Can You Eat Raw Eel? Exploring the Risks and Benefits

Raw eel, commonly known as “unagi” in Japanese cuisine, is a delicacy that has been consumed for centuries. However, some people might be hesitant to try it due to concerns about its safety and cultural significance. In this blog article, we’ll explore the world of raw eel and answer your questions about preparation, safety, and consumption.

Despite the popularity of raw eel dishes like sushi rolls and sashimi platters, there are risks associated with consuming uncooked seafood. To ensure that you can enjoy raw eel without compromising your health or well-being, it’s important to understand how to prepare it safely. We’ll also take a closer look at the cultural significance of raw eel consumption in countries like Japan.

One common question about raw eel is whether or not it can be eaten as sushi. While unagi sushi is a popular choice among culinary enthusiasts around the world, there are certain precautions you need to take when preparing this dish.

Whether you’re an adventurous foodie interested in trying out new flavors or a seasoned fan of all things seafood-related seeking more information on the topic of raw eel: read on! At the end of this article we will answer 3-5 frequently asked questions concerning eating raw eel.

What is Raw Eel?

Raw eel, also known as “unagi” in Japanese cuisine, refers to eel that is consumed without cooking or heat treatment. It is a dish commonly found in sushi restaurants across the world.

Common types of eel used for raw consumption:

  • Japanese Eel
  • European Eel
  • American Eel

In Japan, freshwater eels are typically used for raw consumption, while marine eels are generally cooked. European and American eels can also be eaten raw, although they are less commonly used.

Nutritional value of raw eel:

Eel is a good source of essential nutrients such as protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Raw eel is also high in Vitamin A, which supports vision and immune function. Additionally, it contains minerals like calcium and iron.

Note: Raw eel can potentially carry parasites or bacteria that may cause foodborne illness. Therefore, it’s important to only consume it from reputable sources under safe conditions.

Is Raw Eel Safe to Eat?

There has been a growing trend in recent years of consuming raw seafood, including raw eel. However, it is important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with eating raw eel.

Potential Health Risks

  • Bacterial infections: Raw eel can carry harmful bacteria such as Vibrio vulnificus or Salmonella that can cause food poisoning, stomach cramps and fever.
  • Anisakis parasite: This parasite is found in some types of raw fish or seafood, including eels that have not been properly prepared. An infestation with this worm-like creature will cause intense pain and an allergic reaction known as “anisakiasis”.
  • Sand removal: When improperly prepared raw meats are consumed, there may be traces of sand or other contaminants still inside the meat which could lead to digestive issues and possibly infection over time.

Minimizing Risks when Consuming Raw Eel

If you want to eat raw eel safely, there are some precautions you should take:

  • Cooked vs fresh: Make sure that the restaurant where you order your sushi uses fresh ingredients from trusted sources. If you’re unsure about the quality or source of the ingredients at a given restaurant, it’s better to err on the side of caution and choose cooked versions instead.
  • Nigiri vs sashimi style: Avoid nigiri-style sushi (with rice) when consuming eel. The rice has been handled too much during preparation by busy sushi chefs! Best practice is selecting sashimi style which is sliced in thin pieces without rice as a separate order.
  • Ask about preparation: Ask the chef how they prepare their raw eel before consuming to ensure that it has been properly cleaned, filleted and/or frozen to kill any parasites such as an Anisakis worm.

Comparison with Other Raw Seafood

Raw eel is less commonly consumed raw than other seafood like tuna, salmon or yellowtail.

Various types of fish contain different levels and types of bacteria, parasites and contamination risks. For example, tuna typically presents lower health risks from food-borne illness than other species because of its lack of fatty tissues which generally provide breeding grounds for harmful bacteria or viruses. Always follow the recommendations you receive from reputable sources on managing seafood safety risks for avoiding unwanted outcomes according to your nutritional goals.

Cultural Significance of Raw Eel

Raw eel has been a popular delicacy in various countries and regions, with each culture having its own way of preparing the dish.


  • In Japan, raw eel is known as “unagi” and is an essential ingredient in many traditional dishes such as Unadon (grilled eel over rice).
  • Eating unagi during the summer months is thought to provide stamina and energy to withstand the heat.
  • Unagi is often served skewered over a charcoal grill, slathered with a sweet soy sauce-based glaze.


  • In Korea, raw eel is called “jangeo” and is typically grilled or pan-fried.
  • Jangeo-gui (grilled eel) is usually paired with spicy ssamjang sauce or wrapped in lettuce leaves for added texture.
  • It’s also commonly consumed during the hot summer season to combat fatigue and replenish energy levels.


  • Raw eels are also popular in Taiwan, where they’re used in different preparations and dishes like Stir-fry Eels with Basil Leaves.
  • The Taiwanese use techniques such as flash-frying to preserve the natural taste of the eels while cooking them until crispy on her exterior but still tender inside.
Overall, preparing raw eels requires skillful handling since they are difficult to work with due their slippery appearance. Whether it’s grilled, fried or stir-fried – these dishes offer an amazing mix of flavor profiles that have earned them thousands of loyal fans worldwide.

