Is Eel Sauce Vegetarian?

Is eel sauce vegetarian? Let's find out! In this article, we're going to explore what eel sauce is made of and whether it's suitable for vegetarians and vegans. You may be missing out on this delectable, versatile sushi condiment!
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Homemade eel sauce in a bowl that is vegetarian and vegan.
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Have you ever dined at a Japanese restaurant and ordered sushi without the eel sauce? Why? In our experience, it’s simply automatic for us to reject any foods that have a living creature in the title. And, for good reason!

In this case, though, it may not be necessary. After searching for answers to this simple question, we’re ready to share all we know. So, if you’re ready for a quick journey through the flavors and ingredients of this sweet-and-salty saucy wonder, let’s get started!

If you love Asian-inspired sauces for your vegan stir-fry dishes, how about giving this vegan oyster sauce recipe a try?

Is Eel Sauce Vegetarian and Vegan?

Yes, eel sauce (also called unagi) is usually vegetarian and vegan, with a few exceptions. The main ingredients of this thick, dark, and flavorful sauce are all vegan-friendly. But, be careful to double-check the ingredients in commercial brands for additions such as crab extract or fish flavoring/sauce.

What Is Eel Sauce?

Eel sauce is a Japanese condiment that’s perfect for adding to any dish, especially sushi and noodle dishes. It adds a lot of sweetness, saltiness, and that lovely umami quality that makes Asian food so delicious. Is there eel in eel sauce? No. Keeping that in mind, don’t mistake eel sauce for oyster sauce. Oyster sauce contains oysters, while eel sauce does not contain eels.

Although there are a few differences in eel sauce ingredients, they all contain a type of soy sauce, sweetener, and either sweet Japanese wine or vinegar. Some versions also include corn starch to thicken, ginger for a bit of spiciness, flavor or color enhancers such as MSG and caramel, or preservatives like sodium benzoate.

Why Is It Called Eel Sauce?

It’s called eel sauce because it’s commonly used as a topping for eel sushi rolls and grilled eel at Japanese restaurants.

How To Make Eel Sauce

If you’d like to try making your own eel sauce, it’s pretty easy. Simply mix equal amounts of soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari) with granulated sugar and white wine (Japanese mirin is traditional). Bring to a low simmer over medium heat and stir frequently until the sauce reduces by half. Allow to cool before serving. Store in a sealed container.

Best Vegan Eel Sauce Brands

Wondering where to buy eel sauce? Eel sauce can be found in the Asian aisle in your local grocery store. It’s also easily available online. Here are the most popular vegan-friendly brands of eel sauce:

Kikkoman Unagi Sushi Sauce

Unagi sushi sauce by Kikkoman is a specialized, thick and savory glaze commonly used to enhance the flavor in vegetable sushi and other Asian dishes. It offers a sweet, rich, and slightly smoky flavor, making it a popular choice for imparting a delectable taste to eel-based sushi rolls.

Plastic bottle of Kikkoman Unagi sushi sauce with black lid against a white background.

Natural Earth Sweet Sushi Sauce

Natural Earth Products’ sweet sushi sauce is a high-quality condiment made with natural ingredients and is often used to enhance the flavor of sushi and other Asian dishes. It offers a delightful balance of sweetness and savory umami, created with care to complement your favorite veggie sushi rolls. Kosher and free of MSG.

A glass bottle of Natural Earth Products brand sweet sushi sauce with black lid against a white background.
Sweet Sushi Sauce by Natural Earth Products (Source: Natural Earth Products on Amazon)

Nippon Shokken Eel Sauce

A traditional Japanese-style condiment by Nippon Shokken that is well-known for its sweet and savory profile. This brand blends soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and spices to create a perfect dipping or drizzling sauce for vegetable sushi, tofu bowls, and other Japanese dishes.

Dark glass bottle of Nippon Shokken Eel Sauce with red and pink label against a white background.

Otafuku Sushi Eel Sauce

This sushi sauce by Otafuku is a savory and slightly sweet condiment commonly used to enhance the flavor of sushi. It typically combines soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, creating a delightful umami-rich drizzle for your favorite veggie sushi rolls. Their eel sauce is 100% vegan and made without gluten, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors.

Dark glass bottle of Otafuku Sushi Eel Sauce with pink label on the white background.
Sushi Eel Sauce by Otafuku (Source: Otafuku on Amazon)

Shirakiku Japanese Sushi Sauce

Shirakiku’s versatile and sweet soy-based condiment is popular for adding a delightful flavor to vegetable sushi and other Japanese dishes. It combines soy sauce, sugar, and other seasonings, resulting in a well-balanced, tangy sauce for enhancing the taste of your sushi creations.

Plastic bottle of Shirakiku Japanese Eel Sauce with a red cap and dark label against a white background.
Japanese Sushi Sauce by Shirakiku (Source: Shirakiku on Amazon)

Vegan Eel Sauce FAQs

Is eel sauce vegan?

Most eel sauces are vegetarian and vegan, but be careful to check the ingredients. Some pre-made eel sauces may contain crab extract or fish flavoring.

What is a good eel sauce substitute?

Although not entirely similar, balsamic glaze (which is sweet) or hoisin sauce (savory) can be used instead. Perhaps a mix of the two would work as well.

Is eel sauce gluten-free?

Eel sauce can be gluten-free, but make sure to check the list of ingredients. Soy sauce is often made using wheat, so you might have to find a specifically gluten-free version. If you make your own eel sauce at home, remember to use a gluten-free soy sauce or tamari in the recipe.

Can you share any eel sauce nutrition facts?

It depends on the brand. Generally, eel sauce contains no fat, but has a medium to high amount of both sugar and salt.

In conclusion, eel sauce is often a vegetarian and vegan-friendly choice, adding a salty and sweet flavor to a variety of meals. It’s a tasty example of adaptability in Japanese cuisine. So, feel free to enjoy the savory sauce brands shared above and enjoy!

More Helpful Vegan Answers

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