Learn how to make delicious and easy homemade teriyaki sauce with this authentic Japanese method. Only 4 ingredients are needed! Sweet, savory, and versatile, it will be your go-to sauce for chicken, salmon, tofu, pork, or even meatballs!
Savory and versatile, Teriyaki Sauce (照り焼きのたれ) is now the mainstay seasoning outside of Japan. Many of you have asked me if you could make your own homemade teriyaki sauce without having to get the store-bought stuff. I am happy that you asked because most Japanese home cooks actually make our own sauce at home.
The best part about homemade teriyaki sauce? It takes only 4 simple ingredients, and you’ll get the most delicious sauce that goes well with everything! It’s so easy that you want to keep it on hand at all times.
Table of Contents
- What Exactly is Teriyaki?
- How to Make Authentic Teriyaki Sauce – The Japanese Method
- How to Thicken Teriyaki Sauce
- How to Store Your Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
- How to Use This Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
- Delicious Recipes with Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
What Exactly is Teriyaki?
First of all, if you aren’t aware, teriyaki (照り焼き) in Japanese actually describes a cooking method. “Teri” (照り) means luster and “yaki” (焼き) means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. It’s not the sauce we refer to, but rather how the food is prepared. So teriyaki essentially refers to any grilled/broiled/pan-fried food with shining glaze.
When the food is prepared in “teriyaki” style, we season the food with soy sauce, sake, and mirin (and sometimes sugar). Since the meaning of ‘teriyaki’ has been deviated by simply referring to a Japanese sauce outside of Japan, I’d just refer to it as a sauce in this post.
As mentioned briefly, we actually don’t use bottled teriyaki sauces in Japan as we make our own sauce. Sometimes I get asked which brand of teriyaki is the best and I can only say the best teriyaki sauce is homemade and it’s as easy as 1-2-3 steps shown in this recipe.
How to Make Authentic Teriyaki Sauce – The Japanese Method
Ingredients You’ll Need
To make the teriyaki sauce, you’ll need only 4 most basic ingredients from the Japanese pantry:
- Soy sauce – Please use only Japanese soy sauce as it has a different flavor profile from Chinese, Thai, or Korean soy sauce. You could use low-sodium, tamari, or gluten-free versions.
- Sake – This is Japanese rice wine. It imparts a hint of fruitiness and complexity to the sauce. You can find sake at Asian grocery stores with an alcohol license, or at any major liquor stores. I recommend Gekkeikan, Sho Chiku Bai, or Ozeki.
- Mirin – This is Japanese sweet rice wine. It adds a delicate sweetness and fragrance and gives the sauce a nice luster.
- Sugar – Sugar adds sweetness and balances the savory taste of the teriyaki sauce. It is also crucial to give the sauce its sticky texture. We don’t use honey or maple syrup because they have a strong flavor. But, if that’s your preference, go ahead but take care as it burns easily.
Both sake & mirin are important ingredients for teriyaki-style cooking. If you can’t consume alcohol, please read the substitution options in my sake and mirin pantry pages. I also included specific substitutions in the recipe card below.
The basic formula is to use equal parts of the first three ingredients, then adjust the amount of sugar to your liking. The easiest way? Have this formula memorized:
Ratio For Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce:2 Tbsp sake:2 Tbsp mirin:1 Tbsp sugar
Overview: 3 Easy Cooking Steps to Make The Best Teriyaki Sauce
- Heat: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine sake and mirin, and add the soy sauce and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and continuously stir the sauce until the sugar is dissolved.
- Thicken: Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
- Enjoy: Remove from heat and cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Notes on Non-Japanese Style Teriyaki Recipes
I’ve seen many non-Japanese recipes include ingredients such as rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, or fresh garlic in the teriyaki sauce. Some also use ground ginger or garlic powder. I would not recommend them if you wish to follow the authentic Japanese cooking method.
The addition of these ingredients produces a slightly different flavor and potentially overpowers a dish. Japanese cuisine is all about delicate taste.
That said, you have the freedom to do what you like and adapt a recipe to your liking. Depending on the protein or vegetable, I sometimes add grated ginger, minced garlic, and butter in my teriyaki sauce for extra flavors.
How to Thicken Teriyaki Sauce
Americanized teriyaki sauce is very thick and syrupy compared to the teriyaki sauce in Japan. Japanese teriyaki sauce is reduced in the pan until it reaches a thicker consistency. We do not use cornstarch slurry or honey, like other non-Japanese versions.
Of course, there is no strict rule on the recipe, you can still make a thick sauce by adding a mixture of 2 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp cornstarch or potato starch if that’s your preference.
Adjust the ratio of ingredients each time you make a teriyaki recipe. Homemade teriyaki sauce is healthier than store-bought ones since it does not contain any additives.
How to Store Your Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
You can use the homemade sauce immediately as needed or store it in an airtight, sterilized jar like mason jar in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.
Teriyaki sauce is great to make ahead so you can always reach for the sauce when you need to cook up something quick for a weeknight meal.
How to Use This Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
The wonderful thing about teriyaki sauce is its versatility. Here are some of my favorite ways to use this sauce:
- As a marinade for meat or seafood
- As a glaze over your grilled or pan-fried dishes
- In stir-fries
Once you start to experiment with your own teriyaki sauce, you will have fun dishing out different delicious recipes with this all-purpose seasoning.
Delicious Recipes with Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
- Chicken Teriyaki
- Pan-Fried Teriyaki Tofu Bowl
- Teriyaki Burger
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Beef Teriyaki
- Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs
- Teriyaki Chicken Quesadilla
- Gather all the ingredients. See Notes for half-portion ingredients and substitutions for sake and mirin.
- In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Add the sake and mirin.
- Add the soy sauce and sugar.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and continuously stir the sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
- As you mix the sauce or tilt the saucepan, small bubbles will start to rise and appear on the surface. When this happens, the sauce is ready to use. Pour the sauce into a sterilized jar and leave uncovered to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
- Once cooled, close the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.
To Use the Teriyaki Sauce
- Teriyaki Salmon: Season salmon fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly coat the salmon with all-purpose flour. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add cooking oil or butter. Add the salmon to the pan and cook it on one side for 3 minutes. Once nicely browned, flip the salmon. Add 1 Tbsp sake and cover to cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon the Teriyaki Sauce over the salmon to coat well.
- Teriyaki Chicken: Season boneless, skin-on chicken thighs (or chicken breast, if you prefer) with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly coat the chicken with all-purpose flour. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add cooking oil or butter. Add the chicken to the pan, skin side down, and cook until browned. Flip the chicken and cover the pan until the chicken is cooked through. Wipe off the oil from the frying pan with a paper towel. Spoon the Teriyaki Sauce over the chicken to coat well.
- Teriyaki Tofu: Drain well a block of firm tofu (pressing it or microwaving it for 1 minute). Cut the tofu into steaks (slabs) and lightly coat them with all-purpose flour. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add cooking oil. Add the tofu steaks and cook on both sides until golden brown. Spoon the Teriyaki Sauce over the tofu steaks to coat well.
- You can also pour additional Teriyaki Sauce onto the finished dish.
- with alcohol: ½ cup dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
- without alcohol: ½ cup water
- with sake: ¼ cup sake + ¼ cup water + 3 Tbsp sugar
- without sake: ½ cup water + 3 Tbsp sugar
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Jun 12, 2013. It’s been updated with a new video and images in January 2018 and with updated content in August 2022.