Fact checkedEvidence Based

Evidence Based

This article is objectively based on relevant scientific literature, written by experienced medical writers, and fact-checked by a team of degreed medical experts.

Our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and licensed medical professionals seek to remain objective and unbiased while preserving the integrity of any scientific debate.

The articles contain evidence-based references from approved scientific sites. The numbers* in parentheses (*1,2,3) will take you to clickable links to our reputable sources.

Is Eel Sauce Vegan? Explore Eel Sauce & Find Out The Answer In 2024

Mitchelle Morgan

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

is eel sauce vegan
Vegan eel sauce is made from plant-based ingredients. Photo: Ba Le Ho

Eel sauce is mostly used in freshwater eel preparation, known as unagi in Japanese. It’s also used in saltwater eel flavoring, commonly known as Anago in Japanese.

If you follow a vegan diet, you may ask, is eel sauce vegan? A vegan diet consists solely of plant-based foods like nuts, grains, and fruits and veggies

The answer is that eel sauce suits a vegan diet if made with plant-based ingredients. Commonly, the sauce is made of non-vegan sugar, sweet Japanese rice wine (which may not be vegan), also called mirin, and soy sauce. Some vegans have problems with the sugar content, especially if made in North America, as white cane sugar is processed with bone char,[1] an animal derivative.

In this article, you will learn more about eel sauce. We will also address the concern when eel sauce is not considered vegan-friendly, its nutritional benefits, and what you can use to substitute it. If you only prefer vegan food, please stick around as we uncover this delicious condiment.

Is Eel Sauce Considered Vegan?

No, traditional eel sauce is not truly vegan, depending on its ingredients. For example, vegan eel sauce recipes use plant-based ingredients without any animal products. The exception is the addition of cane sugar, which many vegans do not consider appropriate for their vegan philosophy, making it non-vegan.

Truly vegan-friendly eel sauce is commonly made of soy sauce, vegan mirin, organic sugar, and sake. You can also add different ingredients like onion, ginger, and vinegar for flavor, depending on your taste. 

To ensure you have genuine vegan eel sauce, read the ingredients label. Make sure the sugar is vegan-friendly. Alternatively, you can make your own sauce.

Is Eel Sauce Vegan Friendly?

No, most eel sauces are not vegan-friendly, depending on their ingredients. Although there are many vegan-friendly eel sauces, many brands are non-vegan, and many vegan-labeled brands contain non-vegan sugar. This is why checking eel sauce ingredients is essential before you buy or use it. 

Vegan-friendly eel sauce, commonly known as vegan unagi or plant-based eel sauce, is crafted without animal-derived ingredients except for the type of sugar used; then you must read the label carefully to ensure the presence of vegan-friendly sugar. Instead, it comprises plant ingredients with a savory and sweet sauce flavor profile. 

To buy vegan-friendly eel sauce in stores, go for brands labeled as “plant-based eel sauce” or “vegan unagi sauce.” Alternatively, you can find homemade eel sauce recipes and craft your own from scratch. 

With the right vegan eel sauce, you can enjoy unique flavors of Japanese cuisine that align with your diet and ethical preferences.

When Is Eel Sauce Not Vegan?

Eel sauce crafted with animal by-products or animal products is not considered vegan. The following ingredients make an eel sauce unsuitable for a vegan diet. 

  • Eel Bones and Heads: Eel bones, heads, and other ingredients give a distinctive flavor when mixed and added to the sauce. But, these are not suitable for a vegan diet. 
  • Non-Vegan Sweeteners: Eel sauces with sweeteners like honey and cane sugar make the sauce non-vegan. This is because honey is derived from bees. A vegan diet only allows the use of plant-based sugars in recipes, such as organic sugar or coconut sugar.. 
  • Fish-Based Ingredients: Some brands of eel sauce use fish by-products like fish stock, extract, or sauce to add flavor. Hence, the resulting product is non-vegan. 

If you notice any of the above ingredients, please note it’s not suitable for a vegan diet. Instead, look for plant-based substitutes to get a similar flavor. 

What Is Eel Sauce?

Eel sauce is a savory and sweet flavoring made from thick, sweet soy sauce mirin. You can drizzle or glaze various dishes depending on your preferences. 

