Is Eel Sauce Vegan? Is Eel Sauce Gluten Free?

Is Eel Sauce Vegan

Eel sauce or Unagi sauce is frequently served in Asian restaurants, especially Japanese restaurants. You might have even seen small packets of it in your takeout. It’s thick, sweet, salty, and bursting with umami – food’s enigmatic fifth flavor category.

However, vegans are always concerned if it contains any animal-derived products.

So, in this article, we’ll go over all of the different flavors of eel sauce and get answers to the question, “Is Eel Sauce Vegan?” Is there any actual eel or other fish in the stuff?

What is Eel sauce?

Eel sauce, also known as Natsume, Unagi, or Kabayaki. It’s a sweet and salty sauce that’s delicious with grilled fish or chicken. Eel sauce was most commonly used to season grilled eels. However, nowadays, most people consume eel sauce as sushi seasoning.

This delicious sauce isn’t just for eels; it also goes well with a variety of Japanese seafood dishes. It’s usually made with fertilized eel eggs, soy sauce, mirin, and syrup. However, it can also be made with just four basic ingredients: sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce (check vegan status).

Is Eel Sauce Gluten Free?

Yes, most eel sauces are gluten-free. Wheat-based ingredients and other gluten additives aren’t major components of eel sauce’s flavor, so we’d be genuinely shocked if there was a gluten-free eel sauce. The eel sauce served in restaurants is made with soy sauce and a thickening agent derived from wheat, a main source of carbohydrates.

As a result, unless specially prepared at a restaurant or home, eel sauce is not gluten-free. However, the added ingredients in each restaurant’s sauces vary, and extra caution must be taken before consuming them.

What is Eel sauce made of?

What is Eel sauce made of

All of the vegan eel sauce ingredients are derived from plants, making it vegan-friendly. However, some vegans object to refined sugar because it may just be filtered with animal ingredients. So we’ll investigate the contentious ingredients of vegan eel sauce.

1. Soy sauce

Shoyu and soy sauce are two names for soy sauce. Soybeans, wheat, salt, and a fermenting agent are used to make it. Soy sauce is traditionally made by soaking soybeans in water and steaming them for several hours. It is one of the primary components of eel sauce.

2. Mirin

Mirin is a type of rice wine that is commonly used in Japanese cooking. It is similar to sake but has a lesser alcohol level and a higher amount of sugar.

3. Caramel color

Caramel color is a popular food coloring and flavoring made by heating carbs (such as sugar), so it’s practically vegan, though this may depend on the feed ingredient. For example, several of these carbohydrates such as fructose, glucose, white sugar, malt syrup, molasses, and starch hydrolysates can be used.

All of these are plant-based ingredients, but, there is a possibility that white sugar was processed with bone char, rendering the caramel color non-vegan. However, only a small portion of caramel color. And since caramel color is made from cane sugar, and only a portion of that sugar is processed with bone char, it is uncommon for it to be non-vegan.

4. Processed Sugar

However, some North American sugar refineries use bone char, a charcoal-like powder made from carbonized animal bones, to process cane sugar.

Many suppliers, however, are switching to plant-based alternatives like granular carbon or ion-exchange resins. Nonetheless, it is frequently difficult to determine which type of sugar is being used because many businesses use a mixture of sugars.

Also, because many companies use a mixed pool of suppliers, it’s almost always difficult to determine which type of sugar is being used, and inevitably, some vegans have a major issue with this.

What does Eel Sauce taste like?

When you taste eel sauce, you’ll get a variety of flavors, but the main ones are sweet and salty. The saltiness is provided by the soy sauce, while the sweetness is provided by the sugar and mirin, resulting in a distinct flavor that is similar to barbecue sauce (check vegan status).

Even without MSG, it has an innate umami flavor that you’ll enjoy. Surprisingly, because it already has natural umami, it does not contain any additional MSG.

The sauce itself is thick, smooth, and powerful, but based on the ingredients used, it can be thicker or more gelatinous than ordinary eel sauces.

