salmon teriyaki with broccoli

Simply teriyaki

8 October 2010

When I cook fish at home, it’s usually this – salmon grilled under the broiler with a generous glaze of this gorgeous and remarkably easy to make teriyaki sauce. This is a bona fide Japanese grandma recipe (from my cousin’s mother-in-law, may she rest in peace), and it’s a favorite in my family. The sauce takes ten minutes to prepare and transforms any grilled chicken, beef or fish.

I’m not a huge fan of cooked salmon in general (though I love it raw or smoked), but to me the flavors of salmon and teriyaki are made for each other. I’ll usually broil some boneless chicken breasts as well so the kids can have teriyaki chicken, but even the salmon-averse adults in my extended family enjoy the rich savory sweetness of the salmon teriyaki.

It’s easy to make the sauce ahead – you can even make it days ahead, as it keeps well in the refrigerator. The one ingredient you may not have is sake, a Japanese rice wine. These days it should be easy to find, possibly at your local supermarket and certainly at a liquor store. Trader Joe’s sells this one in the green bottle for about $7. The recipe also calls for mirin, a sweet rice wine, but I’ve included an all-sake variation to keep things as simple as possible.

Crush the garlic for the sauce with using the side of a broad knife. This releases the flavor while maintaining a nice clear sauce, and it also makes the papery peel easy to pop off.

Add soy sauce, sake, mirin (if using) and sugar into a small saucepan with garlic and a slice of ginger. Cook at a lively boil for a few minutes.

Add cornstarch mixed with water to thicken the sauce. This will make the sauce temporarily cloudy.

Cook another couple of minutes, stirring, until sauce is clear and syrupy.

Makes about a cup of sauce, enough for eight servings.

Now to the salmon. I defrosted my frozen fillets in cold water. You can also do this ahead in the refrigerator.

Place on baking sheet with a drizzle of soy sauce and sake to marinate for a few minutes. You could also do this ahead in the refrigerator.

Flip skin side up for cooking. Heat broiler on high.

Broil for a few minutes, until skin is crisp and edges curling up. Remove from oven.

Use tongs carefully to peel off salmon skin.

Skinned salmon.

Flip fillets over for second round in broiler.

Cook until light pink and just done, so the salmon stays soft and flaky.

Glaze with teriyaki sauce and serve with whatever you like. I like steamed rice and a simple vegetable.

This sauce is really versatile. I’ve also used it with mahi mahi (pictured below, this time with a mix of white and brown rice). If you make chicken or beef teriyaki, I recommend you cut the meat across the grain into strips before drizzling with sauce. That way it’s easier to eat – Asian food and table knives don’t mix – and opens up more surface area to take in the teriyaki glaze.

Teriyaki sauce
A savory-sweet sauce delicious over grilled chicken, beef or fish. Pairs particularly well with salmon.


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sake (Japanese rice wine, pronounced sah-kay)
  • 1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine – can substitute with 1/2 cup sake plus 2 tablespoons sugar)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 slice ginger, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


  1. In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, garlic and ginger.
  2. Cook over medium high heat three to four minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, blend water and cornstarch. Stir cornstarch mixture into saucepan.
  4. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Take out ginger and garlic.
  5. Drizzle teriyaki sauce over grilled fish or meat before serving.
  6. Leftover sauce keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge or indefinitely in the freezer.

Makes one cup (approximately 8 servings).


  • To broil salmon: Marinate salmon with a drizzle of soy sauce and sake. Place salmon fillets skin side up on baking sheet. Place on top rack of oven. Broil on high for 3-5 minutes, until skin is curled up at the edges and looking crisp. Remove baking sheet from oven. Use tongs to take salmon skin off fillets by grasping one edge and carefully peeling off the crisp skin. Use spatula to turn fillets over. Again place baking sheet in oven under broiler on high for another 2-4 minutes. The second side should cook faster than the first, so watch carefully. Salmon will be most tender when just cooked (light pink), so take care not to overcook.
  • If using with chicken or beef, it helps to slice the meat across the grain into strips after grilling so that there’s more surface area to take in the teriyaki glaze.
  • Teriyaki sauce does not solidify in freezer, so it’s easy to store frozen and measure servings out as needed.

Link to Teriyaki sauce recipe for printing.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke 26 February 2015 at 6:22 pm

This sauce is amazing!


cg 26 February 2015 at 7:07 pm

ooh yes, it’s transformative! so great with fish, meat or veggies. glad you tried it! =)


Caroline 4 October 2015 at 12:47 pm

Hello! I tried this last night and while the taste is quite tasty, I can’t for the life of me make the sauce thick… it’s very runny, like soy sauce consistency… I looked back at the instructions and feel certain I followed all to a T, but maybe I missed a step? In the future, any advice on how to make the sauce thick?


cg 13 October 2015 at 12:05 am

hi caroline – i am sorry, meant to reply to you earlier! the cornstarch-water mixture added to the end should make the sauce thick enough – it just needs to cook another minute or so to thicken (the heat will activate the cornstarch). but your question made me curious, and i just read that cornstarch can break its thickened bind if it’s overly agitated. did the sauce seem to thicken at first and then thin out again? if that doesn’t seem to be the problem, it may have been that the cornstarch just wasn’t sufficient for some reason – next time try a bit more cornstarch mixed with water? and stir just until thickened, not too much more. good luck!


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