From grilled foods like seafood, sashimi, meat, and vegan sushi rolls, eel sauce has many uses as a savory add-on.

Eel Sauce Ingredients

Eel sauce ingredients vary with the recipe and your expected end results. Here are common ingredients in the most flavorful sauces. 

  • Soy Sauce: Regular soy sauce is used as the sauce base. It’s preferred due to its umami-rich, salty flavor. The sauce is made from fermenting cooked wheat, soybeans, water, and salt.
  • Mirin: This rice wine adds a slight sweetness to the sauce. Also, this sugar strikes a balance out of the soy sauce’s saltiness, giving it a glossy look. Rice wine may not be vegan, depending on its processing, since many brands use isinglass or fish bladder for clarification.
  • Sugar: You can use organic sugar or a sweetener like coconut sugar to enhance the sauce’s sweetness. Sugar also helps the sauce to caramelize with slight cooking. Do not use cane sugar as it is processed with bone char, particularly sugars made in North America.
  • Sake: Sometimes, you can add sake–sweet Japanese wine rice for a more flavorful taste by complementing the other ingredients. 
  • Optional Additional Flavors: You can add other ingredients according to your recipe to enhance the sauce’s complexity. Garlic, dashi stock, ginger, vinegar, and onion can be added, among other aromatic ingredients.

Why Is It Called Eel Sauce?

Eel sauce is a sweet and savory sauce served with eel dishes in Japanese cuisine. Despite its name, eel sauce does not contain actual eels. 

The name eel sauce originates from its everyday use with eel-centered dishes but not from including eel. This condiment is loved for adding a delightful balance of sweet and savory flavors and enhancing the texture of various dishes.

Eel Sauce Nutritional Benefits

Eel sauce is a delicious condiment for sushi and grilled vegetables. Besides adding flavor, the sauce is loaded with essential nutrients for your body.

  • Packed with antioxidants: Vegan eel sauce has useful antioxidants which may help improve[2] overall health. 
  • Vitamins and Minerals: This sauce contains significant vitamins and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. These nutrients[3] help to maintain healthy joints and bones, improve the immune system, and enhance general physical performance.  

Although eel sauce has useful nutritional benefits, it is high in calories and sodium. A one-ounce serving size has[4] approximately 100 calories and 1,084 mg of sodium. Due to this, it’s not recommended if you are on a weight loss journey or if you have high blood pressure.[5] 

However, you can improve the health profile of eel sauce by making the sauce yourself and adding nutritious ingredients in optimal quantities.

Other Vegan Substitutes For Eel Sauce

If you’re looking for vegan substitutes for eel sauce, consider the following options:

Teriyaki Sauce

Traditional teriyaki sauce recipes incorporate honey. However, a vegan teriyaki sauce can be easily made with soy sauce, mirin, organic sugar, and a dash of ginger and garlic. You must only adjust the sweetness and thickness to mimic the traditional eel sauce.

Oyster Sauce

You can use vegan oyster sauce in place of eel sauce. Regular oyster sauce is not vegan, so read the label. It has a savory, sweet, and outstanding flavor.

Soy Sauce

You may substitute vegan-based soy eel sauce to add a salty and delicious flavor to your dishes. However, it has a lighter consistency.

Kikkoman Eel Sauce 

This sauce has an intensely sweet flavor, making it suitable for sashimi and sushi. When shopping, look out for the Kikkoman eel sauce vegan label to ensure it is truly vegan. 

Sriracha Sauce

This spicy and tangy chili sauce is made with chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. It’s completely vegan-friendly if vegan-friendly sugar is used, though with a different flavor profile than eel sauce. 

When making vegan recipes, you can substitute animal products with plant products. For instance, portobello mushrooms make great vegan meat substitutes. Also, green powders are a great addition to provide color and nutritional benefits. Coconut and organic sugar can substitute for cane sugar.

Summary

Eel sauce, a sweet and savory Japanese condiment, can be vegan or non-vegan, depending on the ingredients added. Hence, it’s advisable to be careful with commercial eel sauce brands or use homemade eel sauce and always read labels thoroughly.

Eel sauce contains mirin, sugar, soy sauce, and sake. Although it’s called eel, a freshwater fish, it typically doesn’t contain animal products except for the type of sugar used. 

