Eel Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce: Which One Is Worth Your Bucks

eel sauce vs hoisin sauce

No more worry about selecting the better sidekick with your favorite dishes. We’ve covered youin this article by detailing every possible aspect of this eel sauce vs hoisin sauce rivalry.

From sweet surprises to tangy tales, we’re diving into their origins, tastes, and the dishes they cozy up to. Get your flavor capes on because this showdown will have you saying, “Pass the sauce, please!” Stick around and let’s uncover the appetizing saucy face-off of the century!

You can also read our elaborate comparison between eel sauce & oyster sauce. Make your choice with a smile, free from any confusion!

Compare Eel sauce on Amazon

Compare Hoisin sauce on Amazon

Eel Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce

Comparing Origin

Eel Sauce (Unagi Sauce):

  • Japanese Heritage: Eel sauce, also known as unagi sauce in Japan, emerged from the heart of Japanese culinary traditions. Its origins are knotted with the art of grilling freshwater eel (unagi) or sea eel (anago), a delicacy deeply revered in Japanese cuisine. Crafted specifically to elevate the already exquisite flavors of grilled eel, this sauce was carefully developed to complement and enhance the natural sweetness and umami of the eel.

Hoisin Sauce:

  • Chinese Roots: Hoisin sauce, on the other hand, originates from the diverse culinary landscape of China. Its origins date back centuries, with its early iterations being used as a dipping sauce primarily paired with seafood. The name “hoisin” itself translates to “seafood,” reflecting its initial purpose. However, its versatility gradually expanded as chefs began incorporating it into various Chinese dishes, broadening its usage beyond its seafood origins.

Comparing ingredients

Eel Sauce:

  • Soy Sauce: Forms the base, providing that salty undertone essential to the sauce.
  • Mirin: Adds sweetness and depth, balancing the savory elements of the soy sauce.
  • Sugar or Honey: Enhances the sweetness, contributing to the sauce’s caramelized richness.

Hoisin Sauce:

  • Fermented Soybeans: The primary ingredient, lending a deep umami richness.
  • Sweeteners: Usually includes sugar, molasses, or honey for its characteristic sweetness.
  • Vinegar: Adds a tangy note that balances the sweetness, offering a nuanced flavor.
  • Various Spices: Often includes garlic, chili peppers, and sometimes Chinese five-spice powder, contributing to its complex flavor profile.

Comparing ingredients availability

Eel Sauce Ingredients:

  • Soy Sauce: Widely available in most grocery stores or Asian markets, a staple in many cuisines.
  • Mirin: Found in Asian markets or specialty sections of supermarkets, sometimes available in the international aisle.
  • Sugar or Honey: Easily accessible in any grocery store worldwide, a common pantry item.

Hoisin Sauce Ingredients:

  • Fermented Soybeans: Might be more challenging to find in standard supermarkets but readily available in Asian grocery stores or specialty markets.
  • Sweeteners: Commonly used sweeteners like sugar, molasses, or honey are easily found in most grocery stores.
  • Vinegar and Spices: Available in standard supermarkets, though certain spices like Chinese five-spice powder might be more commonly found in larger grocery stores or specialty shops.

Comparing taste profile

Eel Sauce:

  • Sweet-Savory Harmony: Eel sauce brings a delightful balance of sweetness from the mirin or sugar, blending seamlessly with the savory notes of soy sauce. It offers a subtle umami richness that adds depth without overpowering the dish.
  • Caramelized Essence: Its taste resembles a caramelized glaze, with a pleasant sweetness that complements grilled dishes or sushi, enhancing their natural flavors without being overly sugary.

Hoisin Sauce:

  • Complex Sweetness: Hoisin sauce offers a more complex flavor profile, balancing its sweetness from sugar or molasses with tangy vinegar and savory fermented soybeans.
  • Rich Umami Depth: It showcases a robust umami character, thanks to the fermented soybeans, while spices like garlic and Chinese five-spice powder add layers of depth and complexity.

Comparing texture and consistency

Eel Sauce:

  • Texture: Eel sauce has a thinner consistency, resembling a glossy, syrupy texture.
  • Consistency: It flows easily and evenly, coating dishes with a smooth, shiny glaze. Its viscosity allows it to cling gracefully to ingredients without overwhelming them.

Hoisin Sauce:

  • Texture: Hoisin sauce has a thicker consistency compared to eel sauce, almost akin to a dense syrup.
  • Consistency: It clings more robustly to ingredients, providing a thicker coating that adds richness and depth to dishes.

Comparing appearance

Eel Sauce:

Eel sauce exudes with its glossy, caramel-like allure, showing off a rich, dark amber color that adds a delicate touch to any dish it graces. Its shiny, reflective surface creates an elegant sheen, enhancing the visual appeal of grilled or glazed items with a lustrous finish.

Hoisin Sauce:

In contrast, hoisin sauce presents itself with a denser, more substantial appearance, featuring a deep, almost opaque brown hue. This sauce’s thicker consistency contributes to a more pronounced coating on dishes, delivering a darker and richer visual contrast when incorporated into a variety of recipes.

