Learn how to cook classic Chicken Teriyaki at home using authentic Japanese cooking methods. You‘ll love the juicy chicken and crisp brown skin glazed in a flavorful homemade sauce. No bottled teriyaki sauce is needed!
Everybody loves some good, juicy chicken in a sweet sticky glaze. This is why chicken teriyaki, a humble Japanese dish, is so popular everywhere in the world! In this recipe, I’ll show you how to make authentic Chicken Teriyaki at home—the way it is done in Japan.
With this foolproof Japanese method, you’ll get the most flavorful meat and the crispiest skin. It’s so good, easy, and a sure win for a weeknight dinner.
Table of contents
What is Chicken Teriyaki
Teriyaki (照り焼き) commonly refers to a style of cooking, but it also refers to the name of a cooked dish or the sauce that is used to brush over the food.
To help you understand better: teri (照り) means “luster,” given by the sweet soy sauce marinade, while yaki (焼き) has a broader definition which can denote “cook or pan-fry or grill.” When translated literally, the dish means “shiny or glossy grilled chicken,” as it describes the lustrous glaze on the chicken created by the teriyaki sauce.
There are a lot of homemade teriyaki chicken recipes online, and to be honest, many of them have been modified or deviated from the original method. Here are a few things you might want to know:
- The Japanese don’t bake the chicken in the oven or cook them in an Instant Pot or cook in a sheet pan with vegetables.
- We don’t grill the chicken either, as most Japanese homes are too small to own a grill.
- There are no bottled teriyaki sauces in Japan. We make our sauce with usually four simple pantry staples.
So, how do we cook chicken teriyaki in Japan? We pan-fry the chicken over the stove until we sear the skin, then simmer it with the sauce until it thickens and caramelizes, leaving the meat with an irresistibly glossy finish.
Ingredients for Chicken Teriyaki
Best Cut of Chicken For Teriyaki
Boneless, skin-on chicken thighs are always preferred because they don’t dry out quickly. We almost always use skin-on because the skin provides a safety layer between the chicken flesh and the hot pan. The chicken skin also acts like a magnet for the sticky sauce, absorbing better and working its way into the meat. As a result, you get moist, flavorful, and juicy meat every time.
Once we’ve cooked the chicken, we slice it into bite-size pieces before serving.
Authentic Teriyaki Sauce
The basic teriyaki sauce is made of only four simple ingredients:
- Soy sauce is the most critical and prominent ingredient, giving teriyaki sauce a rich, dark color. It imparts umami and saltiness. You want to use Japanese soy sauce, not other Asian soy sauce.
- Sake is Japanese rice wine, an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. Aside from tenderizing the meat, the amino acids in sake also remove any odor of the chicken. Other key reasons to use sake? It adds subtle sweetness and umami to the dish. See my recommended sake brand and substitution here.
- Mirin – This sweetened rice wine adds a natural sweetness that helps temper the sauce’s saltiness. Besides adding a nice shine to the sauce, it also helps the flavor to sink in and fully develop. Read more about mirin here.
- Sugar – Sugar plays a vital role in balancing out the saltiness of soy sauce, lending teriyaki sauce its signature sweet and savory flavor. We also need the sugar to thicken the sauce so it will caramelize beautifully and create a glossy sheen that coats the chicken.
Optional ingredients: Sometimes, you can add aromatics like grated ginger for extra flavor. Each time I make teriyaki recipes, I change things slightly based on the ingredients. In this recipe, I added grated onion and ginger to the sauce for additional depth and zing.
The ratio of my basic homemade teriyaki sauce is two parts soy sauce, two parts sake, two parts mirin, and 1 part sugar. Feel free to adjust the ratio to suit your taste. Easy?! You can even make a big batch and store it in a bottle in the refrigerator.
FAQ – Do I Add These Ingredients in Teriyaki Sauce?
I’ve seen many non-Japanese recipes that called for rice vinegar, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, or garlic in the sauce mixture. I would not recommend them if you wish to follow the authentic Japanese cooking method.
