Making the best homemade teriyaki sauce will take less than 5 minutes of your time and leave you with an Authentic Japanese sauce you can use across the board in Asian cuisine. This is an extremely versatile glaze or sauce recipe and, can improve the flavour of almost any dish.
What is it
The word teriyaki refers to the cooking method of glazing food several times while grilling or broiling. "yaki" meaning to grill or broil and, "teri", meaning to shine. An effect obtained by the caramelisation of the sugars in the sauce.
Teriyaki sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, ginger and sugar. It gets thickened into a viscous sauce, which is then used to glaze meat, fish or vegetables, while they are cooking on the grill or under the broiler.
The combination of sweet and salty is something we find in most Asian dishes. Especially in Japanese and Chinese Cuisine.
Traditional Japanese Teriyaki contains few key ingredients and most of them are top quality and took a long time to make.
Soy sauce and mirin
Soy sauce or, "shoyu" in Japanese, forms the base of this sauce. True soy sauce is naturally fermented for many months in huge wooden containers called a "kioki".
Koji rice is blended with water, soybeans, roasted wheat berries, and salt. This mash is then fermented for a long period of time, up to 2 years. The koji has powerful enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids over time.
Much of this is glutamic acid. When mixed with salt, this gives us MSG or, monosodium glutamate. The wrongly crucified natural flavour enhancer responsible for giving food it's umami or savoury flavour we all love.
Mirin is sweet fermented rice wine. Also produced by fermentation over a much shorter but, still lengthy time frame. About 2 months. The powerful effect of koji breaks down carbohydrates found in cooked rice into sugars that feed the yeast and in turn, gives us an alcoholic sweet wine with an abv of about 14%.
This acts as a balancer within the final sauce.
Why make your own Teriyaki
There is a huge advantage when you make your own teriyaki sauce. You get to control the sweetness, saltiness, "gingeryness", quality of ingredients and also the consistency.
Buying a bottle of Kikkoman teriyaki is easy but it's not for those that appreciate top quality cooking. That's why we go the extra mile to make our own teriyaki from scratch.
- Soy sauce - Use a naturally brewed good quality dark soy sauce. It will have a deeper richer flavour. Some brands like Kikkoman also do
- Sugar - Brown sugar is best but you can also use regular white sugar or make a honey teriyaki sauce by substituting the weight of the sugar with mild-tasting honey.
- Mirin - Mirin is best but if you can't find it then use a semisweet white wine instead.
- Ginger - I used naturally dried ginger I made and ground myself. If you can't find good quality dried or powdered ginger then, use fresh ginger instead. It's a very important flavour in teriyaki and should be the only aromatic in the recipe. No garlic or any other strange stuff.
- Thickener - I used cornstarch but, you can use any other thickener like potato or tapioca starch too. More in the pro tip below about thickening the sauce.
- Water - Pure natural drinking water.
- Msg(optional) - I like to use an extra bit of msg depending on what I will use it for or how intense my soy sauce is. I make my own soy sauce and it takes a long time to mature so sometimes it needs a little extra msg.
If you want to make a really stable and professional version then use a tiny amount of Xanthan gum to stabilise the sauce.
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide and naturally produced thickener/ stabiliser that involves the fermentation of sugars by a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris.
Teriyaki sticks better to food when xanthan gum is used. Especially with foods on skewers or foods that release a lot of water while cooking.
Xanthan gum can be found on the healthfood shelves in most supermarkets. Otherwise, ordering it online is a breeze.
For this recipe, a small pinch or ½g will do the job well.
Xanthan gum doesn't need heat to thicken sauces. So, what does this mean?
Remember, I said that naturally brewed soy sauce is made with koji? The koji has powerful enzymes that can tenderise meats.
So, if you are lucky enough to have an unpasteurised soy sauce and thicken your teriyaki with xanthan then you have a wonderful marinade that will also tenderise things like pork chops, chicken and tougher cuts of beef.
When you cook the sauce the enzymes get deactivated and the tenderizing effect is lost. This is why thickening with xanthan gum is a more professional approach.
If you can't find a naturally brewed unpasteurised soy sauce and can't find xanthan gum then an easy alternative would be to use pineapple juice to let down the sauce a bit when cooled down.
Pineapple contains bromelain. An enzyme that also breaks down proteins into amino acids and in turn tenderises it and enhances the flavour.
This is all for the pro cook and if you are just looking to make the best teriyaki sauce at home then, simply skip over this step and follow the easy instructions below.
How to make it
I promised that this would be an easy and simple recipe. My promise delivers.
- Weigh out your ingredients and put everything apart from the cornstarch and water in the pan. If you are thickening it with xanthan then simply add the xanthan gum and blend it up till thickened.
- Otherwise, make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch and water.
- Bring the rest of the ingredients to a simmer while whisking.
- Add the slurry while you keep whisking until the sauce thickens.
- You should now have a wonderfully sweet, salty and gingery sauce. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
If you use fresh ginger then make sure to chop the ginger up as fine as humanly possible. Or, blend the sauce in a blender until smooth.
Small bits of unblended ginger will burn when grilling so make sure it's as smooth as possible.
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Because teriyaki is best for grilling and broiling food it opens the door to endless possibilities on how and where to use it. We look at a few popular ways below:
- Stir fry - You can use it as a finishing sauce when making any type of stir fry. Just make sure to let it down with a bit of water. Otherwise, it might be too gloopy, thick and concentrated. Try this duck stirfry and use a splash of teriyaki.
- Meat - Glaze meats like pork belly on the fire, pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon or chicken in any shape or form. Glaze this oven-roasted chicken breast for spectacular results. If you want to cook amazing steak from cheap cuts like bavette then this is one of the sauces you want in your repertoire. Alternative meat cuts have an intense flavour and really does well when glazed with a sweet-salty, umami-rich sauce.
- Vegetables - Sub the sweet miso in this Japanese baked eggplant dish for teriyaki instead. You can also get amazing flavour when roasting broccoli or bok choy and then deglazing the pan last minute with this sauce.
- Fish - Finish baked salmon, yellowtail or seared tuna in the oven by glazing or brush onto whole grilled fish.
- With raw food - Similar to using soy sauce for sushi. You can use it as a dipping sauce for sashimi, seared raw meat or for a healthy vegan snack with crudités.
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Useful equipment for this recipe
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