Unagi Don


5 from 8 votes
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Learn how to make the best unagi, also known as eel! Perfectly seasoned and ready in minutes, this restaurant style dish tastes amazing over rice or with a salad! 


It should be no surprise to you we are obsessed with Japanese cuisine. We have a plethora of favorites on hand, including harumaki and beef negimaki. When we want something a little more fancy or filling, we love to make some unadon.

What is unagi?

Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel and is a popular dish in many Japanese dishes. Also known as unagi kabayaki, it’s often purchased as smoked fillets, but is delicious grilled, fried, or even baked. 

While delicious on its own, it’s most commonly served over rice, as unagi don or unagi donburi; don/donburi being the Japanese word for rice.

We are huge fans of this dish, ever since we travelled extensively through Japan. Upon return, we jumped straight first into properly learning the cuisine and honestly; we haven’t been to a Japanese restaurant since then!

Now, unagi may look intimidating to prepare but it’s actually incredibly easy and doesn’t require any marination. See, the fish comes pre-cooked, and all you do is broil it, season it, sauce it, then serve it. It is as simple as that! 

By the way, the entire cooking time is less than 10 minutes

Oh, and if you are worried about what to season it with, we’ve got you covered with the perfect sauce, also known as unagi no tare.

Of course, you can serve it over steamed rice and pair it with Japanese pickles, but we highly recommend over some instant pot sushi rice. It reminds us sort of like a poke bowl, with the unagi fillet being the star protein! 

Ingredients needed

Thanks to the unagi fillets coming pre-smoked/pre-cooked, there is very little prep work required on your end. 

  • Unagi fillets. Unagi fillets can be found at mainstream grocery stores (in the freezer aisle) and Japanese grocery stores. I found mine at a sushi and sashimi wholesaler. Most unagi fillets come pre-seasoned or smoked. Do not use pre-flavored fillets or else adding the sauce will be pointless. 
  • Sauce. Also known as an eel sauce, skip the store-bought kind and make your own
  • Accompaniments. Steamed rice, Japanese pickles, steamed edamame beans, and an onsen egg

How to prepare unagi?

Step 1- Prep the unagi

Start by removing the unagi fillet(s) from its packaging. Use a paper towel to mop up any excess moisture. This can sometimes happen if the eel has been frozen then thawed. 

Step 2- Bake the eel

Next, place the eel fillets on a baking pan lined with tinfoil. Bake the unagi for 7-8 minutes, until it sizzles around the edges. Remove it from the oven and let it sit for two minutes. 

Step 3- Make unagi don

Now, drizzle the eel sauce over the top of the fillets, using the back of the spoon to spread around. Place the unagi on rice, with a salad, or however you’d like to serve it. 


Tips to make the best recipe

  • Always broil the eel. Broiling ensures the exterior caramelizes quickly and in turn, the eel sauce seeps into it. It makes the dish much more flavorful and tender. 
  • Remove excess liquid. Unless you catch the eel yourself, you will most likely be buying it frozen or thawed. This isn’t an issue at all, except that it will sometimes have pockets of liquid or melted ice. Be sure to mop all this up before cooking it. 
  • Add the sauce soon after. After you rest the eel for several minutes, quickly spread the sauce on top so it seeps into it. 

Storage instructions

  • To store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to three days. 
  • To freeze: We do not recommend re-freezing the eel as most times, they can be purchased frozen. 
unagi don.

What does unagi go well with?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is unagi raw?

Unagi is not traditionally raw. It is purchased pre-cooked, and requires baking, roasting, or pan-frying.

How many calories in this?

Eel is higher in calories than other seafood due to its higher fat content. There are 293 calories

unagi recipe.

Unagi Don | Authentic EASY Recipe

5 from 8 votes
Learn how to make the best unagi, also known as eel! Perfectly seasoned and ready in minutes, this homemade unagi don tastes like something from a restaurant!
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 6 minutes
Total: 7 minutes



  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil, spray it with oil, and set aside.
  • Remove the unagi fillets from its packaging and pat dry completely. Place them on the tinfoil and broil for 7-8 minutes.
  • Remove the unagi from the oven and let them cool for two minutes, before spreading the eel sauce on top. Serve with your favorite side dishes immediately.


TO STORE: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to three days. 


Serving: 1servingCalories: 195kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 14gFat: 14gSodium: 0.3mgPotassium: 1mgFiber: 1gVitamin A: 17IUVitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 0.1mgIron: 0.003mgNET CARBS: 6g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

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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  1. hi, do you do this straight from frozen or do you thaw first. Is it to broil or 400F? your recipe says preheat to 400F and then it says broil. which one?