Unagi Nigiri is a Japanese sushi made with BBQ or grilled freshwater eel on top of hand-formed sushi rice. It has a sweet and salty flavour with a rich, meaty texture.
What is unagi?
Unagi is Japanese for "eel."
Unagi sushi is a type of Japanese sushi consisting of sushi rice topped with cooked, grilled eel on top.
A variation of this is Unagi Don, which is a dish of cooked white rice in a bowl topped with freshly grilled unagi (eel).
Is the unagi raw?
No, you cannot consume raw unagi.
Unagi eel sushi is fully cooked -- usually smoked or grilled.
The freshwater eel for nigiri is filleted, grilled and basted with a thick sweet soy sauce.
Unagi is also used in Unagi Don (or unadon), which is a humble dish of grilled eel on rice.
What is nigiri?
Nigiri is a type of sushi made with rice.
Fish or other toppings are placed on to oblong-shaped sushi rice which is formed by hand.
What does unagi taste like?
When slightly warmed, the texture of the unagi eel is firm yet tender, meaty, full of umami flavour and has a similar taste to fish.
If served cold, it has a slight chewy texture.
Tip: For the best taste, use a kitchen blowtorch to lightly warm up the eel before serving.
Where can I find it?
You can find unagi in Asian grocery stores, or supermarkets with sushi counters.
It may be sold as a whole piece, or sliced into portions for sushi.
Sometimes it will come with unagi sauce, which is a thick sweet soy glaze.
Why this recipe works
This Unagi Nigiri recipe is really easy, especially when you can pick up prepared BBQ grilled eel.
It costs less money to make at home, compared to enjoying it at a sushi restaurant.
If you have guests who don't like raw sashimi fish, grilled eel is a great introduction since it's fully cooked.
Since these are hand-formed, there's no need use a bamboo mat to form the sushi rice into rolled sushi, which makes this recipe very straightforward to follow.
Ingredients you'll need
- grilled BBQ eel: you can buy it already prepared
- unagi sauce: usually comes with the grilled BBQ eel; a thickened sauce of soy, mirin, sake and sugar; if you're in a pinch, you can substitute with teriyaki sauce
- freshly cooked sushi rice: is short-grain rice that has been seasoned with rice vinegar and sugar, still warm so it's easy to work with
- toasted sesame seeds
- nori (seaweed): dry unseasoned seaweed; cut into strips about 1 cm in diameter
You can find these ingredients in Japanese/Asian supermarkets.
How to make it
If the unagi is whole, use a sharp knife to cut it into equal pieces about 1" in diameter, about 10-12g each.
Wet your hands and form about 15g of the sushi rice into small oblong shaped pieces.
Place the grilled eel on top of the rice. Lightly brush the top of the eel with unagi sauce.
Take a strip of nori and wrap it around the middle.
Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top of the eel.
Repeat with the remainder.
How to serve
Serve the unagi nigiri with other sushi, such as Aburi-Style Smoked Salmon Oshi Sushi.
It is best served on the same day it is made.
Try it paired with some Seaweed Salad (Wakame), pickled ginger, or slices of cucumber.
How to store
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 day.
For extra creaminess, try adding avocado slices.
Micro pea shoots or cucumber would pair well with the flavourful grilled eel.
Be sure to use freshly cooked, warm sushi rice when forming the rice mounds.
Cool or cold rice will not stick together.
To reheat the unagi, a simple way is to remove the nori seaweed strips and use a blow torch to lightly flame the eel, similar to aburi-style sushi.
Other recipes you may like
Be sure to check out these recipes:
Aburi-Style Smoked Salmon Oshi Sushi
Homemade Spicy Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls
Let me know if you try out this recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Unagi Nigiri (BBQ Eel Sushi)
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 1 pkg BBQ grilled unagi (eel)
- 1 C cooked sushi rice warm
- 2 tablespoon unagi sauce
- strips of nori seaweed
- toasted sesame seeds
- If the unagi is whole, use a sharp knife to cut it into equal pieces about 1" in diameter, about 10-12g each.
- Wet your hands and form about 15g of the sushi rice into small oblong shaped pieces.
- Place the grilled eel on top of the rice. Lightly brush the top of the eel with unagi sauce.
- Take a strip of nori and wrap it around the middle.
- Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top of the eel.
- Repeat with the remainder.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.
Wow, they look so professionally made!!! Save money still can enjoy eating restaurant style of sushi at home! Easy to follow instructions too! Thanks Michelle!
David @ Spiced
I do enjoy sushi and nigiri, but I don't have much experience when it comes to eel. I didn't realize it can't be eaten raw. The idea of smoking that eel sounds awesome though! It lets me combine my love for smoking with sushi - and I normally wouldn't put those two together!!
looks beautiful and delectable. Love the presentation and its a well written recipe too.
I love sushi but have never tried eel sushi before. The flavors sound amazing.
So delicious! I am a huge fan of bbq eel, but never considered making my own sushi with it. Can't wait to try it!
Sounds like a new adventure for cooking for us never heard of this but it seems delicious and very easy to make thanks
I’ve always been intimidated to make sushi at home, but we made this last night and it was surprisingly easy! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for trying the recipe, Tayler! This style of nigiri sushi is definitely easier to make than the rolled ones 😉