Juicy and tender chicken glazed in a flavorful homemade sauce, this classic Chicken Teriyaki prepared in the authentic Japanese cooking method will be on your dinner routine. No bottled teriyaki sauce needed!
Here’s a fun fact: Teriyaki (照り焼き) is the name of a cooking method, not the name of a sauce. This Japanese cooking method is to pan fry or grill the fish or meat, and cooked in the sauce or brushed with the glaze until it has a nice and delicious luster. The two most popular dishes in Japan using this cooking technique are Chicken Teriyaki and Buri no Teriyaki (Hamachi/Yellowtail Teriyaki).
Watch How To Make Chicken Teriyaki
3 Tips to make authentic Chicken Teriyaki – Japanese method
1. Prick the chicken: In Japan, bone-less, skin-on chicken thighs are a preferred choice because they don’t dry out quickly. We almost always use skin-on because the skin provides a safety layer between chicken flesh and a hot pan, and as a result, you get moist and juicy meat every time. It’s important to prick the chicken’s skin with a fork so that oil will come out easily while cooking and flavors will be absorbed quickly. It’s an extra step, but it makes the difference in the end.
2. Pan-fry the chicken: Although you may find a lot of baked or grilled chicken teriyaki recipes online, Japanese home cooks prepare this dish by pan-frying the chicken. It’s quick, easy, and all you need is a reliable frying pan. When you cook the chicken, remember to start with the skin-side down and let it crisp up and adds nice char flavor.
3. Patiently spoon over the teriyaki sauce: Once the teriyaki sauce is poured over the chicken, tilt the frying pan to spoon the sauce and pour over the chicken. Repeat this process until the chicken absorbs delicious glaze and starts to shine.
What’s in the sauce for Chicken Teriyaki?
Teriyaki actually refers to a cooking technique in Japanese: Teri means “luster” given by the sweet soy sauce marinade and yaki means “cooking/grilling”.
The basic teriyaki sauce is made of 4 simple ingredients: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Sometimes aromatics like grated ginger can be added for extra flavors. The ratio of my basic homemade teriyaki sauce is 2 parts soy sauce, 2 parts sake, 2 parts mirin, and 1 part sugar. Super easy to remember, right?
Each time I make teriyaki recipes, I would change things up slightly based on the ingredients. In today’s recipe, I added grated onion and ginger to the sauce for additional depth and zing.
The homemade sauce is about adjusting the ratio of the four ingredients to suit your tastebud and the main ingredients that you’re cooking with. That is why we don’t have a bottled teriyaki sauce in Japan.
The teriyaki sauce in the bottle and dishes served in restaurants outside of Japan is often quite thick. In Japan, we usually do not thicken the sauce with corn/potato starch. When alcohol from sake and mirin evaporates, the sauce gets naturally reduced and thicken as the sugar caramelizes during the simmering process.
Simple and bursting with flavor, I believe anyone can cook up this classic Japanese dish at home. Serve the Chicken Teriyaki with steamed rice with a salad or steamed vegetables on the side. You will have a delicious weeknight meal for the whole family.
Other Teriyaki Recipes You May Enjoy
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- 1 knob ginger (1", 2.5 cm)
- ¼ onion (1 oz, 30 g)
- 1 lb boneless, skin-on chicken thighs
- kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc) (for step 7)
- 2 Tbsp sake (for steaming)
- 1 tsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc) (for step 10)
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 1 Tbsp mirin
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp water
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make Teriyaki Sauce
- In a large bowl, combine grated ginger and grated onion, including juices. I use this grater to grate the ginger.
- Add all the ingredients for teriyaki sauce in the bowl and mix together.
To Prepare Chicken
- Prick both sides of the chicken with a fork so it absorbs more flavor.
- Cut the excess skin and fat and lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Optionally, you can marinate the chicken for 30 minutes. In Japan, we don’t usually marinate the chicken prior to pan-frying as it can easily burn. I normally go straight to cook the chicken without marinating, yet chicken teriyaki has a wonderful flavor. Today I’ll show you this optional method because I want to point out key points in case you decide to marinade.
To Cook Teriyaki Chicken
- Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Remove marinade from the chicken as much as possible so the chicken gets a nice sear and won't end up cooking/steaming in the sauce. Place the chicken skin side down, RESERVING the sauce. Use a splatter screen if you have one (it’s a pretty neat tool to prevent splatter especially you cook bacon and oily foods).
- When fat renders and skin is golden brown, flip the chicken and add sake. Quickly cover with the lid and steam the chicken over medium-low heat for 8 minutes.
- Open the lid and transfer the chicken to a plate. Wipe off excess grease from the pan.
- Heat 1 tsp oil and put the chicken back in the pan, skin side down.
- Flip the chicken and now the skin side is up. Pour the reserved teriyaki sauce. Cook until the sauce is reduced to about half, frequently spooning the sauce over the chicken. Once alcohol from sake and mirin evaporates, sugar crystallizes and the sauce gets thicken. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice into bite-size pieces.
- Serve on a plate and drizzle the remaining sauce on top.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Mar 22, 2012. The new images and video are added and content is updated in September 2017.