This chicken yakitori with honey sauce is a simple Japanese style method for grilling skewered chicken thighs. Served with a soy, honey, and garlic marinade and dipping sauce, this easy recipe belongs in your weeknight dinner rotation.
Consider this chicken yakitori with honey sauce a nifty little weeknight number that’s slightly sweet, a little salty, with just a hint of Japanese aromatics. 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 stovetop (or simply place the pan on the grill to avoid running back between kitchen and backyard).–Renee Schettler Rossi
☞ Table of Contents
Chicken Yakitori with Honey Sauce
- 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 ginger
- 2 scallions white and green parts, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- Pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)
- Sesame oil for brushing
- 24 bamboo skewers soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
- 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 place to the side or cover and refrigerate until later.
- 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. If desired, intersperse a piece of pineapple in between the pieces of chicken. Lightly season the chicken with salt and lightly brush them with the oil.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat. Brush and oil the grill grate.
- Grill the chicken yakitori skewers directly over high heat, turning once, until slightly charred 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this chicken yakitori. 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.)
I think the most important thing here is to not overcook the chicken, especially if you’re using chicken breasts instead of thighs. The recipe states that it serves 6, but as a main course, I got 4 servings.
This is an absolute perfect recipe. Easy to make it, extremely tasty, chicken came out very tender and juicy. We’ll be repeating this recipe very often. Perfect as an appetizer as well as part of a main meal. Kids also loved it.
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.
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.
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.
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. I served the skewers on a bed of seasoned rice with cole slaw, fresh asparagus, and a green salad.
Originally published July 16, 2019