What is Beef Teriyaki? A Guide to This Sweet and Savory Japanese Dish

Beef teriyaki is a classic Japanese dish featuring tender slices of beef glazed with a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. The appeal of teriyaki lies in the complex sweet, salty, and umami flavors created when the sauce caramelizes on the meat during cooking.

This article will explain what teriyaki is, the key ingredients in teriyaki sauce, how to cook beef teriyaki, and some serving suggestions for this delicious dish.

What is Teriyaki?

The word “teriyaki” refers to a Japanese cooking technique where meat, seafood, or vegetables are marinated in a sweet soy sauce mixture, then grilled, broiled, or pan-fried.

The teriyaki sauce gives the food a lovely glazed appearance and adds tons of flavor as it caramelizes during cooking. Teriyaki techniques date back centuries in Japanese cuisine.

The most common proteins used in teriyaki dishes are chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp, and tofu. Teriyaki sauce also works well as a marinade or glaze for veggies like zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, and more.

Teriyaki Sauce Ingredients

While recipes can vary, a teriyaki marinade is traditionally made with:

  • Soy sauce – Provides saltiness, savoriness, and that distinctive umami flavor. Tamari can be used to make gluten-free teriyaki.

  • Mirin – A sweet rice wine that adds subtle sweetness.

  • Sake – A dry Japanese rice wine that enhances flavor.

  • Sugar – White sugar, brown sugar, or honey balances out the saltiness and adds sweetness.

  • Garlic and ginger – Provides aromatic flavor.

  • Cornstarch or arrowroot – Thickens the sauce so it nicely coats the ingredients.

How to Make Beef Teriyaki

Making beef teriyaki at home is easy. Simply marinate sliced beef in the teriyaki sauce, then cook it quickly in a skillet until caramelized.

Ingredients Needed:

  • Flank steak, sirloin steak, or ribeye sliced very thinly across the grain
  • Teriyaki marinade (can use store-bought or homemade)
  • Vegetable oil for cooking
  • Green onions, sesame seeds, and sticky rice for serving

Steps for Cooking:

  1. Slice beef against the grain into very thin 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 inch thick slices.

  2. Place beef in a ziptop bag or baking dish with prepared teriyaki marinade. Marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight.

  3. Remove beef from marinade, shaking off any excess. Reserve marinade.

  4. Heat a skillet with oil over high heat. Working in batches, cook beef slices for 1-2 minutes per side until lightly charred.

  5. Add reserved marinade to pan and let simmer until thickened into a glaze.

  6. Return beef slices to pan and toss to coat in glaze. Serve over rice garnished with sesame seeds and green onions.

Serving Suggestions for Beef Teriyaki

Here are some tasty side dishes and ingredients that pair wonderfully with beef teriyaki:

  • Steamed rice or rice noodles
  • Sautéed broccoli, bok choy, peppers, or snap peas
  • Sesame seeds, green onions, carrots for garnish
  • Egg rolls, potstickers, or edamame
  • Fresh pineapple, mango, or orange slices

Teriyaki Beef Nutrition

  • High in protein from the beef as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals from fresh vegetable sides.

  • Marinade provides antioxidants from ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

  • Use reduced sodium soy sauce and minimum added sugars for a healthier teriyaki.

  • Balance out the sodium by enjoying with potassium-rich fruits and veggies.

  • Serve smaller portions of beef with lots of low calorie vegetable side dishes.

Teriyaki Fun Facts

  • The word “teriyaki” first appears in Japanese literature in the late 1700s.

  • In Japan, chicken is the most common protein used for teriyaki. Beef teriyaki gained popularity in America.

  • Teriyaki techniques were brought to America by Japanese immigrants in the late 1800s.

  • McDonald’s popularized teriyaki burgers and chicken sandwiches in the 1970s and many fast food chains followed.

  • Seattle, Washington claims to be the teriyaki capital of the US with over 100 teriyaki restaurants.

  • “Teriyaki Boyz” are a Japanese hip hop group whose name refers to teriyaki culture.


With its complex sweet and savory flavor profile, teriyaki beef offers a delicious taste of Japanese cuisine. The sticky, caramelized glaze pairs perfectly with fresh vegetables and rice. Now that you know the history, ingredients, and cooking methods, you can start enjoying tasty homemade beef teriyaki any night of the week.

30-Minute Beef Teriyaki


What is beef teriyaki made of?

The teriyaki sauce consists of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and brown sugar. The sauce gets nice and thick with a simple cornstarch slurry (1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon cold water). I like to serve my Beef Teriyaki over fried rice or noodles. Either way it’s awesome.

What does teriyaki taste like?

What does teriyaki sauce taste like? Teriyaki sauce has a complex flavour; a mixture of sweet and savoury, tangy and salty. The sweetness comes from the sweet wine and the caramelisation of the sugar, honey or syrup, which also gives the sauce its shiny glaze.

What is teriyaki made of?

Authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce combines soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake to create a distinctively sharp taste, with Westernized versions incorporating honey, garlic, and ginger for added edge. Cornstarch is often added to teriyaki sauce as a thickener.

What is the meaning of teriyaki meat?

nounJapanese Cooking. a dish of grilled slices of beef, chicken, or fish that have been marinated in soy sauce seasoned with sake, ginger, and sugar.

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