Comparing storage

Eel Sauce Storage:

  • Refrigeration: Eel sauce should be refrigerated after opening and stored in a sealed container. It maintains its quality for up to two weeks when properly refrigerated.
  • Freezing: When frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag after cooling, eel sauce retains its quality for approximately three months. It can be frozen indefinitely without compromising taste if stored correctly.

Hoisin Sauce Storage:

  • Room Temperature: Hoisin sauce can be stored at room temperature before opening. Once opened, it’s recommended to refrigerate it for prolonged freshness.
  • Refrigeration: After opening, refrigerate hoisin sauce to maintain its quality. It can last for an extended period, retaining its taste when properly sealed and stored in the refrigerator.

Comparing uses

Eel Sauce Uses: Eel sauce, with its sweet-savory essence, is a versatile addition to various Japanese dishes. Its primary applications include:

  • Grilled Eel (Unagi): Traditionally used as a glaze for grilled eel, enhancing its flavors with a delightful sweetness.
  • Sushi Rolls: Adds a touch of sweetness when drizzled over sushi rolls, especially those featuring eel or seafood.
  • Rice Bowls (Donburi): Elevates the taste of rice bowls, particularly those containing grilled or fried items.

Hoisin Sauce Uses: Hoisin sauce, with its complex flavor profile, finds a place in numerous Chinese-inspired dishes. Its diverse applications include:

  • Stir-Fries: Often used as a sauce or glaze in stir-fried dishes, infusing them with a balance of sweet and savory notes.
  • Marinades: Adds depth and flavor complexity when used as a marinade for meats, offering a rich taste after cooking.
  • Dipping Sauces: Serves as a flavorful dipping sauce for spring rolls, dumplings, and various appetizers, enhancing their taste profiles.

Comparing nutrition

Eel Sauce Nutrition:

  • Sodium Content: Eel sauce can have a moderate to high sodium content due to soy sauce, which is a primary ingredient.
  • Calories: Its calorie count tends to be moderate, primarily from the sugars present in mirin or added sweeteners.
  • Nutrient Profile: Contains minimal to no fat and protein, primarily providing calories from carbohydrates and sugars.

Hoisin Sauce Nutrition:

  • Sodium Content: Hoisin sauce also contains a considerable amount of sodium due to its use of soybeans and additional seasonings.
  • Calories: It typically contains a moderate number of calories, primarily from sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Nutrient Profile: Like eel sauce, it generally has minimal fat and protein content, serving as a source of carbohydrates and sugars.

Comparing their health benefits

Eel Sauce:

  • Antioxidants: Some ingredients in eel sauce, such as mirin, may contain antioxidants, albeit in smaller quantities.
  • Moderate Sodium: While high sodium content may not be beneficial for everyone, sodium is an essential electrolyte that aids in various bodily functions, including nerve function and fluid balance.

Hoisin Sauce:

  • Antioxidants: Certain ingredients like garlic and fermented soybeans may contain antioxidants that have potential health benefits.
  • Flavorful Vegetable Source: In some recipes, hoisin sauce includes ingredients like garlic or sesame seeds, which, in their natural state, offer health-promoting properties.

Comparing potential drawbacks

Eel Sauce Drawbacks:

  • High Sugar Content: Eel sauce often contains added sugars or sweeteners, contributing to its sweet taste but potentially increasing overall sugar intake.
  • Moderate Sodium: Like many sauces, eel sauce can have moderate to high sodium content due to the use of soy sauce, which may not be suitable for individuals on restricted sodium diets.

Hoisin Sauce Drawbacks:

  • High Sodium: Hoisin sauce, like eel sauce, may contain significant sodium levels, primarily due to the use of soybeans and additional seasonings.
  • Added Sweeteners: It can include sugar or other sweeteners, contributing to its flavor but potentially adding to overall sugar intake.

How To Make Hoisin Sauce


  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter or tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses or honey
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon hot sauce or chili paste for heat


  1. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, peanut butter (or tahini), molasses (or honey), rice vinegar (or cider vinegar), sesame oil, minced garlic, Chinese five-spice powder, and optional hot sauce or chili paste.
  2. Whisk the ingredients together until well combined.
  3. Adjust the taste by adding more sweetener for sweetness, soy sauce for saltiness, or vinegar for tanginess, according to your preference.
  4. Once mixed thoroughly, transfer the sauce to a sealed jar or container for storage.
  5. Refrigerate the homemade hoisin sauce. It can typically be kept for up to a month when properly stored.

How To Make Eel Sauce


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sugar (white or brown)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)


  1. In a saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
  2. Optionally, add sake for an additional layer of flavor.
  3. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves completely.
  4. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it thickens slightly.
  5. Keep an eye on the sauce, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until it reaches a syrupy consistency that can coat the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove the saucepan from heat and let the eel sauce cool down to room temperature.
  7. Once cooled, transfer the eel sauce to a sealed container or bottle for storage.

Closing Notes

Thanks a bunch for diving into our detailed presentation of eel and hoisin sauces comparison! Hope you had as much fun exploring their flavors as we did sharing all the saucy secrets. Keep those taste buds excited because we’ve got more flavorful adventures coming your way soon! Stick around for more tasty treats and delicious discoveries. Until next time, stay curious and keep those flavor experiments going!

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