Eel sauce is a bit of a misnomer considering there are no eels in it! This condiment, also known as unagi sauce, kabayaki sauce or nitsume sauce, has both sweet and savoury flavours in it. It’s sweet, salty and caramelized. Follow along to learn how to make eel sauce. This homemade unagi sauce aka. easy eel sauce recipe is versatile and the perfect sauce for seafood dishes.
You can buy eel sauce from a Japanese or Asian market. Or better yet, make your own homemade unagi! Of course the homemade version is far better since you control the ingredients.
You can make this easy eel sauce recipe saltier or sweeter as you prefer. This sauce has various uses, although it’s typically used to flavour eel (hence the name!)
How to Make Eel Sauce
You only need four ingredients to make homemade unagi. It’s pretty easy! So what is eel sauce made of? Well, you need mirin, soy sauce, white sugar, and either sake or rice wine vinegar.
Have you heard of mirin? It’s a key component in eel sauce. This tangy, sweet rice wine is also great in homemade teriyaki sauce. It’s always good with soy sauce (such as in a teriyaki marinade).
You can get real mirin or aji-mirin (which is similar). If you can’t find either, you could sub in sweet marsala wine or dry sherry at a pinch. Even dry white wine would do, but you’d need to increase the sugar to offset the lack of sweetness.
As for the soy sauce, choose a low-sodium version if you can so it doesn’t come out too salty. It’s fine to use gluten-free soy sauce in this easy eel sauce recipe. Some white sugar and either sake or white rice vinegar complete the unagi sauce ingredients.
You will reduce the homemade unagi ingredients in a pan in about ten minutes. It should be thick but not overly so. The sauce keeps thickening as it cools down. If it’s too thick you can add some water. Is it too thin? In that case, just cook it for longer and it’ll thicken up some more. If it’s much too thin, a cornstarch slurry will thicken it up fast.
Knowing how to make eel sauce is really useful. Not only is it wonderful to use in a ceviche recipe but you can use it with any seafood. It’s especially nice with sushi and sashimi. Leftovers will keep for up to 2 weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Store-bought eel sauce lasts for months because it contains preservatives. If you aren’t going to use it all within a couple of weeks, it’s handy to know this sauce freezes well.
Eel Sauce Facts
Now you know how to make eel sauce you might want to know some more about it. The word ‘unagi’ is Japanese for an eel that lives in freshwater. Freshwater eel is very common in Japanese cuisine and is also known as kabayaki.
Saltwater eel, which is called anago in Japan, is quite different. Although the Japanese are fond of raw fish, this doesn’t include eel, since it’s toxic unless cooked!
An easy eel sauce recipe is more versatile than just being a condiment or marinade for eel. Even if you have no intention of cooking or eating eel, you will still love homemade unagi.
It is just so good with fish and seafood if you want to add an Asian flavour. You can even use a few drops to add extra flavour to Mexican ceviche. It really is one to try if you are looking for a sauce for seafood.
How Does Eel Sauce Look and Taste?
This sauce for seafood looks like a dark brown syrup and tastes salty, smoky, sweet, and neutral all at once. It’s not named because there is any eel in it – a bit like duck sauce (which doesn’t have duck in it!)
Regional Unagi Sauce Variations
Some Japanese recipes for eel sauce contain other ingredients, in addition to the four I use. They might call for eel eggs, dashi (Japanese fish stock) or sake as well as rice vinegar. My version uses one or the other.
Knowing how to make eel sauce is basically about combining the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and rice vinegar (or sake) though. But it’s still nice to know about other versions of this unagi sauce.
It’s a Versatile Sauce, That’s for Sure!
The reason this easy eel sauce recipe pairs so nicely with ceviche (fish ‘cooked’ in citrus juice) is simple. Unagi sauce blends salty, savoury, sweet, smoky, and neutral, so it will complement many dishes.
It is always beautiful with seafood recipes, either plain seafood or ceviche which typically features citrus, chillies and salad vegetables. Drizzle a little over your favourite type of ceviche, like this fresh Mexican-style shrimp ceviche with avocado.
You can then finish it off with some sesame seeds for a Japanese-South American fusion dish everyone will love.
If you like this eel sauce recipe, you might like Quick & Easy Vegan Pesto, Simply DELICIOUS Fresh Traditional Chunky Guacamole Recipe, or Easy to Make Crispy Turkey Tacos.
Eel or Unagi Sauce Recipe
Homemade Eel Sauce – Unagi Sauce
- 1/2 Cup mirin
- 1/2 Cup soy sauce low sodium and gluten free if desired
- 3 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. Rice wine vinegar
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, till it has reduced and is a thick syrup. This will take about 10 minutes. Stir often.
- The sauce will thicken as it cools so don’t over cook. If the sauce is too thick, add a spoon of water at a time till it is the consistency of thick syrup.
- Serve over shrimp ceviche, sushi, sashimi or any seafood.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.
Teriyaki sauce is somewhat similar to unagi sauce but it’s sweeter so wouldn’t work as well on ceviche. Eel sauce’s smokiness gives it a BBQ-ish flavour, so you could also try it on chicken, pork or even tofu!
I hope this helps you learn how to make eel sauce. This homemade unagi sauce aka. easy eel sauce recipe is versatile and perfect with seafood dishes.