A thick teriyaki sauce will coat your meat, rice and vegetables, giving your teriyaki chicken recipe a cohesive flavor and a great mouth feel. Thick teriyaki sauce acts as a glaze and a binder, infusing flavor while also adding satisfying texture. There are many ways to thicken a teriyaki sauce, and the route you take depends on allergens, desired results and the ingredients you have available.
You can thicken teriyaki sauce using cornstarch, wheat flour, rice flour or brown sugar.
Ingredients for Thick Teriyaki Sauce
- Cornstarch. To thicken teriyaki sauce with cornstarch, use 1 tablespoon cornstarch per ¼ cup of water. Whisk the cornstarch and water together to form a smooth mixture. Heat the remaining teriyaki sauce ingredients; add the cornstarch slurry and then simmer for a minute or two, stirring almost constantly. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
- Wheat flour. If you add wheat flour directly to your teriyaki sauce, you’ll end up with a lumpy mess. The best approach when using wheat flour is to make a roux by heating some type of fat such as vegetable oil, and then adding an equal amount of wheat flour. Stir to combine over low heat and then add about ¼ cup of water per 1 tablespoon of flour. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring almost constantly until the mixture thickens.
- Rice flour. Rice flour is simply ground-up rice. Like rice, it absorbs liquid as it cooks, so it's an easy option for thickening teriyaki sauce. Simply drizzle the rice flour into your teriyaki sauce as you’re heating it. It’ll thicken immediately, so you can easily determine when you’ve added the right amount.
- Brown sugar. Thickening teriyaki sauce with brown sugar will make it unusually sweet, so this option works well if you prefer an especially sweet teriyaki sauce. Unlike white sugar, which simply dissolves in liquid, brown sugar also contains molasses, which is naturally thick. Simply add a few tablespoons to your teriyaki sauce as you’re heating it. If your teriyaki sauce recipe calls for white sugar, reduce the amount or completely leave it out to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar.
The Heating Reduction Method
You can also thicken teriyaki sauce (or any other sauce) simply by increasing the cooking time. The heat of the cooking process causes the liquid to evaporate, making the mixture thicker and intensifying the flavor. This technique is typically used in classic French sauce-making, but it can work for teriyaki sauce as well because the chemistry of evaporation and thickening is the same for any liquid. Make sure to use very low heat and stir often enough to keep your sauce from sticking and burning.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Methods
Cornstarch does the job relatively quickly and easily, but you have to wait for it to cool before you can tell whether your sauce has achieved the desired thickness. Wheat flour is easily available, but making it into a roux involves an extra step. It also isn’t a viable option if you’re avoiding gluten, although, in that case, you’ll also want to check carefully and make sure that the soy sauce you’re using is gluten-free. Both wheat flour and cornstarch may turn your sauce a light shade of brown, although this isn’t an issue unless you’re expecting a darker colored sauce.
Rice flour is easy to use, and you can tell right away whether your teriyaki sauce is thickening to your satisfaction, but you may have trouble finding it except in specialty grocery stores. Brown sugar may make your sauce too sweet, and the heating reduction method has the advantage of requiring no extra ingredients although it does take additional time.
Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.