Japanese basics: teriyaki

The term "teriyaki" is used a lot these days. Usually it indicates that a sweet-savory soy-sauce based sauce called teriyaki sauce has been used. However, teriyaki is actually the word for a cooking method - and it's very easy to do.

The term teriyaki means shining (teri) broiled or panfried(yaki). The goal is to make a shiny surface to whatever has been panfried, with a sauce that contains sugar and a sweet fortified rice wine called mirin. This is available at Japanese food stores, and may be available in the gourmet food section of department stores. If you can't get a hold of mirin, you can use sake, or failing that, a sweet sherry would do.

You may notice that quite a few Japanese savory dishes use sugar. This is a feature of many dishes that originate from the Kanto region (Tokyo metropolitan area and environs), which is where my family is from.

The following is a recipe for chicken teriyaki. You can adapt this method to other meats, and fish such as salmon, cod, sea bream, swordfish, etc - anything with firm flesh. I don't think teriyaki is well suited to tofu, or most vegetables, since it is quite strong in flavor. You could try it out with quorn and other meat substitutes with a firmer texture, though I've never tried them as teriyaki myself.

Chicken teriyaki

  • 4 small or 2 large chicken thighs, boned
  • 4 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. mirin
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Vegetable oil for panfrying
  • Salt
  • Sansho (optional)

Cut the chicken into about 2" / 5cm pieces if necessary. (you can leave small thighs whole.) You can leave on the skin or take it off.

Heat up a frying pan with oil. Salt the chicken pieces very lightly and sear them on both sides in the oil.

As soon as the surface is golden brown, add the soy sauce and ginger, mirin and sugar. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook the chicken, turning several times, until the sauce is reduced and syrupy. Sprinkle with sansho (Sansho is a kind of spice. You can use white pepper instead, or just omit this.)

This is excellent with plain white rice. Steamed or blanched vegetables, such as broccoli, make a nice accompaniment - plus a bowl of miso soup.

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Your site always helps me improve my cooking, tried the teriyaki salmon today, my girlfriend and I really enjoyed it, thanks!! [Mexico]


Just wanted to comment..I have used the Quorn products (namely the "chik'n" strips they offer) in teriyaki dishes with great success. It has a great flavor to start with, but even better in a teriyaki dish.

I am going to try your recipe next time I cook my meals though, thanks a lot! :)

Can i just ask, is Traditional Teriyaki Sauce meant to be very thin, almost like a soy sauce?
In New Zealand i have found a few places that serve it like this.
Only a select few serve it thick and delicious.

I just tried to do this, and it worked out perfectly fine. I believe I used too much cooking oil and too little beef [no chicken around..]

I'm also a beginner at cooking, and I was wondering how much oil would you consider appropriate? I put too much, I believe.

Usually you'll just put a drizzle of oil, about a tablespoon would be good.

I made this with pork chops last night and it was excellent, much better than any commercial teriyaki I've had. Thank you for posting "basics" like this!

Just made this to take to work for lunch all week. It's soooo good - and easy too! Thanks so much for the recipe! ^^

Hi, I just cooked this in the afternoon and my sauce didn't thicken at all. It was watery until the end. I wonder when I did wrong? I did reduce the amount of soy sauce since I prefer less salty food.

Teriyaki sauce made in this way will start out quite thin; most of the "thick" bottled stuff has cornstarch or some other thickener in it. With this type of sauce, you basically want to keep cooking the sauce until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. At that point, you'll be left with a thick, sticky film, which is basically a glaze.

It's the sugar which causes the sauce to become a syrup as the liquid evaporates, so reducing the soy sauce shouldn't really have a major effect. You can get the same effect with just sugar and water (though obviously, it won't taste the same).

I have tried Chicken teriyaki with steamed broccoli and a bowl of miso soup at a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles and indeed it taste really delicious.

Thanks a lot for this great recipe, it was so good I couldn't stop eating! I made it with seitan and added a crushed clove of garlic, really yummi.

Amazing! I made this tonight subbing raw honey for the sugar and added a bit of grated garlic as well. Beautiful shine and carmelization, and it was delicious to boot! Thank you!