The eel dipping sauce is advised to be used in moderation, as it is high in calories and sodium. Its main purpose is to be added sparingly to enhance the taste of the dishes it accompanies.

For a vegan meal replacement for eel sauce, you can use soy sauce-based glazes made with appropriate vegan-friendly sugar, chipotle tabasco hot sauce, Kikkoman eel sauce, and teriyaki sauce. Lastly, look for genuine vegan meal delivery services to get your vegan products.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is eel sauce made of?

Eel sauce is a mix of sugar, mirin, soy sauce, and sake. This mix gives it a sweet and salty taste. However, some brands of eel sauce add other animal ingredients like fish stock. And, mirin is made from rice wine, which may not be vegan.

Is there fish in eel sauce?

The answer is yes and no. Many eel sauces don’t include fish, but some brands of eel sauce may contain fish-based extracts or additives for flavor.

Does eel sauce have eggs in it?

Commercial eel brands sometimes add ingredients like eel eggs for flavor or texture. So, before buying, it’s important to read the ingredient label. You can also make your own vegan eel sauce.

Can vegetarians eat eel sauce?

Yes, vegetarians can eat eel sauce.

Does eel sauce have eel in it?

No, it doesn’t have eel in it. The word eel comes from its common use with eel-based dishes. 


+ 5 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Jia, P., Tan, H., Liu, K. and Gao, W. (2018). Synthesis and Photocatalytic Performance of ZnO/Bone Char Composite. Materials, [online] 11(10), pp.1981–1981. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ma11101981.
  2. Ham, Y.-K., Hwang, K.-E., Song, D.-H., Choi, J.-H., Choi, Y.-S. and Kim, H.-W. (2019). Relationship between the antioxidant capacity of soy sauces and its impact on lipid oxidation of beef patties. Meat Science, [online] 158, pp.107907–107907. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2019.107907.
  3. Carliene van Dronkelaar, A. van Velzen, M. Abdelrazek, van, P.J.M. Weijs and Tieland, M. (2018). Minerals and Sarcopenia; The Role of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, and Zinc on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength, and Physical Performance in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, [online] 19(1), pp.6-11.e3. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2017.05.026.
  4. Vt.edu. (2023). VT Online Dining Menus. [online] Available at: http://foodpro.students.vt.edu/menus/label.aspx?locationNum=14&dtdate=01%2F27%2F2023&RecNumAndPort=151593.
  5. Grillo, A., Salvi, L., Paolo Coruzzi, Salvi, P. and Gianfranco Parati (2019). Sodium Intake and Hypertension. Nutrients, [online] 11(9), pp.1970–1970. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11091970.
Mitchelle Morgan

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Mitchelle Morgan is a health and wellness writer with over 10 years of experience. She holds a Master's in Communication. Her mission is to provide readers with information that helps them live a better lifestyle. All her work is backed by scientific evidence to ensure readers get valuable and actionable content.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Trusted Source

Go to source

SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

Trusted Source

Go to source

African Journals Online

Non-profit Platform for African Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of The American Board of Family Medicine

American Board of Family Medicine

Trusted Source
Go to source

Informit

RMIT University Library

Trusted Source
Go to source

European Food Safety Authority

Science, Safe food, Sustainability

Trusted Source
Go to source

OrthoInfo

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Trusted Source
Go to source

American Academy of Family Physicians

Strengthen family physicians and the communities they care for

Trusted Source
Go to source

Agricultural Research Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Trusted Source
Go to source

The American Journal of Medicine

Official Journal of The Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Database From National Institute Of Health

Trusted Source
Go to source

Lippincott Journals

Subsidiaries of Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute on Aging

Database From National Institute Of Health

Trusted Source
Go to source

Translational Research

The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine

Trusted Source
Go to source

Cell

An All-science Publisher

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of Translational Medicine

BioMed Central

Part of Springer Nature
Go to source

Federal Trade Commission

Protecting America's Consumers

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Human Genome Research Institute

Database From National Institute Of Health

Trusted Source
Go to source

Food Production, Processing and Nutrition

BioMed Central

Part of Springer Nature
Go to source

BMC Gastroenterology

BioMed Central

Part of Springer Nature
Go to source

ACS Publications

A Division of The American Chemical Society

Trusted Source
Go to source

Annual Reviews

Independent, Non-profit Academic Publishing Company

Trusted Source
Go to source

PubChem

National Center for Biotechnology Information

National Library of Medicine
Go to source

PLOS Journals

Nonprofit Publisher of Open-access Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

