Disclaimer: AlohaTeriyakiGrill is a reader-supported site. When you click through links on our site (not all of the links are commercial) and buy products, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you.

With so many options for teriyaki sauce recipes, it can be quite overwhelming to decide on the best choice for your homemade recipes. With the long history of teriyaki style cooking from its early beginnings in 17th century Japan, to its even wider popularity in the US in the 1960s. The recipe for teriyaki sauce has evolved to accommodate more palates and welcome more flavors from different places in the world.

Traditionally, teriyaki sauce is a simple combination of soy sauce, sugar, and Mirin. As time passed and more and more people have customized the teriyaki sauce to their liking, new ingredients have been added to the original recipe. Some recipes were tweaked in terms of flavor and some included ingredients to make for better consistency. There are now teriyaki sauces with honey, brown sugar, pineapple, and ginger. Ingredients such as soy sauce have also been switched to other ingredients to fit specific diets.

In this article, we guide you through different teriyaki sauce variations. We let you know the best combination to use with what recipes through the key ingredients used. Read on to learn all about teriyaki sauce variations with and without specific ingredients.


Teriyaki Sauce With Honey or Teriyaki Sauce Without Honey

Honey is this sweet liquid made by bees using the nectar from flowers and is harvested from the actual beehives. Its gold color is only fitting because honey is such an amazing ingredient for its many good qualities. But should you go for teriyaki sauce using honey?

#1. Teriyaki Sauce With Honey

To get that sweet and savory flavor from teriyaki sauce, sugar is one of the key ingredients in traditional teriyaki sauce. Recently, though, a lot of health concerns surrounding sugar have been raised. The problem with sugar is that it ranks high on the glycemic index. This means that sugar quickly raises blood sugar levels. Having a low-glycemic diet reduces the risks for cancer, heart conditions, and other diseases.

Some ready-made teriyaki sauces also list high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. This is a sweetener derived from corn. The key element that makes high fructose corn syrup bad is the high fructose level. Excessive consumption of fructose can lead to many harmful health complications such as diabetes and gout.

So if you want a sweeter teriyaki sauce, what do you do? This is where honey comes in handy. Honey is actually sweeter than sugar but it places lower on the glycemic index.

Besides scoring low on the glycemic index, honey is also friendlier to the tummy. It has antibacterial properties to help stomach fight infections.

Honey also has a nice, sticky consistency to it. If you’re aiming for a thicker teriyaki sauce, honey would be a helpful addition. It also gives a good sheen to the sauce so your teriyaki dish will look even more appetizing.

#2. Teriyaki Sauce Without Honey

Is honey always the best sweetener? Honey is still a sweetener and consuming large amounts of honey can be troublesome as well. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you won’t actually need loads of it to get a good enough effect. But as with all things, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Honey contains more calories than sugar. The health benefits are still there but too much honey can make you gain weight.

Remember how honey can be helpful to the tummy? What causes these benefits are the good enzymes found in honey. Prolonged exposure to heat will cause these enzymes to break down and you will actually lose the good stuff in the process. Heating honey up too much will also affect the taste of honey.

#3. Honey Pros and Cons

Yes – To maintain the good benefits you can get from honey, it’s better to use it when you won’t be heating the sauce too much. Teriyaki sauce with honey will be a good dipping sauce and seasoning for after cooking.

If you’re more for the honey flavor than the health benefits, then teriyaki sauce using honey will still be a good, thick sauce for marinating, barbecues and stir-fries.

No – You will lose the beneficial properties of honey if you cook it for a long time. It even minimizes the unique taste honey brings. For recipes needing high heat to cook, use teriyaki sauce with no honey.


Teriyaki Sauce Using Soy or Teriyaki Sauce No Soy

Soy sauce is one of the fundamental ingredients in teriyaki sauce. This is what gives that fermented, savory flavor to teriyaki cooking. To get soy sauce, crushed soybeans are combined with wheat and salt and are then put through a fermentation process.

#1. Teriyaki With Soy

Getting the authentic teriyaki flavor will definitely include the use of soy because the original teriyaki sauce recipe contains soy sauce. The use of soy sauce has some benefits too. Soy sauce relatively contains high levels of sodium but it’s still lower than actual table salt. There is also added flavor brought about by the fermentation process it goes through so dishes won’t have to rely on the saltiness alone to have better flavor. Since soy sauce is in liquid form, this also makes it easier to incorporate it into dishes.

“I’m allergic to gluten and soy sauce has wheat in it”. For those who need to be on a gluten-free diet, a good substitute for soy sauce is tamari. Instead of wheat, rice is added to the soy sauce mixture. A word of warning, though: always check your labels. If you are trying to avoid gluten, it’s best to go for tamari sauce that is checked and approved to be gluten-free. There are organizations that process food products to check for the presence of gluten.

In terms of flavor, tamari is less salty than soy sauce and it has a lower sodium count. That’s another win for a teriyaki sauce with soy.

