Teriyaki sauce can bring a wonderful flavor to all kinds of foods, from salmon to hamburgers. I’m of the opinion that there are two main styles of teriyaki sauce: The first is a traditional Japanese teriyaki sauce, and the second is a more Americanized (and arguably more common) teriyaki sauce.
Give these two teriyaki sauce recipes a try to see which style you prefer — both are easy and will make delicious additions to your kitchen table.
Traditional teriyaki sauce
The traditional teriyaki sauce is made with just three ingredients: soy sauce, sake and mirin. While you probably have soy sauce in your kitchen already, you may not have sake or mirin on hand.
Sake is a Japanese rice wine that is made by fermenting rice, in much the same way that beer is made. You can typically find it in liquor stores.
Mirin is a sweet rice wine that’s similar to sake but is sweeter and frequently used in cooking. You may be able to find mirin in the Asian food section of your local grocery store, or you may have to go to an Asian market to find it. It can be substituted with a dry sherry in a pinch, but nothing will really capture the right flavor like mirin.
This traditional sauce is made by combining two parts soy sauce with one part each of sake and mirin, then cooking the mixture down until it becomes syrupy. You can tell when it has reduced enough because the glaze will be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, leaving a defined streak if you run a finger through it.
During the cooking process, the sugars in the mixture caramelize, giving the glaze a combination of sweet, salty and umami flavors. Once it’s made, the glaze can be brushed onto meat or fish to finish it and give it a final layer of flavor.
Traditional teriyaki sauce recipe
Makes about ½ cup of sauce
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ½ cup sake
- ½ cup mirin
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the mixture becomes thickened, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat slightly and cook until reduced to ½ cup, about 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool before serving or storing.
Less-traditional teriyaki sauce
I’ve had some excellent pineapple-topped burgers that featured this less-traditional style of teriyaki sauce. Though it may be less traditional, it is very common and you’ve probably had a sauce very much like it many times.
This sauce is made by combining soy sauce, honey, sugar, garlic and ginger with water and cornstarch, then cooking the mixture until the sauce is thick and bubbling. This easy-to-make sauce can be made with pantry staples, so you can mix it up a moment’s notice.
The nice thing about this sauce is that it can be adjusted to suit your personal tastes very easily, adding more or less sugar and spice. For instance, if you like extra garlic, you can double it. If you prefer your sauce to be a little sweeter, you can increase the honey.
It’s thick, tangy and has a nice balance of sweet and salty. The garlic and ginger give it a nice complexity, too. It can be used as a glaze for finishing meats or as a marinade.
Easy teriyaki sauce
Makes about 1¼ cups
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon ground garlic
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 6 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1½ tablespoon cornstarch
Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture is bubbling and has thickened, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool before serving or storing.