Is Eel Sauce Vegan?

If you’re a vegan or someone who follows a plant-based diet, you may be wondering whether eel sauce is safe for you to consume.

Let’s delve into the ingredients of the eel sauce and see if this popular condiment is as vegan-unfriendly as its name suggests.

Is Eel Sauce Vegan?

Short answer: Yes, in most cases, eel sauce is vegan. Contrary to its name, eel sauce typically does not contain eel or any other animal product.

Detailed Answer

Eel sauce, also known as unagi sauce or kabayaki sauce, is a sweet and savory condiment commonly used in Japanese cuisine, particularly with sushi.

While its name may be misleading, it’s important to note that the standard eel sauce contains no eel or other animal-derived ingredients.

The primary components of eel sauce are soy sauce, sugar, and mirin (a type of rice wine).

All these ingredients are plant-based. Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and wheat. Sugar is derived from sugarcane or sugar beets. Mirin is a sweet rice wine produced through the fermentation of rice.

However, keep in mind that recipes can vary. While traditional eel sauce doesn’t contain any animal products, certain restaurants or brands may add non-vegan ingredients, such as fish stock, for added flavor.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the label or ask about the ingredients if you’re dining out.

Key Takeaways

  • Eel sauce, despite its name, is vegan and does not contain any animal products.
  • The sauce is made from a combination of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
  • Both soy sauce and mirin are plant-based ingredients.
  • Vegans can enjoy eel sauce as a flavorful addition to their meals.

What Is Eel Sauce?

Eel sauce, or unagi sauce, is a versatile condiment commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is known for its rich, sweet, and umami flavors that complement a variety of dishes.

This sauce has gained popularity not only in traditional Japanese cooking but also in fusion dishes around the world.


Soy sauceForms the base of the sauce and provides a savory flavor.Yes – soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, meaning it’s plant-based.
MirinContributes a sweet taste and helps to balance the flavors.Yes – Mirin is traditionally made from rice and does not contain animal products.
SugarAdds sweetness and caramelizes when heated, creating a thick texture.Yes – sugar is vegan as long as it isn’t processed with bone char.

Does nutrition ever seem confusing? It doesn’t have to be. Learn how simple (and delicious) healthy eating can be in the FREE Food for Health Masterclass. This 1-hour presentation makes things clear—finally. Click here to reserve your free spot!

Is Eel Sauce Healthy?

Eel sauce, like many condiments, should be consumed in moderation due to its high sugar content.

While it adds a burst of flavor to dishes, excessive consumption of sugary sauces can contribute to a variety of health issues, such as weight gain and increased risk of diabetes.

However, incorporating eel sauce into a balanced and varied vegan diet can be done without causing significant harm. As always, it’s best to exercise moderation and pair it with nutrient-rich foods.

Alternatives for Eel Sauce

If you’re unable to find eel sauce or prefer to explore alternative options, there are a few substitutions you can consider. These alternatives can provide a similar flavor profile and enhance your dishes:

  • Teriyaki Sauce: With its combination of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, teriyaki sauce offers a sweet and savory flavor like eel sauce. It works well as a glaze or marinade for grilled dishes.
  • Hoisin Sauce: This Chinese condiment provides a slightly different flavor but can be a suitable replacement. The Hoisin sauce brings a sweet and tangy taste to stir-fries, noodle dishes, and dipping sauces.
  • Plum Sauce: Also known as duck sauce, it offers a fruity and sweet flavor that complements various dishes. Plum sauce is commonly used in Chinese cuisine and can be an exciting alternative to eel sauce.

Examples of Dishes or Recipes Using Eel Sauce

Eel sauce’s versatility makes it a great addition to many dishes. Here are a few examples:

  • Unagi Don: A traditional Japanese dish consisting of grilled eel served on a bed of rice and drizzled with eel sauce. This combination creates a delightful blend of flavors.
  • Sushi Rolls: Eel sauce can be used as a glaze or drizzle over sushi rolls containing vegetables, tofu, or other plant-based ingredients. It enhances the taste and adds depth to the overall sushi experience.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Brushing grilled vegetables, such as eggplant or zucchini, with eel sauce before serving can elevate their taste, providing a sweet and savory contrast.

Looking for a sign that it’s time to take charge of your diet? This is it. Watch the Food or Health Masterclass—completely free—and discover the 10 surprising nutrition breakthroughs everyone should know. Reserve your free spot here!


Can vegans eat eel sauce?

Yes, vegans can enjoy eel sauce since it contains no animal products. The name might be misleading, but rest assured, it is made from plant-based ingredients.

Are there any animal-derived components in eel sauce?

No, eel sauce does not contain any animal-derived components. It is made from soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sometimes sake, all of which are plant-based ingredients.

Does eel sauce taste like eel?

No, despite its name, eel sauce does not taste like eel. It has a unique flavor profile that blends the savory, sweet, and umami elements, creating a delicious and complementary addition to various dishes.

Can eel sauce be used in vegan cooking?

Absolutely! Eel sauce can be used in vegan cooking to enhance flavors and add a touch of sweetness. It pairs well with plant-based dishes, such as stir-fries, sushi rolls, or even roasted vegetables.

Where can I find vegan eel sauce?

Vegan eel sauce can be found in many grocery stores or Asian markets that offer a range of vegan-friendly products. Additionally, you can make your own at home using simple ingredients like soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake (optional).


Eel sauce, despite its potentially misleading name, is typically a vegan-friendly condiment. Its primary ingredients, including soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, are plant-based.

Eel sauce should be consumed in moderation due to its high sugar content. But when used thoughtfully, it adds a savory sweetness to various dishes, enhancing the flavors of vegan sushi rolls, stir-fries, and even grilled vegetables.

Keep in mind that recipes can vary, so it’s important to check labels or ask about ingredients when dining out.

If you’re unable to find eel sauce or are seeking alternatives, consider using teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, or plum sauce to provide similar flavor profiles.

Two More Recommendations for Your Plant-Based Journey

1. This is the best free video training I’ve found on plant-based nutrition. You’ll learn how to reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity—all with plant-based food. Watch the free “Food for Health Masterclass” here.

2. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in my 14 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).