#2. Teriyaki Without Soy

There have been some apprehensions surrounding soy because it contains isoflavones. Studies have been made linking soy to cancer in women because isoflavones seem to mimic estrogen affecting hormone levels in the body. The study isn’t conclusive yet.

Still, there are people who prefer to avoid soy because of this. Some also link soy to developing thyroid problems. Not enough studies have been done to support this yet but people would like to keep soy at bay because of this too.

For cases like this, a substitute for soy sauce is liquid or coconut aminos. Instead of soybeans, coconut sap is fermented with salt and water resulting in a seasoning that tastes and looks like soy sauce. Teriyaki sauce with coconut aminos is how you get teriyaki sauce with no soy.

#3. Soy Pros and Cons

Yes – For the authentic teriyaki flavor, use teriyaki sauce with soy. To keep your dishes gluten-free, replace soy sauce with tamari.

No – If you’d like to avoid soy in your teriyaki dishes, a teriyaki sauce using coconut aminos will be a good substitute.


Teriyaki Sauce with Brown Sugar or Teriyaki Sauce no Brown Sugar

Another good old ingredient in teriyaki sauce is sugar. This is what gives teriyaki dishes that beautiful dark golden sheen. As sugar caramelizes, it creates that shiny gloss which teriyaki is known for. It’s also responsible for that sweetness in teriyaki. The centuries old recipe from Japan has always used sugar in their recipe but once teriyaki style cooking reached Hawaii, brown sugar was used more and more.

#1. Plain Sugar vs Brown Sugar

Molasses is what gives brown sugar its color. Although there is no significant difference between plain and brown sugar in terms of nutrition, their culinary uses have certain distinctions. Brown sugar holds more moisture than plain sugar. This helps make sauces richer and airier.

#2. No Sugar Teriyaki Sauce

As mentioned earlier, using sugar has its own disadvantages. Some alternatives you can use for a no sugar teriyaki sauce aside from honey would be pineapple juice, sweet onions, and sugar substitutes.

#3. Sugar Pros and Cons

Yes – Use sugar to get that sweet and savory flavor. Brown sugar can also make your sauce richer.

No – Customize your teriyaki sauce with no sugar for your diet by using alternatives such as pineapple juice, sugar substitutes, and sweet onions.


Teriyaki Sauce with Mirin or Teriyaki Sauce without Mirin

Teriyaki sauce using Mirin is the authentic approach. The slight tang in your teriyaki sauce comes from the acidity in Mirin. Mirin also has some sugar content in it so it actually helps make teriyaki sauce sweeter.

#1. Teriyaki Sauce With Mirin/ Sake

Sake is also used to make teriyaki sauce. Both Sake and Mirin contain alcohol but sake has much higher alcohol content. Mirin, on the other hand, has a higher sugar count compared to Sake. Mirin is used solely for cooking but Sake can be both for drinking and culinary use.

For a much sharper taste, you can opt to use Sake instead of Mirin.

#2. Teriyaki Sauce Without Mirin/ Sake

Cooking for kids would be difficult when you’re using alcoholic products. As a replacement to Mirin and Sake, vinegar can be a good ingredient to add. Pineapple juice and lemon can also add some acidity to teriyaki sauce if you want some tangy flavor in your dish.

#3. Mirin and Sake Pros and Cons

Yes – For additional flavor, add Mirin and Sake to your teriyaki sauce.

No – Kids want teriyaki, too! Use alternatives such as vinegar, pineapple and lemon juice for a teriyaki sauce with no mirin or sake.


Teriyaki Sauce With Ginger or Teriyaki Sauce Without Ginger

#1. Teriyaki Sauce with Ginger

Along with brown sugar, ginger was an ingredient that became more popular in Hawaii. The unique spice and tartness in ginger work well with the traditional sweet-savory goodness in teriyaki. It also brings a certain brightness to teriyaki sauce.

#2. Teriyaki Sauce With No Ginger

The only hesitation with ginger is that it has such a strong flavor. Too much of it can actually make your teriyaki sauce taste bitter. Teriyaki sauce with no ginger is milder and more versatile to use in a variety of recipes.

#3. Ginger Pros and Cons

Yes – Ginger brings in an interesting flavor profile to teriyaki.
No – Adding ginger lessens the versatility of your teriyaki sauce.


Teriyaki Sauce With Garlic or Teriyaki Sauce No Garlic

#1. Teriyaki Sauce With Ginger

Garlic is another non-traditional ingredient in teriyaki sauce. Teriyaki sauce with garlic has a bolder flavor with a slight kick to it. Roasting the garlic further sharpens the garlic flavor and adds smokiness to teriyaki sauce.

#2. Teriyaki Sauce With No Garlic

Similar to ginger, garlic tends to add strong flavors to your teriyaki sauce. The garlicky flavor may be too overpowering to some. Adding too much garlic may also take away from the taste of your mains instead of complementing it.

