Mom’s Homemade Teriyaki Marinade

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A treasured family recipe, my Mom’s Homemade Teriyaki Marinade is a taste of PWWB family cookouts! This Hawaiian-style homemade teriyaki sauce marinade is incredibly simple yet boasts bold flavor, with the perfect balance of salty shoyu, aromatic garlic & ginger, & sweetness from brown sugar which creates a crave-worthy caramelized char on whatever you’re grilling! Made with just 6 ingredients in 5 minutes or less, this teriyaki marinade is the perfect all-purpose solution for grilled teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, teriyaki pork, teriyaki burgers or teriyaki-anything all summer long!

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Grilled Teriyaki chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with sliced green onion & sesame seeds.
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Mom knows best, especially when it comes to Teriyaki!

Mom’s recipes are some of our most popular here on PWWB, as evidenced by how much the PWWB community loves her Sweet & Sour Pork & Pork Chow Fun. This comes as no surprise to me. Mom is basically the queen of quick, easy, satisfying meals. Everything she makes is totally craveable, making you feel completely comforted & cared for, but she also cooks with a certain pragmatism – her approach is straight-forward, no-fuss, & it’s always so darn good. Mom’s Teriyaki Marinade is no exception.

This teriyaki marinade is my personal favorite in our line-up of 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades. It’s one of my most treasured family recipes & the flavors take me straight back to my childhood. Rather than going camping like most Midwest families, my family’s summer trips typically involved sailing around Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands. Since the boats we chartered were equipped with teeny-tiny kitchens, Mom always prepped a few meals we could easily make on the sailboat’s grill. Her teriyaki was always the culinary highlight of our trips. In fact, this homemade teriyaki marinade is likely the recipe that ignited my obsession with all things grilled.

Like all of Mom’s recipes, her teriyaki sauce marinade is incredibly simple to make yet boasts big, bold flavor. Rich, salty shoyu provides an umami-filled backdrop for fragrant & zippy aromatics like ginger & garlic. A generous amount of brown sugar adds sweetness, which translates to crave-worthy caramelized char on whatever you’re grilling. SO good! This teriyaki marinade is perfect on teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, teriyaki pork, or teriyaki burgers…teriyaki-anything, really!

Teriyaki marinade shown in a small ball jar, sitting atop a light blue surface with green onion & fresh ginger in the foreground & the background.

Homemade Teriyaki Marinade Recipe Highlights

This Teriyaki Marinade is (click for shortcuts within this post!)

  • PERFECTLY BALANCED. A combination of shoyu, ginger, garlic, & brown sugar create perfectly balanced rich, savory, & sweet notes.
  • TOTALLY SIMPLE. This teriyaki marinade recipe is made with just 6 simple ingredients, plus you can mix it up in 5 minutes or less. Truly so quick & easy!
  • VERSATILE. The best part? You can use it on just about everything. It makes the BEST teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, & teriyaki pork. You can even use it to add loads of flavor to your favorite kebabs or brush it over beef patties for Hawaiian-style teriyaki burgers! Teriyaki-anything, really!

Mom really does know best! ♡ Read on to learn more about this homemade teriyaki marinade or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!

This Teriyaki Marinade is made with simple pantry ingredients!

Mom’s teriyaki sauce marinade is super easy to throw together, mostly because all of the ingredients you need are staple ingredients you probably already have on hand!

Teriyaki marinade ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, green onions, & fresh ginger.
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Shoyu – A staple in Hawaiian kitchens, & one of the star ingredients in teriyaki! In Hawaii, soy sauce is commonly called shoyu, the Japanese word for soy sauce. Aloha Shoyu is my go-to.
  • Brown sugar – Another key element, brown sugar adds irresistible sweetness to offset the salty flavor of shoyu. If possible, use dark brown sugar, which adds extra rich & caramelly flavor.
  • Aromatics – Namely generous amounts of green onion, garlic,fresh ginger, which add lots of aromatic flavor to the teriyaki marinade. Quick Mom Tip ⇢ There’s no need to perfectly slice or chop anything when you’re using it in a marinade since all you’re looking to do is draw out its flavors. Instead of chopping garlic, simply smashing the cloves just a bit to help pull out their flavors. Similarly, there’s no need to peel & chop ginger – just slice it into thin pieces & throw it right into your marinade!
  • Water – Just a splash, to dilute the shoyu & help bring the teriyaki marinade together.

