This teriyaki sauce marinade is so quick and easy to make, you’ll wonder why you ever bought teriyaki sauce in a bottle! With just 3 ingredients, you can quickly mix up this tasty sauce to flavour your tofu or mix into stir-fries to make speedy mid-week suppers that the whole family will love! This quick teriyaki sauce recipe is gluten-free, vegan and super easy! If you use coconut aminos instead of the tamari, you could also make it soy free!
Teriyaki sauce is one of my favourite ways to flavour a stir-fry and my kids just adore it! Shop-bought bottled teriyaki sauce used to be one of my pantry staples. However, the gluten-free version was often out of stock here in Doha. When I searched up how to make it myself there were so many complicated different versions that seemed like too much effort to make and, after I did try making them, they just didn’t have the same taste I was after. So, I decided to create my own easy homemade teriyaki sauce recipe instead!
After I researched many, many teriyaki sauce recipes, I whittled it down to the core ingredients that appeared in every Japanese recipe - tamari, sake, mirin and sugar. From there I tested the different proportions and eventually I came up with this very easy three-ingredient teriyaki sauce recipe that I can make in seconds whenever I need it! I never bother buying bottled teriyaki sauce anymore because this is so quick and easy and I always have the ingredients to hand.
Why you will love this recipe
Delicious - This easy teriyaki sauce is so simple and yet so delicious!
Convenient and Quick - If you’ve ever discovered you've run out of teriyaki sauce just after you've prepped all the ingredients to make your teriyaki stir-fry, you’ll realise just how convenient it is to be able to make your own homemade teriyaki sauce very quickly!
Gluten-Free - Most bottled teriyaki sauce is based on soy sauce (which contains gluten), but this recipe uses tamari instead so that it is naturally gluten-free.
Adaptable - You can adapt this recipe as you need to so if you can’t tolerate soy products, you can make it soy-free by swapping out the tamari for coconut aminos instead.
Not taking up cupboard space - If your cupboards are bursting with bottles of different sauces, this is one less sauce you need to keep. It is so easy, it takes seconds to whip this up yourself out of ingredients that are so useful, you should always keep them in your cupboards anyway! When cupboard space is at a premium, teriyaki sauce is just one of those things that doesn't need to be in there!
What is teriyaki sauce
Teriyaki sauce is a delicious Japanese sauce with a sweet, sour, bitter and umami flavour profile - hitting all those taste sensations at once! In Japan, it is used primarily for marinading fish, giving a tasty flavour and a caramelised glaze once cooked. For vegan cooking, tofu and tempeh are both absolutely delicious when marinaded in teriyaki sauce! It's also great for adding to noodles or rice stir fries so it's a very handy sauce to know about!
Since it has such an irresistible sweet-savoury flavour, teriyaki sauce has become popular throughout the world. Many western recipes however, have complicated it by adding other flavours or by thickening it with cornstarch to make it into a dipping sauce. This can make it very confusing when you are searching for a good teriyaki sauce recipe!
This recipe is for a true authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce so that it can be used for marinating first. If you add the cornstarch at the marinating stage, it will just go gloopy and it will be difficult to manage. So, you need to keep it thin at the marinating stage and then when you go on to cook the food, you add the leftover marinade to the pan at the end and the sugar content makes it caramelise and go glossy and delicious. There's no need for an additional thickener!
Ingredients & substitutions
There are just 3 main ingredients for this easy teriyaki sauce recipe – equal parts of tamari and mirin (3 tablespoon each), plus a smaller amount of maple syrup (1 tbsp).
Note, teriyaki sauce would usually also contain sake but since this is more of an unusual ingredient in Western homes and more difficult to find, I have increased the amount of mirin to compensate for lack of sake. It honestly tastes just as good without the sake!
- Tamari – this is the Japanese version of soy sauce which is naturally gluten-free. You could use coconut aminos as a soy-free alternative but that is a little sweeter so just reduce the maple syrup a touch if you do that.
- Mirin – this is a sweet Japanese rice wine made from fermented rice. It is a clear, slightly golden colour and is a staple Japanese ingredient that is very useful to keep in your pantry. You can use it in sauces, dressings, stir-fries, or stews to add depth of flavour, bitterness and sweetness. If you don’t have any mirin, you can substitute the mirin with sake or white wine (you may need to adjust with a little more maple syrup), or rice vinegar (use half the amount of mirin as it is much more acidic and so the full amount will make the teriyaki too sour).
- Maple Syrup – this is to add the sweetness that makes teriyaki so morish and that means that anything marinaded in the teriyaki will go deliciously caramelized. Since I am vegan I use maple syrup which adds a lovely flavour but you could use honey if you aren’t vegan or brown sugar.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full list of ingredients and their quantities.
How to make this teriyaki sauce recipe
It could not be simpler to make this 3 ingredient teriyaki sauce recipe. Literally, measure the 3 ingredients into a little jug or cup and whisk together. Then use as necessary!
1. Pour tamari into a jug.
2. Add mirin.
3. Add maple syrup.
4. Stir together!
This is a summary only. Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this page for full instructions.
How to use teriyaki sauce
There are so many ways to use this delicious sauce for stir-fries, as a marinade or, when cooked with the food, as a teriyaki glaze.
- Marinade cubes of tofu or tempeh in this teriyaki sauce before air frying or stir-frying with other vegetables and noodles or rice. Then add the leftover marinade into the stir-fry to flavour the whole dish.
