Chicken Yakitori with Honey Sauce

Chicken yakitori is Japanese grilling simplicity at its best, in which skewered thigh meat, cooked quickly over very hot coals, is served with a dipping sauce.–William Cooper

LC You Say Yakitori...Note

You can tweak this nifty little weeknight number to suit your time-frame and your tastes. Because the eminently quick chicken skewer recipe requires just a quick brush of sauce at the end, you can multitask and make dinner in minutes by grilling the chicken while the sauce reduces on the stove-top. And if you like things slightly sweet, a little salty, with just a hint of Japanese aromatics, then there’s no jiggering necessary. Not got a sweet tooth? Cut back a little on the honey. Prefer a little heat? Toss a long, slender red chile in the sauce. One of our testers brilliantly used the aromatics strained from the sauce—that is, the ginger, garlic, and scallion—and tossed together a quick fried rice to go on the side. Another tester simply drizzled the rest of the sauce over rice. Oh, the places you’ll go…

Chicken Yakitori with Honey Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup light (that is to say, low-sodium) soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin or other rice wine
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 3 tablespoons honey (or a little less, if you haven’t a sweet tooth)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil for brushing
  • 24 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Directions

  • 1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, honey, garlic, ginger, and scallions and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened and maybe even a little glossy, 10 to 20 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl and set aside or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • 2. Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Unfold the thighs and, using a sharp knife, slice each thigh into strips about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. You should have about 72 strips, although the size and number of strips will depend on the size of thighs. (We’ve noticed that thighs on chickens tend to vary almost as widely as those on people, so if you end up with more or fewer strips, don’t worry.) Thread 3 or 4 chicken pieces onto each soaked skewer, without crowding them, then lightly season the chicken with salt and lightly brush them with the oil.
  • 3. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat. Brush and oil the grill grate.
  • 4. Grill the chicken yakitori skewers directly over high heat, turning once, until well marked and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Arrange the skewers on a platter. Brush or drizzle the chicken skewers with some of the honey sauce. Pass the remaining sauce on the side for drizzling and dipping at the table.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Trista Crossley] There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this dish. It’s a great alternative to plain grilled chicken or grilled chicken brushed with barbecue sauce. The star of this recipe is the honey sauce, which is easy and quick. It takes ordinary grilled chicken to the next level, and would work on any sort of grilled chicken, not just the chicken thighs specified in the recipe. I’d even serve this sauce over plain rice and vegetables. It’s easily adaptable, so if you don’t like ginger, use less or leave it out altogether. Same with the scallions. (Although neither flavor is overpowering.) The recipe states that it serves six, but as a main course, I got four servings. I think the most important thing here is to not overcook the chicken, especially if you’re using chicken breasts instead of thighs.

  2. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Sofia Reino] This is an absolute perfect recipe. Easy to make it, extremely tasty, chicken came out very tender and juicy. We will be repeating this recipe very often. Perfect as an appetizer as well as part of a main meal. Kids also loved it.

  3. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Lori W.] Loved this chicken! I made the honey sauce and put it in the refrigerator as directed in the recipe, but then our evening plans changed. Two days later we finally got around to grilling the chicken to have as an appetizer for a last-minute summer get together. I made the skewers a few hours before guest were to arrive and put them in the refrigerator. I did some with the chicken thighs as the recipe states, but then knowing more friends were coming over than we’d planned, I made some skewers with chicken breast. too. The dark sauce looked great drizzled over the grill-marked chicken skewers. The chicken was amazingly good, so moist with a light taste of the sesame oil as a background to the strong honey and soy Japanese flavors. My sauce got very thick in the refrigerator, so I warmed it a little in the microwave in order to drizzle it on the chicken. It was a huge hit with kids and adults.

  4. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Leanne A.] I’m always looking for a simple teriyaki chicken sauce so I don’t have to worry about buying one from the store. I usually have a lot of Asian ingredients in the pantry, so this was simple and quick to pull together. The title is a little misleading, since the soy sauce is a more prominent flavor than the honey, but the flavor of the sauce is really good. My sauce was not thick and glossy after 10 minutes of simmering; it took another 10 minutes to really reduce and thicken. I don’t think finely chopping or mincing the onions, ginger, and garlic is too critical since you’re straining it all out at the end, anyway. I suppose you could leave it all in, but I suspect leftover sauce will keep longer if it’s strained. My chicken skewers grilled in less than 10 minutes total and we enjoyed the meal with steamed brown rice and grilled eggplant, also brushed with sesame oil. All in all, I wouldn’t dub this my end-all perfect sauce recipe, but I’d make it again, especially knowing how easy it was.

  5. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Sue Epstein] A delightful summer dish. The only substitution I made was to use white wine in place of the rice wine. It was easy to make, absolutely delicious, and a huge hit with everyone. I served the skewers on a bed of seasoned rice with cole slaw, fresh asparagus, and a green salad. The only problem was that I didn’t make enough of them. Even though the recipe makes 6 generous servings, my guests probably would have eaten even more if I’d had them.

  6. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Elizabeth Howes] This dish is great for the warm months of summer with its clean, bright flavors and it being a snap to create. I’d actually love to let the aromatics steep in the honey sauce while it cools instead of immediately straining it. Also, on my grill over high heat, it took 5 1/2 minutes per side to cook completely through. Serve with steamed jasmine rice, a side of miso-glazed baby bok choy, and a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for a casual summer meal.

  7. The perfect summer dish; easy to prepare and something for the grill. With the heat of late, there is simply no way my oven is going on! I just received some bok choy in my organic foods delivery…I know what’s for dinner tonight!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Barbara, please come back after dinner and tell us what you think. Bok choy and yakitori- sounds wonderful.

  8. Lizzy says:

    Hi! I actually might try making this! What do you usually eat with yakitori? Do you eat it with rice or salad?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Hi Lizzy, I believe it’s traditionally served with rice, although salad would be lovely, too, in this weather. Especially with a rice vinegar or a soy-ginger vinaigrette.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail