Learn how to make yakitori, Japanese grilled chicken skewers doused in a delicious yakitori sauce. Ready in minutes; it’s crispy, full of flavors and easy to customize!
If you regularly enjoy Japanese cuisine, you’ll be familiar with Yakitori. Like beef negimaki and harumaki, they are a popular Japanese appetizer that tastes so good, you’ll make it all the time!
What is yakitori?
Yakitori is a Japanese word that translates to grilled chicken. It’s made by grilling chicken pieces on skewers that are covered with a sweet and sticky sauce than caramelizes all over it.
While this dish may look incredibly fancy, it comes together with just a handful of ingredients. It’s packed with protein and healthy fats. It makes the perfect starting point for a well-balanced dinner.
As for the sauce, while you can buy bottled yakitori sauce, making your own is simple and needs just 3 ingredients.
Just like our tempura sauce and eel sauce, it’s so much more delicious when made at home!
What is yakitori made of?
As mentioned earlier, this recipe uses a handful of ingredients that can easily be found at any grocery store. If you regularly make any of my Japanese recipes, you’ll already have everything on hand.
For the chicken
- Chicken breast. While thighs are sometimes used, chicken breasts work a little better as the sauce keeps it moist and tender.
- Green onions. You can substitute this with scallions.
For the yakitori sauce
- Soy sauce. Avoid dark or flavored soy sauces as these have added sugar and thickeners in them. Kikkoman is a solid brand and they also have a gluten free option. If soy is an issue, try tamari instead.
- Mirin. A Japanese cooking wine that can easily be found at mainstream grocery stores or Asian supermarkets. Dry sherry or Chinese rice wine will also work. If you’d like to make it without alcohol, swap it out with vinegar and white sugar.
How to make yakitori chicken?
This recipe is very simple and follows a mechanical process. It comes together in less than 10 minutes and your kitchen will smell amazing!
Step 1- Soak skewers in water
Soak the skewers in water for at least 5 minutes as this helps them remain intact during the cooking process and prevents the chicken from sticking to it.
Step 2- Make the yakitori sauce
Next, add the sauce ingredients to a saucepan and place it on medium-high heat. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes until it has thickened.
Step 3- Prep the chicken
Cut both the chicken and the shallots into 2 cm long pieces. Remove the white end part of the shallots. Add pieces of the chicken and shallots to the skewers, alternating each one.
Brush yakitori sauce over all parts of the chicken.
Step 4- Grill the chicken skewers
Finally, add the yakitori to a preheated grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, turning regularly.
What type of meat can be used for yakitori?
The beauty of this dish is just how easy it is to customize. Simply swap out the chicken for other protein and this works just as well. Here are some popular options-
- Gyutan. It’s beef tongue; combines the Japanese word “gyu” meaning cow and the English word tongue (tan).
- Reba. The Japanese word for beef liver.
- Shiro. Also known as Shiro Reba, it’s fatty beef liver.
- Toriniku. Chicken breast fillets.
- Pork. Finely chopped pork shoulder or pork chops.
Tips to make the best recipe
- If you don’t have chicken breast on hand, use chicken thighs or tenderloins.
- Avoid overcooking the chicken. Regularly turn the skewers throughout the cooking process so all sides cook evenly.
- Ensure there are no gaps between the chicken and shallots which can burn the skewers.
- To store: Place leftover chicken skewers in a shallow container and store it in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- To freeze: Place the cooked and cooled skewers in a ziplock bag and store it in the freezer for up to two months.
- Reheating: Either microwave the chicken for 20-30 seconds or in a non-stick pan.
More delicious Japanese recipes to try
Frequently Asked Questions
Teriyaki sauce has a bold flavor, sweeter taste, and thicker texture than yakitori sauce, a combination of sugar, mirin, sake, and soy sauce.
Simple carbs or salads are best to pair with this chicken. Try a kani salad or some fresh greens like green beans or asparagus.
- 2 small chicken breasts skinless and boneless
- 4 large green onions
- 2 tablespoons oil to grill
Place 10 bamboo shoots in cold water for 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan, add the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, and place over medium heat. Once it simmers, reduce it to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Chop the chicken and green onions into 2-inch pieces.
Add the chicken and green onions to the soaked skewers. Once all the chicken is skewered, brush yakitori sauce on all sides.
Add some oil to a grill or non-stick skillet. Once hot, add the chicken yakitori and grill for 5 minutes, regularly turning.
Remove the skewers off the heat and let sprinkle with more green onions and sesame seeds.
TO FREEZE: Place the cooked and cooled skewers in a ziplock bag and store it in the freezer for up to two months.
TO REHEAT: Either microwave the chicken for 20-30 seconds or in a non-stick pan.
Serving: 1skewer | Calories: 116kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 4g | Sodium: 1265mg | Potassium: 180mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Vitamin A: 133IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg | NET CARBS: 12g