Is Eel Sauce Vegan? (You’d Be Surprised!)

Is Eel Sauce Vegan

Ahh, sushi – a delectable delight that you can order with or without fish! As a result, sushi is a great way to enjoy seafood as a vegan. But most people like to order their sushi with one of several tasty sauces, which enhance the flavors and make some sushi to die for. Eel sauce is one of those toppings – but is it vegan?

Eel sauce is vegan. Despite its name, most eel sauce doesn’t include eel or fish. Rather, it contains soy sauce, sugar, corn syrup, thickeners, and preservatives. However, some brands do use eel bones or fish stock so it’s important to check the ingredients label. The best vegan alternative to eel sauce is Primal Kitchen No Soy Eel Sauce.

Still, it’s a bit puzzling that eel sauce doesn’t include animal byproducts from the freshwater fish from which it derives its name. Let’s take a closer look at eel sauce and investigate its ingredients in detail so vegans just like you can know whether it’s safe to enjoy with some tasty vegan sushi.

Is All Eel Sauce Vegan?

No, but most eel sauce is. The most bare-bones eel sauce recipe includes soy sauce (which is also vegan by default), garlic, sugar, sriracha, and mirin. Despite its name, eel sauce doesn’t usually include eel as one of its ingredients.

That said, some brands of eel sauce will use animal-derived ingredients in order to add to or improve the flavor of the resulting sauce. These include fish stock (dashi) or eel extracts, such as their bones. Naturally, these varieties of eel sauce are not vegan safe, so they should be avoided.

Why is Eel Sauce Called Eel Sauce?

You might wonder why eel sauce has such a distinct name when there isn’t any eel in its formula more often than not.

Historically, eel sauce was most often used to flavor grilled eels. However, most people consume eel sauce these days as a topping for sushi. The name has stuck around despite this change.

Can Vegans Eat Eel Sauce at Restaurants?

Most likely, but it never hurts to ask the restaurant’s staff beforehand to make sure you don’t eat an eel sauce variety that includes eel eggs, fish stock, or some other animal-derived product.

Still, the majority of restaurants provide vegan eel sauce because it’s more accessible and easier to find. You’ll generally only need to worry about eel sauce with animal products at fancier or more expensive seafood restaurants.

Eel Sauce Nutritional Information

There are all kinds of eel sauces you can find, many of which are vegan friendly. Let’s break down a couple of vegan friendly eel sauces in detail so you can tell which ones you should purchase when you go to the grocery store or when you order sushi from your favorite Japanese restaurant.

Kikkoman Unagi Sushi Sauce

Kikkoman’s Unagi Sushi Sauce is a favorite for its affordability and intense flavors. This version of eel sauce is also completely vegan friendly, making it a great condiment for vegan sushi or other plant-based seafood.

Its ingredients are:

  • Soy sauce
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Sodium glutamate
  • Vinegar
  • Caramel color
  • Citric acid
  • Disodium inosinate
  • Xanthan gum
  • Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate

Nutrition Facts:

  • 40 cal per serving
  • 710 mg sodium or 30% DV
  • 10 g carbohydrate or 3% DV
  • 9 g sugar
  • 1 g protein

Otafuku Sushi Eel Sauce

This eel sauce is another popular choice for folks who love adding a little soy and saltiness to their sushi. It’s also a great choice for rolls and similar snacks. Fortunately, it’s totally vegan friendly and it’s a perfect choice for vegans looking to save a little money, as you can usually buy this eel sauce in bulk to save a few bucks.

Its ingredients are:

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Gluten-free soy sauce
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Salt
  • Sweet cooking rice wine
  • Caramel color
  • Concentrated the juice
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Ginger purée

Nutrition Facts:

  • 40 cal per serving
  • 330 mg sodium or 14% DV
  • 9 g carbohydrate or 3% DV
  • 9 g sugar or 18% DV

Nippon Shokken Eel Sauce

Nippon Shokken’s eel sauce is another perfect choice, especially if you run a vegan friendly restaurant. You can purchase dozens of bottles of this delicious eel sauce and save some money at the same time if you so choose. Note, unfortunate, that this eel sauce is not gluten-free as it contains wheat as one of its core ingredients.

Its ingredients are:

  • Sugar
  • Soy sauce
  • Water
  • Salted sake
  • Modified food starch
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Soy sauce powder
  • Caramel color
  • Yeast extract
  • Disodium inosinate
  • Disodium guanylate
  • Xanthan gum

Nutrition Facts:

  • 35 cal per serving
  • 340 mg sodium or 15% DV
  • 8 g carbohydrate or 3% DV
  • 7 g sugar or 12% DV
  • 1 g protein

Healthy Vegan Alternatives to Eel Sauce

Want to go for some healthy vegan alternatives to eel sauce instead? In that case, you might be able to find several close counterparts to eel sauce that feature a heavy soy flavor or teriyaki vibe. Let’s take a look at some of the best healthy vegan alternatives to eel sauce so you always have something to combine with your fish-free sushi.

