Eel Sauce

Spoiler Alert: There's No Eel

Eel sauce

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1/3 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
78 Calories
0g Fat
14g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 78
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 876mg 38%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 6mg 0%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 73mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Spoiler alert: eel sauce does not contain eel. Though this sauce is based on a Japanese condiment known as nitsume, which contains eel broth, the one we all know and love no longer does. Like many other recipes, eel sauce has been Americanized over time as Japanese cuisine has spread throughout the United States.

This recipe is for the sauce that often accompanies Japanese grilled eel known as unagi, as well as probably half the "fancy" rolls that are the staple of many American sushi joints. The sauce is thick, sticky, salty, sweet, and so deeply umami. Admit it, you may have even licked it off a plate once or twice before.

So, What Ingredients Are In Eel Sauce?

Eel sauce is a simple reduction of only four ingredients: sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Due to its sugar and salt content, the sauce keeps quite well, so don’t be afraid to make too much (you can even freeze it). Because of its depth of flavor and versatility, it’s a great sauce to have on hand to quickly dress up a simple dish.

Tips for Making Eel Sauce

  • If the sauce comes out too thin, reduce it a bit more.
  • If you accidentally over-reduce it, simply add water a little at a time until the proper consistency is restored. Remember that it will thin a bit when heated.

How to Use Eel Sauce

Both easy to make and use, this sauce's flavor will enhance not only eel and sushi rolls, but a wide variety of other foods as well. Try it on everything from chicken wings to grilled eggplant to deep-fried tofu. We've even seen it drizzled on popcorn and eaten with a spoon.

Of course, the most popular way to use unagi sauce is in an eel bowl, or unagi don. Though it may look somewhat intimidating at first glance, barbecued eel filet is readily available in the freezer section of many Asian grocery stores.

Simply thaw, heat quickly in the broiler, place over a bowl of steamed rice, and drizzle with your homemade eel sauce. It’s a simple, flavorful dish that’s easy to make any night of the week or for a quick lunch.

"Who knew eel sauce was so easy to make at home? I'm definitely going to keep a jar of this homemade version in the fridge at all times. It's deeply sweet and savory and delicious drizzled on top of not just eel, but lots of other foods." —Patty Lee

Eel Sauce Tester Photo
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/4 cup mirin

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sake, or Japanese rice wine

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make eel sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Add the mirin, soy sauce, sake, and granulated sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat.

    A pot with mirin, sake, soy sauce, and sugar

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Stir the mixture intermittently and bring the sauce to a low boil.

    A pot of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar simmering

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Reduce the liquid by approximately one-third. Remember, it will thicken as it cools. To test consistency, place a small amount of the sauce on a plate and draw a line through the sauce using a finger. If the line holds, the sauce is reduced enough. At room temperature, it should have the consistency of honey.

    A pot of simmering soy-mixture, and a plate with a small amount of sauce on it

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. When it has arrived at the proper consistency, remove from heat. Cool somewhat, and use it as desired.

    A pot of thickened eel sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

How to Store and Freeze

  • Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • Eel sauce can be frozen for up to three months. After it has cooled down, simply place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and put the sauce in the freezer.