Of all the mainstream sushi rolls out there, the unagi roll is probably the most universally beloved. Perhaps it’s because of its richly flavorful sauce, or its tender texture, but either way, this is easily one of the most popular sushi rolls around.
If you love sushi, you will fall head over heels for this savory and sweet eel avocado roll. Eel, also known as unagi, is a Japanese fish that is often served marinaded in a savory-sweet sauce by the same name. When rolled together with sushi rice, nori seaweed, fresh avocado, and cucumber, the resulting sushi roll is irresistibly delicious.
Even if you’ve only enjoyed sushi while sitting at the sushi bar, you can make this sushi roll at home with ease. All you need are a handful of ingredients, a tiny bit of patience, and an empty stomach!
Keep reading to learn how to make the perfect roll, plus tips and tricks to take your next sushi night to another level.
What is an Eel Avocado Roll?
Eel is one of those types of fish you’d probably never look at and think you could eat it. Yet, it’s easily one of the most popular sushi rolls around.
The eel avocado roll is essentially a sweet roll, with tender-cooked fish and a savory-sweet eel sauce. When combined with fresh avocado and cucumber, the results are deeply satisfying. What’s even better, you can make a variety of sushi rolls and nigiri (fish layered on rice) using the same ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Don’t worry, more on that later!
Now, when it comes to the eel, most Asian markets will sell it vacuum-sealed and marinated in eel sauce. You may find it frozen, but either way, there should be directions on the package for how to cook your eel.
As for your sushi rice, look for rice that is specifically labeled “short-grain sushi rice.”
- Rinse your rice before cooking it, as this will remove some of the excess starch and make for fluffier rice.
- If using a traditional bamboo roller to roll your sushi, wrap it in plastic wrap before using it, as this will make it easier to clean.
- Making your sushi rice the night before will give it time to cool, and make it a faster process to assemble your sushi.
For more tips on how to perfectly make sushi rice, plus a whole other recipe for you to try, check out this lion king roll.
Traditionally, sushi is served on a tray alongside pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce. The pickled ginger acts as a palate refresher between different types of sushi, and the wasabi intensifies the palate, making the fish taste fresh and bright. That being said, if you’ve never had wasabi before then go easy on it – if you know, you know!
Leftover sushi can be stored in an airtight container and should be consumed within 1-2 days. If you plan on having leftovers, it is best to keep the components separate, as this will maintain the freshness of each ingredient for longer.
How to Make Unagi Nigiri and Unagi Hand Rolls
As we mentioned above, just because you set your sights on making eel rolls doesn’t mean you have to stop there. With the same ingredients you already have, you can make equally delicious (and equally easy) unagi nigiri and unagi hand rolls.
How to make unagi nigiri:
- Place about 3 tablespoons of cooked sushi rice in your palm and shape it into a large oval shape. Set it down, gently flattening the bottom to your plate.
- Slice unagi to the size of your rice ball, then place it on your first two fingers. Using your other index finger, carefully apply a small amount of wasabi to your unagi. This can also be done directly on the plate if you don’t want to get eel sauce on your hands.
- Place your formed rice ball onto your unagi, flat side facing up. Gently form the unagi to adhere to your sushi rice, then set aside and repeat.
Here’s how to make unagi hand rolls:
- Cut a nori sheet into quarters. Place one quarter-piece of nori in your palm or on a plate and add ¼ cup of sushi rice to the top left corner. Flatten it out into an even layer.
- Add your thinly sliced fillings (they can be the same as what goes into your eel roll).
- Fold the bottom left corner of your roll up and over the filling. Continue rolling until you have made a cone shape. If necessary you can wet your finger to help the end of the cone stick to your hand roll.
Eel Avocado Roll
- 1 cup Japanese short grain sushi rice
- 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 sheets nori seaweed
- 1 avocado thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber thinly sliced
- 12 oz. eel packed in eel sauce 3 oz. per roll
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds optional, for garnish
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup mirin
Steps for making sushi rice:
- Rinse rice until the water runs clear.
- Add rice to a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, place the lid on the pan and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice has fully absorbed the water.
- In a separate pan, combine rice vinegar, salt, sugar, and oil and simmer until the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Once the rice is fully cooked, add the rice vinegar mixture to the rice and stir to combine. Store sushi rice in an airtight container until it has cooled, at least 2 hours.
Steps for making the Eel Avocado Roll:
- Begin by making the eel sauce. In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in your soy sauce and mirin. Once dissolved, remove from the heat and store in an airtight container in the fridge (should last two weeks).
- Prepare your eel according to package instructions.
- Fill a small bowl with water, this will be used to moisten the edge of your nori to help it stick together.
- Place your first nori sheet on a cutting board and add enough sushi rice to fully cover the nori sheet. This should require ½-¾ cups of rice per roll.
- Next, place 3 ounces of unagi lengthwise about an inch from the edge of your nori sheet. Follow this with 2 slices of cucumber and 2-3 slices of avocado.
- To roll your sushi, carefully lift the edge of the nori with the filling and lift it, with your index fingers holding the filling in place. Then, lift and tuck the roll while continuing to roll the nori until you have reached the end of your nori sheet. This may require some practice, so be patient.
- If necessary, dab the edge of your nori to help secure it into a tight roll.
- Top your roll with toasted sesame seeds and a generous drizzle of eel sauce.