Yakitori Recipe 焼き鳥

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Yakitori | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Yakitori (焼き鳥) literally means grilled chicken and also refers to skewered food in general.  Yakitori is commonly made with bite-sized pieces of chicken meat, chicken offal, or other meats and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over binchōtan charcoal.  Yakitori are usually available in izakaya restaurants (Japanese tapas) and as well as specialty yakitori restaurants that offers these tasty skewers along with alcoholic beverages.

Yakitori | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Types of Yakitori:

Although yakitori restaurants serve all kinds of chickens skewers, it’s not easy for us to find these parts in typical supermarkets.  But here I will just mention the yakitori dishes typically offered in restaurants.

  • Chicken Thigh (momo, もも)
  • Chicken Breast (mune, むね)
  • Chicken Thigh & Scallion (negima, ねぎま)
  • Chicken Tender (sasami, ささみ)
  • Chicken Skin (kawa, 皮)
  • Chicken Wings (tebasaki, 手羽先)
  • Chicken Tail (bonjiri, ぼんじり)
  • Chicken Cartilage (nankotsu, 軟骨)
  • Chicken Heart (hatsu, ハツ)
  • Chicken Liver (rebā,  レバー)
  • Chicken Gizzard (sunagimo, 砂肝)

Yakitori restaurants in Japan usually use special breeds of chicken from specific region that the chef has sought out for the flavor and the texture.

Yakitori Seasonings (Shio or Tare):

In most yakitori restaurants, your choices of flavor are either salt (shio) or with yakitori sauce (“tare” – pronounced “tareh”).  It’s really amazing these simple chicken parts will transform into something really delicious by simple seasoning of salt or yakitori sauce.  Not to mention, there is no pre-marinade required for yakitori.

Tare is made of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.  I tested several sauces over years and we like this version a lot.  It has good balance between sweet and salty.  You can add ginger and other ingredients to make your yakitori sauce, but we like it to keep it simple with scallions.

If you like simple salt flavor instead of tare, simply sprinkle salt before grilling.

Yakitori Skewers:

For yakitori, the skewers are usually made from bamboo.  The typical skewers are called “teppogushi” (literally means “gun skewer” from its shape).  The skewers are flat and there are flat tab on one end which makes them easier for you to turn or hold.  Because the skewers are flat, they won’t roll on the grill and allows the chef grill one side at a time.

These tapered skewers can be found in Japanese supermarkets and Amazon (regular bamboo skewers will also work).

Grilling Yakitori:

In yakitori restaurants, yakitori is cooked over a special fixed cooking grate, and there is no wire grid so Yakitori will not stick the grate and easy to baste and turn.

They are grilled over a special type of charcoal called Binchōtan (備長炭).  This charcoal burns at an extremely high temperature (over 1800F/1000C) and last really long.  If you are interested in grilling with Binchotan, keep in mind it is more difficult to start and you’ll likely need a fire starter pan to heat them over open fire.

Today’s Yakitori Recipe: Chicken & Scallion (Negima ねぎま)

Today I’m sharing one of the most popular yakitori dishes called “negima”, chicken thigh and scallion skewer.  You can of course grill outside, but today I want show you how to use an oven to make yakitori.  We simply use “broil” function, instead of bake.  In baking, you heat food by surrounding the food with hot air, while in broiling, you heat food using infrared radiation with the top burners.  Broiling gives nice char from the infrared radiation above the food.  Usually broiler on low is 400F, medium 450F, and high is 500F, and for yakitori, we set the broiler to high.

Yakitori | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Here’s a quick 2 min video on how to make yakitori sauce and negima at home.  Enjoy!

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Yakitori
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 11 Skewers
Ingredients
  • 10-12 5-inch bamboo skewers
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, at room temperature
  • 9 scallions
  • Vegetable oil
Yakitori Sauce (Tare)
Instructions
  1. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
    Yakitori 1
  2. In a small saucepan, add the mirin, soy sauce, sake, water, brown sugar, and the green part of 1 scallion, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half. It will take about 30 minutes. The sauce will be thicker and glossy. Let it cool to room temperature before using. Reserve ⅓ of the sauce in a small bowl for final coating.
    Yakitori 2
  3. Cut the white and light green part of scallions into 1 inch pieces.
    Yakitori 3
  4. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes.
    Yakitori 4
  5. On a flat work surface, fold each slice of chicken in half, insert into chicken at 45 degrees angle, and press down on the skewer to pierce thorough the center.
    Yakitori 5
  6. Alternate each chicken slice with a piece of scallion lined up perpendicular to the skewer. Each skewer will hold about 4 chicken slices and 3 scallion pieces.
    Yakitori 6
  7. Grease the grate of the broiler/wire rack (or oven-safe cooling rack) to avoid the chicken sticking on the grate. Place the skewers on top.
    Yakitori 7
  8. Set the broiler to high and wait until the heating elements are hot. Broil for 6 minutes.
    Yakitori 8
  9. After 6 minutes, brush the sauce on the meat on both sides and continue to broil for 3-4 minutes to caramelize the sauce.
    Yakitori 9
  10. Transfer the skewers to a serving plate and brush the chicken on top with the reserved sauce (with a clean brush).
    Yakitori 10
Notes
If the sauce for final coating came in contact with the raw chicken, you have to need to boil the sauce again to avoid contamination.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

