Grilled Teriyaki Chicken – juicy and tender chicken thighs are soaked in a savory, sweet and tangy teriyaki marinade then cooked over a gas grill to achieve the perfect char. It’s an easy recipe even the pickiest eaters will love!
The Best Teriyaki Chicken Marinade!
This recipe is my go-to teriyaki chicken marinade. It always gets a lot of compliments yet it’s a breeze to throw together!
No one can resist that unique umami flavor! And yes this version is definitely better than the infamous Panda Express.
You’ll love that most of the ingredients use here are those you can always keep stocked on hand in the pantry. Which makes it one of those recipes you’ll likely find yourself turning to often, when the frequent “what is there possibly here to make for dinner question arises.”
Plus it has such a memorable, well seasoned and balanced flavor your tastebuds will be craving on repeat. Served with a generous pile of hearty rice and plenty of sriracha to polish it off, of course.
Teriyaki Marinade Ingredients and Possible Substitutes
- Low-sodium soy sauce: If needed you can use 1/3 cup regular soy sauce mixed with 3 1/2 Tbsp water.
- Mirin: This is a Japanese rice wine you can find at most larger grocery stores, in the Asian section. A dry sherry wine or marsala wine can be substituted.
- Light brown sugar: This offers the marinade that irresistible sweetness. Granulated sugar will work fine too.
- Honey: I like using the blend of two sweeteners for a two dimensional sweetness, but if needed all brown sugar will work.
- Rice vinegar: This is a milder vinegar. You could also use apple cider vinegar.
- Garlic: Fresh is best but 1 tsp dried granulated garlic will work to avoid an extra trip to the store.
- Ginger: Again fresh is best but if you must 1 tsp dried ginger will work.
- Toasted sesame oil: This is the darker sesame oil (and it’s often not labeled as “toasted”). This ingredient has a unique flavor but you could also try perilla oil or unrefined peanut oil.
- Chicken thighs: chicken breasts will work well here too if you prefer them, but as always be careful to cook just to 165 degrees in center so they don’t start to dry out.
- Cornstarch: This is used to thicken a portion of the sauce to brush over the chicken after cooking. You could try arrowroot or tapioca starch (use twice as much tapioca) here if needed.
- Green onions and sesame seeds: These are optional garnishes that add color and texture.
How to Make Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
- Whisk together marinade ingredients: In a medium mixing bowl whisk together soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Ladle out 1/2 cup marinade, reserve it in fridge.
- Pour marinade over chicken: Place chicken in a gallon size resealable bag, pour remaining marinade over chicken. Seal bag while pressing out excess air, rub marinade over chicken.
- Rest chicken in fridge: Transfer to refrigerator and let marinate.
- Heat grill: Near the end of marinating preheat a grill over medium heat (about 375 degrees). Clean grill grates and brush lightly with oil.
- Cook teriyaki chicken on grill: Grill chicken until center reaches 165 degrees, turning halfway through.
- Thicken remaining sauce: While chicken is grilling, heat reserved 1/2 cup marinade mixed with 2 Tbsp water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and let simmer about 2 – 3 minutes.
- Whisk together remaining 1 Tbsp water and cornstarch in a small bowl until well combined, then whisk into sauce. Let cook about 30 seconds longer while stirring constantly. If needed you can season sauce with a little salt.
- Brush chicken with sauce, garnish: Brush sauce over grilled teriyaki chicken. Serve warm garnished with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.
How Long to Marinate Chicken in Teriyaki Sauce
- For best results marinate chicken at least 1 hour, to allow time for some flavor to be absorbed.
- Then preferably don’t marinate longer than 8 hours as the acidity in the marinade can start to alter the texture of the chicken.
How Long to Grill Teriyaki Chicken Thighs or Breasts
- Grilling at medium heat (375 degrees), using medium chicken thighs it takes approximately 6 – 7 minutes per side.
- Medium chicken breasts take about 5 minutes per side.
- Allow time to marinate for more flavor.
- Don’t forget to clean grill grates, and grease (using vegetable oil soaked paper towel and long tongs), so chicken doesn’t stick.
- Keep an eye on temperature of chicken so it doesn’t dry out.
- Let chicken rest a few minutes before slicing to allow juices to redistribute.
Can it be baked in the oven?
Yes, if you don’t own a grill (or if it’s too cold out) this could be oven baked. To do so:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Skip soaking in marinade in fridge (it will bake with sauce for a while), instead thicken all of the sauce with 2 tsp cornstarch and the water listed on the stovetop.
- Place chicken in greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pour over all the sauce.
- Bake until it’s cooked through. About 20 – 30 minutes.
More Crave-Worthy Teriyaki Recipes to Try
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Marinated Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce*
- 1/3 cup mirin
- 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp honey**
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil, or more to taste
- 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (7 medium, trim away fat)
- 3 Tbsp water
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- Sliced green onions and sesame seeds, for serving (optional)
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Ladle out 1/2 cup marinade (I like to leave most of the garlic and ginger bits in the bowl), and reserve the 1/2 cup in container in refrigerator.
- Place chicken in a gallon size resealable bag, pour remaining marinade over chicken. Seal bag while pressing out excess air, rub marinade over chicken (or marinate in a bowl).
- Transfer to refrigerator and let marinade 1 - 8 hours.
- Near the end of marinating preheat a grill over medium heat (about 375 degrees). Clean grill grates and brush lightly with oil.
- Grill chicken about 5 - 7 minutes per side (time will vary based on thickness and breasts will cook faster than thighs), until center registers 165 degrees.
- While chicken is grilling heat reserved 1/2 cup marinade mixed with 2 Tbsp water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and let simmer about 2 - 3 minutes.
- Whisk together remaining 1 Tbsp water and the cornstarch in a small bowl until well combined, then whisk into sauce. Let cook about 30 seconds longer while stirring constantly. If needed you can season sauce with a little salt.
- Brush sauce over grilled teriyaki chicken. Serve warm garnished with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.
- *For a spicy teriyaki sauce also stir 1 - 2 Tbsp sriracha into marinade mixture.
- **If you don't have honey on hand more brown sugar may be substituted.