How do You Cook American Eel For Sushi?

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You can go almost anywhere these days and find a sushi restaurant. 

I’ve been interested in making my own sushi lately and when I recently came across eel sushi the last time I went to a sushi restaurant, I wanted to know how I can make American eel into a delicious sushi roll.

So how do you cook American eel for sushi? Although a lot of sushi recipes include the controversial ingredient of raw fish, eel must always be cooked before serving with sushi, or any other dish. Since eel blood is poisonous to humans unless it is cooked, it must be either grilled or smoked before consuming.

The popular dish of eel sushi can be found almost anywhere, and can even be made at home with a little bit of patience. 

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The process of making your own begins with careful preparations of the fish and ends with a great sushi recipe. 

If you’re curious about how to begin this process, read through this article to get step-by-step instructions.

How to Cook Eel For Sushi (4 Steps)

When it comes to eating sushi, eel can be a delicious addition to any type of roll. There are no barriers to what kind of sushi you add eel to. 

With how popular sushi is these days, the possibilities are endless, and if you’re really creative, you can experiment by trying out different combinations of ingredients and flavors.

If you are going to be making your sushi from raw eel, the preparation process can become time-consuming and meticulous. 

Even with buying packaged eel, there are still steps you must go through to prepare the eel for the sushi you’re going to be making it with.

Although a lot of times sushi is eaten raw an important thing to note that when making eel sushi, you must cook your eel. 

Eel is poisonous when it is not cooked because eel blood is poisonous to the human body unless it is cooked.

When the eel is cooked, the toxins disappear and the food then becomes safe to eat, so it is imperative to ensure that the eel is well-cooked so you can have delicious, and non-deadly, sushi.

So, you’ve caught your American eel and you’re ready to cook it into some delicious sushi. First things first, you will need to start by preparing it as you would any other eel.

Cooking Eel for Sushi: Step By Step

  1. Remove the skin from your eel
  2. Clean the eel thoroughly from the inside
  3. Cook the eel (smoke or grill)
  4. Roll it up in your sushi

The first step of preparing an eel for sushi is to remove all of the skin. 

Although this can sound intimidating to beginners, there are some more simple ways to do so.

The first method of skinning an eel is taking the end of your knife and scraping it against the scales. 

This should make the skin shed off with every knife stroke, and the process should be repeated until all of it is gone.

Alternatively, you can skin your eel by tying a cord around the it just behind the gills, then cutting around the entire eel just through the skin. 

Using a pair of pliers or something to grip the skin, you can pull it all the way off quickly and easily.

The next step is cleaning the eel. This includes gutting the inside of the eel and washing it out very thoroughly. It is important to remember that eel blood is poisonous and although the toxicity disappears when it is cooked, it will help to clean it out as much as possible.

No matter what kind of sushi you are making, you absolutely want to cook your eel thoroughly. 

Smoking is a very popular way to cook an eel although grilling the eel seems to be an equally popular method when it comes to sushi.

Finally, you will need to decide what kind of sushi you are making and get rolling. Compile all of the other ingredients you are going to be using, which could include rice, fish, wasabi, seaweed, add it to your eel, and enjoy it.

The Origin of Eel Sushi

The concept of sushi began centuries ago in East Asia. 

There is an ancient legend around the origin of sushi where an elderly woman hid pots of rice in osprey nests from thieves and found that over time the rice started to ferment.

Mixed with the fish scraps from the osprey’s meals, the mixture was tasty and the fermented rice served as a way to preserve seafood.

Apart from the ancient myth, sources credit the first mention of sushi as beginning in China in the second century. 

The dish later took on a new life when the Japanese began to add wine for seasoning, elevating the flavor.

Sushi developed even further in later years where it began to be served more widespread in Japan in the 18th and 19th century. 

Especially after World War II, sushi expanded across the globe quickly gaining popularity was adopted by western culture and became the sophisticated and unique meal of today.

Today, sushi is eaten all over the world and different countries put their own unique spin on it.

Countries Where Sushi Is Popular:

  • Spain
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Bangkok
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • England
  • China
  • Japan
  • United States

Types of Eel Used in Sushi

The eel has in fact been popular in Japanese food for thousands of years. 

There are two types of eel that are traditionally used in sushi, known as unagi and anago.


  • Freshwater eel
  • Known for a bold, rich taste
  • Popular worldwide


  • Saltwater eel
  • Known for natural sweetness
  • Found in the Northwest Pacific Ocean

The American eel is classified under the Unagi category. 

Full of protein, vitamins, and calcium, freshwater eel is popular worldwide and prepared through traditional methods to bring out the signature bold taste.

Its popularity may also be its demise as the numbers of freshwater eel around the world are depleting. 

American eel, in particular, is not quite as popular and numerous as an eel in other countries such as Japan or Europe. However, while it is still around it makes an excellent addition to traditional sushi.

Related Questions

Can you get pre-packaged eel?

To get eel for your sushi, you don’t have to be an expert fisherman and catch live eel fresh out of the water. While fishing for eel is super cool, it’s not entirely practical for everyone. Luckily, pre-packaged eel is available in stores.

How do you prepare pre packaged eel?

After cleaning off the sauce that it is packaged in, cut the eel in half and remove the bones, then just cut the eel into small, long pieces that you can use for your sushi. Although eel is pre-cooked before it is packaged, it might be a good idea to heat it up just a bit more before you wrap it up into your sushi roll, but just be careful not to overcook it.

Can you add eel to any kind of sushi?

Unagi maki and the dragon roll are popular sushi dishes using freshwater eel grilled in a sweet sauce. But if you are an adventurous person and want to try something new, why not add American eel to a roll that doesn’t traditionally use eel? Stick some eel into your California roll or turn your spider roll into an eel roll.

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