 

 

 

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  1. Ayako L.

    Yesterday, I was dreaming about eating good Liver Yakitori! (Not sure why…since the Liver isn’t my favorite.)
    I never thought of cooking Yakitori this way. Good idea!
    This will make a nice summer party meal along with the Chicken Meatballs. I thought that the Chicken Meatballs were like Tsukune, perhaps.
    Thanks for the fun recipe!

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  2. Hi Nami,
    Thank you so much for this recipe. I like yakitori. my favorite is the one with meat and cheese but I don’t know whether it is a western adaptation or if it is really cooked in Japan.
    Your skewers look so gorgeous and tasty.
    Chantal

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  3. Wow that is so interesting! I never knew their were so many different kinds of Yakitori meats; I have to try them all. Yes even the offal ones; they sound the most delicious.
    I love your recipes, they have given me so much dinner inspiration for the week Nami.

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  4. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make yakitori the correct way. It’s one of our family favorites, especially when we eat out. Glad to find a recipe I can follow easily. Thanks for sharing, Nami. Have a great week!

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  5. I can only imagine how many of these I would have to make to feed my family! They look really good and your videos take out all the guess work. Thank you!

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  6. Maybelle

    Hi Nami! Just reading today’s recipe just made me feel so nostalgic for the izakaya places in Japan: なつかしい! The sound of the grill, tapping of plates being finished, smell of chracoal and lovely chu-hai drink! Thank you for showing how to do it on the broiler (in Australia, we call it an oven grill). It looks just as delicious! Just like the last comment, I love tsukune! So I am looking forward to that recipe! (^O^)

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    • Hi Maybelle! Aww I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! I feel 懐かしい by writing this post too… remembering how delicious yakitori is in Japan… LOL. Oh yes, with chu-hai サワー! Will share the tsukune recipe pretty soon… Haven’t started to edit photos/video yet. :)

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  7. This is a fabulous looking dish, Nami. Chicken Yakitori was the first Japanese dish I ever tried and I really loved it. It’s still my favourite! I love how you cooked your skewers with the shallots xx

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  8. I haven`t had yakitori in a longgg time! I never order them when I`m at Japanese tapas…I really should. I`m craving some after reading your post!

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  9. Eha

    I think yakitori and shabu-shabu were probably the first dishes I had as a very young woman on my first trip to Japan. Our hosts were so afraid we would not like Japanese food :) ! And we ended by eating foods they would not!!!! Of course I cooked them regularly when back home, tho’ not using all the parts you mention ! But [big smile] I have never put them on a barbecue [in US I think you call that grilling!] or in the oven, but simply use my tabletop electric grill: simple, fast and easy to cleanll!!!!

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    • Hi Eha! Haha, so happy you enjoyed Yakitori and Shabu Shabu! We love our tabletop grill too (we call it Hot Plate in Japanese). Most people don’t like it because of smoky smell in the house, but I don’t mind as long as i get to eat good food. =P

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  10. Nami, chicken yakatori is one of our favorite recipes from Bon Appétit magazine – they featured it a while back and I have made it many times since, I have always enjoyed this style of food and always loved the presentation of spring onions and chicken on skewers – such a wonderful recipe. Your presentation is impeccable!

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  11. cristina

    Educational, beautiful post and delicious, Nami! I’ve heard and seen (even eaten) yakitori before, but didn’t know what it meant. Now I’m craving yakitori – this would be a tasty treat for this weekend!

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Cristina! I think Japanese restaurants start to offer “yakitori” more and more because izakaya style restaurants (Japanese tapas) are so popular these days. :)

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  12. Asami

    My mom loves Yakitori, especially negima, we might make them when we grill outside.