Marinading tofu cubes in teriyaki sauce.
Air fried teriyaki marinated tofu cubes.
- Air fry or stir-fry broccoli, pak choi, green beans, or brussel sprouts and then mix with this teriyaki sauce for a tasty Asian side dish.
- Use as the base for tasty Asian salad dressings (add sesame oil and garlic).
- For an easy working lunch, quickly marinade slices of tempeh in this teriyaki sauce, then air fry at 200°C/400°F for 5 minutes (turning half way) and serve with soba noodles and a large spoonful of vegan kimchi. (This also works really well in a gluten-free wrap with some rocket (arugula) thrown in as well!).
You can also add other ingredients to your teriyaki sauce to slightly change the flavour profile for adding a little variety into your weekly stir fries! (See the next section for variations!)
There are so many ways you can adapt this recipe to add variety. Here are some ideas:
- Add garlic and ginger for depth of flavour.
- Make a spicy teriyaki by adding some chopped up red chilli or a dash of chilli powder or chili flakes.
- Add a tablespoon of pineapple juice to make a Hawaiian version! This makes a sweeter, tangy teriyaki sauce that is equally delicious!
How to make a thick teriyaki sauce
This recipe is for a thin teriyaki sauce to be used as a marinade and then boiled down to a sauce consistency on cooking. If you want a thicker sauce to use as a dipping sauce or to coat food with a thicker glaze, you can thicken it with cornstarch (or you can use arrowroot or potato starch if you can't tolerate corn).
- Add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to the other 3 ingredients and stir it into the teriyaki sauce until it dissolves (a teriyaki cornstarch slurry).
- Then pour the sauce into whatever you are cooking it with (or on its own in a small pan if you want to just make a dipping sauce).
- As soon as you pour it into the pan, stir it quickly and constantly over a medium heat so that the cornstarch cooks but without going lumpy as it cooks. You will need to cook it for a couple of minutes to get rid of any flour flavour.
An alternative to this is to add cornstarch to your protein element, e.g. to the tofu cubes, before frying then when you add the sauce, the cornstarch will cook into the sauce from the tofu.
Making Ahead & Storage
Since this is so simple to make, I usually just mix it in a cup whenever I need it but if you wanted to, you could easily make a big batch and store it in a bottle (or any airtight container) in the fridge. There is nothing really that goes bad in this simple 3 ingredient teriyaki sauce so it will keep in the fridge for a few months, ready to use whenever you want a quick tasty meal.
Since this 3 ingredient teriyaki sauce is just tamari, mirin and maple syrup, it will keep for a long time without going bad. Tamari and mirin are both shelf stable but maple syrup needs to be kept in the fridge once opened, but it will keep for up to a year in the fridge. So your teriyaki sauce will not go bad until the best before date of its ingredients.
You could freeze teriyaki sauce but there is no real need to. This 3 ingredient teriyaki sauce is so quick and simple to make that it is less effort than defrosting from the freezer. However, if you really wanted to keep it in the freezer, it would be absolutely fine! You could store it in ice cube trays so that you can defrost it easily in portion sized amounts.
Usually, bottled teriyaki sauce contains gluten because it is based on soy sauce. However, this 3 ingredient teriyaki sauce is gluten-free because it uses tamari instead of soy sauce.
Sometimes teriyaki sauce is not vegan because it can contain honey. This teriyaki sauce recipe is vegan though since it uses maple syrup instead.
Teriyaki sauce has a high salt and sugar content so it is not healthy to eat in large amounts. However, since it is strongly flavoured, a small amount usually goes a long way. If it helps you to enjoy healthier foods like stir-fries and tempeh, then a small amount of these ingredients is worthwhile to improve your overall diet.
Teriyaki sauce is actually a base sauce to add to other things so it only needs these three simple ingredients in the correct proportions to give the right base flavour. Other recipes might include ingredients like apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, or fresh ginger and fresh garlic, but these would not be found in an authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce! Use fresh ginger and garlic in the stir-fry that you then add teriyaki sauce to instead.
Teriyaki sauce is a flavourful Japanese sauce used for marinating and stir-fries. One of its ingredients is soy sauce which is made from fermented soybeans, wheat, salt and water. It is used widely throughout South-East Asia as a condiment for adding salty umami flavour.
They are the same thing! Traditionally, teriyaki sauce is thin and is used for marinading and then cooking (at which point it thickens). However, in USA they tend to use the terms slightly differently with teriyaki marinade being much thinner (like this recipe) and used for marinating foods, whereas teriyaki sauce is a thicker dipping sauce to be added after cooking instead.
📖 Recipe 📖
Quick 3 Ingredient Teriyaki Sauce Recipe (VG & GF)
- 3 tablespoon tamari, (or gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos)
- 3 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup, (or brown sugar)
- Mix together the ingredients in a cup or small jug and use as necessary.3 tablespoon tamari, 3 tablespoon mirin, 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- For a soy-free version, use coconut aminos instead of tamari.
- If you do not have mirin, you can substitute with sake or white wine, or half the amount of rice vinegar instead.
- Use as a marinade for cubes of tofu or tempeh, or add to stir-fries or noodles, or mix in some sesame oil to make a tasty Asian salad dressing. See the blogpost for more ideas!
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
More Easy Gluten-Free Sauce Recipes
If you like this 3 ingredient teriyaki recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free sauces too: