This easy homemade teriyaki sauce is the perfect combo of salty and sweet - and such a handy sauce to have on hand. Toss with any number of weeknight meals -- chicken, pork, salmon, you name it.
Teriyaki sauce is so versatile -- there are so many proteins and veggies that are just the perfect pairing. It's a good with a fresh cooked meal and equally as good with some leftovers in the refrigerator you need to get rid of before your next grocery trip. (Side note: that's one of the perks of working from home. Lots of additional time looking in your refrigerator, which is maybe not good for your waistline but really good to have constant reminders of foods you need to eat.)
I think it's definitely something about the bold salty and sweet combo that's unmistakeable. We used to buy our favorite teriyaki sauce until we looked at the bottle and realized sugar was the second ingredient...and that was the "healthier" version of what's available. I'm no foe of sugar by any means (I just scared down a sleeve of Thin Mints...myself), but I really do believe that whenever possible sugar should stay out of your actual meals. Enter this SIMPLE and SO STINKIN' EASY homemade teriyaki sauce.
The Origins of Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki is often known here in the States as a Japanese-inspired sauce that's popular in a variety of different types of restaurants, from sushi places to Asian-fusion spots. Teriyaki sauce has its origins in Hawaii by Japanese immigrants who were replicating ingredients from their home country.
Most versions of teriyaki sauce usually have three features:
- A base -- often sake, soy sauce and mirin -- using just soy sauce because it's what's available in my refrigerator at all times.
- Aromatics -- garlic usually (but I've added ginger)
- Sweetness -- brown sugar or granulated sugar are most common. Here's I'm using honey for the sweetness without the refined sugar.
Ingredients You'll Need
You only need a bowl, saucepan, and a whisk to make this recipe. The ingredients include:
- soy sauce or tamari (see note below on the difference)
- garlic cloves
- fresh ginger
Soy Sauce v. Tamari v. Shoyu
The section of the grocery store with all of the soy sauces can be a little confusing. There's soy sauce but there's tamari right next to it and shoyu next to that. All of the bottles look remarkably similar and so do the contents. What the friggin' difference you ask?
Both soy sauce and tamari are made with fermented soy beans to give it that signature salty burst of flavor. Tamari is a little thicker and slightly less saltier than soy sauce. Tamari is the Japanese version and soy sauce is of Chinese origin.
If you're gluten free, you'll want to use tamari because it's not made with any grains. Tamari also tends to contain less additives, making it a little bit of a healthier option.
Then there's shoyu. According to Muso, "In the west, the words 'Shoyu' and 'Tamari' are often used interchangeably. In Japan, "Shoyu" is the Japanese name for soy sauce which is made from a mash of soybeans and wheat, while 'Tamari' is a non-wheat product made by drawing off the liquid content of soybean miso. Shoyu is typically used as a dipping sauce for shashimi or for cooking teriyaki.
While there are times when you might want to use one over the others, the three can generally be used interchangeably barring any dietary restrictions. I use tamari usually just for the lack of additives and the slightly thicker, less salty ingredient.
How to Make Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until the cornstarch is dissolved and it looks like cloudy water. Set aside. By combining your cornstarch and water now, you'll prevent any lumps of cornstarch from getting into your sauce.
Next, in a small sauce pan, heat up soy sauce or tamari, ginger, garlic, honey, and water and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil then remove from the heat. Let cool to thicken for about 10 minutes before tossing with meat vegetables or whatever else your heart desires.
How easy is that?
A Note on Storing Your Teriyaki
Because this teriyaki sauce uses cornstarch as a thickening agent, it will thicken in the refrigerator. You can either leave the sauce out for about an hour before using and let it come to room temperature or reheat over low heat until the sauce becomes smooth again.
Ideas to Get You Excited About Using Your Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
- Teriyaki Chicken Bowl -- my personal favorite and the best way to transform your leftovers into something that feels new.
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Teriyaki Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
- Teriyaki Cod
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce (Without Refined Sugar)
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water until mixed. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let the sauce boil for 1 minute before removing from the heat. Let cool to thicken for about 10 minutes before tossing with meat, vegetables, or whatever else your heart desires!