Teriyaki chicken 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. This recipe is excellent for meal prep or for merely just enjoying leftovers the next day.
Table of Contents
Teriyaki chicken is a popular menu item at most Japanese restaurants as both kids and adults devour it. Now you can prepare this flavorful meal right at home with or without a wok. Once you master the stir fry technique, you’ll be circulating 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 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, which a cornstarch slurry thickens into a sticky glaze.
For a lean protein choice, use skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Cut them into uniform pieces, about 1-inch in size, for even cooking. However, if you like dark meat, that works too. Although, thigh pieces 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 compared to 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. The result, juicer bites!
How to make teriyaki sauce
I adapted my homemade teriyaki sauce recipe, which is pretty quick and easy to make. Simply dilute soy sauce with water, so it’s not so salty, but 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. Freshly minced ginger and garlic infuse pungent aromatics commonly found in Asian cuisine.
Stir-fry the chicken
Use a wok or large saute pan set over high heat to sear the chicken. Place the pieces in a single layer and resist the temptation to move them for at least a few minutes. The high temperature and surface contact with the pan develops a gorgeous golden crust due to the Maillard reaction. 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 thin and runny soy sauce’s viscosity. 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.
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
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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- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water. Set aside.
- 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 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.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry, then add to the sauce, 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.
- Garnish the chicken with sauce, sesame seeds, and green onions.
- Mixing Bowl
- Recipe Yield: 4 cups of chicken and 1 cup of sauce
- Serving Size: 1 cup of chicken with 1/4 cup of sauce
- Substituting fresh ginger and garlic: Use ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger for minced ginger.
- For a thinner sauce: Use 4 ½ teaspoons 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 sweet sauce: Use 6 tablespoons of sweetener.
- Arrowroot Powder Slurry: Dissolve 3 tablespoons of arrowroot in 1/3 cup water. For a thinner sauce, dissolve 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon arrowroot in 1/4 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.
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