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