Our family eats Asian food and stir fries quite often, but I had never made teriyaki chicken at home until my daughter requested it for her fifth birthday dinner. When I looked at the expensive bottle of teriyaki sauce at the store and all the artificial ingredients on the label, I knew that I had to try making a homemade version. I bought a bottle of La Choy teriyaki stir-fry and marinade sauce before scouring the internet for tips on making teriyaki sauce at home. The recipes I found varied widely in the ingredients used and flavors included in the sauce. One main difference between the recipes was the amount of spice they contained. Some used copious amounts of crushed red pepper or Sriracha sauce, while others had no spice at all. Since I was mainly making this sauce for a 5-year old audience, I left out the spicy component, but I’ve included Sriracha as an optional ingredient in the recipe as I think it would add a wonderful, spicy edge. I used honey in my recipe for the thick, rich sweetness that it adds, but using brown sugar would cut the cost of the sauce significantly, and I think it would be equally delicious. Without further ado, here is my recipe for homemade teriyaki sauce and underneath is an analysis of how it stood up to the bottled version:
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)
- In a small saucepan, whisk together soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic. Bring to a simmer over low heat and continue to cook, whisking often, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mirin and cornstarch until a smooth paste forms. Add the mirin mixture to the saucepan and whisk over low heat until thickened to a gravy-like consistency. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
For my teriyaki sauce showdown, I chose to make grilled chicken skewers that were marinated in the sauce for an hour before grilling, and then I also brushed some of the sauce over the chicken once it was done cooking. We also tasted each sauce on it’s own to get a better idea of what flavors were prominent in each. I did not test the sauces as stir-fry sauces, but I’m hoping to get around to that soon and I’ll update this comparison then.
When we first tasted the two sauces plain, I was afraid that my homemade version would be too strong. It was extremely salty and the sweetness and garlic were buried in the strong flavor of soy. The bottled sauce, on the other hand, had a good balance of sweet and tangy, although it did have an unpleasantly tacky texture. Once the chicken was grilled however, all the testers agreed that the homemade sauce was the winner. What had seemed overly salty on it’s own, made for a deliciously flavorful grilled chicken. The store bought sauce did not lend much flavor to the chicken and didn’t seem to soak into the meat much. One cautionary note: Because of the high concentration of soy sauce, the homemade teriyaki did tend to burn more easily than the store bought, so you might want to use a lower heat and turn your chicken often if using the homemade sauce.
The homemade teriyaki sauce was also fairly easy to prepare. It’s made using common ingredients that many people have on hand and only takes a few minutes of simmering to create a rich, flavorful sauce that can be stored for a few weeks in the refrigerator. The two sauces were pretty close in terms of cost, with the homemade sauce coming out just a few cents over the store bought. As I mentioned before, most of the cost of the homemade sauce comes from the honey, so if you substituted brown sugar for honey, the homemade sauce would easily be cheaper than store bought.
Bottom Line: Homemade teriyaki sauce only takes a few minutes to prepare, can be kept in the fridge for weeks, and adds a lot more flavor to grilled meats than the store bought variety.