#3. Garlic Pros and Cons

Yes – Add more flavors to your dish with garlic.
No – The flavor may be too overpowering to some. This also makes your teriyaki sauce less versatile.


Teriyaki Sauce With Cornstarch or Teriyaki Sauce No Cornstarch

#1. Teriyaki Sauce With Cornstarch

A thicker teriyaki sauce is easier to use as a glaze and as a sauce for stir-fries. The thickness of the sauce makes it stick to meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables more. Teriyaki sauce with cornstarch does exactly that. The cornstarch is added to thicken the consistency of the sauce.

#2. Teriyaki Sauce Without Cornstarch

The cornstarch does a wonderful job to improve the consistency in teriyaki sauce. However, cornstarch can blur out the flavors in your teriyaki dish. To avoid this, you need to balance it out with all the other ingredients to retain the taste quality as you thicken your sauce.

#3. Cornstarch Pros and Cons

Yes – Improves sauce consistency.
No – Blurs out the flavors in teriyaki sauce.


Teriyaki Sauce Goes With Other Sauces? What is the Outcome?

Teriyaki sauce can also benefit from combining it with other sauces. This can be helpful if you want to have the basic teriyaki sauce in stock and just tweak it when the recipe needs a bit more pizza. Here are some sauces that go well with teriyaki sauce.

#1. Teriyaki Sauce With Hoisin Sauce

Like teriyaki sauce, hoisin has Asian roots as well so it’s no wonder the two sauces can combine well together. The basic ingredients in hoisin sauce are fermented soybean paste, fennel, red chili peppers, sugar, and garlic. All these flavors complement the traditional blend of teriyaki sauce. What hoisin brings in this collaboration are sharper flavors.

Teriyaki sauce using Hoisin sauce is a great blend to use as a dipping sauce and a good flavoring for stir-fries.

#2. Teriyaki Sauce Using Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is made by boiling oyster extract, soy sauce, sugar, and salt until it’s reduced into a thick, sweet, and savory sauce. It’s fundamentally similar to teriyaki sauce but with an added sweetness and earthiness from the oyster extract.

A mixture of teriyaki sauce with oyster sauce is another good seasoning to use on stir-fries and as a dipping sauce.

#3. Teriyaki Sauce Made With Worcestershire Sauce

The company Lea Perrins started the production of Worcestershire sauce in England in the 1800s. Some notable ingredients in the sauce are anchovies, tamarind extracts, and a collection of spices. When added to teriyaki sauce, all these flavors bring more dimensions to teriyaki.

Boost your teriyaki sauce with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. A teriyaki sauce made with Worcestershire sauce will do wonders when used for basting, marinating, and as a dipping sauce.


Some Unfamiliar Combinations With Teriyaki - Will it be good?

#1. Is that a good idea to mix teriyaki sauce with xanthan gum?

Xantham gum can be used as a thickening agent to teriyaki sauce. It has its merits but you have to use it sparingly as the effects are actually quite significant when it comes to consistency. A little goes a long, long way with Xantham gum.

#2. Can teriyaki sauce be made with orange juice?

Like pineapple juice, orange juice can be used as a sweetener and as an acidic element in teriyaki sauce. It actually goes really well with teriyaki sauce. Careful not to use too much of it, though. It might make your sauce too sour and you end up with a Sweet and Sour dish instead of a teriyaki dish.

#3. You want some orange flavor, can we make teriyaki sauce with orange zest?

A little bit of orange zest can complement teriyaki sauce. This will brighten up your sauce and balance out some of the sweetness and saltiness in teriyaki. Too much orange zest will make your recipe bitter, though. So easy on the zest.

#4. Is that Teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds a good idea? 

Yes! Sesame seeds and sesame oil adds a nutty and somewhat sweet flavor to teriyaki sauce. With sesame seeds, toasting them will bring out a bolder flavor. Sesame oil is also good for you since it helps cut cholesterol levels in the body. It’s also low in saturated fats. You don’t only improve the flavor of the dish; you also improve its health benefits.

#5. Do people produce teriyaki sauce with xylitol? 

Yes, people who follow a Keto diet, and those who would like to stay away from sugar may use xylitol as a sweetener for their teriyaki sauce. Some people say they notice some differences in taste compared to using sugar. Nevertheless, it’s still a good substitute to avoid using sugar. Xylitol also doesn’t caramelize as much as sugar so there will be some differences in terms of texture.

#6. Should we create teriyaki sauce using coke?

You’ll be surprised by how well coke combines with teriyaki sauce. There is, of course, a lot of sugar in regular coke so you can skip the sugar if you’ll be adding coke to your recipe. It also adds a nicer color to your teriyaki dish. It’s a yes for coca-cola in teriyaki sauce.


Final Words

The great thing about teriyaki style cooking is that it doesn’t really have strict rules you have to abide by. The basic soy sauce-sugar-mirin combo goes well with a lot of ingredients and you can have an endless list of recipes using the same base sauce. Just add a few ingredients here and there to customize the culinary experience to your liking.