Teriyaki Chicken Breasts

One of the benefits of having a well-stocked pantry is that it gives you so much more flexibility when you want to get a meal out quickly. Case in point, this teriyaki chicken. Classic teriyaki sauce is made with soy sauce, mirin (a sweet rice wine), and sake. With these items in your pantry, you can easily make a simple but perfect teriyaki sauce for steak, salmon, or chicken. In this version of chicken teriyaki we first poach skinless, boneless chicken breasts in homemade teriyaki sauce. Then we boil the heck out of the sauce to reduce it to a syrupy glaze to pour back over the cooked chicken. The result? Easy to make, low in fat, and the method produces a perfectly tender chicken breast every time.

Please note that we’ve updated the recipe since we first posted it. Because people were having an issue with the chicken not being cooked through we went back to the drawing board and tested and retested the recipe several times. So many things could affect the poaching liquid temperature and chicken cooking time (if the breasts were at room temp, how many pieces were being cooked, how big the pieces, etc.), that we’ve adjusted the recipe so that it holds up to more variability in conditions. The recipe now has more liquid, a longer poaching time, and the pot is kept on very low heat.

Teriyaki Chicken Breasts Recipe

  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce* (or mix tamari** and water in equal proportions to make 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup sake
  • 3/4 cup mirin
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • A 1-inch piece of ginger, grated fine
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds total (set out for 30 minutes to come to room temp)
  • 2-3 Tbsp sesame seeds

*Use gluten-free soy sauce for gluten-free version.
**If you are using tamari instead of soy sauce, use half as much, as tamari is more concentrated than soy sauce.

Method

1 Mix the grated ginger, sugar, soy sauce, sake and mirin in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, return to a simmer, then lower the heat to the lowest possible setting (warm if you can), on your smallest burner, and cover. The idea is to cook the chicken as gently as possible, below a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. If you are working with somewhat large chicken breasts, you may need to cook them longer, or cut them in half before cooking.

2 While the chicken is poaching, toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until they begin to brown. Move to a small bowl and set aside.

3 Remove the chicken breasts from the teryaki sauce, set on a plate and wrap with foil. Bring the sauce back to a boil and boil vigorously until the sauce is reduced to a syrup, about 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on the sauce, stirring it occasionally.

To serve, slice the chicken breasts, cover with the teriyaki sauce and sprinkle sesame seeds on them. Serve with plain white rice.

Links:

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki - from A Year of Slow Cooking
Orange Teriyaki Chicken - from The Food Addicts
Honey Teriyaki Chicken - from Hunt the Recipe

16 Comments

  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    There’s a whole section of my pantry that resembles a shelf in an Asian grocery store. Having authentic Asian condiments on hand makes it easy to add a simple protein (chicken, beef, tofu) and some vegetables and create a quick and easy dish that tastes like something you’d order in a restaurant.

  2. Thom

    From your mirin link, I learned that there are 3 different types. Are they interchangeable; do they taste the same? I’m excited by the thought of making my own teriyaki . . . I can’t stand the grocery store concoctions. Thank you.

    At my local grocery store I’ve only been able to find one type of mirin. The label says “Mirin, rice cooking wine”. ~Elise

  3. Bela

    Who has Mirin and Sake in their pantry?

    I do, actually. So I can make teriyaki sauce, and other Asian dishes that require them. The point is that if you have a well-stocked pantry, you have the flexibility to easily put together interesting dishes. ~Elise

  4. Kimberly

    This looks great! Any way I could substitute honey instead of the sugar? Or would that not be a good idea?

    Sure, use a one to one substitution. Note that the resulting sauce will be darker. ~Elise

  5. Betsy

    This sounds great. I am wondering, though, where I can buy the mirin or what you might recommend in lieu of it, if I can’t find it…

    Do you think I could add more sugar and use a cup of sake instead?

