 10-12 minutes or according to the package instruction. Then cut it into ½-inch strips.
Make Unagi Sushi Roll:
- Lay out the bamboo mat with a piece of plastic wrap on top (this will make clean up easier and prevent rice from sticking to the bamboo).
- Fold the nori sheets in half and split them using a pair of scissors.
- Place half of the nori sheet on top of the bamboo shining side facing down.
- Evenly spread rice (about 3/4 cup) over nori. And sprinkle sesame seeds. (You can dip your hands into Tezu water* to prevent from sticking.)
- Then flip the sheet and add unagi slices and cucumber, green onions (or any other fillings such as avocado) to the middle of the nori sheet.
- Place the thumbs underneath the bamboo mat and lift the edge up and over the filling. Roll the bamboo mat away from you and press the rice and filling together. Keep rolling until the ends meet.
- Cut each roll into 8 pieces.
- Drizzle unagi sauce on top of the roll for some extra delicious flavor. Serve and enjoy immediately.
- *To Make Tezu water: Mix together 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoon rice vinegar.
- Avoid putting hot sushi rice in the fridge to cool down as this will affect the taste and texture.
- Why does my sushi roll fall apart? This could be caused by the wrong types of rice you use or you didn’t squeeze the rolls tightly enough. You need to tuck in and pull the bamboo mat while rolling.
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