Sweet and savory, chicken teriyaki is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. It’s also cooked in one skillet, with ingredients you already have in your pantry, and ready in a few minutes. Weeknight suppers don’t get much quicker, easier, or tastier. Serve it over rice for a teriyaki chicken bowl that will make you forget your favorite take-out.
Whether it’s juicy slices of teriyaki chicken breast laid over rice, or teriyaki chicken stir-fry mixed with tender-crisp vegetables, there’s something magic about the way teriyaki chicken sauce brings sweet, salty, sour, and sharp together with almost anything it touches. And the best part? That magic feat is easy to accomplish at home. The meat and sauce cook together in one skillet, so in less time than it takes to surf through your email at the end of the day, you can have a savory chicken teriyaki dinner on the table.
This teriyaki chicken is sweet, sticky, and oh so tasty! And if putting your fingers in your food gives you sticky fingers, you know you’re onto a dinner that kids are going to love. The sticky comes from—you guessed it—the sugars in the sauce.
Don’t worry, it won’t be overly sweet, Japanese cooks are masters of using simple ingredients to create complex flavors, so there’s a lot more going on in teriyaki than the sweet. Soy sauce lays a salty base, garlic provides richness, ginger a bright kick, and then I like to add pineapple rings to the skillet to punch extra flavor into the sweetness, and add something fun and fresh.
How do you make teriyaki sauce?
Teriyaki sauce is similar to a lot stir-fry sauces, where you mix up the ingredients cold and then pour them into the hot skillet with the meat and vegetables. Sugar and cornstarch dissolve into the liquid ingredients in the sauce, and the sauce thickens as it cooks.
And that’s it.
Really. You’ll hardly take less time opening a purchased bottle of teriyaki sauce than you will putting the ingredients together for your own, and the flavor is soooo much fresher and better.
What part of the chicken is teriyaki?
Most American chickens don’t have teriyakis, so you’ll probably need to go to an Asian market. Make sure you ask the butcher for whole teriyakis, instead of… Okay, enough teasing.
Haha, when I was doing my research for this post I noticed this question was asked a lot, so I wanted to clear things up. Teriyaki is not the part of the chicken. For this recipe I use chicken breasts, but you can also use thighs. This oven baked teriyaki chicken is perfect with thighs.
The word teriyaki is a combination of the Japanese words teri and (ta-da!) yaki.
- Teri is the word for that glossy shine the meat gets from the sugars in the sauce.
- Yaki refers to grilling or broiling.
In this recipe I use chicken breasts, but the key is to pound them thin because they won’t cook evenly if you don’t. After cooking in the skillet, they will slice beautifully. But dark meat is equally delicious. Experiment.
How long do you cook teriyaki chicken?
Boneless chicken breasts can be tricky to cook evenly. And can dry out very quickly as well. If the thick part is cooked through, the edges are dry. So how do you get moist and delicious chicken breasts?
- Pounding them into even cutlets gives you a perfectly even piece of meat you can cook to a beautiful golden brown on the exterior in the time it takes for the interior to cook through.
- Sear the exterior. Flip, and sear the other side. When the thickest part of the chicken breast is pounded out to the same thickness as the thinnest part, you get a cutlet you can cook through evenly. It generally takes 5-7 minutes on each side.
- Use a meat thermometer. While I have found most average size chicken breasts cook through in 5-7 minutes, the best way to insure a juicy, perfectly cooked chicken breast is to cook to the right temp. That would be 165 degrees. I will usually cook to 160-163, then let it sit a few minutes to come up to temperature.
Tools for Cooking Teriyaki Chicken
If you want amazing skillet teriyaki chicken, you need the following tools:
- Meat Tenderizer: I’ve been known to pound meat with the back of a skillet. But it’s better for the meat (and the skillet) to use a good meat mallet. I love this OXO Softworks Meat Tenderizer, just $11.99 from Amazon. Like all OXO products, it was designed for an actual human—the right size and weight, with a comfortable handle that WON’T SLIP. (This is huge. Otherwise you might as well just go caveman and pound your meat with your fists.) It’s also well designed to flatten meat without tearing it.
- A Skillet: You can use whatever skillet you want, but a cast iron skillet is ideal for this meal. I love my Staub Cast Iron as it is a great size, is easy to clean, and is gorgeous! Lodge is also amazing.
What vegetable to serve with teriyaki chicken?
What goes great with teriyaki chicken? Try mixed roasted vegetables, or a medley of stir-fry vegetables–matchstick carrots, snap peas, julienned bell pepper, sliced water chestnuts. The key is to provide a textural contrast to the soft meat and rice–think tender-crisp, and save eggplant or spaghetti squash for another night.
Plain rice is the expected side for teriyaki chicken, and it’s a good one. With this dish I like medium-grain white or brown rice, which is a bit sticky, rather than looser long-grain or jasmine rice. But if you want to try something different, this quinoa-and-veggie stir fry works well, especially since it gives you your vegetable at the same time. Just skip the chicken in the original recipe, and let the teriyaki sauce drizzle deliciously over the quinoa and veggies.
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