This recipe for Japanese-style Yakitori Chicken yields tender, flavorful skewered chicken and green onion glazed with teriyaki sauce easily made at home.
What is yakitori?
In Japanese, yakitori -- yaki = grill and tori = chicken, which literally means "grilled chicken."
Traditionally, yakitori refers to a Japanese dish of skewered bite-sized chicken grilled over charcoal and seasoned with either a tare sauce (sweet and salty sauce) or shio (salt).
You can find yakitori skewers as an appetizer at izakaya (casual Japanese bar that serves food and snacks) and street food vendors.
What is tare?
Tare refers to dipping sauces used in Japanese cuisine, such as for gyoza (dumplings), and can be combined with dashi broth to become a soup base for ramen noodles, or for braising roasted pork (cha shu/char siu).
Tare has a sweet and salty flavour, traditionally consisting of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar, heated and boiled down to varying consistencies.
It is described as sweetened, thickened soy sauce, which can be used to marinate or grill meats.
A sweet tare is known as kuromitsu, which is used in wagashi (Japanese sweet confections, such as mochi or dango).
What is the difference between tare and teriyaki?
Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique of grilling or broiling food and glazing it with a soy sauce, mirin, and sugar sauce (tare).
In North America, teriyaki sauce is commonly known as a sweet and salty sauce sometimes with the addition of less traditional ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, honey, sesame oil and cornstarch (used in Japanese Terimayo Hot Dogs).
Why you'll love this recipe
This version of negima yakitori (grilled chicken with green onions) is:
Flavorful: letting the chicken sit in marinade gives it even more flavor, even though most recipes rely on the teriyaki glaze to flavor it.
Worth the effort: no need for a yakitori grill, which is a special Japanese grill in a long rectangular shape that holds the yakitori skewers. You can make this using the broiler in the oven.
Equipment you'll need
- bamboo skewers: soaked in water for about 30 minutes -- to prevent burning
- baking sheet or large pan: preferably with a metal wire rack; lined with aluminum foil
Ingredients you'll need
Marinade + chicken & green onions
- soy sauce: regular soy sauce for that salty flavor
- mirin: is a Japanese fermented rice wine with a higher sugar content and lower alcohol level; if you don't have mirin on hand, you can substitute with 1 tablespoon rice vinegar + ½ teaspoon sugar
- white or black pepper: adds a little heat
- chicken breast: cut into cubes; or skinless chicken thighs
- green onions/scallions: white stalks, cut into 1.5" length pieces
- soy sauce
- brown sugar: adds sweetness
- rice syrup: for shine, optional
Optional additions for the tare
If you prefer, you can add the following to make the tare more flavorful:
- ground ginger
- garlic powder
- sake: traditional tare contains sake, which is a Japanese fermented rice wine; you can substitute with Shaoxing wine if you don't have sake on hand
You can find these ingredients at Japanese grocery stores or Asian supermarkets.
How to make yakitori at home
Make the tare sauce:
Combine soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar and rice syrup (if using) in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened.
Divide the sauce into 2 separate bowls. (One will be used for basting the chicken in the oven, the other for brushing on cooked chicken before serving).
Prepare the chicken:
In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, white or black pepper, green onions and cut-up chicken breast.
Place into the fridge to marinate for about 20 minutes.
Thread the chicken onto a bamboo skewer, and alternate with a piece of green onion.
Add another piece of chicken and continue skewering with the remainder.
Place the chicken skewers onto a lightly greased wire rack on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Broil at 500F for 5 minutes, remove from oven and glaze with the sauce with a pastry brush. Flip the skewers and brush on with more teriyaki sauce.
Discard the used tare sauce (or bring to a full boil as it has been contaminated with partially-cooked chicken).
Return to the oven and continue to broil for another 5-7 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
Use a clean pastry brush to brush on additional teriyaki sauce prior to serving.
Garnish with sesame seeds and additional green onion, if you like.
Serve warm with steamed rice.
How to serve chicken yakitori
Serve yakitori with steamed white rice, wakame (seaweed salad), or edamame (soy beans).
Substitutions & variations
You can change up the protein and use chicken livers, gizzards, chicken hearts, pork belly, bacon or add vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms, or shishito peppers.
For even better flavour, you can use a charcoal grill or BBQ instead of the broiler.
Soaking the bamboo skewers in water will help prevent them from charring too quickly.
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Yakitori (Japanese-Style Skewered Chicken)
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice syrup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
- 1 bunch green onions chopped into 1.5" lengths
- 300 g chicken breast cut into cubes
Make the tare sauce:
- Combine soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, and rice syrup in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened.
- Divide the sauce into 2 separate bowls. (One will be used for basting the chicken in the oven, the other reserved for brushing on cooked chicken before serving).
Prepare the chicken:
- In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, white or black pepper, green onions and cut-up chicken breast.
- Place into the fridge to marinate for about 20 minutes.
- Thread the chicken onto a bamboo skewer, and alternate with a piece of green onion.
- Add another piece of chicken and continue skewering with the remainder.
- Place the chicken skewers onto a lightly greased wire rack on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
- Broil at 500F/260°C for 5 minutes, remove from oven and glaze with the sauce with a pastry brush. Flip the skewers and brush on with more tare sauce.
- Discard the used tare sauce (or bring to a full boil for a few minutes as it has been contaminated with partially-cooked chicken).
- Return to the oven and continue to broil for another 5-7 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F/74°C.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- Use a clean pastry brush to brush on reserved teriyaki sauce prior to serving.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and additional green onion, if you like.
- Serve with steamed rice.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.