If you love Japanese cuisine, having a teriyaki chicken recipe is a must. This traditional grilled chicken is glossy, juicy, super aromatic, and goes really well with rice.
What is Teriyaki?
Teriyaki (照り焼き) is literally “glossy grilling”, translated word-by-word. The meat is marinated and grilled with a sweetened soy-sauce-based marinade, as you reduce the sauce, it becomes shiny and smooth.
Despite the name, teriyaki chicken recipes sometimes involve no grilling. Chicken is marinated, then slowly roasted in an oven until the skin becomes golden and the meat is cooked. If you do have a BBQ stand and the occasion presents itself, grill your chicken on that. Nothing beats the charred marks of the grilling flame.
If you do it right, the teriyaki chicken should come out with somewhat crisp skin and moist meat. When you take a bite, the fragrant of mirin and ginger will come rushing in, as the umami, sweet and slightly tangy sauce coats your palate. Something special, to be sure.
Making Teriyaki Sauce from Scratch
Since bottled sauce often contains preservatives, we want to make as many things from scratch as possible. The sauce in this teriyaki chicken recipe is no exception.
The first ingredient you’ll need is mirin. Mirin is a kind of sweet rice wine (14% alcohol), and is often used in Japanese cuisine. It’s relatively cheap, about $3 for 300 ml here, but gives the dish a distinct aroma.
If you prefer your teriyaki chicken less sweet and a bit more fragrant, substitute mirin with cooking sake. Cooking sake is sake, but with a little bit of salt, to prevent kids from buying it as a beverage.
Next up, we have dashi (出汁). To make dashi, you’ll need to cook katsuobushi (鰹節) with water until the flavors come out. Katsuobushi is dried, fermented, and smoked tuna shaved into “flakes”. It can be used to make dashi or crushed and sprinkled onto some dishes to add a bit of umami.
You can find katsuobushi in most Japanese or Asian grocery stores. In case you can’t, use chicken broth instead, like our recipe does.
The rest of the ingredients are soy sauce, honey, ginger, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to add a bit of tanginess. Thanks to honey, your sauce will become glossy, shiny, and coat your chicken nicely as it reduces.
Tips for Amazing Teriyaki Chicken
After many trials and disappointing results, we thought it’d be helpful to share with you tips we learned along the way. Making Japanese dishes can really be challenging.
Be sure to marinate overnight. Some teriyaki chicken recipes out there say not to marinate, sear chicken on a skillet, then simmer the cooked chicken (cut into strips) with the sauce. They may look glossy in the end, but the flavors are only in the coating, not permeating the chicken.
Even if you have marinated the chicken, avoid using skillets. As our sauce contains honey, burnt bits will appear before the meat is thoroughly cooked. Plus, we want every side of the chicken to be cooked low and slow, allowing the flavors to develop.
The best solution is the oven. The oven temperature that worked for us was 280°F, low enough to avoid burning but high enough to be efficient. After 30 minutes of baking the chicken, we set the oven to 375°F and broil the skin for 7 minutes.
After all of that, the only thing left to do is reduce the remaining marinade and drizzle it onto the beautifully cooked chicken. Our teriyaki chicken came out shiny, tender, saucy, aromatic, and golden, just how we wanted.
A typical Japanese meal, like many other Asian meals, includes several side dishes surrounding the main dish. They compliment each other and together create a variety of flavor and texture, and an overall wholesome feeling to the meal.
Teriyaki Chicken Recipe
- 12 oz boneless chicken thigh
- 4 oz onions sliced
- 3 1/3 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce (3 tbsp + 1 tsp)
- 2 tbsp cooking mirin
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- 0.5 oz ginger minced
- 1 tbsp garlic minced
- 1 cup uncooked medium-grain rice (should yield 3 cups cooked)
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 0.5 oz green onion sliced into thin strips
- 1 tsp black pepper
- In a large bowl, mix soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, honey, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic, and put in the chicken and onions to marinate. Refrigerate for 8 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scrape off any ginger and garlic bits stuck on the chickens and place them onto the sheet. Put onions on as well.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 280°F. Brush the marinade sauce onto each piece of chicken, then pop them back in for another 15 minutes. Broil the skin for 7 minutes at 375°F.
- Take the chicken pieces out and place them on a big dish/baking tray.
- Pour the marinade along with the onions and juices from the pan into a pot. Simmer it on low heat for 7 minutes to thicken.
- Serve the chicken with hot rice, and drizzle the sauce on top.