A warm teriyaki chicken bowl is the ultimate in comfort food. Teriyaki chicken is one of my faves!
A teriyaki chicken bowl to take you to Tokyo
There’s something about that sweet and savory sauce on chicken that gets me every time. A really good bowl of teriyaki chicken reminds me of eating skewer after skewer of yakitori in the narrow back alleys of Tokyo. While you won’t find a bowl of super saucy sticky teriyaki chicken on rice in Japan, they do have a lot of dishes that are very similar.
What is teriyaki chicken?
Teriyaki is a cooking technique used in Japanese food – foods are brushed with a glaze of sake, marin, soy sauce, and sugar, then either grilled or broiled. Teriyaki means glazed and grilled – teri meaning shiny/glazed and yaki meaning grilled. In Japan, traditional teriyaki chicken isn’t as saucy as we know it in North America – it’s simply glazed chicken.
What is teriyaki sauce?
Teriyaki sauce is a simple Japanese sauce made from just 4 ingredients: sake, mirin, soy, and sugar. Traditionally it’s on the thinner side, but still thick enough to glaze. Classic teriyaki sauce thickens naturally because the sugars caramelize. Teriyaki sauce is incredibly easy to make at home and once you make it once, you’ll never get store bough teriyaki sauce again. You can use it with stir fries and for chicken teriyaki, of course.
How to make teriyaki chicken
- Cook the chicken. Lightly pat the chicken dry and cook in a dry pan over medium heat. Medium heat will slowly render out the chicken fat from the skin and confit the chicken, making it incredibly juicy and moist. When the skin is crispy and brown and the chicken is mostly cooked through, flip it over to cook the other side.
- Make the sauce. While the chicken is crisping up, make the sauce by combining sake, mirin, soy, and sugar in a small pot. Simmer to slightly reduce then whisk in a cornstarch slurry to thicken. Set aside.
- Serve. After the chicken is cooked, slice it up and make it rain teriyaki sauce. Enjoy with fluffy white rice, cucumbers, and toasted sesame seeds!
Teriyaki chicken ingredients
For teriyaki sauce you’ll need: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Sake, mirin, and soy are three backbone ingredients of Japanese cooking.
- Soy Sauce – I’m pretty sure you have a bottle of soy sauce in your pantry. It adds umami, a glorious brown sheen, and is delicious. If you can, try to use Japanese soy sauce for this dish. There are a ton of different soy sauces out there, but as a general rule, use the soy sauce from the country you’re cooking from, they all differ in salt content, flavor, and how their brewed. Kikkoman is an generations-old Japanese brand that is found in most grocery stores and it is naturally brewed.
- Sake – Sake is Japanese rice wine. It adds umami and a natural sweetness. Just like wine is used in French cooking to add an extra layer of aroma and flavor, sake is used in Japanese cooking – almost in every sauce. They sell cooking sake at Asian grocery stores, or if you’re feeling flush, you can use the nice sake you have for drinking. Buy a bottle and you won’t regret it, it’ll take your Japanese cooking to another level.
- Mirin – Mirin is Japanese sweet rice wine and the other ingredient that is key in Japanese cooking. Compared to sake, it has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content that occurs naturally from fermentation. It’s used as a seasoning and glazing agent. They sell mirin in the Asian aisle and at Asian grocery stores.
Lots of people on the internet will tell you that the mirin you buy isn’t real mirin. What they’re referring to is two different types of mirin: hon mirin and mirin seasoning. Hon mirin is “real” mirin: brewed from sticky rice, koji, and sochu. You’ll find this kind of mirin imported and on the expensive side.
The mirin you see at regular grocery stores is usually aji-mirin or kotteri mirin. It’s technically not mirin because it has a very low alcohol content and gets its sweetness from sugars instead of natural brewing. In the end, if you’re not making a high end dish, I think it doesn’t really matter. It’s kind of like how they tell you to cook with a decent wine, but not the best bottle. Aji-mirin is kind of like that decent wine.
