Skip to Content

๐Ÿค” What Does Eel Sauce Taste Like? Here’s The Best FAQ! ๐Ÿค”

Have you ever wondered what does eel sauce taste like?? If you have, then you are not the only one. We have the best FAQ for you right here of its origin, its taste, and much more.

People tend to hesitate when encountering off-beat foods, especially when hearing about exotic ingredients like the sauce of eel. 

Yet, eel sauce is one of the most famous sauces in Japanese cuisine, offering the best umami flavors with the perfect combination of sweet and salty. 

This is why people have gotten curious as to what does eel sauce taste like.

Knowing about eel sauce will open up your horizon and allow you to explore treats for your taste buds that you’ve never had before.

Table Of Contents

What is eel sauce?

Eel sauce is a native Japanese sauce used in many Japanese and East Asian cuisines. 

It’s also referred to as Unagi, Nitsume, or Kabayaki sauce. 

Eel sauce is often a dipping sauce used for dishes containing eel, such as grilled eel, or on a bed of rice in unadon and kabayaki dishes. 

Eel sauce is often prepared with soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake, offering a complex mixture of flavors that highlight its umami features. 

As a sauce, it is pretty versatile and is excellent with meat, fish, vegetables, sushi rolls with fish, and vegetable sushi options. 

It’s also an excellent pair of deep-fried Japanese shrimp or vegetable tempura, making it a sauce that perfectly matches any Japanese cuisine item. 

What does eel sauce taste like?

Eel sauce tastes primarily sweet, layered with complex flavors from salty, smoky, and distinctly deep umami. 

Combining eel sauce with soy sauce for dipping adds more savory and salty tastes, which blend greatly with whatever type of food you intend to add flavor with the dip.

The soy also balances the saccharine sugary taste, enhancing the umami experience, making eel sauce a great addition to any barbecue, especially on any platter with eel fish.  

The savory combination you get from eel sauce is reminiscent of a mixture of slightly salty barbecue sauce mixed with a thick and rich hoisin. 

However, the sweet and salty combination provides a unique blend of flavors with a distinct mouthfeel.

Does eel sauce taste fishy?

Many people often wonder, with eel being quite an exotic and uncommon culinary ingredient, does eel sauce taste fishy?

As it is more commonly called, Unagi sauce does not taste fishy at all. 

In fact, eel sauce is popularly considered the perfect sauce for sushi. 

Sushi rolls made with fish can taste fishy while adding eel sauce brings more unique flavors to each delectable sushi bite. 

Eel sauce has become known for its deep umami flavor, with people even adding it onto chicken wings, grilled eggplant, deep-fried tofu, and even on popcorn. 

The flavors of this sauce are highly delectable, and some can’t resist licking it off their plate after a hearty meal.

Is eel sauce made from eels?

Although the eel sauce we mostly encounter today is based on a Japanese sauce called nitsume, which has an eel broth base, eel sauce does not contain any eel. 

This is often the misconception surrounding eel sauce, which we’re clarifying today. 

Eel sauce is basically a simple reduction of four main ingredients: mirin, sugar, sake, and soy sauce. 

The sauce got its name because it is commonly used in preparing unagi, the Japanese freshwater eel for eel sushi. 

The recipe for the sauce paired with Japanese grilled eel made it well known to have its name attached to the unagi dish.

What is the texture of eel sauce?

This famous Japanese sauce is a reduction that results in a thick, soft, and sticky liquid

Eel sauces you can find at stores are thicker, much similar to ketchup, in that when you dip your food in it, the eel sauce doesn’t easily slide off quickly. 

Different recipes for eel sauce allow you to make it more viscous and coagulated. 

Making it at home often results in a thinner, runnier sauce but can also be adjusted according to your preference. 

Eel sauce is generally candied and has the sticky characteristic of most sugary sauces. 

When preparing eel sauce, it’s vital not to over-heat the sauce since it can tend to burn and get charred, leading to a more bitter sauce due to its sugar content.

Is teriyaki sauce and eel sauce the same thing?

The answer is no. 

Teriyaki sauce is another famous Japanese sauce known for its sweet, salty, and savory flavors. 

