Unagi Don


5 from 8 votes
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Learn how to make sweet, savory, tender unagi don with 2 key ingredients. Perfectly seasoned and ready in minutes, this restaurant-style dish tastes amazing over rice!

Love Japanese recipes? Try my beef negimaki, chicken tempura, chicken katsu, and pork katsu.


I love a good rice bowl, and nothing beats my Japanese takeout favorite, Unagi don. Since finding these eel fillets in my local grocery store, I’ve been making them at home, and it’s SO easy!

Table of Contents
  1. What is unagi?
  2. Ingredients needed
  3. How to make unagi don
  4. Arman’s recipe tips
  5. Storage instructions
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. More rice bowls
  8. Unagi Don (Recipe Card)

What is unagi?

In Japanese, unagi means “eel,” and “don” means bowl. Unagi donburi, unadon, or unagi kabayaki is a popular Japanese dish composed of eel fillets marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and either grilled, fried, or baked. 

As delicious as it is on its own, it’s even better served on a bed of instant pot sushi rice. Here are some reasons why I LOVE this dish:

  • A totally unique flavor. If you’ve never had eel before, you’re in for a treat. It’s not fishy at all, and the sauce alone is seriously addictive. 
  • Cheaper than the restaurants. I love sushi night as much as the next person, but when I can make my favorite Japanese dishes at home, I’m all for it. 
  • Quick and easy. From prep to plate, you’ll only be in the kitchen for 10 minutes, and that includes making the sauce from scratch.

Ingredients needed

  • 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. 
  • Eel sauce. Also known as unagi sauce, it’s a combination of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin (Japanese cooking wine).
  • Accompaniments. I prefer white rice, Japanese pickles, steamed edamame beans, and an onsen egg.

How to make unagi don

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- Prep. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. 

Step 2- Make the sauce. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Then, remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool completely before transferring it to a jar to keep in the fridge.

Step 3- Broil the unagi. Remove the grilled eel fillets from its packaging and pat dry completely. Place them on the foil and broil for 7-8 minutes.

Step 4- Cool, sauce, and serve. Remove the unagi from the oven and let them cool for two minutes before brushing the eel sauce on top. Serve warm with your favorite side dishes.


What can I serve with this?

Unagi is traditionally served as a rice bowl with Japanese pickles, but you can get creative with all sorts of sides, like grilled sweet potatoes, sautéed bok choy, or cauliflower fried rice. It also tastes great in sushi rolls, like dragon rolls.

Arman’s recipe tips

  • 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. 
  • Garnish. I like to top my eel rice bowls with a sprinkle of scallions, sesame seeds, and crushed nori sheets for extra flavor. 
  • Use teriyaki sauce. If I don’t have enough time to make eel sauce from scratch, I’ll use store-bought eel sauce or teriyaki sauce. The flavor is certainly different, but it still tastes delicious.

Storage instructions

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

To freeze: I do not recommend re-freezing the eel as, most times, they can be purchased frozen. 

unagi don.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is unagi raw?

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

Does unagi have bones?

No, traditionally, unagi must be filleted, and the bones should have been removed before packaging. 

More rice bowls

unagi recipe.

Unagi Don

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!

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?