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Vegan Unagi Don (Eggplant Unagi Kabayaki) うなぎ丼

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5 from 247 reviews

  • Author: Lisa Kitahara
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x


Learn how to make a plant based version of one of Japans most loved dishes, Unadon (grilled ‘eel’ rice bowl) with eggplants! Seasoned and caramelized with homemade unagi sauce, this vegan unagi don (eggplant unagi kabayaki) tastes and looks just like to the real deal!



Eggplant Unagi ‘Eel’

  • 3 Japanese eggplants OR 2 Chinese eggplant
  • potato starch, for dusting

Kabayaki Sauce (1:1:1:1 ratio)

To serve


  1. PREPARE EGGPLANT: Cut off the top of the eggplant. Keep the skin on or peel and remove the outer skin. If keeping the skin on, be sure to poke holes into it so it does not explode when cooking. 
  2. TO STEAM: Place eggplants into a steamer and let it steam for 4-5 minutes (rotate it at 2.5 minutes). 
  3. TO MICROWAVE: Place in a microwave safe dish with a lid and microwave at 600 W for 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the eggplant to the other side and microwave for another 1.5 minutes. If you do not have a microwave safe dish with a lid large enough to fold the eggplant, wrap the eggplant with cling wrap and microwave with the same amount of time on a plate. 
  4. TO ROAST: Bake eggplants at 350 F for 30 minutes, rotating half way. 
  5. ‘BUTTERFLY’: Slice the eggplant vertically down the middle without slicing all the way through. Open the eggplant with your fingers and to open it up. Gently slice horizontally to make eel-like marks on both sides, ensuring not to cut too deep (this step is optional but makes it look more like eel). 
  6. SAUCE OPTION: If you prefer a one-pan method, skip this step. Add sake, mirin, kombu dashi powder and cane sugar to a sauce pan over medium heat and whisk together. Once it comes to a boil, add soy sauce and then reduce heat to low. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened up. Making the sauce on the side can help with over-cooking the eggplant. 
  7. PAN FRY EGGPLANT: Lightly dust with potato starch. Over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of cooking oil and place the eggplant flat on the frying pan. Cook each side for 2-3 minutes or until you get some nice charring.
  8. ONE PAN METHOD (skip if sauce is made on the side): Add sake, mirin and dashi stock powder. Swirl the the pan and then add the sugar and soy sauce. Soy sauce is always added at the end to prevent loss of flavour and burning. Swirl the pan once more and let it cook and simmer for 30-45 seconds. Flip the eggplant and swirl the pan once more and cook until sauce is mostly absorbed and reduced. Turn off the heat and then spoon the sauce over the eggplant.
  9. PREPARED SAUCE METHOD: Brush the unagi sauce on one side and then flip and coat the other side. Repeat until you get enough glaze on the eggplant (I do it about 2-3 times). 
  10. TORCH OR BROIL: Torch the eggplant. If you do not have a torch, broil for 2-3 minutes or until ‘smoky’.   Sprinkle with Japanese pepper and sesame seeds if desired.
  11. ASSEMBLE: Layer nori on the bottom and then one layer of unagi. Then add a portion (about 1 1/2 cups cooked) of rice to a donburi or bowl. Drizzle remaining sauce over the rice and then add a generous layer of seaweed. Place the eggplant directly over the seaweed (the seaweed will stick to the eggplant giving it flavour and almost a ‘skin’ like look and texture). Serve and enjoy!


  • Sake/mirin substitute: Replace sake with water and mirin with alcohol free mirin. 
  • Helpful Equipment: blow torch, turner, non-stick frying pan, donburi bento box
  • Nutritional Information Disclaimer: Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated on an online tool (Cronometer). 
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: entree
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, japanese


  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 576
  • Sugar: 25g
  • Sodium: 897mg
  • Fat: 14.6g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11.8g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 96.4g
  • Fiber: 6.9g
  • Protein: 9.4g
  • Cholesterol: 0