Cooking Eel to Ensure Safety

If you like eel and want to enjoy it safely, it’s crucial to cook it properly. When cooked correctly, eel is not only safe but also delicious. Here’s a brief overview of the cooking techniques for eel that you need to know.

Cooking Techniques for Eel

Eels are typically baked, grilled or pan-fried after they have been filleted or cut into pieces. The following are some essential tips on how to cook your eel:

  • Bake: Preheat your oven at 350F, place the filleted eel in an oven dish with olive oil or butter, then bake for about 20 minutes until browned.
  • Grill: Heat up your grill medium-high and brush some vegetable oil over the filleted eel. Place the fish skin-side down without moving it for around 5-6 minutes until crispy, then flip and repeat on the other side.
  • Pan-Fry: Cut the filleted eels into small pieces, dust them in flour or cornmeal and seasoned to taste. Heat up your frying pan with vegetable oil over medium-high heat; fry each piece for around 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown.

Safety and Taste Comparison Between Cooked and Raw Eel

While raw foodies may crave uncooked sushi rolls featuring raw freshwater (unagi) or seawater (anago) eels, there are risks associated with eating raw seafood that cannot be ignored. Consuming uncooked meat can expose you to bacteria such as salmonella and listeria., which could lead to food poisoning symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea – this is why cooked eel is the better option.

Cooked eel has a crispy, grilled texture that adds to its unique flavor. The cooking process removes any harmful bacteria and parasites that may exist in raw fish or meat, allowing you to enjoy your sushi without worry.

Tips for Cooking Eel at Home

Here are a few tips to help you cook your eel safely and deliciously:

  • Make sure that you’re using fresh eels when preparing them for cooking by checking their smell, color and texture. Fresh ones give off an odorless aroma and have clear eyes, while stale ones tend to give off an ammonia-like scent and have cloudy eyes.
  • Always handle the fish carefully since they can be slimy: use paper towels to dry them before filleting or cutting into pieces; remove bones with pliers or tweezers after cutting; always wash your hands thoroughly whenever you touch uncooked fish or meat to prevent bacterial infection.
  • If you want your cooked eel less greasy? Simmer it first with boiling water for about 5-10 minutes before cooking it in the oven, grill pan or frying pan; this additional step would also make the fish easier to marinate with sauces if preferred.

By practicing proper techniques for handling eels, ensuring they’re properly cooked overall hygiene practiced within the kitchen area. You can safely prepare a delicious meal featuring one of Japan’s most popular delicacies – without having reservations about consuming raw fish)!

Can You Eat Raw Eel as Sushi?

When it comes to sushi, raw fish like salmon and tuna are some of the most popular options. However, many people wonder if eel – a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine – can also be eaten raw as sushi.

Is it safe to eat raw eel as sushi?

While it is possible to eat eel raw as sushi, there are a few things you should know about its preparation to ensure that it is safe. First of all, not all types of eel can be eaten raw – only the freshwater variety is suitable for this type of consumption.

The preparation process involves removing the eel’s head and internal organs before cleaning it thoroughly and slicing it into thin pieces. It must then be frozen at temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius for at least 24 hours to kill any parasites or bacteria that may be present.

When prepared correctly, raw eel sushi can be a delicious and safe option for those who enjoy trying new types of sushi. However, due to the necessary precautions involved in preparing it safely, many sushi restaurants do not offer this dish on their menus.

How does raw eel sushi compare to other types of sushi?

  • Taste: Raw eel has a uniquely sweet flavor compared to other types of seafood used in sushi such as salmon or tuna.
  • Texture: The texture of raw eel is soft yet slightly chewy due to its high fat content.
  • Nutrition: Eels contain many essential vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B12, D, E, K calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids

So, while raw eel sushi may not be as commonly consumed as other types of sushi, it can certainly be a delicious and flavorful choice for those who are interested in trying something new. However, it is important to ensure that the eel has been properly prepared and frozen before consuming it raw.


Raw eel may seem like an exotic and potentially risky delicacy to some consumers; nevertheless by understanding proper cooking techniques recommended by chefs & scientists considering precautions while preparing unagi safely getting etymology behind its historical consumption one may decide whether they would give this traditional Japanese meal a try someday.


Can I eat Eels Raw?

While Raw Eels (Unagi) contain parasites and bacteria which pose health risk so must be defrosted thoroughly if frozen before cooking/pickling/grilling/taking precautionary measures.

Is Eating Unagi Safe?

Cooking process ensures conversion from toxins/precarious substances hence cooked eel is the safer option.

How do you cook Eels Safely?

Cooking Temperature must reach minimum 70 degree Celsius throughout; Ergo, boiling/grilling are popular safe picks for preparing unagi. Ensure consumption of ‘fresh’ ones in sushi boats and select reputable sushi restaurant with proper refrigeration facilities.

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