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Water Cooler: Master your own homemade teriyaki sauce

UPDATED: Wed., April 14, 2021

Caption for WC Spotlight goes here  (Pixabay)
Caption for WC Spotlight goes here (Pixabay)

Once you learn how simple it is to make teriyaki sauce, you’ll be wondering why you bought it from the store all these years. Traditional teriyaki sauce calls for three basic ingredients – soy sauce, sake and mirin.

Teriyaki is actually not a sauce, but a cooking technique that refers to glazing grilled, pan-fried or broiled foods in soy sauce, mirin and sugar. The word itself is derived from the noun “teri” which refers to the luster created by the sugar content of the tare sauce, which is a general term for any dipping sauce in Japanese cuisine, usually comprised of a soy sauce reduction combined with other flavoring agents, like oyster sauce or sake.

The fun aspect of making teriyaki sauce at home is being able to customize the flavor additives, such as adding garlic, ginger, shallot or other aromatics. You can keep your homemade teriyaki sauce simple and traditional, or shake things up by creating your own unique blends. To get the most flavor out of your aromatics, pan-fry the aromatics in a bit of neutral cooking oil on a low- to-medium heat before adding in the rest of the sauce ingredients.

Once the aromatics are done, measure equal parts sake, mirin and soy sauce. You can make any amount you’d like, as long as the liquid ingredients are measured equally. Turn the stove to medium heat, or whatever heat level brings your sauce to a gentle simmer. Let the sauce continue to simmer until it reduces to about one-third. Taste it to determine how much longer you would like it to cook. If the alcohol flavor is too strong, continue cooking it off until the flavor mellows.

You can also add additional sugar at this stage, depending on what sweetness level you like. Additional sugar will also help thicken the sauce. Taste it first before deciding to add sugar, because depending on which type of mirin you used, it may have already added a bit of sweetness. Some mirin, such as aji-mirin or mirin seasoning, already contains corn syrup. Straight mirin, which is rice cooking wine, does not have any additional sugar.

If you don’t want to add extra sugar to the sauce, but you need something to help thicken the sauce, create a simple corn starch slurry. This is achieved by gently whisking one part cornstarch to two parts water. Once it is evenly combined and there are no cornstarch chunks, pour it directly in the pot. Also keep in mind that the sauce may thicken a bit as it cools. The ideal consistency is totally up to your preferences.

For a bit of extra texture, you can optionally add white sesame seeds to the sauce. Feel free to add them right in, or you can also toast them in the oven or on the stove top until lightly golden for a more robust sesame flavor.

Once the sauce has cooled, store it in the refrigerator in a jar or squeeze bottle. Having the sauce allows you to turn in a few simple ingredients into a balanced and delicious weeknight dinner. Cook up some rice, and pair it with any vegetable or protein you have handy. It doesn’t have to be limited to chicken. Teriyaki sauce is also great on salmon or grilled tofu.

You can serve it over some zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, onion, or whatever produce that stir-fries well. With just a bit of teriyaki sauce, you can repurpose odds and ends from leftovers into one seamless dish. Family and friends will love the simplicity and fresh flavor of your homemade teriyaki sauce.

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