It is similar in color and texture to eel sauce, with its brown color and thick features, which you can find in most bottled teriyaki sauce. 

However, when served, teriyaki sauce is typically thinner, with noticeable differences from eel sauce when tasted. 

Eel sauce is considered to be much sweeter than teriyaki sauce

While they share soy sauce as a common ingredient, the two sauces typically have different components. 

Eel sauce contains mirin, or Japanese rice wine, while teriyaki does not. 

Eel sauce also uses white sugar in its mixture, while teriyaki uses brown sugar. 

When it comes to flavor, teriyaki sauce is known to have some kick to it, with spice-giving ingredients such as ginger and garlic incorporated into it, while eel sauce is not meant to be spicy at all.

Does eel sauce taste like oyster sauce?

Eel sauce does not share the same flavors as the oyster sauce. 

Both sauces significantly differ in taste, consistency, and ingredients. 

Oyster sauce is mainly made from natural oyster juices, and while eel sauce used to be traditionally made with an eel broth base, it is not usually made using eel fish. 

Eel sauce is generally served with sushi and eel fish platters from Japanese cuisine, while the oyster sauce is paired with meat, vegetables, and dishes from Chinese cuisine. 

As such, eel sauce and oyster sauce cannot be used as substitutes for each other since they totally differ in flavors and use.

Find out some oyster sauce subs here

Why is it called eel sauce?

Eel sauce became known as such as the sauce is commonly prepared in Japanese cuisine to pair with the freshwater eel, or unagi, for eel sushi

The term eel sauce became attached to the unagi dish more because of the sauce’s association with the dish than the ingredient that it is derived from.

Is eel sauce spicy?

Eel sauce is generally made without spice-giving ingredients, so it is not meant to be spicy at all. 

Soy sauce in the mixture provides its saltiness and umami while getting balanced out by the sweet mirin, white sugar, and sake. 

Eel sauce is known for its candied and honeyed, sweet flavor, without any spice at all. 

Pairing it with a spicy dish can produce a combination of flavors that many people can enjoy.

Does eel sauce have alcohol?

Eel sauce is traditionally made with alcohol in the form of mirin or Japanese rice wine. 

Mirin is known to have a higher sugar content and lower alcohol content than its sake counterpart.

This makes the mirin a more preferred ingredient for cooking as it allows the alcohol to evaporate while letting the food absorb all its flavors as it simmers. 

Interestingly, most of the eel sauces you can find in supermarkets and stores would likely have a non-alcoholic substitute with similar tastes.

What tastes best with eel sauce?

Eel sauce is generally served with eel-fish-based dishes, such as grilled eel, or with different types of sushi platters. 

You can serve it with eel fish sushi, simple California rolls, tempura fried sushi rolls, or any of your preferred sushi. 

This saccharine sauce is best eaten with wasabi sauce to provide some kick and all the desired flavors in one flavor-filled bite. 

Eel sauce has also become a sauce that many have tried different types of food with and has gained a reputation for pairing with each one. 

It goes great with grilled or barbecued vegetables or as an added BBQ sauce for pulled pork or chicken. 

It has even been used for dipping or applied pizza sauce and as a glaze for popcorn. 

Eel sauce can also be an ideal marinade for meat, such as steak, or a great garnish on burgers.

It can be used as toppers for rolls with creamy avocado or add more flavor to your baked tofu. 

It has the right sweetness to add another layer of complexity to your favorite dishes, with a punch of umami that elevates every dish it touches.

Whether using it as a dipping sauce, a marinade, or a glaze, eel sauce has the right flavors to go with just about anything.

The bottom line

Just because the sauce’s name invokes the exotic ingredient doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider trying it. 

Eel sauce is a sweet and savory Japanese concoction that has become world-renowned for its ability to make any dish you dip with it burst with a magnitude of flavors. 

Eel sauce’s sweet, smoky lusciousness also has a versatility that invigorates those who prepare it to become adventurous and try it with many uncommon dishes. 

Knowing its ingredients and what eel sauce tastes like, you can build up the curiosity to try it yourself before finding that you’ll soon be longing for its flavors!