Yakitori
This Chicken Yakitori with its tender chicken and bold, complex, sweet and savory sauce belongs in your life and in your belly. Yakitori is a popular Japanese grilled chicken skewer that can be served as a tantalizing dinner or crowd-pleasing appetizer. The chicken is slathered with AMAZING tare (teriyaki-like sauce) while it sizzles over a hot grill. The homemade sauce doubles as the marinade for an easy family favorite that can be prepped in minutes. If you don’t have a grill – no problem – I’ve also included instructions how to make juicy yakitori in the oven. Serve chicken yakitori plain as an appetizer, or as dinner along with rice, salad, veggies, etc. or even in salads or wraps or lettuce wraps. No matter how you serve this sensational chicken, everyone will be clamoring for more!
Servings Prep Time
8-10 skewers 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10minutes marinating
Servings Prep Time
8-10 skewers 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10minutes marinating
top view of two Momo Yakitori in a bowl with grilled pineapple
Ingredients
  • 2pounds boneless chicken thighschopped into 1 1/2-2” pieces**
  • 3tablespoons olive oil
Yakitori Sauce/Marinade
  • 1/2cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4cup Asian sweet chili sauce(like Mae Ploy)
  • 1/4cup water
  • 2tablespoon sweet Japanese rice wine(see ingredient notes in post)
  • 2tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/4teaspoon black pepper
Garnish (optional)
  • green onions
  • sesame seeds
  • Asian chili sauce/Sriracha
Instructions
  1. Whisk together all of the Marinade/Sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Remove 1/3 cup sauce and add to a large bowl or freezer bag and whisk in olive oil. Add chicken and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator (the longer the better). Refrigerate remaining sauce separately.
  2. If using wooden skewers, begin soaking when you marinate chicken.
  3. When ready to cook, thread chicken onto skewers, folding thin pieces almost in half so you skewer through both the top and bottom.
  4. Add reserved Yakitori Sauce to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Simmer and whisk until thickened but not too thick (consistency of BBQ sauce), about 3 minutes.
TO GRILL
  1. Grease grill and heat to high heat.
  2. Once hot, add chicken, reduce heat to medium (350 degrees F with lid on), cover and grill chicken 3-4 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through (internal temp of 165 degrees F). Baste chicken with some of the Yakitori sauce the last minute of cooking on each side (the outside of the chicken should be cooked/opaque at this point so it won’t cross contaminate the sauce). Actual cooking time will depend on thickness of chicken and temperature of grill.
  3. Brush cooked chicken once more with sauce.
TO BAKE/BROIL
  1. Turn oven to broil so it can get hot before adding chicken. Place one oven rack in the middle of the oven and a second rack about 10” away from the broiler.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a baking rack. Lightly spray rack with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Line chicken skewers on baking rack so they aren’t touching. Place chicken in the oven on the MIDDLE rack and broil for 6 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken from oven and baste the top of the skewers with sauce. Return to oven on the TOP rack and broil for approximately 2 minutes or until starting to char. Watch closely so the chicken doesn’t burn.
  5. Remove chicken from oven, flip over, and baste the other side with sauce. Return to oven on the TOP rack and broil for approximately 2 minutes or until starting to char. Watch closely so the chicken doesn’t burn.
  6. Check chicken for doneness (internal temp of 165 degrees F, or cut the thickest piece open). If chicken isn’t quite done, then return to the middle rack and broil until done (I haven’t had to do this). Actual cooking time will depend on thickness of chicken and actual temperature of oven.
  7. Brush cooked chicken once more with sauce.
Recipe Notes

Tips for Yakitori

  • Japanese rice wine:  use rice wine and NOT rice wine vinegar. Rice vinegar is much tangier and less sweet than rice wine. I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.
  • Japanese rice wine substitute: omit rice wine, increase the sugar to 1/3 cup and increase apple cider vinegar to 1/4 cup
  • Use reduced sodium soy sauce!  If you don’t use reduced sodium soy sauce then your yakitori will be too salty.
  • **Don’t cut chicken too small.  Chicken thighs aren’t straight forward cubes like chicken breasts but don’t stress too much about it.  I recommend cutting thinner part of the chicken into 2” pieces and then folding it back on itself as you skewer to create a thicker piece. I then chop the thicker pieces into 1 ½” pieces so all of the chicken is roughly the same size so they cook evenly.  Avoid cutting the chicken too small or it can easily overcook.
  • Marinate longer!  For maximum flavor and tenderness, I recommend that you marinate the chicken for 12 hours. The longer you marinate it for, the more flavorful it will become.
  • Space chicken close together. I like to pack the chicken pieces pretty close together – so they are touching but not smashed together. If you pack them too tight, the middle may not cook through but if you place them just touching, then this helps prevent overcooking and promotes juicier chicken. 
  • Don’t mix chicken.  Don’t combine chicken thighs and chicken breasts on one skewer because they can require different cooking times.
  • Space skewers apart.  Make sure there is room in between the chicken skewers when you grill or broil so your chicken cooks and doesn’t just steam.
  • Don’t overcook chicken.  The most important aspect of cooking chicken with any method is not to overcook it – no one wants dry chicken! I recommend investing in an instant-read thermometer so you know exactly when your chicken is done so you can pull it off the heat immediately.

Can I use chicken breasts?

Chicken thighs chicken are the key to the juiciest chicken skewers but you may swap them for chicken breasts.

  • Chicken breasts are leaner so take care to marinate them for a sufficient amount of time so they can still merge juicy.
  • Don’t overcook chicken breasts or they will dry out. 
  • Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness so they cook evenly. 
  • I suggest using chicken fillets, which are large chicken breasts sliced through the equator to create 4 thinner cuts.
  • This yakitori recipe calls for 2” pieces of chicken – this is so you can fold the thighs over on themselves and then skewer-if using chicken breasts, use 1 1/2” pieces instead.
  • You will need to grill the chicken breasts longer,  closer to 12-16 minutes.