Vegan Eel Sauce Brands

1. Otafuku Sushi Eel Sauce for Sushi Rolls

Otafuku’s eel sauce also termed as unagi sauce, is thicker and richer than traditional soy sauce, making it an even better match for your sushi rolls or as a garnish for steamed rice.

It is ideal for marinating, drizzling, dipping, or glazing your favorite sushi dishes; simply add to food or mix with water for a simple marinade. Otafuku’s eel sauce is gluten-free and vegan, with no high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial flavors, colors, or undesirable preservatives.

2. Shirakiku Sushi Eel Sauce Non-GMO

With so many food products containing GMO ingredients, finding a non-GMO sushi sauce is a good thing. GMOs have the potential to cause allergic reactions and other side effects.

You won’t get those nasty side effects if you eat this non-GMO sushi sauce. This sauce has a delicious salty, sweet, and umami flavor combination. Soy sauce, tapioca syrup, and glutinous rice are among the ingredients. In addition to sushi rolls, you can add this to rice to enhance the flavor of your food.

3. Kikkoman Unagi Sushi Sauce

Kikkoman’s Unagi Sushi Sauce is a fan favorite due to its low price and intense flavors. This eel sauce is also completely vegan, making it an excellent condiment for vegan sushi or other plant-based seafood.

This pre-thickened coating is ready to use right out of the bottle and makes adding umami soy sauce flavor to any dish simple. It has a deep color and a thick, glossy consistency, making it ideal for brushing on top of sushi and enhancing the texture of other grilled foods.

4. Otafuku Gluten Free Sushi Unagi Eel Sauce

This eel sauce is yet another highly regarded option for people who enjoy a little soy and saltiness with their sushi. It’s also a good option for rolls and other similar snacks.

Fortunately, it’s completely vegan, and it’s an ideal buy for vegans looking for a bargain, as you can usually buy this eel sauce in bulk to save a few extra dollars. It contains the following ingredients: water, sugar, gluten-free soy sauce, caramel color, ginger pureé, and salt.

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Final Thoughts

With a few exceptions, eel sauce is typically a vegan condiment. As a result, we recommend finding a brand of eel sauce that you enjoy and sticking to it as much as possible. Vegan options are available from the Kikkoman, Otafuku, and Shirakiku brands. You can also make your own from four simple ingredients.

Soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake are all required. Sugar is the only debatable ingredient since it may have been processed with bone char; however, this is difficult to determine because most companies use a diverse pool of sugar suppliers. However, how strict a vegan you are also playing a significant role. Most vegans overlook this ingredient and just consume refined sugar.


There is no eel in eel sauce. It’s called Eel Sauce not because it contains eel, but because it’s used to glaze unagi. Soy sauce (or tamari), mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine, and sugar are combined to make Eel Sauce.

The added ingredients in each restaurant’s sauces vary, and extra precautions must be taken before consuming them. The eel sauce in various restaurants is prepared with soy sauce and a thickening agent containing wheat, which is a primary source of carbohydrates.

As a result, eel sauce is not gluten-free unless it is specially prepared at a restaurant or home.

Traditionally, consumers and Islamic religious scholars have recognized ethanol as a non-Halal substance, and as a result, Halal-certified items are generally alcohol-free. Eel sauce is not halal since it contains alcohol in the form of sweet Japanese wine rice. Sake is a Japanese rice wine that is used to make eel sauce.

Eel sauce, also known as Nitsume, Unagi, or Kabayaki sauce, comes in several varieties. A touch of rice vinegar, sake, dashi (a type of Japanese fish stock), or eel eggs adds an additional flavor in some recipes.

If you are a vegan and concerned about the ingredients, then speak with the restaurant’s staff ahead of time. Let them know that you don’t eat an eel sauce variety that contains eel eggs, fish stock, or another animal-derived ingredient.

Nonetheless, the majority of restaurants offer vegan eel sauce because it is more widely available and easier to find. Only at luxurious or more expensive seafood restaurants should you be concerned about eel sauce containing animal products.

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