Vegan Unagi Don (Eggplant Kabayaki) うなぎ丼

  • Author: Lisa Kitahara
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • 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 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. Cut off the top of the eggplant. Peel and remove the outer skin. 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. 
  2. 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). 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Optional (but recommended), torch the eggplant. Sprinkle with Japanese pepper and sesame seeds if desired.
  6. 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!



  • Category: entree
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, japanese


  • Serving Size: 1 serving

Keywords: unagi don, japanese eel, vegan unagi don, eggplant kabayaki