Teriyaki chicken thighs
Traditionally, teriyaki chicken is made with boneless skin on chicken legs (both thigh and drumstick). The skin crisps up nicely and keeps everything juicy. For ease, we’re going to use boneless skin on thighs, which are really easy to find at the grocery store.
What about teriyaki chicken breast?
You can use chicken breasts, but they are a lot leaner and will most likely dry out before you get a good sear on the skin because they’re so thick. If you’re going to use breasts, I recommend cutting them up into bite sized pieces, cooking them just until they’re cooked through, then tossing them with the teriyaki sauce.
Instant pot teriyaki chicken
You’re in luck! We have an instant pot teriyaki chicken recipe right here. It’s not the crispy kind of chicken teriyaki, it’s more saucy but it’s just as good and has loads of sweet and savory teriyaki sauce.
Essentially, all you do is add the sauce ingredients and thighs to the pot, set the pressure on high for 7 minutes, quick release, make a quick cornstarch slurry, thicken the sauce, and you’re done! Click here for the recipe and more details.
Grilled teriyaki chicken
To grill teriyaki chicken: grill the thighs, skin side down over medium heat until golden and crispy. Flip and cook on the other side. Remove from the grill. Make the sauce in a pan by adding the soy, mirin, sake, and sugar and bringing to a gentle simmer. Whisk 2 teaspoons cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and whisk into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and let thicken slightly. Spoon onto the grilled chicken.
Teriyaki chicken stir fry
For teriyaki chicken stir fry: cook 1-2 inch pieces of chicken in a frying pan over medium high heat until cooked through. Add the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and let the sauce thicken and enjoy.
Baked teriyaki chicken
Bake the the chicken thighs in a oven safe baking sheet with the sauce ingredients, including the cornstarch slurry, at 375°F until cooked though, 30-40 minutes.
Crock pot teriyaki chicken
Place chicken thighs in the crock pot along with the sauce ingredients, minus the cornstarch slurry. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours. In the last hour of cooking, whisk up the cornstarch slurry and stir into the crock pot.
One pot teriyaki chicken
You can cook the chicken and the sauce in one pan. Cook the thighs, in a dry pan, over medium heat until the skin is brown and crispy, about 15-20 minutes. Drain off any excess fat and then flip the chicken. Add the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and let the sauce thicken, then enjoy!
Tips and Tricks
- Dry the chicken skin. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel so the skin has the best chance of browning and crisping up. Moisture is the enemy of crispy, so make sure to dry your chicken skin as much as possible.
- Start in a cold pan. Use a non-stick pan so the chicken doesn’t stick and releases easily. We’re not cooking at high heat here so a non-stick pan is perfect for this. Staring in a cold pan means that the fat will render out slowly and the skin will brown while the chicken cooks.
- Cook the sauce and the chicken seperately. If you cook the sauce and chicken separately, the chicken skin will stay nice and crisp and you’ll have a ton of sauce to spoon on afterwards.
Teriyaki Chicken Recipe
You only need 6 ingredients to make the best teriyaki chicken of your life.
- 4 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs see notes
- 2 tbsp soy sauce Japanese preferred
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch optional, see notes
Add the chicken, skin side down to a dry, non-stick pan. The chicken will render out enough fat that you don’t need to add any extra. Turn the heat on to medium and cook until the skin is brown and crispy, about 15-20 minutes, then flip.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: in a small sauce pan, add the soy, mirin, sake, and sugar and bring to a gentle simmer. Whisk the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and whisk into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and let thicken slightly. Set aside.
When the chicken skin is brown and crispy, flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes and check to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Rest on a cutting board for five minutes, then slice into strips and serve with teriyaki sauce with rice, cucumbers, green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
You don’t need to add cornstarch to your teriyaki sauce – it does however, speed up the reduction time and gives you a thick, glossy sauce.
Teriyaki Chicken Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 382 Calories from Fat 173
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 5.4g34%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.