How to thicken and sweeten teriyaki sauce | Best ingredient options
Teriyaki sauce is a delicious sweet and savory sauce used as a marinade, dipping sauce, and glaze for all kinds of meat and vegetable dishes.
The most notable is probably teriyaki chicken, the ultimate mouthwatering chicken with sticky sauce, vegetables, and rice.
Many people like to make teriyaki sauce from scratch but don’t know how to thicken and sweeten the sauce.
If you want a thicker teriyaki sauce, your go-to ingredient is cornstarch, while honey adds extra sweetness to your homemade teriyaki sauce and many use it to sweeten their store-bought sauces as well.
In this post, I’m sharing several methods to thicken and sweeten both homemade and bottled teriyaki sauce to make it taste better.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 How to thicken teriyaki sauce
- 2 How to sweeten teriyaki sauce
- 3 How to sweeten store-bought teriyaki sauce
- 4 Why is thick teriyaki sauce so popular?
- 5 How to make your own (better) Kikkoman teriyaki sauce
- 6 Get sweeter and thicker teriyaki sauce
How to thicken teriyaki sauce
If you only need to make the teriyaki sauce slightly thicker, then simply cook it for a longer time. This can thicken it up.
But if the sauce is simply too runny, there are several ways to fix it.
The best way to thicken teriyaki sauce is with cornstarch.
If you’re making teriyaki sauce at home, most recipes tell you to add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and that’s usually enough. It makes the teriyaki sauce syrupy thick.
But if it’s still too runny, add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch.
For the best thick sauce, use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every ¼ cup of water you add to the sauce. Whisk the water and cornstarch together until you get a paste.
Heat up all the other ingredients you use to make the teriyaki sauce, and then add the cornstarch mix. Stir constantly and watch as it thickens.
You can add wheat flour to thicken teriyaki sauce, but don’t add it directly. If you do, it gets clumpy and ruins the sauce.
First, you have to make a roux with flour and oil. Add an equal amount of vegetable oil and wheat flour and stir in a small saucepan.
Then add about ¼ cup of water for each tablespoon of flour to make a thicker liquid.
Rice flour is a healthier alternative to wheat flour and it’s made of ground-up rice. As it cooks, it absorbs the liquid and acts as a thickener for sauces.
When you want to make teriyaki sauce thicker, drizzle some rice flour while you’re heating the sauce. Unlike other flours, this one starts to thicken instantly, so you can immediately tell how much to add, depending on how thick you like it.
This last one is a great option if you want the teriyaki sauce to be thicker AND sweeter. So if you use brown sugar, prepare to have a very sweet sauce.
Brown sugar acts as a thickener because it contains molasses, and it becomes thick. Add 2 or more tablespoons of brown sugar to the teriyaki sauce while you heat it and watch it get thicker and sweeter.
How to sweeten teriyaki sauce
Especially when you make teriyaki sauce at home, it’s easy to make it sweeter (and thicker).
Honey or brown sugar
The easiest way to sweeten teriyaki sauce is to add a teaspoon of honey. Since honey has a syrup-like consistency, it’s quite similar to teriyaki sauce and mixes well with it.
For ¾ cup teriyaki sauce, you can add ⅓ cup honey. This really sweetens the sauce and makes it perfect if you want to use it as a marinade for meat, especially chicken wings.
Homemade teriyaki sauce recipes call for water, about 5 or so tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 or 2 tablespoons of honey, garlic, mirin or sake, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. If you use mirin, it also adds more sweetness than sake.
So to make any teriyaki sauce even sweeter, you can add an extra tablespoon of brown sugar or honey.
In case you were wondering: Is teriyaki healthy? It depends on how you make it!
How to sweeten store-bought teriyaki sauce
Well, you’ve bought bottled teriyaki sauce like Kikkoman from the store. But it’s just not sweet enough for your liking.
What can you do? It’s quite easy to sweeten it.
How to make Kikkoman teriyaki sauce sweeter and better
Add a splash or tablespoon of pineapple juice. This sweetens the sauce and gives a subtle fruity taste, which improves the flavor of most store-bought teriyaki sauces.
Another option is a teaspoon of brown sugar dissolved in the teriyaki sauce.
The final way to sweeten it is to make a soy sauce and sugar reduction.
For this, you can use any kind of sugar, including white or brown. For healthier and less refined varieties, use cane sugar, palm sugar, or coconut sugar.
Many people feel that store-bought teriyaki sauce is less flavorful than the homemade version. But that’s because it’s processed and has a “universal” kind of flavor that is supposed to go with all kinds of foods.
There’s nothing wrong with customizing and improving it by adding more sugar, honey, or pineapple juice for sweetness and a bit of cornstarch to make it a thick sauce.
Did you know that Kikkoman sells a sweet teriyaki sauce too?
The Kikkoman teriyaki bake and glaze with honey and pineapple is a sweeter alternative to their classic teriyaki sauce.
Customers really like to use this sauce as a glaze for fish, salmon, and sweet chicken teriyaki dishes.
Why is thick teriyaki sauce so popular?
If you use teriyaki sauce, especially bottled varieties from grocery stores, you’ll notice that it’s kind of a runny brown liquid similar to soy sauce. It’s ideal for marinades, but if you want to coat chicken, pork, beef, or veggies, a thick glaze is even better.
Thick and sweet teriyaki sauce is a very popular variation on classic thin teriyaki sauce. Not only is it popular in Japan, but Americans seem to really love the thick and sweet version, probably because it’s a tasty substitute for BBQ sauce.
It’s versatile: you can use it as a dipping sauce for all kinds of foods, even pizza. Or you can marinate meats to grill. Then, of course, you can use thick teriyaki sauce to make all your favorite Japanese dishes.
But the bottom line is that a thick sauce can coat the food very well and “sticks” to it, unlike a thin sauce that drips off the meat.
Read more about popular sauces: 9 best sushi sauces you must try! List of names + recipes!
How to make your own (better) Kikkoman teriyaki sauce
I was surprised to read the ingredient list of Kikkoman teriyaki sauce. It doesn’t contain classic Japanese ingredients like mirin or sake. That’s probably why people want to improve on the flavor.
Kikkoman teriyaki sauce is made of soy sauce, wine, sugar, garlic powder, spirit vinegar, salt, spices, onion powder, and water.
To make a similar teriyaki sauce at home, I’d recommend using soy sauce, mirin, or sake (mirin for a sweeter sauce), brown sugar (adds thickness), garlic powder, onion powder, rice vinegar, salt, spices, and water. Also, add some cornstarch to make it thicker.
Heat up the liquid ingredients, and then as the sauce starts to form, add the brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to make it a thick sauce.
Get sweeter and thicker teriyaki sauce
The next time you feel a bit frustrated by your teriyaki sauce’s texture and flavor, don’t hesitate to go for a quick fix. A bit of cornstarch, flour, or brown sugar goes a long way and thickens the sauce.
If you want it sweeter, use honey and sugar. It won’t taste like those artificial sweeteners you find in most bottled sauces!
Now that you’ve perfected your teriyaki sauce, why not make this delicious & healthy teriyaki salmon recipe (includes variations and pairing tips)?
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.