Chicken Yakitori Recipe: A Quick Guide to Delicious Japanese Grilled Chicken

Chicken Yakitori Recipe: A Quick Guide to Delicious Japanese Grilled Chicken

Yakitori hails from Japan, where it became popular in the early 20th century. The term “yakitori” translates to “grilled bird,” traditionally referring to skewered, grilled chicken. Street vendors and izakayas (Japanese pubs) often serve it as an affordable snack or bar food. Its origins trace back to a time when chicken was considered a luxury, making yakitori a special treat.

You can find various yakitori styles, each using different chicken parts.

  • Negima: Skewers alternating chicken thigh and green onion slices.
  • Tsukune: Chicken meatballs, often with a sweet sauce.
  • Teba: Grilled chicken wings, sometimes seasoned with salt.
  • Momo: Skewers of chicken thigh, typically glazed with tare sauce.
  • Kawa: Grilled chicken skin, crispy and flavorful.

These varieties showcase the versatility of chicken yakitori, making it a favorite among many.

Key Ingredients for Easy Chicken Yakitori

Choosing the Right Chicken

Select fresh, boneless chicken thighs for Yakitori. Thighs offer a juicier, more flavorful meat compared to chicken breasts. Trim excess fat but keep some to enhance the taste during grilling. If you prefer less fatty meat, opt for chicken breasts while marinating them longer for better flavor absorption.

Essential Yakitori Seasonings

Yakitori’s flavor profile depends on a few critical seasonings. Soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar form the base of the traditional tare (sauce). Combine these ingredients in equal parts, adjusting to taste. For additional depth, include minced garlic or ginger. Brush the tare on the skewered chicken while grilling, layering flavors with each coat. For added authenticity, sprinkle a small amount of shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice) for heat and complexity.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Easy Chicken Yakitori

Preparing the Chicken

Use fresh, boneless chicken thighs for the juiciest Yakitori. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces, aiming for uniform sizes to ensure even grilling. Thread 4-5 pieces onto bamboo skewers, leaving a small gap between each piece for better heat penetration. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before threading to prevent burning during grilling.

Grilling Techniques

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates lightly to keep the chicken from sticking. Place the skewers on the grill, turning every 2 minutes to cook evenly on all sides. Grill for a total of 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Brush with tare sauce during the final 2 minutes for a caramelized finish. Keep a close eye on the skewers during this time to avoid burning.

Flavor Enhancements

Create authentic tare sauce by combining 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup mirin, 1/4 cup sake, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger in a small pot. Simmer the mixture over medium heat for 10 minutes, then let it cool. Before grilling, marinate the chicken in half of the sauce for at least 30 minutes. Reserve the other half for basting during grilling. For added heat, sprinkle shichimi togarashi over the grilled skewers before serving. Garnish with freshly chopped scallions and sesame seeds to enhance both flavor and presentation.

Serving Suggestions for Chicken Yakitori

Perfect Side Dishes

Pairing Chicken Yakitori with the right side dishes can elevate your meal. Here are some ideal options:

  1. Steamed Rice: Complement the savory-sweet flavors with a simple bowl of steamed white rice.
  2. Miso Soup: Start the meal with this traditional Japanese soup. The savory miso pairs well with grilled chicken.
  3. Edamame: Lightly salted, boiled soybeans provide a crunchy texture.
  4. Pickled Vegetables: Tsukemono, such as pickled radish or cucumbers, add a refreshing contrast.
  5. Japanese Potato Salad: A creamy, slightly sweet variation that balances the savory skewers.
  1. Plating: Use simple, clean plates to let the vibrant colors stand out.
  2. Garnishes: Add visual appeal with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, or shichimi togarashi.
  3. Skewer Arrangement: Arrange skewers in a fan-like pattern for a neat display.
  4. Sauce Drizzle: Lightly drizzle extra tare sauce over the skewers for a glossy finish.
  5. Serving Condiments: Offer small dishes of soy sauce or wasabi alongside for added flavor options.


Chicken Yakitori is more than just a dish; it’s a delightful culinary experience that brings the flavors of Japan right to your kitchen. With simple ingredients and easy preparation steps, you can create a savory-sweet masterpiece that’s sure to impress. Whether you’re serving it as a main course or a tasty appetizer, the versatility of Chicken Yakitori makes it a fantastic addition to any meal.

Pair it with complementary side dishes like steamed rice or miso soup to create a well-rounded and satisfying dining experience. Don’t forget to pay attention to presentation; a beautifully plated dish with thoughtful garnishes can elevate your meal to restaurant-quality levels. Enjoy the process, savor the flavors, and delight in the simplicity of making this iconic Japanese street food at home.

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