    Hmm, you should be able to get mirin at a grocery store that has an international foods section, especially if it carries sake. If not, yes, substitute with sake and add more sugar. ~Elise

  6. Granny Smith

    Just a couple of questions – is there any substitute for the sake, just this once? I’ve already settled in for the upcoming snow storm, but I’d love to make this tonight. Vodka? Bourbon? Whiskey? I’ve got all the other ingredients. Second, I assume you r referring to bonelss chicken breast, right?

    Sorry, I’ve had plenty of sake and plenty of other liqueurs and there is no substitute for the sake. Definitely not vodka, bourbon or whiskey. ~Elise

  7. Emma

    This was delicious but chicken took longer as I used the original recipe you posted. I substituted shao-xing rice wine for the sake which worked very well. Changed the recipe, I guess, but it worked!

  8. Amanda

    This recipe looks delicious. Would it work for salmon as well? How would I need to change it if I were using, say, frozen salmon fillets about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick?

    Well, first I would let the salmon fillets defrost in the refrigerator. Then salmon doesn’t take as long to cook as chicken. In our standard poached salmon recipe typically it only takes 5 minutes. So I would start with 5 minutes and then add more time if the salmon doesn’t cook through. ~Elise

  9. Vicki

    Sounds delicious! How do I adjust cooking time and quantity if I want to use skinless, boneless chicken thighs instead?

    Hi Vicki, I don’t think you will need to adjust the time or quantity if using chicken thighs, but you’ll just have to try it. Dark meat usually does take longer to cook than white meat. Try it at 20 minutes, if it isn’t cooked through, just put it back in the poaching liquid. ~Elise

  10. Marissa

    I tried this recipe last week and it was delicious! I did slice my chicken breasts in half however so they would cook better on my shallow cooking pan. Also the sauce at the end didn’t turn out quite as syrupy (maybe if I let it simmer longer but we were starving.) Overall a hit and will try it again. Thank you!

  11. Sonia (Restaurant Baby's sister)

    Yay, I finally had time to make this yesterday, and it took no time at all! Now reading the comments above, I think I actually overcooked one of my chicken breasts with the extra boil/simmer time — but I also wasn’t paying full close attention to when the fluids came back to a full boil after the chicken was placed. I think I’ll try this with dark meat next time . . . because dark meat is sooooo much better than white meat.
    I loved the sauce; didn’t have sake so I used non-specific “cooking wine” from a Chinese brand. Thanks, Elise! Love your site!

  12. Josh Baugher

    I made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbaugher/5393853355/

    I used your revised cooking tips, with it set on the very lowest heat on an electric burner and it turned out perfect. (I sliced the breasts in half crosswise before putting them in.)

  13. Heather Shapo

    You can also use equal parts soy sauce and honey for the same teriyaki taste. When I make it like that I like to fry it with ginger and turmeric, I know it’s not as “authentic” but it tastes great and is easy to make!

  14. Liz

    You can also heat equal parts of soysauce and sugar(white for thinner sauce, brown for thicker, honey for super thick sauce) with a piece or two or garlic and ginger to taste. In a pinch powders or both. You can use the marinade on any type of meat or fish. Let it marinade at least a few hours and broil untilc cooked in the oven. You can heat the marinade that is left over when you broil the meat and use it as a sauce when you finish.

  15. Prince

    Wow!. it looks really delecious!
    Hi.. can i use beer?.. i want to try this but i dont have sake..

    No, no beer. This is a traditional teriyaki sauce. You can try looking around for another sauce online, or just buy some packaged sauce, thinned with water. ~Elise

  16. Molly

    Hi, I’m going to make this for dinner tonight and have never cooked with sake before, is there a certain kind I should get or one that is specific to cooking? Very excited to make my first Teriyaki Chicken! :)

    Great question. I think the sake I have I bought at Whole Foods in the wine department, for not a lot of money. Sake comes in all different quality levels. I don’t think you need a particularly good grade for this. ~Elise

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