Thieme E-books & E-Journals

Peer-reviewed & Open Access Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

European Journal of Agriculture and Food Sciences

Peer-reviewed International Journal Publishes

Trusted Source
Go to source

Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing Home

Chemical Science Journals, Books and Database

Trusted Source
Go to source

Frontiers

Publisher of Peer-reviewed Articles in Open Acess Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

De Gruyter

German Scholarly Publishing House

Trusted Source
Go to source

Hindawi

Open Access Research Journals & Papers

Trusted Source
Go to source

Oilseeds and Fats, Crops and Lipids

EDP Sciences

Trusted Source
Go to source

Cambridge Core

Cambridge University Press

Trusted Source
Go to source

FoodData Central

U.S. Department Of Agriculture

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of the American Heart Association

Peer-reviewed Open Access Scientific Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

The Americans with Disabilities Act

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Organization of Food and Nutrition Professionals

tr
Go to source

Sage Journals

Database From Sage Publications

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute of Drug Abuse

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

The ClinMed International Library

A Repository and an Open Access Publisher for Medical Research

Trusted Source
Go to source

The Royal Society Publishing

United Kingdom's National Academy of Sciences

Trusted Source
Go to source

APA PsycNet

Database From American Psychological Association

Trusted Source
Go to source

The Pharma Innovation Journal

Peer-reviewed And Refereed Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Development

Peer-reviewed Bimonthly Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

British Pharmacological Society

Journals - Wiley Online Library

Trusted Source
Go to source

American Psychological Association

Scientific and Professional Organization of Psychologists

Trusted Source
Go to source

AAP Publications

Database From American Academy of Pediatrics

Trusted Source
Go to source

Karger Publishers

Academic Publisher of Scientific and Medical Journals and Books

Trusted Source
Go to source

Cambridge University Press & Assessment

Database From Cambridge University

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute of Mental Health

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

MDPI

Publisher of Open Access Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

Bulletin of the National Research Centre

Part of Springer Nature

Trusted Source
Go to source

The New England Journal of Medicine

Massachusetts Medical Society

Trusted Source
Go to source

Economic Research Service

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Trusted Source
Go to source

MedlinePlus

Database From National Library of Medicine

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

National Institute of Health

An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Trusted Source
Go to source

Trusted Source

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

The BMJ

Weekly Peer-reviewed Medical Trade Journal

The British Medical Association
Go to source

The British Psychological Society

The British Psychological Society is a charity registered in England

Database From Wiley Online Library
Go to source

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

PubMed

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
Go to source

DailyMed

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
Go to source

Google Scholar

Go to source

Science.gov: USA.gov for Science

Government Science Portal

Go to source

ResearchGate

Social Network Service For Scientists

Find and share research
Go to source

American Heart Association

To be a rentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives

Go to source

BioMed Central

Research in progress

Go to source

JAMA Network

Home of JAMA and the Specialty Journals of the American Medical Association

Go to source

Springer Link

Database From Springer Nature Switzerland AG

Springer - International Publisher Science, Technology, Medicine
Go to source

ODS

Database from Office of Dietary Supplements

National Institutes of Health
Go to source

Federal Trade Commission

Bureaus of Consumer Protection, Competition and Economics
Go to source

Trusted Source

Database From U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Governmental Authority
Go to source

Oxford Academic Journals

Oxford University Press

Trusted Source
Go to source

Taylor & Francis Online

Peer-reviewed Journals

Academic Publishing Division of Informa PLC
Go to source

WHO

Database from World Health Organization

Go to source

Journal of Neurology

Peer-reviewed Medical Journal

American Academy of Neurology Journal
Go to source

ScienceDirect

Bibliographic Database of Scientific and Medical Publications

Dutch publisher Elsevier
Go to source

Wiley Online Library

American Multinational Publishing Company

Trusted Source
Go to source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. National Public Health Agency

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

Trusted Source

Database from U.S. National Library of Medicine

U.S. Federal Government
Go to source

U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Federal Agency

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

PubMed Central

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
Go to source
Feedback

Help us rate this article

Thank you for your feedback

Keep in touch to see our improvement