Primal Kitchen No Soy Eel Sauce

Primal Kitchen No Soy Teriyaki 2 Variety Pack, Whole 30 Approved- 1 Hawaiian Teriyaki & 1 Original No Soy Teriyaki … Primal Kitchen offers a unique teriyaki sauce variety that includes no soy, which could be a great choice if soy is a little too salty for you in most cases. Fortunately, it’s also gluten-free and paleo friendly, making it a prime topping for your sushi if you also follow one of those two dietary regimens.

Its ingredients are:

  • Water
  • Organic coconut aminos
  • Organic balsamic vinegar
  • Organic dates
  • Organic orange juice concentrate
  • Organic Sea salt
  • Organic tapioca starch
  • Organic ginger
  • Organic garlic
  • Organic tamarind
  • Organic sesame seeds
  • Organic distilled vinegar
  • Organic sesame oil
  • Organic yeast extract

Nutrition Facts:

  • 15 cal per serving
  • 220 mg sodium or 10% DV
  • 3 g sugar or 4% DV
  • 3 g carbohydrate
  • 21 mg potassium

Kevin’s Simmer Sauce Variety Pack

Kevin's Natural Foods Keto and Paleo Simmer Sauce Variety Pack - Stir-Fry Sauce, Gluten Free, No Preservatives, Non-GMO - 3 Pack (Tikka/ Thai Coconut/ Lemongrass Basil) Kevin’s offers a variety of simmering sauces you can use for Asian dishes or as toppings for your sushi choices. There are several flavors available, such as a Thai coconut sauce, tikka masala sauce and lemongrass basil sauce. Let’s take a look at the ingredients for the Thai coconut sauce, which is the closest counterpart to traditional eel sauce.

Its ingredients are:

  • Water
  • Coconut sugar
  • Coconut milk
  • Lime juice concentrate
  • Spices
  • Ginger
  • Tapioca starch
  • Basil
  • Yeast extract
  • Dehydrated onion
  • Dehydrated garlic
  • Sea salt
  • Lemongrass purée
  • Turmeric
  • Xanthan gum
  • Citric acid
  • Black pepper
  • Monk fruit extract

Nutrition Facts:

  • 90 cal per serving
  • 8 g fat or 10% DV
  • 210 mg sodium or 9% DV
  • 5 g carbohydrate or 2% DV
  • 2 g sugar or 2% DV
  • 1 g protein

Fody Foods Low FODMAP Teriyaki Sauce

Fody Foods Vegan Teriyaki Sauce Marinade | Sesame Tamari | Low FODMAP Certified | Gut Friendly No Onion No Garlic No MSG | IBS Friendly | Gluten Free Lactose Free If you’re a vegan and follow the Low FODMAP diet, this teriyaki sauce from Fody Foods seems to have your name on it. It’s a great topper for sushi or other Asian dishes and it’s both vegan and made with non-GMO ingredients from start to finish. It’s one of the healthiest alternatives to traditional eel sauce you can find. Note, however, that it does contain soy, so keep this in mind if you are allergic to the compound.

Its ingredients are:

  • Water
  • Tamari
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Organic raw cane sugar
  • Pineapple concentrate
  • Arrowroot powder
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Ginger powder

Nutrition Facts:

  • 15 cal per serving
  • 240 mg sodium or 10% DV
  • 2 g carbohydrate or 1% DV
  • 2 g sugar

Final Thoughts

In the end, eel sauce is like many other toppings and condiments: it’s generally vegan friendly, but some types of eel sauce do include animal byproducts and should be avoided. We recommend picking a brand of eel sauce that you like and sticking with it as often as you can. Then you’ll know for sure you’re eating vegan when you combine it with your fish-free sushi.

Related Questions

Does eel sauce usually have dairy in it?

No. Most eel sauce includes mirin, which is a type of Japanese rice wine, sugar, soy sauce, and one or two other ingredients. Dairy is almost unheard of in eel sauce because it would change the texture of the resulting sauce for the worse.

Is eel sauce unhealthy?

It depends on the brand you purchase. Most eel sauce is high in omega-3 fatty acids, but it may also be very high in sugar due to its soy sauce base. If you want to prioritize health, try to find a low-sodium eel sauce option.

Why is eel sauce sometimes called unagi sauce?

Unagi sauce is just the Japanese name for eel sauce, so you can use the two terms interchangeably.

Is eel sauce gluten-free?

Yes, usually. Wheat-based products and other gluten additives are not major parts of eel sauce for its flavors, so we’d be surprised if you could find a type of eel sauce that wasn’t gluten-free.

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Choosing Nutrition Team

Here at Choosing Nutrition, our goal is to help people with making smarter food choices. Whether you're wondering about vegan, keto, paleo, or other diets, we'll help you determine which options fit your nutritional lifestyle. Our staff is composed of registered dieticians, nutritionists, and health-conscious individuals.

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