So simple!

How to make this Homemade Teriyaki Marinade:

Aside from being a seriously versatile summer grilling superstar, the best thing about this homemade marinade recipe is how quickly it comes together! It’s a really simple one bowl, 5-minute operation!

Here’s how you do it: Simply add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl, whisking to combine. That’s it! With your teriyaki marinade mixed & ready to go, you can use it immediately or transfer to a small jar & place it in the fridge for later use. (In fact, if you’re prepping for later use, you can skip the bowl & combine all of the ingredients in a small jar & shake to combine – less dishes, for the win!)

Suggested Marinating Time:

Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you use. Having tested this teriyaki grill marinade with a variety of different proteins & a variety of different marinating times, here’s what I suggest:

  • Mild proteins like chicken & pork should soak in this teriyaki marinade for at least 6 hours & up to 3 days. The longer, the better, so be sure to plan ahead if possible!
  • Rich or gamey proteins like beef & lamb should soak in this teriyaki marinade for at least 12 hours & up to 3 days. Same here, the longer you can marinate, the better, so be sure to plan ahead if possible!
  • Veggies last even longer – you can marinate them for at least 20 minutes or up to 5 days.
  • Delicate proteins (i.e. seafood – salmon, shrimp, flaky white fish) have a shorter marinade time – aim for at least 20 minutes & no more than 1 hour.
Side angle of chicken thighs in a large glass mixing bowl, marinating in Teriyaki marinade. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.

Make-Ahead & Meal Prep:

Great news for meal preppers: despite the suggested marinating times for this teriyaki marinade recipe, you can still get ahead on your dinner by prepping the marinade in advance. (A little bonus? The flavors of the marinade meld together even more the longer it sits!)

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Prep the marinade & store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator. The marinade will keep for up to 5 days.
  • When you’re ready to start marinating (refer to the suggested marinating times above), simply give the marinade a shake & pour it over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy!
Chicken thighs in a Ziploc bag, marinating in Teriyaki marinade. The bag sits atop a light blue surface. "Teriyaki Marinade" is penned in the bag's memo area.

How to use Teriyaki for Grilling:

Since you can’t really beat perfectly salty-sweet teriyaki chicken or teriyaki steak, we like to keep things pretty traditional when we grill with Mom’s teriyaki marinade. You can, however, use it on whatever you love most because it’s really versatile – a staple homemade teriyaki marinade for grilling season, for sure!

A few favorite pairings to try include:

  • Teriyaki chicken. Probably the most classic use for teriyaki marinade, with good reason – grilled teriyaki chicken is so satisfying! The sweet, umami notes in this teriyaki sauce marinade add so much flavor to boneless, skinless chicken breasts & thighs. You can also use it on bone-in skin on parts, like legs & drumsticks.
  • Seafood. The savory-sweet notes also work well with grilled salmon & grilled shrimp.
  • Pork. Grilled pork chops or pork tenderloin practically beg for brown sugar & aromatics like garlic & ginger!
  • Teriyaki beef. My personal favorite! Salty-sweet grilled teriyaki beef is simply the best. Use on your favorite tender steaks, like grilled ribeye or sirloin. It’s also great on slightly tougher cuts like flank steak & short ribs!
  • Grilled teriyaki burgers! A local-style Hawaiian favorite, reduce the marinade some & brush over beef or chicken patties for the perfect umami-sweet burger.

No grill? No problem! If you do not have access to a grill, this teriyaki marinade also works great with any other preparation – stovetop, skillet meals, sheet pan meals, etc. Tip! ⇢ You can create a similar caramelized, grilled effect by using a grill pan on the stove or baking in the oven & finishing under the broiler. 

My ideal plate? ⇢ Grilled Teriyaki Ribeye! Marinate nicely marbled ribeye steaks. Grill them over medium-high heat until crusty & charred. Serve alongside grilled asparagus & sticky rice, with a generous sprinkling of freshly snipped chives & furikake. Pro Tip ⇢ Don’t let the juices go to waste! Let the steaks rest a few minutes before serving & do not let the juices & drippings that collect at the bottom of the plate go to waste…they’re teriyaki gold! Reserve & spoon over sticky rice…it may or may not be the part we all fight for at the PWWB House!

