Kabayaki Sauce for Fish

Kabayaki Sauce for Fish

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1/2 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
333 Calories
1g Fat
70g Carbs
10g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 333
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 7005mg 305%
Total Carbohydrate 70g 25%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 63g
Protein 10g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 44mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 560mg 12%
*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.)

In Japan, kabayaki is a common way to cook fish, especially eel (unagi). The preparation entails butterflying, gutting, and deboning the fish. The fillets are then cut into pieces to be threaded onto skewers and dipped into a sweet soy sauce-based glaze, called kabayaki sauce. To cook, the fillets are grilled or broiled, so the sauce creates a flavorful crispy exterior. 

Kabayaki sauce is very similar to teriyaki sauce. Both use a combination of soy sauce and mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine) sweetened with sugar. While teriyaki recipes add garlic and ginger (sometimes citrus and sesame), kabayaki keeps it simple with the three main ingredients. The sauce is no less flavorful and is a tantalizing combination of three taste sensations. Mirin gives it a sweet tang, sugar ramps up the sweetness, and soy sauce adds a great saltiness; the mirin and soy sauce each bring in the savoriness of umami.

Look for good-quality soy sauce and mirin at international markets. You can choose a low-sodium soy sauce or go with tamari for a gluten-free substitute. For the mirin, try to find hon-mirin as it is a purer form of the rice wine, made with two rice varieties and shochu. The alternative is aji-mirin, or a condiment designed to taste like mirin. It may be cheaper, contain less alcohol, and be at your local supermarket, but the flavor isn't quite the same, and you will notice the difference in a sauce like this.

Although kabayaki sauce is traditionally and most often served with eel, it is also delicious on salmon, as well as catfish, sea bass, and other fish. Since it requires a few ingredients and little time to cook, it's an ideal recipe ​for a busy weeknight, though it's also impressive enough to serve to guests. 


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup mirin, or Japanese sweet rice wine

  • 1/4 cup sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Kabayaki Sauce for Fish ingredients

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. Pour the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar into a saucepan and place over medium-high heat.

    Kabayaki Sauce for Fish ingredients in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and cool before using.

    Kabayaki Sauce for Fish cooking in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

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