Making a delicious Teriyaki Sauce at home is much easier than you think! It’s the perfect combination between savory and sweet, and it’s full of amazing umami flavors.
We love serving homemade teriyaki sauce with chicken and fish, and also on a good stir fry. It adds so great flavors to any Asian-inspired dish, and takes only 20 minutes to make.
The sauce is very versatile and can be prepared 2 weeks in advance to satisfy your teriyaki cravings whenever!
This one is a keeper. The great thing about homemade Teriyaki Sauce is that it’s free of preservatives and additives found in most store-bought versions. Plus, this is the kind of thing that tastes better when homemade.
I also don’t like how heavy and overwhelmingly sweet some store-bought teriyaki sauces are, so homemade to the rescue!
My version is made with sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and aromatics (ginger and garlic). I also add a bit of cornstarch to help it thicken a bit more, although the authentic version does not really call for cornstarch. If I’m serving it over grilled fish or chicken, I usually leave out the cornstarch (so it’s thinner). However, if I’m making a stir fry, I tend to thicken it a bit more with a cornstarch slurry for consistency.
Anyways, let me tell you all about it!
Why I Love this Recipe
- It takes only 20 minutes to make!
- I can adjust the consistency to taste. I don’t like teriyaki sauce that is too syrupy or thick.
- The amount of sweetness is fully adjustable. Teriyaki sauce is supposed to be a perfect balance between sweet and salty, and I like it not so sweet.
- It’s a great make-ahead sauce and keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
A Note on Authentic Teriyaki Sauce
Authentic teriyaki sauce is made with just 4 ingredients: sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. It’s usually simmered until slightly thickened. It’s relatively thinner in consistency.
My version of the sauce comes with a few tweaks. I add a crushed clove of garlic and a thin slice of ginger to infuse with flavor. I also thicken it a bit using a cornstarch slurry, which is great for stir fries. However, when I serve it over grilled fish or chicken, I leave out the cornstarch.
The thing to remember here is that you need equal parts of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. In this recipe, I used half a cup of each to make about 1 cup of sauce.
Here’s an overview of the ingredients (quantities in the recipe card down below):
- Soy sauce: For savory umami flavors and rich dark colors.
- Mirin: Mirin is a Japanese rice wine. It’s sweet and a very slightly thick, making it a great ingredient to make flavorful glazes. It helps balance out and complement the salty flavors of the soy sauce.
- Japanese sake: It’s a Japanese alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice. When it comes to cooking, sake is a fantastic umami flavor base and also a meat tenderizer.
- Granulated sugar: Adds extra sweetness to the sauce and helps with thickening.
- Fresh garlic clove: To infuse the sauce. You only need 1 clove of crushed garlic.
- Fresh ginger: To infuse the sauce. You only need 1 thin slice of ginger.
- Cornstarch, dissolved in water: Cornstarch isn’t really used in the authentic version, but I find it great to thicken the sauce.
Authentic teriyaki sauce is generally made with just soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. So, if you want to keep it 100% authentic, you can just use those 4 ingredients. I tweaked this recipe by adding aromatics (crushed garlic and ginger, which are removed later), as well as cornstarch for thickening.
1. Combine the ingredients
- In a small saucepan, combine the mirin, sake, granulated sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger until evenly combined.
Tip: use a small saucepan to allow for proper simmering. If the pan is too large, the liquid will reduce too quickly and flavors won’t develop.
2. Simmer until reduced
- Bring to a boil and then decrease heat to a medium-low. Simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered for about 12-15 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Remove the ginger and garlic using a slotted spoon.
- At this point, the sauce will still be very thin, but will continue to thicken as it cools down. However, if you’d like a thicker consistency, add some cornstarch mixed in with water (see next step).
3. Thicken it
- To thicken the sauce, dissolve 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water to make a slurry. Add it to the sauce, and simmer for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring with a spoon, until thickened and until the raw taste of cornstarch is cooked off.
