Eel sauce is a sweet and sticky Japanese glaze made of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. This eel sauce recipe is made without mirin and tastes like the thickened sweet soy sauce drizzled over sushi rolls! Use for grilling, fish (Kabayaki), Lo mein, or as a favorite teriyaki sauce in Chinese food. You will love this easy eel sauce and it lasts super long when stored in the fridge! 

homemade eel sauce

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure.

Homemade eel sauce can be used on Sushi, in Chicken Lo Mein, as a Japanese cooking sauce for Unagi (freshwater eel), and in many other dishes like Baked Teriyaki Salmon, these Teriyaki Wings, or anywhere you would use hoisin sauce or oyster sauce but way better!

What is Eel Sauce?

What is eel sauce made of? Eel sauce is very similar to a Japanese dipping sauce called Tare sauce or sometimes called Unagi sauce, it is mainly of soy sauce, sake (or mirin), and sugar. It is also thickened by cooking down the sauce to make a sticky glaze and is popular in Japanese fish dishes (like sushi, Unagi Don, or Kabayaki).

Although it sounds like “fish” sauce what is in eel sauce is actually contrary to, “Nitsume Sauce” which is actually a Japanese sauce using real eel or eel broth. So no, eel sauce does not have actual “eel” in it.

homemade eel sauce

What Does Eel Sauce Taste Like?

If you’ve ever had sushi, eel sauce is the black glaze over sushi rolls. It’s incredibly tasty over Sushi rice and Seafood and has a sweet and savory flavor. To better describe the umami taste it’s sour, salty, sweet, and a smidge bitter but so incredibly good that you’ll probably want it over Korean BBQ, Grilled shrimp, and so much more! It’s not too sweet and is Vegetarian, gluten-free (if using tamari or liquid amino), and keto approved!

How To Make Eel Sauce Without Mirin:

You will find most eel sauce ingredients call for sake or mirin which is basically a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice. Both are very similar only mirin is much sweeter and not as strong as sake. I’ve come to learn that the perfect Substitute for Rice Vinegar is apple cider vinegar which works just as great. After all, it does taste like the thick sauce over sushi rolls, only without the specialty ingredients!

Eel Sauce Ingredients:

The ingredients in eel sauce are so simple and basic thanks to the sake substitute! Everything is probably sitting right in your pantry and it only takes minutes to make before serving homemade sushi rolls!

  • Soy Sauce: I used the traditionally brewed Kikkoman soy sauce for making this eel sauce. Soy sauce is a Chinese condiment sold in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores. It’s strong in umami taste and is an all-purpose seasoning.
  • Sugar: granulated sugar is the choice of sweetener here to create a shiny glaze.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: is the perfect eel sauce substitute for sake or mirin.

How To Make Eel Sauce:

This recipe for eel sauce takes minutes to make using a simple saucepan, and whisk! Eel sauce thickens as it sits so make eel sauce for at least 20 minutes before serving if you are wanting to drizzle it over food for a glaze otherwise cook with it as you would for a stir fry, marinade, or fish dish.

  1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, and apple cider vinegar in a 2-quart saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and boil over high for 7 minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t boil for too long, the sauce gets too thick at the 10-minute mark.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to thicken as it sits.
  4. Pour the sauce into a Plastic Condiment Squeeze Bottle and keep refrigerated.


How Long Does Eel Sauce Last?

This homemade eel sauce will last for months in the fridge due to the high sugar content (that works like a preservative.) Because soy sauce and apple cider vinegar are fermented products they are self-preserving in this sauce especially considering that apple cider vinegar is more alkaline than pure vinegar. Once cooked together it is important to keep eel sauce refrigerated. This sauce will last easily for 2 months if stored in a squeeze bottle or air-tight food container.

You can also freeze eel sauce in a freezer bag if you are not planning to use it within the first couple of months. To revive, simply thaw it overnight in the fridge and pour out the contents into a saucepan to reheat.

Creative Ways to Use Up Eel Sauce:

Need ways to use up eel sauce recipes? You can make so many Asian recipes with eel sauce so, don’t think it’s only for eel or sushi sauce! It’s excellent for marinating poultry, meat, and fish! Use it to enhance soups, drizzle it over roasted vegetables, or dip and glaze sushi rolls with it! Here are some ideas;

  • Use it as the base sauce for Lo Mein by replacing hoisin or oyster sauce
  • Replace any teriyaki sauce with it
  • Drizzle it over salads or sushi bowls
  • Serve it as a side to Spicy Mayo for dipping sushi rolls
  • Marinade and bake chicken wings in it


Where To Buy Eel Sauce?

