What Can I Use Instead of Unagi Sauce? (5 Substitutes)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question, “what can I use instead of Unagi sauce” with an in depth analysis of different alternatives.

What can I use instead of unagi sauce?

 If you are looking for a replacement, the alternatives for unagi sauce are:

  • Teriyaki Sauce 
  • Hoisin 
  • Ponzu 
  • Soy Sauce 
  • Oyster Sauce

The Best Substitute for Unagi Sauce is Teriyaki Sauce!

While Teriyaki Sauce has a sweeter taste, it works as an ideal substitute. This is because teriyaki sauce too shares the same ingredients such as soy sauce and sugar. However, it also has honey, garlic powder, and ginger. Since they both add a lovely glaze to the food, teriyaki sauce can be used instead of unagi sauce. 

Another good thing about substituting teriyaki sauce with unagi is that they can both be used the same way – you don’t need to change the ratio if you’re using them in a dish. 

What is unagi sauce? 

Unagi Sauce, better known as eel sauce, is a sweet grilling sauce. It is made with mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. While originally it was made to prepare unagi i.e. freshwater eels, it is also used for grilling meat and other fish. 

It originated from Japan. Many people believe that unagi sauce is actually nitsume sauce. The version that we know is the watered-down American version. It is believed Unagi sauce is a counterfeit product. 

The sauce has a rich and thick texture. It is an ideal companion for grilled foods, sushi, and other dishes. So, what does one do when they cannot find unagi sauce? They find a substitute. 

Other Alternatives for Unagi Sauce 

Now, while we have established that the best replacement for unagi sauce is teriyaki sauce, you might want to have other options up your sleeve. In case you don’t have either unagi sauce or teriyaki sauce at your disposal. 


When there’s no teriyaki sauce around, to replace the unagi sauce, go for hoisin sauce. It doesn’t have mirin – much like teriyaki sauce. It doesn’t necessarily have the same taste as unagi sauce. But it’s a close substitute. The flavour is more robust. 

If you’ve always wondered which sauce has been responsible for the delicious red, crispy skin for Pekin Ducks – it was Hoisin. Originally from China, this sauce has spicy, salty, and sweet flavors that only add to recipes. 

The base of the sauce is a mixture of sugar, vinegar, soybean paste, and a variety of spices. It works extremely well as a dipping sauce as well. Some hoisin sauces are also hot. So, if you’re looking to make a mild recipe – be careful of the variety you are using. 


If you are in favour of sauces that combine salty, sweet, sour, and bitter then this is the substitute for unagi sauce for you. Originally from Japan, Ponzu sauce is tasty whether it is served with sushi or as a condiment for fish or chicken. 

Unlike teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce, ponzu contains mirin. Which is a major ingredient in unagi sauce. However, the major difference is citrus such as sudachi and yuzu. Tangy flavourful cooking would always favour ponzu sauce.

Soy Sauce 

Soy Sauce is one of the most popular condiments used. While it’s salty on its own, mixing it with mirin and sugar gives it a different edge. While it has its own drawbacks being a substitute for unagi sauce, it is definitely worth exploring. Especially since soy sauce has many different styles, hailing from different South Asian countries. 

Oyster Sauce 

Just in case you’re out of options and you need something to replace unagi sauce: use oyster sauce as the last-ditch attempt. However, since this comes with a fish undertone people who are into milder flavours would ask for a different option. 

It can be used in stir-fries, used as a glaze, or just straight up served as a condiment. However, please note that the overall flavour of the food could change drastically if the oyster sauce is chosen. Discretion has to be exercised when switching unagi sauce with oyster sauce.

How to make unagi sauce at home? 

Besides these substitutes, you can also make unagi sauce at home. Stores may have individual ingredients if they do not have unagi sauce readily available. This is a good option for those who prefer fresh taste over processed industrial food products. Moreover, you can play with the ingredients and prepare the sauce according to your taste buds. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take mirin, soy sauce, and sugar in equal amounts and mix them. 
  • Put them in the saucepan and start heating
  • Heating should be done until only ¼ of the mixture remains in the pan. 
  • While the mixture cools, you can either add water or cornstarch to give your sauce the consistency you desire. 
  • Serve and enjoy!

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In this listicle, we talked about the five best substitutes you can use for unagi sauce. The order ranks the sauces in terms of which works the best and which just passes the test. If you have any questions for us, please ask us in the comments below. 


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.