Teriyaki Chicken is a very popular Japanese dish, and it is so easy to make. The sweet soy-based sauce goes so well with the chicken. Just sauté the chicken and cook it in the sauce. You don’t marinate the chicken in the sauce and the sauce does not contain garlic or vinegar. That’s the Teriyaki Chicken the Japanese way. It only takes 15 minutes!
Teriyaki chicken is one of the most popular Japanese dishes among Aussies and I presume it is popular in other parts of the world as well. At almost every Japanese restaurant in Sydney, you will find Teriyaki Chicken on the menu.
I often find that the flavour of the Teriyaki Chicken at restaurants is slightly Westernised, and I can sometimes even taste garlic in it. But the recipe I am sharing today is the traditional Japanese way of making Teriyaki Chicken. The sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.
Teriyaki Chicken (照り焼きチキン) is more commonly called ‘tori no teriyaki’ (鶏の照り焼き or 鳥の照り焼き) in Japan. Both Kanji characters 鶏 and 鳥 mean chicken in this context, but to be exact, 鶏 means chicken and 鳥 is a generic word for bird.
Teriyaki can be made not only with chicken but also fish (see my Teriyaki Salmon recipe as an example), pork, and beef. However, chicken is by far the most popular ingredient for Teriyaki.
What’s in My Teriyaki Chicken
You will be surprised to know that there are only 5 ingredients involved in making such a delicious, well-loved Japanese dish (vegetables in the photo below are just for serving):
- Chicken thigh fillets
- Soy sauce
- Cooking sake
- Shredded cabbage
- Finely julienned carrot
- Finely julienned capsicum
I use chicken thigh as it is juicier than chicken breast and best suited for Teriyaki Chicken. You can use chicken breast if you prefer, but you will find that the cooked chicken is slightly dry.
I know the skin is fatty, but I use chicken thigh with the skin on. I think that the chicken looks nicer with the skin on when cooked, especially nicely browned.
ABOUT TERIYAKI SAUCE
You can’t talk about Teriyaki Chicken without mentioning Teriyaki Sauce.
This is a very simple sauce that is made up of only 4 ingredients. But once you know the proportion of ingredients, it becomes so easy to cook flavoursome dishes in 5-10 minutes. Any dishes called ‘teriyaki’ something use this Teriyaki Sauce.
The Teriyaki Sauce is made with 1 part soy sauce + 1 part cooking sake + 1 part mirin + about ½ part sugar. I say ‘about ½ part sugar’ because you can adjust the sweetness to your liking. Note that there is no garlic and no ginger in the traditional Teriyaki Sauce.
Here is the sample photo of the soy sauce, mirin and, sake (from left to right) I use. At supermarkets in Australia, you might find different brands of mirin and cooking sake such as Bento brand. They are fine to use too. Please visit Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking – Part 1 and Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking – Part 2 for more details about them.
Combine them together and mix well to dissolve the sugar. You can heat the mixture slightly to speed up the process of dissolving the sugar if you like.
This sauce is a very good sauce to have on hand. It keeps for weeks in the fridge, and you can sauté or grill fish/meat/vegetables and pour the sauce over it. You could add grated garlic/ginger to vary the flavour too.
How to Make Teriyaki Chicken (See the video)
- Butterfly chicken thigh fillets to make the fillet an even thickness (photo above).
- Using the tip of a knife, poke the skin randomly.
- Heat a frying pan and cook the chicken, skin side down.
- Turn the chicken over and cook further.
- Add the Teriyaki Sauce to the pan and cook until the sauce thickens.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cover with a sheet of foil.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized strips.
Poking the skin will allow the teriyaki sauce to penetrate into the flesh better.
The step-by-step photo does not show it, but I steam cook the chicken for about 30 seconds after adding the teriyaki sauce (see the video). This ensures that the chicken is cooked through.
To nicely coat the cooked chicken with the teriyaki sauce, there are a couple of important things you need to adhere to.
SECRET OF MAKING GREAT TERIYAKI CHICKEN
Have you ever experienced the teriyaki sauce not sticking to the chicken evenly and the sauce is somewhat mixed with oil? This is because you had too much oil in the frying pan before adding the teriyaki sauce to it.
The chicken is covered with oil and the excess oil and the sauce splits because they do not mix well. To prevent this from happening:
- Do not add oil to the frying pan when cooking the chicken.
- Wipe away any excess oil in the frying pan just before adding the teriyaki sauce (see the photo below).
When you do the above, you will find that the sauce sticks to the cooked chicken and you will have a saucy Teriyaki Chicken.
