By Food E Fare

Unagi, or freshwater eel, is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine, particularly in dishes like unagi donburi (grilled eel rice bowl) and unagi sushi. Here's a detailed recipe for making grilled unagi:


  • 2 unagi fillets (fresh or frozen, preferably pre-cooked)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 1/4 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 2 cups steamed Japanese rice
  • Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
  • Sliced green onions (for garnish)


Prepare the Unagi:

  • If using fresh unagi fillets, they need to be cleaned and filleted. If using pre-cooked frozen unagi, thaw them according to the package instructions.
  • If the unagi fillets have skin, use a sharp knife to carefully remove the skin. Rinse the fillets under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.

Make the Tare Sauce:

  • In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and honey (if using). Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has slightly thickened. This sauce is called tare and will be used for both marinating and glazing the unagi.

Marinate the Unagi:

  • Place the unagi fillets in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag. Pour half of the tare sauce over the fillets, ensuring they are evenly coated. Marinate the unagi in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the fish.

Preheat the Grill:

  • Meanwhile, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using a charcoal grill, wait until the coals are hot and covered with a thin layer of ash. If using a gas grill, preheat it to medium-high heat.

Grill the Unagi:

  • Remove the marinated unagi fillets from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for a few minutes. Place the fillets on the preheated grill, skin-side down, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Glaze the Unagi:

  • Brush the top side of the unagi fillets with the remaining tare sauce, using a pastry brush or spoon. Continue grilling for another 3-4 minutes, brushing the fillets with additional sauce as needed, until they are caramelized and slightly charred on the edges.

Serve the Unagi:

  • Remove the grilled unagi fillets from the grill and transfer them to a serving platter. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions over the top for garnish.
  • Serve the grilled unagi hot with steamed Japanese rice on the side. Drizzle any remaining tare sauce over the rice for extra flavor.


  • Unagi is best enjoyed immediately while still hot and fresh from the grill. Serve it as a standalone dish or as part of a traditional Japanese meal.

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