Chicken Teriyaki is the most family friendly meal on the planet. I mean, have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like teriyaki? My recipe is super fast and requires very little prep. You can make it a complete meal with a side of rice and a veggie dish or two. America largely thinks of teriyaki as a sauce. However in Japan, teriyaki refers to the cooking technique as well. Teri is the shine imparted by the sauce, and yaki is the traditional cooking method of either grilling or broiling. Although chicken, including the many different cuts and parts, is favored in Japan, the dish has reached such international popularity that it’s not uncommon to see everything from teriyaki burgers to spam teriyaki. It’s hard to resist a sweet and sticky glaze.
Making the Chicken Teriyaki
For this version, we are going to use bone-in chicken thighs for maximum flavor. Thighs are my go to cut when I’m making chicken. They are meaty and flavorful, and they always stay juicy, unlike their mild chicken breast counterpart. I’m using skinless because the skin wouldn’t stay crisp in the teriyaki sauce. If you can’t find bone-in thighs without skin, just remove the skin before beginning. (Don’t discard it though! You can quickly bake it up with salt and pepper and have a crispy chef’s treat. Shhh, we won’t tell.)
Bones Make All the Difference
Traditionally, Japanese teriyaki is made with boneless thighs and then cut into small pieces. But I feel that the bones give the sauce body and flavor that take it to the next level.
A Simple Sauce
Traditional teriyaki sauce has 2 main ingredients: Soy Sauce and Mirin. Soy sauce is brewed from soy beans with water, salt, and often times wheat. First, the soybeans and grains are mixed with a type of mold called Koji (Aspergillus oryzae). Then they are mixed with salt water and put into a chamber to ferment. The fermentation and aging process produces the characteristic taste, flavor, and color of soy sauce. Finally, the brew is filtered, pasteurized, and bottled.
Mirin is a cooking rice wine that has some sugar and other flavorings added to it. Although mirin is similar to sake, it has more sugar and a lower alcohol content, generally 14%. Mirin has a mellow and neutral flavor that is perfect for supporting the subtle flavors in Japanese food. In particular, it is used in many Japanese dishes to give it a little oomph: some sweetness, complexity, and shine. I highly recommend having mirin in your pantry because it is used very frequently to cook Japanese food. Still, in a pinch, you could substitute dry sherry, dry white wine, or even rice vinegar. However, be sure to add some sugar to offset the tartness if you are using vinegar.
The combination of soy and mirin is unbeatable: sweet, savory, and rich with umami goodness. Authentic teriyaki doesn’t use fruit juice like pineapple for sweetness nor does it use cornstarch or other gums to thicken it.
Instead, the simplicity of the ingredients is what makes teriyaki a standout. However, I do like to add a little ginger and garlic to the sauce to give it a more sophisticated back note. But it’s subtle; it’s not gingery or garlicky. We make huge batches of teriyaki sauce for the restaurants and we’ve been doing it the same way for decades so we know this flavor works.
Let’s Get Cooking!
First we give the thighs a quick turn in the skillet to get some color on them. This may take a couple rounds depending on the size of your pan as we don’t want to crowd the pan.
Then we return all the thighs to the pan and make our sauce. Now we are ready to add a few smashed garlic cloves, some sliced ginger, the mirin, soy sauce, and a little water, and simmer the thighs until they are cooked through. Flip the chicken once or twice to make sure all the pieces are cooking evenly. Finally, the sauce is reduced until syrupy and the thighs are glazed with the yummy sauce.
This recipe is done, start to finish, in 30 minutes. If you really want to get fancy, you can add some toasted sesame seeds on top, or chopped scallions. In all my years in restaurants, I’ve never met even the pickiest eater who doesn’t love teriyaki chicken.
I hope you try my easy, streamlined recipe tonight! If you make our Chicken Teriyaki, we want to know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag us in your photos, @funkyasiankitchen. Show us the goods!Print
Authentic Japanese Chicken Teriyaki!
You will need:
- 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinless*
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and cut into thick slices
- 3 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
- ½ cup mirin
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of oil and half of the chicken thighs.
- Sear the chicken on one side, undisturbed for 2-3 mins and then flip the chicken and do the same on the other side. (You are not cooking the chicken completely but instead, trying to get a nice golden crust which will allow you to get a full flavored dish). Set aside in a bowl.
- Repeat with remaining thighs and oil. Sop up the oil from the pan using paper towels and discard (never drain cooking fats into the drain to avoid future plumbing problems).
- Add the chicken and any accumulated juices back to the pan (try to fit the chicken in one layer if possible), and add the garlic, ginger, mirin, water, and soy sauce.
- Bring the pan to a simmer over medium high heat, cover partially with a lid, and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 10-12 mins.
- Flip the chicken, and cook for an additional 10-12 mins. The chicken should be cooked through and tender.
- Remove the chicken to a serving plate. Fish out the garlic and ginger from the sauce, add the sugar, and then reduce the sauce for 2-3 mins over medium heat until it has a nice, syrupy consistency.
- Return the chicken to the pan and baste each piece with the sauce. Serve hot.
*If your chicken thighs have skin on them, peel it off and make my favorite kitchen snack*. Sprinkle the skins with a little salt and pepper and lay flat on a piece of parchment or aluminum foil. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. They should be golden and very crispy. If they feel a little squishy, flip them over, and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. Drain on paper towels and enjoy. It’s really my favorite part of the recipe!
*This teriyaki sauce is full of flavor, but may not be as sweet or as salty as you are used to. Feel free to add a little more sugar or soy sauce, 1 teaspoon at a time, to adjust the sauce to your liking.
Keywords: Chicken Teriyaki