Serving Teriyaki Chicken
Most Japanese meals are served in such a way that you can pick up and eat the food with chopsticks without needing to cut it. In this recipe, I sliced the chicken after it was cooked so that you can still see the whole fillet of chicken, and it is easier to pick up a piece with chopsticks.
But if you are eating Teriyaki Chicken with a knife and fork, you don’t need to slice the chicken.
I served my Teriyaki Chicken with shredded cabbage, but any green salads or boiled vegetables are OK. If you are using a dressing, I’d suggest a light one. I don’t use a dressing on the vegetables.
If you place sliced Teriyaki Chicken over the rice with extra sauce poured on it, you get a Teriyaki Chicken Don (Teriyaki Chicken on Rice).
I hope you like my version of Teriyaki Chicken.
Watch How To Make It
Teriyaki Chicken is one of the most popular Japanese dishes. The Teriyaki Sauce is so easy to make, it’s just a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. You do not marinate the chicken in the sauce to make Teriyaki Chicken. Just sauté the chicken and cook it in the sauce, which takes only 15 minutes in total! See the video above the recipe to believe it.
Don’t forget to see the section ‘MEAL IDEAS’ below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and the new recipe in this post that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 2 thigh fillets skin on, bone removed (about 350g/12oz in total, note 1)
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- ½ cup carrot finely julienned
- ¼ cup capsicum finely julienned
- a sprig of parsley or mint (optional)
Combine the Teriyaki Sauce ingredients in a small bowl or cup and mix well until the sugar dissolves (note 4).
If the thickness of the chicken is uneven, place a fillet on a cutting board skin side down, make a cut horizontally and outward where the meat is thick, and butterfly it (see the Video).
Poke the skin with the tip of the knife in several places so that the sauce gets through to the flesh better.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the skin gets cooked to a golden brown.
Turn the chicken over and cook for about 3 minutes (Note 5). If a lot of oil comes out of the chicken fat and skin, absorb excess oil with a paper towel (Note 6).
When the chicken is nearly cooked, add the sauce, shake the pan to even out the sauce, and put the lid on. Cook for 30 seconds.
Remove the lid and cook until the sauce thickens and reduces to about 1-1½ tablespoons (Note 7). Turn the chicken over and coat the skin side with the sauce.
Remove the pan from the heat and place the chicken on the cutting board, skin side up. Cover with foil for a few minutes to let it cook further. Slice the chicken into 1½-2cm/⅝-¾” thick pieces.
Place mixed cabbage, carrot and capsicum salad on a plate and then arrange the sliced chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken and add a sprig of parsley/mint if using. Serve immediately.
1. I could not find chicken thigh with only skin on. So, I bought chicken thighs with skin and bone on and removed the bones.
You can use skin off and even chicken breast if you prefer. The texture of the chicken will be different, particularly with chicken breast, but the flavour should be the same.
2. You can make a larger quantity of Teriyaki Sauce to use for another dish. Teriyaki Sauce keeps about a month in the fridge.
3. You can pick any vegetables to go with the Teriyaki Chicken, but I would recommend either fresh salad or boiled vegetables.
4. You can warm up the sauce on the stove or in the microwave to dissolve the sugar faster if you want.
5. Depending on the thickness of the thigh fillets, time will vary.
6. It is important to remove the excess oil as much as possible. Too much oil from the fat prevents the teriyaki sauce from sticking to the meat. This is the reason for using a non-stick frying pan with no oil. If using a normal frying pan, I’d suggest that you oil the pan with a small amount of oil when heating it up.
7. You need to retain enough sauce to pour over the chicken on the plate. After turning off the heat, the sauce continues to cook with the pan’s residual heat and concentrates further. So, turn off the heat slightly earlier. You can always concentrate further if required.
8. If you are making Teriyaki Chicken Don (Teriyaki Chicken on Rice), increase the quantity of Teriyaki Sauce by 50% (as noted in the Teriyaki chicken Don recipe) and pour it over the cooked chicken on rice. The rice will absorb the extra sauce, which is really tasty.
9. Nutrition per serving including salad.
serving: 341g calories: 449kcal fat: 26g (40%) saturated fat: 7g (35%) trans fat: 0.1g polyunsaturated fat: 5.6g monounsaturated fat: 11g cholesterol: 166mg (55%) sodium: 960mg (40%) potassium: 686mg (20%) carbohydrates: 20g (7%) dietary fibre: 3.2g (13%) sugar: 14g protein: 32g vitamin a: 109% vitamin c: 127% calcium: 4.9% iron: 10%
Originally published in August 2017, rewritten in June 2019 with new photos and Meal Ideas added. Republished in April 2022 with improved contents and video. No changes to the recipe.