What Is Teriyaki Sauce?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Chicken teriyaki served with broccoli florets and sliced bell pepper

Mosespreciado / Flickr

In This Article

The word teriyaki combines two Japanese words: teri, meaning luster, and yaki, meaning grill or broil. Though technically a cooking style, teriyaki in the United States generally refers to the associated sauce, which adds an amber-colored gloss and salty-sweet flavor to grilled meats and vegetables.

Fast Facts

  • Place of Origin: Japan
  • Main Ingredients: Soy sauce and sake or mirin
  • Most Common Use: As a marinade or glaze for meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables

Teriyaki Sauce Uses

Teriyaki sauce is most often used as a marinade or a glaze for meats and fish. It's best known for its combination with grilled chicken, but it also works in the oven or broiler, in a skillet on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, and in a wok for stir-frying. You can also drizzle it on the plate just before serving or put it on the table for use as a dipping sauce, for example, with potstickers or kabobs. It makes a great addition to the ground beef in a burger and can be used in place of barbecue sauce on ribs.

How to Cook With Teriyaki Sauce

You can buy bottled teriyaki sauce at the grocery store or make an authentic version at home with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. The high sugar content means teriyaki sauce burns easily, so brush it on during the last few minutes of direct high-heat cooking such as on the grill or in the broiler. If you marinate meat in teriyaki sauce before you start cooking, drain or wipe off the excess before you put it on the grill or in the oven.

Teriyaki sauce can handle high heat during a quick turn in a wok, where it becomes thick and sticky and coats the meat and vegetables with flavor. It's also OK to apply teriyaki sauce to chicken, fish, or vegetables before you bake a dish because the sustained lower heat works to caramelize the sauce. Serve teriyaki dishes with rice or bread to soak up the extra sauce.

What Does It Taste Like?

A sweet and tangy sticky sauce, authentic teriyaki delivers a big hit of salty umami from its simple base of soy sauce and mirin, a low-alcohol, sweeter version of sake, a traditional Japanese rice wine. Less traditional teriyaki recipes often include flavors such as garlic, ginger, citrus, and sesame.

Teriyaki Sauce Recipes

You can add teriyaki flavor to just about any protein or vegetable, including tofu and tempeh. Japanese chefs commonly cook fish and other seafood with a teriyaki glaze, and teriyaki chicken is a menu mainstay in Japanese restaurants, both in the United States and in Japan.

Where to Buy Teriyaki Sauce

You can purchase bottled teriyaki sauce at nearly any grocery store or online. Specialty Asian markets may carry imported brands with a more authentic ingredient list, but you can easily make a traditional teriyaki sauce at home with just a few commonly available ingredients.

Storage

Store open bottles of teriyaki sauce in the refrigerator for up to a year. You can safely keep them in the pantry too, but you should use them within six months. Unopened bottles will be good in the pantry for up to three years. Homemade teriyaki sauce should be refrigerated and used much more quickly, within a few days, or frozen for longer storage.

Nutrition and Benefits

Teriyaki sauce adds great flavor and luster to foods, but it does not contribute much nutritionally. A tablespoon delivers about 16 calories and tiny amounts of protein, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Bottled teriyaki sauce can contain more than 50 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake, though, so it's best used sparingly. You can reduce the amount of sodium significantly by making your own teriyaki sauce with low-sodium soy sauce.

People following gluten-free diets may need to avoid teriyaki sauce, which usually contains soy sauce with wheat as a common ingredient. However, some brands bottle a gluten-free version using tamari instead, a Japanese product made of fermented soybeans similar to soy sauce but without the wheat. You can also make gluten-free teriyaki at home with tamari, coconut aminos, or Bragg Liquid Aminos in place of traditional soy sauce.