The best eel sauce is homemade because what’s in eel sauce is completely up to you and the ingredients you want to use! However, you can buy eel sauce brands, online at websites like Walmart, Target, Asian supermarkets, and Amazon. Don’t confuse Ponzu with eel sauce, Ponzu is a citrus-flavored soy sauce. 

Other Names For Eel Sauce:

Bottled eel sauce found at Asian markets or Restaurant supply chains is sometimes labeled Sushi sauce or Unagi sauce. Why is it called eel sauce? Well, the answer to that is simply because it pairs best with Japanese fish dishes or Sushi. If you are wondering how eel sauce is made, it’s actually not from actual eel that would be, Nitsume Sauce. 

What is Similiar to Eel Sauce? 

Tare sauce would be the closest sauce to eel sauce. It is very much like teriyaki sauce and is commonly made of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.  

Eel Roll Sauce Calories:

Two tablespoons of this sauce recipe 



Best Eel Sauce Tips:

  1. What is Similar to Eel sauce? Teriyaki or tare sauce is very similar so, use eel sauce in place of those condiments. 
  2. Unagi eel sauce is another name for eel sauce. 
  3. The best substitute for sake or mirin is apple cider vinegar.
  4. Wondering how to make this sugar-free and healthy? Use honey! 
  5. Cook the sauce on high the entire time to reduce and make a glaze. 
  6. Buy a squeeze bottle for easy storage.
  7. Keep whisking your reduction to keep the foam going, it’s a sign the sauce is reducing. 
  8. Don’t boil for too long it will get so thick you’ll hardly be able to squeeze it out. 
  9. Although hoisin sauce is not quite like eel sauce you can interchange the two sauces. Hoisin sauce has more flavor from seasonings like pepper and garlic whereas eel   Unagi sauce is a simple reduction of ingredients.  


  Did you like this Japanese eel sauce? Tell me what you made this eel sauce for besides sushi in the comments below!  

How To Make Eel Sauce: 

Eel Sauce

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 24 servings
Author: Alyona Demyanchuk
Eel sauce is a sweet and sticky Japanese glaze made of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. This eel sauce recipe is made without mirin and tastes like the thickened sweet soy sauce drizzled over sushi rolls! Use for grilling, fish (Kabayaki), Lo mein, or as a favorite teriyaki sauce in Chinese food. You will love this easy eel sauce and it lasts super long when stored in the fridge! 


  • 1 2-quart saucepan
  • 1 Wire Whisk
  • 1 16oz squeeze bottle



  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar



  • In a medium saucepan combine the vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar.
  • Bring mixture to a rapid boil and boil over high for 7 minutes, whisking constantly. Do not boil for too long it will get too thick.
  • storing eel sauce
    Cool and pour into a squeeze bottle. keep refrigerated.


  • Tips: for a runnier eel sauce cook for 5-6 minutes. For a thicker sauce cook for 8 minutes. We tested that 7 minutes is the best in consistency.
  • This sauce yields about 1 1/2 cups of sauce so look for a 16 oz Squeeze Bottle

Nutrition per serving

Serving: 2TablespoonsCalories: 28kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 270mgPotassium: 13mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gCalcium: 1mgIron: 1mg

New Be featured here!

Hashtag #yesalyonascooking on both Instagram and Pinterest to be seen here!


Leave a comment

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    • Shaheda

    Hi, wonderful recipe for us no alcohol users. Thanks.
    How long can we store this and in the fridge?

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      Hi, it will store for a very long time in the fridge, at least 3 months…

    • Kate

    I did it for 6 minutes and it was still extremely runny

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      Hi Kate, it thickens as it cools.

    • Lena

    I am so happy I found this recipe. I am glad it doesn’t have alcohol/wine in it. So, Thank you!
    I have a question though. I cooked it for 7 min on high boiling. I let it cool down but it got really really thick and I couldn’t use it. Any suggestions on what I possibly did wrong? Thank you again!!

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      Hi Lena, it was likely overcooked. I’d do 3-5 minutes next time. Also the key to a good consistency is to still have it runny when finishing because it tends to thicken as it sits. Hope this helps.

      • Ken

      Use a candy thermometer and boil to ‘syrup’ stage, or 110C

    • Diana

    Should the soy sauce be light or thick ?

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      It should be a thick running consistency.

    • Adriana

    This recipe is great it’s really easy to make and when I drizzled it on top of my sushi it was just so perfect.I always looked for a recipe without Alcohol or any of that junk and I found this recipe everyone should try this!!!

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      Love this, thank you Adriana!

    • Jared Ashley

    I really like it, it’s going to be my go to for making sushi at home. Thanks

Explore Recipes

See What Others Made!
#yesalyonascooking on pinterest or instagram to be featured

As Seen On

  • Mashed
  • Yummly
  • Parade
  • BuzzFeed
Alyona’s Cooking