This teriyaki chicken recipe is an easy weeknight dinner ready in 30 minutes! Tender pieces of lean white meat stir-fry until lightly brown and juicy, then simmer in a flavorful sauce.
Table of Contents
Teriyaki chicken is a popular menu item at most Japanese restaurants, as kids and adults devour it. Now you can prepare this flavorful meal at home with or without a wok. Once you master the stir fry technique, you’ll circulate this recipe in your weekly dinner rotation. Serve with a bowl of steamed rice and vegetables for a complete meal.
Searing the chicken’s surface in a large skillet creates a flavorful golden-brown crust, while the quick stir-frying process retains the meat’s juiciness. The pieces simmer in a sweet and savory soy-based sauce, and a cornstarch slurry thickens into a sticky glaze.
For a lean protein choice, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cut them into pieces about 1-inch in size for even cooking. However, if you like dark meat, that works too. Although, chicken thighs will need to cook a few minutes longer until it reaches 175 degrees. The extra fat insulates the proteins and prevents them from drying out as quickly as white meat.
Sauces & Condiments
A quick marinade
To add layers of flavor to the dish, briefly marinate the chicken in a bowl with soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Cutting the chicken down into smaller bite-sized pieces helps the water-soluble flavor molecules in the marinade absorb into the meat.
The salt also restructures the muscle fibers, creating gaps for moisture retention when the chicken is cooking. The result is juicer bites!
How to make teriyaki sauce
I adapted my homemade teriyaki sauce recipe, which is quick and easy to make. Dilute soy sauce with water, so it’s not so salty, yet it still has a pleasant umami taste. Use honey to naturally sweeten the base, although you can use pure maple syrup or brown sugar as a substitute.
Mirin is a popular type of Japanese rice wine used in cooking that adds a depth of flavor. Rice vinegar adds tang to balance the sweet and salty flavors. Apple cider vinegar could be used as a substitute. However, more honey may need to be added to balance the tangier taste. Freshly minced garlic and ginger infuse pungent aromatics commonly found in Asian cuisine.
Stir-fry the chicken
Use a wok, large saute pan, or skillet over high heat to sear the chicken. Add the chicken in a single layer and resist the temptation to move them for at least a few minutes.
Due to the Maillard reaction, the pan’s high temperature and surface contact develop a gorgeous golden crust. The process happens quickly, so keep an eye out and be sure not to overcook the lean meat.
Thicken the sauce
Add the teriyaki sauce to the pan with the chicken and heat until it just comes to a simmer. This step helps to infuse all the flavors together. The sauce also needs a few minutes to heat so that the cornstarch slurry can instantly thicken the consistency.
I use a mixture of cornstarch and water to thicken the viscosity of the thin and runny soy sauce. Once the starch hits the hot liquid, it absorbs the water and swells. A cornstarch slurry works in under a minute, creating a glossy glaze that sticks nicely to the meat’s surface. The chicken teriyaki cooks in less than 15 minutes for a fast meal!
Serve this with
- Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions
- Steamed broccoli
- White rice or brown rice
- Sauteed cauliflower rice for a low-carb option
- Bok choy
The marinade has soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame oil to enhance the savory taste. Teriyaki sauce is thicker to coat the meat. It combines soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame oil, water, sweetener, garlic, ginger, and a cornstarch slurry for thickening.
To elevate the taste of the teriyaki dish, top it with some toasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions or green onions, or shichimi togarashi, with contains a spicy mixture of chili flakes, seaweed bits, and sesame seeds.
It’s packed with protein from either chicken breast or the thigh. The sauce contains soy sauce and honey. Use lower-sodium soy sauce to reduce the salt levels and high-intensity sweetener or lower carbohydrate sweetener to reduce the sugar content.
A cornstarch slurry is a traditional thickening agent used in Asian dishes, especially in stir-fry sauces. However, you can use arrowroot powder as a corn-free substitute. You’ll need to use about 1.5X more for a similar thickening power. Dilute it in double the amount of room temperature water before adding it to the pan to prevent clumping and improve the starches’ dispersion. Add it to the simmering liquid between 185-206°F (85-96°C). It only takes about one minute to thicken the sauce.
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- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, peanut, or canola
- ¾ cup water
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin rice wine
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup water, to add to cornstarch slurry
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, white or black (optional)
- Marinate Chicken – In a medium-sized bowl, combine chicken, 4 teaspoons soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, salt, and black pepper. Allow it to marinate while preparing the sauce.
- Make Teriyaki Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together ¾ cup water, ⅓ cup soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, rice wine, garlic, ginger, and ½ teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
- Make Slurry – In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water. Set aside.
- Cook Chicken – Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add oil. Once hot, add the chicken in a single layer. Without moving, cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Cook for 4 minutes if using thighs, draining any excess grease.
- Add Sauce – Add the teriyaki sauce mixture to the wok. Heat over high heat. Once the liquid begins to simmer, cook for 1 minute. Some bubbles should break the surface.
- Thicken Sauce – Stir the cornstarch slurry, add to the sauce, and quickly stir to combine. Continuously stir until it thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 60 seconds. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
- To Serve – Garnish the chicken with sauce, sesame seeds, and green onions.
- Short Video: Watch this recipe come together.
- Recipe Yield: 4 cups of chicken and 1 cup of sauce
- Serving Size: 1 cup of chicken with ¼ cup of sauce
- Substituting for Fresh Aromatics: Use ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger for minced ginger.
- For a Thinner Sauce: Use 4 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water. I recommend using this amount if meal prepping, as the sauce thickens more once cooled.
- For a Less Sweeter Sauce: Use 6 tablespoons of sweetener.
- Arrowroot Powder Slurry: Dissolve 3 tablespoons of arrowroot in ⅓ cup water. For a thinner sauce, dissolve 2 tablespoons plus ¼ teaspoon arrowroot in ¼ cup water. Follow the same cooking directions as the cornstarch slurry.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari for soy sauce.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high setting in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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