    I love kawa and tsukune dipped in raw egg

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  13. う~ん、おいしそう!焼き鳥大好き!先週私、Satayというタイ風の焼き鳥ポストしましたが、我ながら、これはイケルと思いました。こんな料理は ご飯がすすみすぎるので、気を付けないとね。 痩せたいわあ。

    26
    • Hi Carol! You can use oven, but it may take extra long time until the chicken gets nice char after chicken gets cooked. That could be a reason for dry chicken. Do you have a toaster oven or outdoor bbq grill? That might be a better option than using an “bake” option in oven. However, you may want to give it a try. It might not be too bad. I just never used bake option for making yakitori before, so this is my guess. :)

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  14. Great recipe Nami, we have something like this called “Sheesh Tawooq” for chicken thighs and ” Sheesh Kebab” for the mat. But the Middle Eastern version have a different marinade and sauce. What I do not get it is the Chicken Tail (bonjiri, ぼんじり) what is a chicken tail anyway?. Great photo and video.

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    • Thank you Asmita! So it’s the super tender piece of meat taken from the around the tailbone that is sometimes colloquially referred to as chicken butt…. A lot of people (including Japanese in Japan) who’re new to this part of the meat get hesitant by the name (what? what did you just say??? is a common response), but almost always shock how delicious part of chicken it is and that part become their favorite. Sometimes it’s better not to think too much and enjoy… Oxtail was like that for me. I couldn’t eat it for some time, until I had oxtail stew that was amazing! =P

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  15. Fabian

    Hello Nami-san!

    I’m brazilian and my wife is a brazilian-born japanese and we absolutely love your site. Since she can’t speak english i aways translate the recipes for her so we can enjoy some delicious food.

    We speacially loved your Yaki Udon and Omurice recipes. Thank you VERY much for your awesome job.

    We wish you success!!

    41
    • Hi Fabian! Thank you so much for reading my blog and I’m very happy to hear that you enjoy my recipes. Thank you for your support and kind words! xoxo

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  16. 美味しい焼き鳥タレのレシピどうもありがとう。ビジネス日本語クラスの後たまにはっやている焼き鳥屋さんまで伺いて、焼き鳥を持ち帰ります。主に塩付けで焼いているそうですが。。。子供頃いつもタレと食べましたので次回家でなみさんのレシピを作って焼き鳥を食べるかもしりません。

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  17. It is so interesting to note that each culture has its own grilled/ skewered meat, only the flavors differ to some extent. The yakitori sounds delicious and I would love to try it.

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  18. Always love yakitoriya in Japan. Didn’t realize I can cook it at home.
    My favorite combination is grilled chicken skin with sake. I was constantly teased by friends that my taste is like an old man…

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  19. Yum, we love yakitori and these ones look perfect! I had no idea they had so many different types of yakitori, thanks for sharing such great recipes as always Nami :)

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  20. Kimmi

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! I had no idea that this could be done without an open-face hot plate or grill. I know that I’ll be using my broiler oven this weekend… =)

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    • You’re very welcome, Kimmi! I think people in the U.S. like using an oven for cooking, and I really wanted to make it work for yakiotri so everyone is willing to make yakitori at home! 😉 Hope you enjoy!

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  21. Nami, it was so interesting reading the yakitori list. Waste not, want not is a philosophy I live by, too, although I’m not sure if I’d like the cartilage or tail… then again, everything is tasty when it’s grilled! :) I also loved the simplicity of this dish — it says Spring!

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  22. Now I just wait to see a new uploaded video from you to appear on my subscribed to page on Youtube :) … The Yakitori looks juicy and tender, will have to try it!

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  23. I had no idea the name specifically referred to chicken. I’d always thought it was a general “skewered” meat name. They used to sell a type in France which was like really thinly sliced beef wrapped around cheese on a stick. So good to bite into it and have all the cheese ooze out 😀

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  24. Oh how delicious!
    I love chicken skewers, and with the delicious Japanese marinade it would be so good. Great info about the charcoals, I would love to be able to cook like that!
    Thanks again
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

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  25. I love yakitori! In Japan they make different parts of chicken so delicious I have recently ordered twice chicken rump because it was amazingly good! As you say the quality of the meat must also be important. My favourite skewers are made with rare chicken breast and myoga (and with some grated wasabi on top!), but sadly Japan is the only place where I’d dare eating rare chicken meat, so it is a unique treat when I visit Tokyo!
    Your negima look fantastic! I would never guess you have prepared them without a “real” grill! I prepare them quite often but on a grill pan. The funny thing is that I use oven broiler very often but usually for other dishes (I have even a ready post about one of them…).