Some people even use cornstarch to thicken the sauce, but it is unnecessary. As the alcohol from sake and mirin evaporates, the sauce will naturally reduce and thicken with the sugar caramelizing during the simmering process.
3 Tips to Make Chicken Teriyaki – The Japanese Method
1. Prick the chicken: It’s important to prick the chicken’s skin with a fork to release the oil and absorb the flavors quickly when cooking. It is an extra step, but it ultimately makes a difference.
2. Pan-fry the chicken: Japanese home cooks prepare this dish by pan-frying the chicken. It’s quick and easy, and you only need a reliable frying pan or large skillet. Make sure the pan is hot before you add the chicken. When you cook the chicken, remember to start with the skin-side down and let it sear undisturbed until the skin crisps up and nicely browned.
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 it over the chicken. Repeat this process until the chicken absorbs the delicious glaze and starts to shine.
What to Serve With Chicken Teriyaki
Simple and bursting with sweet yet savory flavor, I believe anyone can cook this classic Japanese dish at home. Serve the Chicken Teriyaki with rice with a salad or steamed vegetables like broccoli.
Here are some side dish ideas that pair well with chicken teriyaki:
- Quick Blanched Broccoli with Sesame Oil
- Green Bean with Sesame Dressing
- Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
- Japanese Kani Salad
- Wafu Salad
- Vegetable Miso Soup
Other Teriyaki Recipes You’ll Enjoy
Love teriyaki dishes? Find salmon, tofu, chicken meatballs, and beef in 17 Best Authentic Teriyaki Recipes to Make At Home!
Japanese Ingredient Substitutions: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- ½ tsp ginger (grated, with juice)
- ¼ onion (1 oz, 30 g)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make the Teriyaki Marinade
- Grate the ginger (I use this grater) and add ½ tsp ginger (grated, with juice) to a large bowl. Next, grate ¼ onion into the bowl.
- To the same bowl, add the teriyaki sauce ingredients: 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp mirin, 1 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, and 2 Tbsp water. Mix together well.
To Prepare the Chicken
- Prick both sides of 1 lb boneless, skin-on chicken thighs with a fork so it absorbs more flavor. If the thighs are very thick on one side, flatten them to an even thickness with a meat mallet/tenderizer.
- Cut off the excess skin and fat and lightly season the chicken pieces with Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- At this point, you either can go straight to cooking the chicken or marinate it for 30 minutes (optional). In Japan, we don’t usually marinate the chicken prior to pan-frying, as the sauce can easily burn. Today, I’ll show you how to marinate the chicken and cook it to highlight key points to follow when using this optional method. To marinate, place the chicken pieces in the bowl with the teriyaki marinade and coat well. Let sit for 30 minutes.
To Cook the Teriyaki Chicken
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 Tbsp neutral oil. Remove as much of the marinade as possible from the chicken so it gets a nice sear and doesn‘t end up steaming in the sauce. Place the chicken skin side down in the pan; reserve the teriyaki marinade. Use a splatter screen if you have one to prevent oil splatters.
- Cook the chicken for 3 minutes. When the fat renders from the skin and the skin is golden brown, flip the chicken. Add 2 Tbsp sake to the pan and quickly cover with a lid. Steam the chicken over medium-low heat for 8 minutes.
- Open the lid and transfer the chicken to a plate. Wipe off the excess grease from the pan with a paper towel.
- Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and add 1 tsp neutral oil. Place the chicken back in the pan, skin side down. Brown and crisp the skin for an additional minute.
- Flip the chicken so it‘s now skin side up. Pour the reserved teriyaki marinade into the pan. Cook until the sauce is reduced by about half, frequently spooning it over the chicken. Once the alcohol from the sake and mirin evaporates, you‘ll see the sugar start to crystallize and the sauce thicken. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice into bite-sized pieces.
- Serve on a plate and drizzle the remaining pan sauce on top.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for a month.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Mar 22, 2012. The new images and video are added and the content is updated in September 2017.