Eel Sauce

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5 from 233 votes
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This eel sauce is sweet, salty, sticky, and needs just 3 ingredients! Also known as unagi sauce, it’s a must-have addition to unagi or any dish that begs for a delicious condiment.

Love Asian sauce recipes? Try my katsu sauce, bulgogi sauce, peanut sauce, and tempura sauce.

eel sauce.

If you’ve made my unagi or enjoyed unagi sushi before, you’ll know that the seriously addictive sauce drizzled over the top makes it extra delicious. Now, contrary to popular belief, there aren’t actually any eels in the sauce, nor does the sauce taste like eels!

Table of Contents
  1. What is eel sauce? 
  2. Ingredients needed
  3. How to make eel sauce
  4. Arman’s recipe tips
  5. Storage instructions
  6. More umami-forward sauces to try
  7. Eel Sauce (Recipe Card)

What is eel sauce? 

Also known as Unagi No Tare and Nitsume, eel sauce is a sweet, sticky, and thick condiment used in tons of Japanese recipes. It’s an essential ingredient in any dish involving Unagi (eel- hence the name) and is also popular in sushi, gyoza, and beef negimaki

Here are some reasons why I LOVE this recipe:

  • 3 Ingredients. And they aren’t hard-to-find ones either!
  • Cheaper than store-bought. Pre-bottled eel sauce costs a fortune (thank you, import fees!)
  • SO versatile. My family loves to use it as a dipping sauce or to jazz up some protein (it works as a really good marinade).

Ingredients needed

  • Soy sauce. Use a good quality soy sauce brand as it makes all the difference. We like the traditional Kikkoman brand, which also comes with a gluten-free option
  • Sugar. White sugar is preferred, but brown will also work. 
  • Mirin. Japanese cooking alcohol that is on the sweeter side and works well in many Japanese sauces and marinades. If you don’t have mirin, dry sherry will work. If you’d like to have an alcohol-free option, try rice vinegar and add an extra teaspoon of sugar. 

How to make eel sauce

I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step 1- Heat ingredients: Start by adding all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Place it over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for a further 4-5 minutes, or until it has thickened up. 

Step 2- Let it thicken: Now, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it reach room temperature. Stir it, then use it immediately or store it for later. 

how to make eel sauce.

Arman’s recipe tips

  • You must let the sauce simmer until it reduces significantly, or else it won’t be as sticky or thick.
  • If you would prefer a thicker sauce, add 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Be sure to whisk it well very into the mixture or else clumps will show up. 
  • Feel free to add spices or herbs like red pepper flakes, minced garlic, or ginger. 

Ways to use this sauce

The beauty of this sauce is just how versatile it is. Because it has characteristics similar to BBQ sauce, you can use it in a plethora of ways. Here are some ideas: 

  • As a marinade. Brush over some air fryer chicken breast, air fryer pork chops, or any protein of choice. I clearly love using it in my air fryer recipes because the high heat and quick cooking time caramelizes the sauce so nicely.
  • In a stir-fry. Add a punch of flavor to your usual stir-fries by stirring through some of the sauce at the end of the cooking process. 
  • To dip appetizers in. While ketchup and BBQ sauce are great, change things up and give your taste buds something extra delicious to dip your snacks in! Try it with armadillo eggs, chicken lollipops, or air fryer salmon bites.
  • As a pizza sauce. For those of you who love BBQ chicken pizza or meat lovers, swap out the standard sauce for this, and your taste buds will thank you. 

Storage instructions

To store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week. Be sure to stir it before using it, as there may be a little separation. 

To freeze: Place the sauce in a glass jar and store it in the freezer for up to two months. 

unagi sauce.

More umami-forward sauces to try

eel sauce recipe.

Eel Sauce

5 from 233 votes
This eel sauce is sweet, salty, sticky, and needs just 3 ingredients! Also known as unagi sauce, it's a must have addition to unagi, it's also great as a dipping sauce or condiment! 
Servings: 12 servings
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 2 minutes
Total: 3 minutes

Ingredients  

Instructions 

  • Add all the ingredients into a small saucepan and place it over medium heat. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
  • Remove the saucepan off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once cool, transfer it into a shallow container or sterilized jar until ready to use.

Notes

TO STORE: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week. Be sure to give it a good stir before using it, as there may be a little separation. 
TO FREEZE: Place the sauce in a glass jar and store it in the freezer for up to two months. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 49kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 1gFat: 0.04gSodium: 615mgPotassium: 21mgFiber: 0.1gCalcium: 2mgIron: 0.2mgNET CARBS: 13g
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Originally published August 2022, updated and republished April 2024

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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5 from 233 votes (229 ratings without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this yummy recipe. I’ve made this many times and makes all my sushi rolls perfect. Thanks much