Substitutions and Variations
Try not to substitute too many of the ingredients unless you really have to. Each ingredient in this recipe is unique in flavor and complexity. But I get it, sometimes substitutions are helpful:
- Soy sauce: No substitute for this one, soy sauce is needed to make teriyaki sauce. I’d recommend using light or regular soy sauce. Try not to use dark soy sauce – may be too heavy.
- Mirin: Mix equal parts of sake and water (¼ cup each) plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.
- Sake: Dry sherry works too, although the flavors may not be 100% the same.
- Sugar: Try not to use brown sugar. Use granulated sugar. Brown sugar adds a type of molasses-y flavor and texture that takes away from the mirin.
- Garlic and ginger: If you don’t have fresh garlic and ginger, simply omit. Don’t use garlic or ginger powder. Don’t use pre-minced garlic or ginger either.
- Cornstarch: If you prefer the sauce to be thin, omit the cornstarch. If you want to thicken it but don’t have cornstarch, you can substitute with flour, although I’d highly recommend cornstarch for better consistency.
Serving and Pairing Ideas
You can use water instead of sake. To substitute mirin, use 0.5 cup water and 3 tablespoons if granulated sugar. Note that flavors may not be 100% the same after these substitutions though.
No. Soy sauce is needed for that distinct umami savory flavor and for color.
If you’re not using cornstarch, it will be pretty thin (almost watery) even after being reduced, but will continue to thicken a bit more as it cools down. If you want it to be thicker, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved with 1 tablespoon water.
The authentic version is made with just sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. In this version, I infused it with aromatics (garlic and ginger), and also added cornstarch to thicken it a bit more.
It goes great with grilled or seared chicken, beef, tofu, fish, and veggies. It’s also great for stir fries (note: if using in stir fries, definitely thicken it with cornstarch for texture and consistency). As you’re cooking the proteins, just add some of the sauce to the pan to warm it up and to let it absorb.
Yes! You can make it 2 weeks in advance. Store in the fridge in a sealed container.
I hope you like this easy homemade teriyaki sauce! It’s one of my family’s favorites because it’s so flavorful and versatile. We like to use it on almost everything: chicken, salmon, beef, veggies, stir fries…even with plain rice!
The great thing about it is that it makes dinner super easy. Just pan-sear some chicken or fish and spoon some of this delicious sauce over…and ta-da dinner is ready!
For more Asian-inspired recipes, check out:
Tips for Success
- For best results, try not to substitute too many of the ingredients. Better yet, stick to the original ingredients. Although substitutions are generally fine, you want to maintain the flavor complexity of each unique ingredient.
- Use a small saucepan to allow the ingredients to simmer properly. If the saucepan is too big, the liquid will sit on a larger surface and evaporate too quickly.
- The sauce can be made 2 weeks in advance and refrigerated in a sealed container.
- If using cornstarch, make sure to dissolve well in water first to prevent clumps from forming.
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
- ½ cup regular or light soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin
- ½ cup sake
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 clove garlic, slightly crushed
- 1 thin slice fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water to dissolve the cornstarch
- Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, granulated sugar, garlic, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, uncovered, until reduced and slightly thickened. At this point, it will look very thin, almost watery, but will continue to thicken as it cools down. To thicken it further, see step 3.
- Find and remove the ginger and garlic clove with a slotted spoon.
- To thicken the sauce, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water to make a slurry and add it to the sauce. Simmer for 1-2 more minutes until thickened and the raw taste of the cornstarch disappears, uncovered.
- Use a small saucepan to allow the liquid to simmer properly. If the saucepan is too large, the liquid will evaporate too quickly.
- Heat control: For proper simmering, use medium-low heat. It should be a consistent simmer, not too low and not too strong either.
- Make-ahead: Can be made 2 weeks in advance. Let it cool down completely and refrigerate in a sealed container.
- Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in a sealed container.
- Mirin: Mix equal parts of sake and water (1/4 cup each) plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.
- Sake: Dry sherry.
- Garlic and ginger: If you don’t have fresh garlic and ginger, simply omit.
- Cornstarch: If you prefer the sauce to be thinner, omit the cornstarch. Flour works too, but I’ve seen better results with cornstarch.