Is Eel Sauce Vegan?

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If you have ever been to a Japanese restaurant, then you won’t just find sushi on the menu. They also offer a large range of different sauces, such as eel sauce.

Despite its fishy name, eel sauce is not made with fish but soy sauce and some other basic vegan ingredients. We find out more about eel sauce and its tasty ingredients.

Quick Answer

Eel sauce is usually vegan. However, some eel sauce recipes may also contain some non-vegan ingredients, so make sure to check the label on your sauce.

Is Eel Sauce Vegan?

While not all eel sauce is vegan, the majority of eel sauce brands are vegan friendly. The traditional eel sauce recipes only contain a few basic ingredients, such as soy sauce (which is vegan), sugar, mirin, garlic and sriracha.

This means, that despite the name, eel sauce is suitable for a vegan diet. Saying this, some ell sauce brands also add animal-based ingredients to their products to improve the sauce flavor.

These ingredients may be eel extract or dish stock, also known as dashi. If you notice that your eel sauce contains any of these ingredients, then it’s best to avoid them on a vegan diet.

Possible Non-Vegan Ingredients In Eel Sauce

Similar to other Asian sauces, eel sauce contains a few ingredients that may be non-vegan, although this can be difficult to tell from just reading the product label.

Refined Sugar

There is a large variety of sugar that may not be vegan, depending on how it has been processed. Together with beet sugar, cane sugar is one of the most popular types of sugar that you can find in store-bought products, such as sauces.

Some sugar refineries add bone char during the production process to make the sugar look beautifully white. However, bone char is a charcoal-like powder which has been derived from animal bones.

On the other hand, beet sugar is always vegan. Only sugarcane may contain bone char, and it’s difficult to find out if a sauce brand contains refined sugarcane.

It’s worthwhile mentioning here that not all cane sugar is processed with powder made from animal bones. Some brands also contain simple plant-based alternatives.

Caramel Coloring

Flavoring and coloring is often an issue when it comes to identifying if your food is vegan. Caramel coloring is used in many products, and it’s essentially heated sugar. This makes it mostly vegan, although this depends on the type of sugar.

What Is Eel Sauce?

Eel sauce is a commonly used sauce in Japanese cuisine. It is also called unagi. You can use eel sauce for almost any kind of Japanese dish, including sushi or other fish dishes.

It’s an ideal dipping sauce which can be a great alternative to soy sauce as eel sauce also contains soy sauce. In addition to the soybean sauce, eel sauce also contains Japanese rice wine, sake as well as water and white sugar.

What Does Eel Sauce Taste Like?

Thanks to the main ingredient, soy sauce, eel sauce is mostly sweet and it also has some strong umami and savory flavors.

When you are cooking with eel sauce, you will notice that it also taste slightly smoky with a salty aroma. This is what makes eel sauce ideal for fish and rice dishes.

Why Is Eel Sauce Called Eel Sauce?

It might be a little bit misleading but there is a good reason why eel sauce has this name despite the lack of fish ingredients.

In the past, eel sauce has been used to flavor grilled eels and other fish. While this tradition isn’t widespread anymore, the name has remained. Today, eel sauce is a popular Japanese sauce for sushi and other typical Asian dishes.

How To Tell If Your Eel Sauce Is Vegan

There are a couple of different ways that you can tell if your eel sauce is vegan.

Check The Label

Many food brands love talking about their vegan credentials, so make sure to check the sauce label. It might say that it’s vegan or vegan-friendly.

You may also want to take a look at the sauce ingredients. If you spot any ingredients that aren’t plant-based (such as dairy), then the product is likely not vegan.

Make Your Own Vegan Eel Sauce

If you are not sure that your store-bought eel sauce is vegan, then you can just make your own homemade eel sauce.


The traditional eel sauce contains only plant-based ingredients which means that it’s suitable for a vegan diet.

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