What does teriyaki sauce taste like? Let me describe the flavor

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 7, 2021

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Japan has some of the most interesting condiments and sauces in its cuisine. And one of those is teriyaki sauce, which has a dark brown color and a luminous gloss.

This sauce is an everyday cooking or dipping item in many Japanese dishes due to its versatility and flavor. But for those who haven’t tried this type of sauce before, what does it tastes like?

What does teriyaki sauce taste like? Let me describe the flavor

Teriyaki sauce has got this distinctly rich sweetness and saltiness with a little bit of tang. If there are three different words to describe the taste perfectly, that would be: savory, sweet, and salty.

Another description that people use to describe it is soy sauce mixed with honey. Additional spices like pepper and garlic can change the flavor significantly.

The origins of teriyaki sauce

Interestingly, there is no official history for teriyaki sauce in Japan other than the word “teriyaki” itself.

Teriyaki is a grilling method discovered way back in the 17th century, along with “yakitori” and “sukiyaki.” The sweet, savory, and tangy teriyaki sauce was first made in Hawaii by Japanese immigrants years ago.

Back then, the aforementioned Japanese immigrants in Hawaii tried to recreate teriyaki recipes from home. However, because there is no Japanese marts or Amazon back then, people use what was distinctly available in Hawaii: pineapple.

The first-ever form of teriyaki sauce is considered to be soy sauce blended with pineapple juice.

Also read: Teriyaki vs. sukiyaki | Let’s compare these two popular Japanese classics

Can you use teriyaki sauce in other dishes?

Since the sauce originated for teriyaki, the main dish that needs teriyaki sauce is marinading meat.

It works great on almost all available meat products, including fish (like teriyaki salmon), chicken, and beef. If you want to add an additional layer of flavor, you can add other spices as well.

The marinated meat is then grilled in teriyaki-style after marinating for at least 30 minutes. People usually serve this grilled meat with rice and stir-fried vegetables.

You can also use this sauce as a glaze for other products or as a dipping sauce. Due to its sweetness, the unconventional use of teriyaki sauce is an additional flavor for slow cooker dishes.

How do you make teriyaki sauce?

Making a basic teriyaki sauce is quite simple. The ingredients are usually available from the pantry, except for mirin and sake.

In fact, you only need four ingredients to make a traditional teriyaki sauce:

  1. soy sauce
  2. sake
  3. mirin
  4. sugar

You can add spices for sauce variation, but that’s optional.

All the liquid ingredients measurements are half cups, while the sugar needs at least four tablespoons of sugar.

Mix all the ingredients and taste; add sugar or other ingredients until it’s up to taste. Bring the mixture to boil until it simmers, usually after 10-15 minutes.

Traditional teriyaki sauce isn’t really made with a thick viscosity. However, the sauce will be thickened after boiling.

You can add cornstarch or potato starch to make the sauce thicker. But just like the spices, this step is optional.

Original Japanese teriyaki sauces are usually more watery and have a more pronounced flavor.

Where can I buy teriyaki sauce?

Like other Japanese cooking essentials (such as mirin or sake,) teriyaki sauces are available on almost all groceries nationwide.

There are brands like Kikkoman that sell traditional flavors, while other brands like Tabasco have a spicy teriyaki sauce variety.

Just grab a bottle of your favorite teriyaki brand if you’re extremely busy.

How to store teriyaki sauce properly

Store-bought teriyaki sauce can be stored in the pantry with other condiments like soy sauce. As long as it is unopened, you can keep these bottles in a cool and dry place.

However, your homemade teriyaki sauce should stay in the refrigerator, especially if you added spices and other things to improve the flavor.

Read next: Is teriyaki sauce gluten free? Safe brands to buy & how to make your own

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

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.