Yakiniku sauce is a sweet & flavorful Japanese BBQ sauce. It’s perfect for dipping thinly sliced of well-marbled short rib and other grilled goodies.
It’s summer and that means time to BBQ! In Japan, Japanese style BBQ is called Yakiniku (焼肉), and literary means grilled meat in Japanese. It’s a popular dish, which originated in Korea. Yakiniku is enjoyed with a dipping sauce. You can purchase a bottle of Yakiniku Sauce at Japanese grocery stores, but you can make it at home too!
Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) Sauce
Each Yakiniku restaurant in Japan offers its own dipping sauce and it’s called Yakiniku no Tare (焼肉のタレ), or simply tare (タレ). Tare is the key seasoning for Japanese BBQ because the meat is not generally marinated or seasoned prior to grilling.
The quality of meat is very important for Japanese BBQ. The well-marbled short rib is usually thinly sliced and grill over charcoal for 30 to 60 seconds on each side (you only need to flip the meat once to preserve juicy flavor) and then dip in the sauce to eat.
Typical “tare” is made of soy sauce mixed with sake, mirin, sugar, garlic, fruit juice, and sesame seeds. This particular sauce was inspired by my favorite Yakiniku restaurant in the Bay Area called Juban, which I’ve been going for many years. My sauce may not exactly be the same but I adapted from Juban sauce to my family’s liking.
I also have another version Yakiniku Sauce in the recipe on my Teppanyaki post.
How to Enjoy Yakiniku At Home
For Yakiniku, bite-sized meat (usually beef and offal) and vegetables are grilled over gas/electric grill or charcoals. Whether you are enjoying the Yakiniku meal at home or in a restaurant, everyone sits around the BBQ grill and cooks the meat throughout the meal. It’s a great menu for 6-8 people as preparation is very minimal.
Teppanyaki using an electric griddle.
This grill in the picture above is called Shichirin (七輪). I bought one from a Japanese hardware store in SF but you can also purchase on Amazon. It looks great on photography, but to be honest, it’s not practical for Yakiniku.
Side Story… Shichirin vs. Hibachi
In the US, small BBQ cooking stoves resembling Shichirin are referred to as “Hibachi.” Hibachi is actually a small heating device in Japan which is not usually used for cooking. Shichirin was marketed as “hibachi” by mistake when they were introduced to the US.
Now you know the grill is called Shichirin and Hibachi is a heating device (heater)!
Dip the grilled items in the sauce to enhance the BBQ flavor. The well-marbled meat coated with this sauce is so delicious. Hope you enjoy!
Watch How to Make Yakiniku Sauce
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Make the Sauce A Day Before
- Gather all the ingredients. I highly recommend making the sauce a day before.
- In a small saucepan, add sake, mirin, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, miso, katsuobushi, and simmer for 1 ½ minute.
- Strain the sauce. If you plan to preserve the sauce for a longer time, pour the sauce in a mason jar (or airtight container) and do not add grated apple and sesame seeds (next step) yet. It will last longer without a grated apple. Keep refrigerated for up to a month.
- Add the sesame seeds and grated apple to the sauce. Now it's ready to use. I recommend keeping the sauce sit overnight in the refrigerator for melding all the flavors together. The sauce may taste too salty by itself without grilled meat. When you actually dip the meat in the sauce, the two flavors complements each other.
- Store in the refrigerator and use it within 3 days.