Eggplant “Unagi” Don

Unagi Don (Grilled Eel Rice Bowl) was one of my favorite dishes before I stopped eating fish. I still vividly remember sitting on tatami (traditional Japanese flooring) in a small, unassuming wooden house in Kyoto, Japan as a teenager, enjoying one of the best bowls of Unagi don I’ve ever had with my aunt’s family. Today I will attempt to recreate that soft, luscious eel with glazed eggplants.

In Japan, Grilled Eel is also known as Unagi no Kabayaki, which points to the specific preparation method (cut into square fillets, skewered, dipped in sauce, and grilled, etc) of fish such as eel. Unagi no Kabayaki is an extremely popular Japanese dish known for the soft, melt-in-your mouth eel meat paired with its sweet, savory, and umami sauce. Laid over a bed of fluffy rice, the sauce and the fish juices seep through to create the bowl of anyone’s dreams.

What makes you think you can recreate that with eggplants?! Well, for one, when cooked properly, eggplants really can achieve a similar creamy, buttery, melt-in-your mouth type of feel. And when split open and coated with unagi sauce, they look just like Unagi no Kabayaki! (I also sprinkled sesame seeds to conceal the eggplant seeds…)

The Unagi Sauce

The Unagi Sauce is a grilling sauce marked by its bright sweet and savory flavors, as well as its caramelized undertones. While you can definitely find this in grocery stores, it is actually very easy to make. All you need is 4 main ingredients: 1) soy sauce 2) mirin 3) rice wine 4) brown sugar. The sauce is very similar to teriyaki sauce, and entirely customizable as well! Feel free to adjust the proportions of each ingredient to your liking.

Eggplant “Unagi” Don

5 from 5 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: LunchCuisine: JapaneseDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



A vegan take on Eggplant “Unagi” Don. Recreation of that soft, luscious eel using glazed eggplants.


  • 3 medium -sized regular eggplants (or 2 long Japanese eggplants)

  • short grain white rice, to serve

  • sesame seeds, to serve

  • 1 scallion, chopped

  • Unagi Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 2 teaspoon sake or rice wine

  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar


  • Prepare Eggplants. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). First, poke holes with a toothpick or a fork all around the eggplant — this will help the eggplant skin release after roasting. Roast the eggplants whole (without peeling) until their skins are blistered and the inside feels soft, around 40 minutes to 55 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplant. Alternatively, place eggplants on a microwave-safe plate, cover it with plastic wrap (poke a few holes on the plastic wrap too), and microwave them on high heat for 9-10 minutes.
  • Prepare Unagi Sauce. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare the unagi sauce by simply combining all the unagi sauce ingredients.
  • Finish Eggplants. When the eggplants are cooled down enough, peel the skins off carefully. Do 1 long incision to open up the eggplant, then do 1-2 more incisions to help flatten them.
  • Glaze Eggplants. In a small-medium sized pan, cook the eggplants with the sauce on medium heat. Cook until the sauce is reduced to a coating consistency.* Serve warm over rice with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and chopped scallions.


  • The sauce should be able to completely and evenly coat the back of a spoon.

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to see your recreations!

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8 months ago

These recipes are such a blessing. Thank you

5 months ago

Is there any substitute for the rice wine? For example, would Shaoxing wine or additional mirin work well? Thank you!

5 months ago

in my grocery store ‘mirin’ is also called ‘rice wine’. i bought both mirin and rice wine vinegar but would appreciate some clarification.. thanks!

4 months ago

Amazing and delicious. I love your output style and how you make these dishes so easy and to the point. Thank you!

Molly Mullins
Molly Mullins
3 months ago

This recipe was so simple and so delicious, thank you a million times over for veganizing so many wonderful recipes.

2 months ago

I’ve now made this “unagi” twice now and absolutely love it! I use it as a filling for vegan sushi rolls and reduce the excess sauce to drizzle on top. Delicious!

2 months ago

Really enjoy making your recipes and I can’t wait to try this one as well!