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  26. Sarah

    Your Tare recipe was a big hit tonight at the table! Even my picky toddler loved the chicken. We started BBQ’ing since the weather has been so nice out. I was craving asian-style bbq chicken but I could never fine the right chicken marinade. I was trying to make the Tare sauce but my impatience husband (who came home from a long day of work and an empty stomach) took the sauce off the stove after 15 mins, poured it on top of the chicken thighs, and had it marinate while he got the coals started. Oh yeah, he also added crushed garlic…and I used vodka since I still haven’t added Sake to my pantry. I was thinking, great the sauce is ruined and the chicken won’t taste right. To my surprise the food tasted really good! Like you said Nami, a perfect pair of sweet & salty flavor! Next time I’ll try to make the sauce ahead of time so we’re not rushing the cooking time. Also made a salad and used the Carrot Ginger Dressing. It was so easy to make with my Magic Bullet. Thank you again Nami for helping me prepare a good/healthy meal for the family!

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  27. Such a simple dish and so full of flavor!!! I love that grilling season is upon us and I can’t wait to give these a try. Lots of great information Nami. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Hi Tan! Is that 料理酒 (cooking wine/sake)? Sure, you can use that. :) Cooking sake has salt and other condiments besides sake, so make sure to check the flavor. I use sake so that I can control flavors. Just make sure to season less. :) Hope you enjoy the recipe!

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  28. Jessica Liew

    Hello! Do you turn the yakitori over when you apply the tare sauce to both sides or do you leave it on the same side up as before? Thank you! Should sweet sake be used or is regular sake fine?

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    • Hi Jessica! Yes I turn the yakitori when I apply the sauce. So it’ll be…

      Cook 6 min.
      Pull out and apply the sauce on the cooked part of the chicken.
      Flip and raw side is up. Apply the sauce.
      Put it back in the oven for 3-4 min.

      And remember, not to use this sauce for after cooked. The brush touched the raw chicken, so you won’t be using this sauce at the table. Make sure to take some sauce away first before applying on the chicken. :)

      I use regular sake (drinking sake like this: http://www.justonecookbook.com/pantry/sake/) for cooking. :)

      Hope that helps!

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  29. Yoko A

    なみさん、初めまして。私も関東から20代前半で渡米しました。どれも懐かしいメニューばかりで、全部試してみたいです(って何十年かかるんだか?)料理に不安の多い私にとっては、分かりやすいビデオのチュートリアルがあるのは、本当に心強い事です!焼き鳥はアメリカ人の主人の一番の好物なので、なみさんのレシピを早速試してみようと思っています。日本食が好きなお友達にも、「日本人はこういう物を食べているんだよ」と自信を持って勧められるレシピ集だと思いました。本当にありがとうございます!これからのレシピも楽しみにしていますね。

    80
    • Yokoさん、初めまして!コメント、ありがとうございます!私は二十歳で渡米しました。もう少しで日本とアメリカ、ちょうど半分半分になります。材料さえ揃えば、比較的簡単なレシピだと思うので、是非試してみて下さい。焼き鳥、オーブンじゃなくても外のグリルでもOKですよ。タレはとても美味しいです。気に入ってもらえると嬉しいです。日本食の好きな方が、家で自分で作ってみようと思ってもらえたら嬉しいです。何か質問があったら、いつでもコメント・メール下さいね!

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  30. Gemma Young

    It happens I’m going to cook chicken thigh tonight and I think yakitori is a healthy way of cooking. I love bbq chicken. Just one problem I don’t have sake. Can I use Chinese wine instead? Thanks. I love your recipes.

    82
    • Hi Gemma! Sure, you can use Chinese rice wine. As you know, sake and Chinese rice wine taste different, and alcohol should be gone, but the sauce might taste slightly different. I’ve never used Chinese rice wine before, but hope it’ll work! :) Enjoy!!

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  31. Dori

    O’genki, Nami. I love your site and hope to use many recipes. It’s been 17 years since my family lived in Misawa-shi in Aomori prefecture. We love the country, people and foods. In fact, we asked to return to Misawa to live for a total of 7 years. One of my daughters was born there, too. Many HAPPY memories of traveling and camping. Cooking authentic recipes brings back SO many thoughts!! Thank you.

    85
    • Hi Dori! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed your life in Japan! I’ve never been to Aomori but I always wanted to visit especially during the big festival. Thank you for following my blog and I hope you enjoy my recipes! :)

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