Best Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki (照り焼き) is a Japanese culinary technique that involves cooking a protein and then glazing it in a sweet and savory sauce. Teri (照り) means shiny or glossy in Japanese, and yaki (焼き) refers to any high-temperature cooking method such as grilling, roasting, or pan-frying. The key to making an authentic Teriyaki Sauce is to balance sweet, savory, and umami tastes while ensuring the sauce stays clear and glossy.
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Why This Teriyaki Sauce Recipe Works?
- When it comes to Teriyaki Sauce, simple is better. Adding ingredients such as garlic, ginger, fruit juice, or sesame oil will cloud the sauce and make it lose its shine. These flavoring ingredients can still be used to marinate your protein or as a garnish, after the Teriyaki is done, but they shouldn't be added to the sauce. (Confession: I used to make "Japanese Marinade" this way. It's good, but it's not Teriyaki Sauce.)
- The Teriyaki Sauce is thickened by boiling it until the sugar starts to caramelize. This not only makes it thick and shiny it also lends the sauce a marvelous flavor.
- By premixing all of the ingredients together and storing them in the refrigerator, the sauce can be used at any time, and it will keep for several months.
Ingredients for Teriyaki Sauce
- Soy sauce - Any dark Japanese soy sauce, such as Kikkoman, will work. It doesn't need to be fancy, but make sure you're using Japanese-style soy sauce. If you want to cut back on the amount of salt, you can use low sodium soy sauce.
- Sake - Sake is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice. Proteolytic enzymes break down the protein in the rice into amino acids, which are perceived as umami by your taste buds. The sake also contributes some aromas to the Teriyaki Sauce. Since alcohol turns to vapor at a lower temperature than water, the sauce won't contain alcohol once it's cooked. As for the type of sake, any cheap drinking sake will work. Don't use "cooking sake" because these tend to have salt and other additives in them. I also often see rice vinegar as a substitute, but this will not work. Rice vinegar has undergone the final stage of fermentation converting the alcohol into acetic acid while eliminating most of the amino acids in the sake. This will not only make your teriyaki sauce sour, it won't add any umami, which is the whole purpose of adding sake in the first place.
- Sugar - I use evaporated cane sugar because it has more flavor than white granulated sugar. You can also substitute other sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, or light brown sugar. I don't recommend using dark brown sugar or molasses because these have a very strong taste that will overpower the other ingredients.
- Mirin - I don't add mirin to my teriyaki sauce because real brewed mirin is very hard to find outside of Japan. Most brands are just alcohol, corn syrup, and MSG. If you do happen to have real mirin, you can substitute it for the sake and then halve the amount of sugar.
Don't Add These Ingredients
Adding any ingredients that dull the luster of Teriyaki Sauce is a no-no. You can either use these ingredients to marinate your food, or use them as a garnish.
- Aromatics - fresh garlic, ginger, scallions, and onions are a popular choice, but all of these ingredients will cloud the Teriyaki Sauce. If you want to add these flavors to your dish, grate them and use the mixture to marinate your protein before cooking it. If you add a lot, you'll want to scrape it off the meat before cooking it.
- Fruit Juice - orange juice, apple juice, pineapple juice, etc. These will cloud the sauce and make it sour.
- Seeds - Sesame seeds are best used as a garnish once your dish is finished.
- Vinegar - Teriyaki sauce shouldn't be sour, so don't add rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.
How to Make Teriyaki Sauce
Add equal parts soy sauce, sake, and sugar to a jar or bottle. Seal the lid and shake the mixture until the sugar has fully dissolved. This can also be done in a bowl with a whisk. Refrigerate the Teriyaki Sauce until you are ready to use it. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few months.
How to Use Teriyaki Sauce
- Teriyaki - To use the sauce, pan-fry your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, salmon, tofu, etc.) until it is almost fully cooked. Wipe out any oil from the pan as this can cloud the sauce. Then, add a few tablespoons of teriyaki sauce for each serving of protein and boil the sauce, repeatedly flipping your protein over to glaze it as the sauce thickens.
- Marinade - Marinate fish or meat in this teriyaki sauce before broiling or grilling it.
- Stir-fry - Teriyaki sauce can be used as a seasoning for stir-fries. Just make the stir-fry as you normally would, and drizzle the sauce in at the end to season it.
- Condiment - If you want to use this Teriyaki Sauce as a condiment, such as for sushi or as a steak sauce, you can pre-thicken it by pouring it into a pot and boiling it until it becomes thick and syrupy. Let it cool and then it can stored in an airtight container such as a squeeze bottle or mason jar.
Other Teriyaki Recipes
Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique used to cook and glaze proteins with a savory-sweet sauce. The sauce (taré in Japanese) is generally made from soy sauce, sake (or mirin), and sugar, and it's thickened by boiling the ingredients until it becomes thick and syrupy.
Teriyaki is a 4-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
te like ten
ri the “ri” sound does not exist in the English language, but the best way to make it is to say the word "ream" with the tip of your tongue at the front of your mouth.
ya like yacht
ki like key
Yes, this teriyaki sauce is vegan and vegetarian friendly, and it can be used to season vegetables, mushrooms, or your favorite plant-based protein.
Teriyaki sauce made with regular soy sauce is not gluten-free. However, you can easily make it gluten-free by substituting tamari for soy sauce.
Teriyaki sauce does not need cornstarch to thicken it. Instead, the thickness comes from reducing the sauce until the sugar starts to caramelize. This thickens it into a glossy glaze and adds a nutty complexity to the sauce.
Sake is added to the sauce to give it umami and flavor. If you leave it out, you will just have sweet soy sauce. For those of you who are concerned about the alcohol in sake: ethanol has a lower boiling point than water, so the alcohol in the sake will evaporate in the same way that the alcohol in soy sauce (soy sauce contains 2-3% alcohol) will evaporate when you cook it.
- ½ cup evaporated cane sugar (120 grams)
- ½ cup soy sauce (135 grams)
- ½ cup sake (115 grams)
- Use a funnel to add the sugar, soy sauce, and sake into a jar or squeeze bottle, and then cover tightly with the lid.
- Shake the bottle until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Store the Teriyaki Sauce in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
- If you want to use the sauce as a condiment for cooked foods, you can pour it into a pot and boil it until it becomes thick and syrupy. Then, you can let it cool and store it in the fridge.