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Teriyaki Chicken
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
15 min

Learn how to prepare classic Chicken Teriyaki at home in less than 20 minutes using authentic Japanese cooking methods. You'll enjoy the seared and juicy chicken thighs, glazed in an easy and flavorful homemade sauce. No bottled teriyaki sauce needed!

Everyone loves good, juicy chicken in a sweet, sticky glaze. This is why Chicken Teriyaki, a simple Japanese dish, is so popular all around the world! In this recipe, I'll show you how to make authentic Chicken Teriyaki at home, just like it's done in Japan. This flawless Japanese method delivers the most flavorful meat and the crispiest skin. It's so delicious, easy, and definitely a win for a weeknight dinner.

What is chicken teriyaki?

Teriyaki (照り焼き) typically refers to a cooking style, but also to the name of a cooked dish or the sauce used to brush over the food.

To help you understand it better: teri (照り) means ‘shine’, given by the sweet soy sauce marinade, while yaki (焼き) has a broader definition that can indicate ‘cooking, baking, or grilling’. Literally translated, the dish means ‘shiny or glossy grilled chicken’, as it describes the shiny glaze on the chicken created by the teriyaki sauce.

There are many homemade chicken teriyaki recipes online, and frankly, many of them have been adapted or deviated from the original method. Here are a few things you might want to know:

  • The Japanese do not bake chicken teriyaki in the oven, cook it in an instant pot, or cook it in a baking dish with vegetables.
  • We also do not grill the chicken at home, as most Japanese houses are too small to have a grill.
  • There are no bottled teriyaki sauces in Japan. Usually, we make our sauce with four simple basic pantry items.

So, how do we cook chicken teriyaki in Japan? We pan-fry the chicken on the stove until the skin sears, then let it simmer with the sauce until it thickens and caramelizes, giving the meat an irresistibly shiny finish.

Ingredients for Chicken Teriyaki

It’s amazing that you only need a few pantry staples to make this classic Japanese recipe!

  • Chicken thighs – For the traditional authentic version, choose boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, but you can also use skinless chicken thighs. How about chicken breasts? I’ll discuss about it in the next section.
  • Salt and pepper – Just a little bit of these. Most flavors come from the teriyaki sauce.
  • Homemade teriyaki sauce – 4 simple ingredients: Soy saucesakemirin, and sugar.

Skinless or Skin-on Chicken

In Japan, boneless, skin-on chicken thighs are always preferred for chicken teriyaki because they don’t dry out quickly. The skin also provides a protective layer between the chicken flesh and the hot pan. Chicken skin yields a delicious flavor and acts like a magnet for the sticky sauce. As a result, you get moist, flavorful, and juicy meat every time. American grocery stores typically carry bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. You can ask the butcher to remove the bone for you, or you can de-bone the thighs with a sharp knife.

Here in The Netherlands, however, most people prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Chicken Thighs vs. Breast

When cooking chicken, thighs are more forgiving than breasts. Thighs can withstand higher temperatures and longer cooking times. Which is why thighs are ideal for this Chicken Teriyaki recipe.

The fat from chicken thighs keeps the meat moist and tender throughout cooking, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful dish.

You can use chicken breasts if that’s what you prefer. Just remember that chicken breasts have more fiber and tend to turn rubbery sooner than thighs.

Authentic Teriyaki Sauce

The basic teriyaki sauce is made of only four simple ingredients:

  1. Soy sauce is the most critical and prominent ingredient, giving teriyaki sauce a rich, dark color. It imparts umami and saltiness. You want to use Japanese soy sauce, not other Asian soy sauce.
  2. Sake is Japanese rice wine, an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. In addition to tenderizing the meat, the amino acids in sake remove any odor of the chicken. Other key reasons to use sake? It adds subtle sweetness and umami to the dish.
  3. Mirin is Japanese sweet rice wine. This syrupy condiment adds a nice shine and natural sweetness to the sauce, helping to temper its saltiness. It also helps the flavor sink in and fully develop. Read more about mirin here.
  4. Sugar plays a vital role in balancing out the saltiness of soy sauce, lending teriyaki sauce its signature sweet and savory flavor. We also need the sugar to thicken the sauce so it will caramelize beautifully and create a glossy sheen that coats the chicken.

