This yakitori recipe is bite sized pieces of chicken that are grilled on skewers and coated in a sweet and savory glaze. A unique and unexpected appetizer or main course option that always gets rave reviews from family and friends.
Whenever we go to our local Japanese restaurant, I have to order the yakitori. These grilled skewers of meat are so flavorful, and are fun to eat too! I’ve learned how to make this classic recipe at home, and I have to say, my version is just as good as what you’d get at a restaurant.
What is yakitori?
Yakitori is grilled skewers made from all parts of the chicken, including chicken breast, chicken thighs, chicken hearts and gizzards. The meat is threaded onto sticks and cooked while being basted with a homemade sauce throughout the process. The sauce is called tare, and is somewhat similar to teriyaki sauce with both a sweet and salty element. These chicken skewers are typically served as an appetizer, although they’re hearty enough to serve as a full meal with some other dishes on the side.
How do you make yakitori?
The first step in this recipe is to make your sauce. Place soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, honey and rice vinegar in a pan. Bring the pan to a simmer, then add cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Cut chicken thighs into bite sized pieces, then place the chicken pieces onto wood skewers. Grill or broil the chicken, basting it multiple times with the sauce. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds and green onions on top, then serve and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect chicken
- I like to use chicken thighs for this recipe because they are more flavorful and are less likely to dry out on the grill. However, you can use chicken breasts if you prefer. Or you can switch things up and try cubes of pork tenderloin or sirloin steak.
- Soak your wood skewers in cold water for 30 minutes so that they don’t burn on the grill.
- The sauce can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the fridge. You can even make a double batch of the sauce, and freeze some for later use.
- These skewers can be cooked on an outdoor grill, inside on a grill pan, or in the oven. I prefer to grill them whenever possible because I find that the sauce caramelizes the best over the high heat of the grill.
What goes well with yakitori?
You can serve these yakitori on their own as an appetizer, or pair them with different starch and vegetable options to make a complete meal. Some of these ideas aren’t necessarily traditional Japanese food, but the flavors work well with the chicken.
Broiled chicken skewers
While yakitori are often made on a grill, you can also cook them in the oven if you prefer. Place the chicken skewers on a sheet pan lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Broil for 4 minutes per side, then baste with sauce and broil for an additional 4 minutes. Baste again, then broil for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions, then serve.
You’ll be amazed at how delicious this yakitori is – all the great restaurant flavors in the comfort of your own home!
More asian food favorites
For the skewers
- 1 1/4 pounds chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon green onions sliced
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the sauce
- Place the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, honey, sesame oil and rice vinegar in a small pot over medium high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce and boil for 1-2 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
For the chicken
- Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers that have been soaked in cold water. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then brush the vegetable oil over the skewers.
- Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan to medium heat.
- Cook the chicken for 4 minutes per side. Brush the sauce over the chicken and cook for an additional 2 minutes per side.
- Brush more sauce over the chicken, then cook for another minute per side.
- Brush a final layer of sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions, then serve.