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How to make Teriyaki Sauce

The Japanese-inspired savoury, salty, sweet sauce for mouth-watering marinades and glazes.

Teriyaki sauce is a Japanese condiment that hits your senses with a kaleidoscope of flavours; savoury, salty, sweet and a little sticky! This glossy, dark brown liquid is extremely versatile; used as a marinade, a glaze, a dressing or a dip to elevate the flavour of meat, fish or vegetable dishes.

The popularity of teriyaki actually grew in the United States, although its recipe and ingredients are fundamentally Japanese. You’ll find it ready-made on the shelves of any popular supermarket or well-stocked grocery store. But getting the really authentic mouth-watering flavour that makes a restaurant-grade teriyaki sauce is incredibly easy. Instead of reaching for the ready-made next time you’re in the shop, simply grab five staple ingredients and you’re ready to simmer up your own. But first, let’s learn a little more.

What’s in teriyaki sauce?

Teriyaki’s ingredients are a contrasting bunch that blend to create the sauce’s medley of flavour. Soy sauce is the main ingredient and the bulk of the recipe, adding a salty savouriness. Brown sugar, honey or maple syrup bring a burst of sweetness, a drop of cooking sake mirin or alternatively rice wine vinegar balances these all up, then there’s the zestiness from ginger and garlic, plus water and cornflour to create teriyaki’s trademark thick consistency.

What does teriyaki sauce taste like?

Teriyaki sauce has a complex flavour; a mixture of sweet and savoury, tangy and salty. The sweetness comes from the sweet wine and the caramelisation of the sugar, honey or syrup, which also gives the sauce its shiny glaze. The soy, ginger and garlic tone down this sweetness, resulting in a savoury, indulgent flavour that transforms even the simplest chicken, beef or vegetable dish into a real treat.

What are the origins?

Although indisputably a Japanese dish steeped in east Asian flavours, the dish is more prevalent in the west than on home soil. In fact, when the name was coined in 17th-century Japan, it was because of a grilling method popular at the time rather than a sauce. “Teri” refers to the shine the glaze gives the food, while “yaki” is a nod to the method of cooking.

The origins of teriyaki as a sauce are more commonly attributed to the Japanese population of Hawaii in the 1960s, who paired the teriyaki cooking style and soy sauce from home with the abundant sweet pineapple juice to master the distinctive marinade. Teriyaki, of course, has its place in Japanese homes and restaurants amidst other sweet, sticky soy glazes and sauces like the Chinese hoisin, oyster sauce, plum or barbecue, but it is predominantly paired with fish in east Asia rather than the beef or chicken dishes more popular in the West.

Cooking with teriyaki sauce

So what can you cook or eat with teriyaki? The short answer is pretty much anything. Its shine and strong flavour make it the perfect partner for grilling meat, fish, tofu or vegetables. Either marinate for at least 30 minutes to infuse the flavour before grilling or dip or brush the food with the sauce several times during cooking to layer up the taste. The sweet and salty flavour pairs well with whatever’s on the grill, or mix it into a stir fry, noodles or drizzle over a salad. It works just as well in a slow cooker for dishes like teriyaki honey chicken drumsticks or beef meatballs or on the side as a dipping sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds and spring onion and serve with vegetables and rice, which soaks up any excess sauce to make an indulgent, sticky side dish.

Substitute for teriyaki sauce

If you don’t have the ingredients for teriyaki in your kitchen or a bottle in the cupboard, you can replicate the sweet and saltiness by mixing honey with soy sauce. It won’t have quite the complexity of teriyaki, but it gives a similar result. Sauces often used as a teriyaki substitute usually focus on an aspect of the flavour, for example tangy barbecue, salty oyster sauce or sweet hoisin.

What is the difference between teriyaki and hoisin sauce?

Teriyaki and hoisin have the same thick, dark and glossy appearance and are both great as a glaze, dip, stir-in sauce or marinade, but they have quite different flavours. Hoisin is often described as a Chinese barbecue sauce for its incredibly salty, slightly sweet taste, and like teriyaki, it goes well with red meat or poultry. Hoisin is made from soybeans, with garlic, sesame, chillies and spices, and was first created to accompany Cantonese seafood. In fact, “hoisin” translates to “seafood sauce”.

Storing teriyaki sauce

You can store teriyaki in the same way you would soy sauce, seeing as soy is the base ingredient. Keep your shop-bought sauce in a cool cupboard if unopened or in the fridge. It’s best to store your homemade teriyaki in the fridge, where it will keep for a while, but is best consumed within a week.


How to make teriyaki sauce

Equipment

  • Small saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Balloon whisk
  • Glass jar for storage

Ingredients

  • 350ml tap water
  • Five teaspoons light brown soft sugar (or two tablespoons honey or maple syrup)
  • 70ml soy sauce
  • One large garlic clove, grated
  • Four-centimetre piece of fresh, grated ginger or half a teaspoon ground ginger
  • One tablespoon cornflour
  • One tablespoon mirin (or rice wine vinegar)

Method

  1. Pour the water into the saucepan with the sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger
  2. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved
  3. Cook for a few more minutes until the sauce becomes thick and glossy
  4. Combine the cornflour with a tablespoon of water and whisk through the sauce
  5. Whisk through the mirin sake or rice wine vinegar
  6. Add water to dilute the sauce to the required consistency
  7. Pour your teriyaki sauce into a jar and leave to cool at room temperature

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