Our basic teriyaki sauce consists of two parts soy sauce, two parts sake, two parts mirin, and one part sugar (2:2:2:1). You can adjust the ratio to suit your taste.

Optional Sauce Ingredients:

Sometimes, you can add optional ingredients such as grated gingergrated onion, and minced garlic for additional depth and zing. You can change things slightly based on the ingredients (meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and tofu).

Many teriyaki sauce recipes I’ve seen online call for rice vinegar, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, or apple cider vinegar in the sauce mixture. I would not recommend them if you wish to follow the authentic Japanese cooking method. 

Some people even use cornstarch to thicken the sauce, but it is unnecessary. As the alcohol from sake and mirin evaporates, the sauce will naturally reduce and thicken with the sugar caramelizing during the simmering process.

Should we marinate the chicken in the teriyaki sauce?

In Japan, we don’t typically marinate chicken to make chicken teriyaki because we use a pan-frying method. When you cook the marinated chicken in the frying pan, it steams in a pool of the remaining marinade, making it more difficult to get a nice searing mark.

If you plan to cook the chicken on your BBQ grill, you can marinate it. Since you cook it over an open frame, the chicken will not stay in a pool of marinade and can get a nice char on it.


  • 500g chicken thigh with skin, boneless (If you can't find this, skinless is also fine)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oil (for frying chicken)

For the Teriyaki Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon sugar




Overige ingrediënten:

Kikkoman Soy Sauce, 250ml
Kikkoman Soy Sauce
Marukin Mirin Fu, 500ml
Marukin Mirin Fu
Junmai Sake, 300ml
Junmai Sake
Chicken thigh with skin
1/2 teaspoon
Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon


  1. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl: 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 2 tablespoons sake, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Heat the sauce in the microwave until hot. Mix well to dissolve the sugar and set aside. (you can also warm this in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved)
  2. Place chicken thighs skin side down on a cutting board. Now use the scoring method to create an even thickness, so the thighs cook evenly. Make a slit in the meat every 0.5 inches, without cutting all the way through. Note: Do not use a meat mallet/tenderizer for this important step, as it might damage the thighs.
  3. Make deeper cuts in the thicker parts of the chicken and skip the thinner parts. After each cut, open the meat and flatten it with your fingers. Once you are done scoring, check again if the thigh has an even thickness. Repeat with the rest of the thighs. (In the video at the bottom of the page, you can see this illustrated)
  4. Season the chicken pieces lightly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of neutral oil. When the oil is hot, place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Note: The underside is the presentation side.
  6. Cook the chicken for 5 minutes (set a timer). Immediately press down hard on the chicken with a spatula for 5-10 seconds, so the presentation side sears nicely. Adjust the time based on your stove and cookware.
  7. Flip the chicken. Immediately press it down again with the spatula for 5-10 seconds.
  8. Lower the heat, cover with a lid, and steam the chicken for 3 minutes.
  9. Remove the lid. Use paper towels to wipe away the excess fat and protein from the pan. This helps create a clearer sauce.
  10. Now increase the stove heat to medium and add the teriyaki sauce to the pan. Tilt the pan and frequently spoon the sauce over the chicken.
  11. Once the chicken is well coated with the sauce and cooked through, place it on a cutting board.
  12. If the sauce is thick enough, pour it into a bowl. Remember to stop cooking while the sauce is still somewhat thin, as the residual heat will continue to thicken it. If you want the sauce thicker, let it reduce for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  13. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Serve on a plate with the sauce. You can also serve it with steamed rice and sprinkle the sauce over it, like we do, and perhaps serve with a green salad and tomato wedges.

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