I can’t wait for you to try Mom’s Homemade Teriyaki Sauce Marinade recipe! This is one of our family’s favorites, & I know you’ll love it just as much as we do. If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Want more marinades for grilling season? Got you covered! Check out PWWB’s 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades. Happy grilling! ♡

Print
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Grilled Teriyaki chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with sliced green onion & sesame seeds.

Mom’s Homemade Teriyaki Marinade

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Condiments
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Description

A treasured family recipe, my Mom’s Homemade Teriyaki Marinade is a Hawaiian-style homemade teriyaki sauce marinade. It’s incredibly simple to make yet boasts bold flavor, with the perfect balance of salty shoyu, aromatic garlic & ginger, & sweetness from brown sugar which creates a crave-worthy caramelized char on whatever you’re grilling! Use it to make grilled teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, teriyaki pork, teriyaki burgers or teriyaki-anything all summer long!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds meat or veggies of choice
  • ¾ cup soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
  • ¼ cup water
  • ⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar 
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced

Teriyaki marinade ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, green onions, & fresh ginger.


Instructions

  1. Mix the teriyaki marinade: Add the soy sauce, water, & brown sugar to a bowl or jar. Whisk or shake to combine. Add the garlic, green onion, & ginger and stir to combine.Teriyaki marinade shown in a small ball jar, sitting atop a light blue surface with green onion & fresh ginger in the foreground & the background.
  2. Marinate: Pour the teriyaki sauce over your meat or veggies of choice. Marinate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
    Chicken thighs in a large glass mixing bowl, marinating in Teriyaki marinade. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.
  3. Grill as desired. Enjoy!
    Grilled Teriyaki chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with sliced green onion & sesame seeds.

Equipment


Notes

  • Teriyaki Marinade vs Teriyaki Sauce: As written, this recipe yields a loose teriyaki marinade. If you’d like to make teriyaki sauce for glazing or for dipping, all you have to do is thicken it up some. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisking occasionally, bring it to a boil & let it simmer until it reduces slightly. Finish it by whisking in cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch whisked into water), which will tighten the teriyaki into a beautiful, thick & glossy sauce.
  • Suggested marinade time: Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you’d like to use. Having tested this teriyaki marinade on a variety of different proteins with a variety of different marinating times, here’s what we suggest:
    • Seafood – At least 20 minutes & no more than 1 hour.
    • Chicken & pork – At least 6 hours & up to 3 days for maximum flavor.
    • Beef & lamb – At least 12 hours & up to 3 days for maximum flavor.
    • Veggies – At least 20 minutes or up to 5 days.
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep:If you’d like to marinate something beyond the suggested marinade times above but would like to do some meal prep, I suggest prepping the marinade in advance. Store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days – the flavors meld together even more as the marinade sits. When you’re ready to start marinating (refer to the suggested marinating times above), simply give it the marinade a shake & pour it over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy!

Keywords: teriyaki marinade, teriyaki sauce, homemade, best, easy, grilling, weeknight dinner, summer, Japanese, Hawaiian

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat

Grilled Teriyaki chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with sliced green onion & sesame seeds.

Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compliation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

Want more grilling tips & recipes?

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 6.12.21
    Brenda Haines said:

    I made this last night. Grilled the chicken to perfection and it was so good!

    • 6.12.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      So glad to hear it Brenda! We love this teriyaki sauce as a marinade – be on the lookout for more grilling marinades coming soon! 🙂

  2. 6.29.20
    Marit said:

    Love this recipe! Used it for chicken and pork, and used the leftover sauce to mix in cooked rice – it is delicious!

    • 6.30.20

      Yesss, drizzling the leftover sauce over rice is THE best part. So glad you enjoyed, Marit! xx

  3. 5.14.19
    Alisha said:

    Used this with steak. It was so flavorful and delicious. Had it with Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. Such a simple dinner, but the marinade made it perfect!