Easy Authentic Unagi No Tare Recipe – DIY Japanese Eel Sauce at Home

Easy Authentic Unagi No Tare Recipe - DIY Japanese Eel Sauce at Home

Elevate your Japanese cuisine with this authentic, savory unagi no tare that’s perfect for grilled eel and more!

Unagi no tare, also known as kabayaki sauce or nitsume, is the glossy, syrupy glaze that gives grilled eel its irresistible flavor. While it’s typically a restaurant staple, you can now recreate this umami-rich sauce in your own kitchen. Our recipe incorporates dashi for an extra layer of savory, briny depth that sets it apart from store-bought versions.

Traditionally, nitsume was crafted from a broth of grilled eel bones and even steamed clam liquor. Today, we’re simplifying the process while maintaining that complex flavor profile. This recipe strikes the perfect balance between sweet and savory, with a touch of smokiness that will transport your taste buds to Japan.

Creating unagi sauce at home allows you to control the quality and adjust the flavors to your liking. Plus, it’s more cost-effective than buying pre-made sauce, and you’ll impress your dinner guests with your culinary skills!

This recipe uses a thermometer to achieve the ideal consistency, preventing over-caramelization and preserving the delicate flavors of the dashi, mirin, and sake. The result is a versatile sauce that’s perfect for brushing on grilled eel, chicken, or vegetables.

Let’s dive into the recipe and unlock the secrets of this iconic Japanese sauce!

Unagi No Tare (Homemade Eel Sauce)


  • 1 cup (240ml) basic dashi (see note)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) mirin
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) sake
  • 1 cup (7 ounces/207g) granulated sugar (see note)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) light soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu)


  1. In a 3-quart saucier or saucepan, combine dashi, mirin, sake, sugar, and soy sauce. Whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Place the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will start to bubble and froth. Keep an eye on it and adjust the heat as needed to prevent it from boiling over.
  2. Continue cooking the mixture, stirring from time to time. You’ll notice the bubbling slow down as the sauce reduces by more than half. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature. When it reaches 235°F (113°C), which should take about 10 more minutes, remove it from the heat. For a thicker sauce, you can cook it to 240°F (115°C). Don’t worry if it seems a bit runny at first – it will thicken as it cools. Transfer the sauce to a heatproof bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature. Your homemade unagi no tare is now ready to use!


If you don’t have time to make homemade dashi, you can use powdered instant dashi instead. Simply dissolve 1 teaspoon of instant dashi in 1 cup of water. For a deeper, more complex flavor, try substituting brown muscovado sugar (kokutō) for the white sugar.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Your homemade unagi sauce will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month. This makes it perfect for meal prep or having on hand for quick weeknight dinners.

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