This Teriyaki Sauce Recipe is so easy to make and tastes a million times better than anything you’ll get at the store. Made with simple ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, honey, and brown sugar, learn how to make easy homemade teriyaki sauce at home in less than 15 minutes and use it on all your favorite recipes, including this baked teriyaki chicken recipe.
Teriyaki sauce is one of my go-to condiments for just about everything. Sweet, salty, and thick, this is the very best teriyaki sauce you’ll ever make. Ready in just 15 minutes, it’s also one of the easiest things you can make in your very own kitchen and better than any store-bought version, guaranteed!
What is Teriyaki?
Teriyaki sauce is a Japanese sauce that is typically used as a marinade or glaze for a variety of dishes. The word “teriyaki” is a combination of two Japanese words: “teri,” which means luster, and “yaki,” which means to grill or broil.
It is traditionally made by combining and heating soy sauce, sake (or mirin), and sugar (or honey). The sugar in the mix creates a glaze-like consistency when heated and gives dishes a shiny, glossy finish. In some variations, ginger or garlic might be added for extra flavor.
The combination of sweet and salty flavors in teriyaki sauce makes it versatile – perfect for enhancing the taste of various foods, particularly grilled or broiled meats and vegetables.
Note: that commercially produced teriyaki sauces (the kinds you’ll find sold in grocery stores) may contain other ingredients or preservatives, and these recipes can differ substantially from the traditional Japanese version.
How to Use Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
This easy teriyaki recipe is actually two recipes in one and can be used in one of two ways-
- As a marinade: To use this recipe as a marinade, prepare as instructed but stop before adding the cornstarch. Without the added cornstarch, your sauce will be less thick and glossy but just as flavorful. Use to marinate chicken breasts or chicken thighs, pork chops, and salmon!
- As a sauce: The real magic of this recipe comes when you slather all your favorite recipes in its sweet, shiny, thick deliciousness. The secret is to thicken it with cornstarch. Brush onto grilled meats or grilled veggie skewers, and toss with noodles and rice.
For the full list and amounts of ingredients in this easy homemade teriyaki sauce, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
What’s in Teriyaki Sauce?
- Soy Sauce– I used regular soy sauce, but feel free to use low-sodium soy sauce if you prefer. You may also substitute with an equal amount of coconut aminos or liquid aminos if you’re avoiding soy products.
- Brown Sugar and Honey– Teriyaki sauce needs to be sweet. In this version, I add both brown sugar and honey. Feel free to ditch the honey for only brown sugar to keep this recipe vegan.
- Apple Cider Vinegar– A little acidity is always important in Asian cooking. Substitute with rice vinegar or mirin (a type of rice wine similar to sake) if preferred. If using mirin, remember that it is somewhat sweeter and less acidic. While mirin is traditionally used in traditional Japanese teriyaki, I find that apple cider vinegar is a great substitute for this Japanese-American version.
- Garlic and Ginger– In this recipe, I added fresh ginger and garlic, but feel free to substitute with garlic powder and ground ginger if easier. As a general rule, always add less of the ground stuff when compared to fresh. For this teriyaki sauce recipe, add 1/2-1 teaspoon ground ginger and one teaspoon garlic powder. Adjust seasoning as needed.
- Sesame Oil– Sesame oil adds wonderful flavor. If you don’t have any sesame oil on hand, omit it from the recipe.
- Cornstarch– Cornstarch is used to thicken your sauce.
How to Make Teriyaki Sauce
1. Simmer the ingredients: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, apple cider vinegar, minced ginger, sesame oil, garlic, and water. Bring it just to a simmer.
- Tip: Looking for just a marinade? Stop here.
Immediately reduce heat to low. Allow mixture to simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
2. Thicken: As your sauce simmers, whisk together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with four tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Slowly add to the teriyaki sauce mixture, whisking continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. Once thickened, immediately remove from heat and garnish with 1-2 teaspoons sesame seeds, if desired.
What is the Difference Between Teriyaki and Soy Sauce?
There are two main differences. The first is that soy sauce is a key ingredient in teriyaki sauce. Naturally salty on its own, soy sauce is often used in many Asian sauces and recipes as part of the recipe. When added to teriyaki sauce, its saltiness is lessened due to the addition of other ingredients such as brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and aromatics like garlic and ginger.
The second is its consistency. Teriyaki sauce (at least the kind we have come to love here in the States) is thick and sweet. Soy sauce, on the other hand, is thin and watery.
How to Thicken Teriyaki Sauce
The easiest way to thicken teriyaki sauce is by making a “cornstarch slurry.” To do this, whisk together a little cornstarch with cold water and whisk it into the simmering sauce. After 1-2 minutes, you’ll have a delicious, beautiful homemade teriyaki sauce.
To thicken your sauce without cornstarch, use all-purpose flour or arrowroot powder instead of the cornstarch. Follow the same method by mixing with cold water to create a slurry before whisking into the simmering sauce.
Is Teriyaki Gluten-Free?
This recipe, as written, is not gluten-free. Why? Because soy sauce is made from wheat and this sauce is made with a lot of soy sauce.
How can we make it gluten-free?
- Replace soy sauce with an equal amount of coconut aminos or liquid aminos.
- Find a store-bought soy sauce that is gluten-free such as this San-J Tamari Gluten-Free Soy Sauce.
More Asian Recipes,
- Easy Egg Drop Soup Recipe
- Orange Chicken Recipe
- Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry
- Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
- Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
If you try making this Homemade Teriyaki Sauce Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce Recipe
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, apple cider vinegar, grated ginger, sesame oil, garlic, and water over medium heat. Bring it just to a simmer.
- Immediately reduce heat to low. Allow mixture to simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
- Meanwhile, whisk together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 4 tablespoons cold water. Add to the soy sauce mixture, whisking continuously until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Remove from heat and garnish with 1-2 teaspoons sesame seeds, if desired. Use immediately or allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator for later use.
- If you prefer not to thicken your sauce, simply omit the cornstarch.
- Keep leftover teriyaki sauce stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)