There are worse things than sitting down to enjoy a nice home-cooked dinner, only to find you’re missing the condiments you need to complete the meal. However, when it happens, it’s hard to think of anything worse at the time. Luckily, if you’re missing teriyaki sauce, there are a few substitutes you can use.
Here are seven of the best substitutes for teriyaki sauce:
- Oyster Sauce
- Sweet and Tangy Mango Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Korean Barbecue Sauce (Kalbi)
- Ponzu Sauce
- Hoisin Sauce
In this article, we’ll talk a little more about these seven different sauces. While none of these tastes precisely like teriyaki sauce, they all have subtle similarities to it. I’ll also give you one of my favorite recipes for homemade teriyaki sauce in case you want to make your own.
1. Oyster Sauce
If you enjoy the salty sweetness of teriyaki sauce, the oyster sauce might be an excellent substitute option for you to try. It doesn’t have as many savory or sour notes as teriyaki sauce, but it has a complex sweetness and enough saltiness to give it a nice contrast.
Unsurprisingly, oyster sauce is made from oysters, but it doesn’t taste nearly as fishy as you’d think it might taste.
The sweet flavor is rich and developed, and the saltiness is the robust and clean kind of saltiness you get when you use sea salt instead of table salt. Additionally, there’s a bit of an umami flavor, which you’ll also find in teriyaki sauce.
The two sauces don’t taste identical to one another, but there’s definitely some overlap to them. Perhaps that’s why Japanese chefs often use both of them in stir fry dishes.
If you have the time and want to add a few other things, such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, and mirin, to the food you’re cooking, you’ll get even more of a teriyaki sauce vibe from the oyster sauce and other condiments.
Oyster sauce is one of my favorite substitutes for teriyaki sauce, and I prefer the Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Sauce, found on Amazon.com, over all the others.
2. Sweet and Tangy Mango Sauce
Whether you purchase or make your own, mango sauce is another more-than-adequate substitute for teriyaki sauce, particularly if you like the contrast between sweet and tangy flavors.
This sauce provides an excellent balance of both, with a bit of saltiness thrown in for good measure.
You can make your own sauce using this recipe from Just Glowing with Health. When you make your own, you can control how much of each flavor profile to add.
Furthermore, if you don’t like a lot of heat in your sauce, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll buy the wrong brand of mango sauce and be stuck with something much hotter than you like.
I try to keep a bottle of store-bought mango sauce around, though, just in case I don’t have time to make my own. I always buy the same brand, Saucy Lips Handcrafted Gourmet Tangy Mango Sauce, found on Amazon.com.
It tastes almost, though not quite, as good as my homemade version, and it doesn’t have any heat.
3. Barbecue Sauce
Barbecue sauce may seem like an odd choice to replace teriyaki sauce, but the two sauces have similar applications. In Japan, chefs traditionally use teriyaki sauce to marinate and glaze grilled meats.
We do the same thing with BBQ sauce in the Western world.
Original-recipe barbecue sauces, such as Sweet Baby Rays or Stubbs Original BBQ Sauce, aren’t nearly as sweet as teriyaki sauce, and they’re missing that little bit of tanginess that makes teriyaki so unique.
However, there are plenty of other options for barbecue sauce available.
You don’t have to stick with just “original.” If you’re looking for a BBQ sauce that more closely resembles the flavor you’ll get from teriyaki, try some of the sweeter, fruitier flavors, such as Brownwood Farms Cherry BBQ Sauce or Best Damn BBQ Sauce, Pineapple Express Variety.
Both options will get you closer to teriyaki sauce than you might think. If all you have is original sauce at home, you could try combining it with some brown sugar and a dash of honey, maybe even a little pineapple or lemon juice.
4. Worcestershire Sauce
Believe it or not, Worcestershire sauce is also a pretty decent substitute for teriyaki sauce. The density isn’t the same, as teriyaki sauce is a little thicker, but that depends heavily on the specific brand you purchase.
However, they both give your food a sweet and savory flavor that many other sauces and marinades can’t provide.
Plenty of sauces contain the subtle sweetness and saltiness of teriyaki. A few even know how to bring the tang. However, that rich, savory aspect is another matter entirely, and many of these condiments are missing that component.
Worcestershire sauce and teriyaki sauce taste similar because they share some comparable ingredients.
For example, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (available on Amazon.com) contains sugar, vinegar, and garlic, among other things. Many teriyaki sauces include brown sugar, rice vinegar, and garlic. In addition, Lea & Perrins uses molasses in their Worcestershire sauce, and many brands use honey to make teriyaki sauce.
There are plenty of similarities there, and it always surprises me when more people don’t connect the two sauces more often.
5. Korean BBQ Sauce (Kalbi)
Just as we have several types of barbecue and sauce, so, too, do Korean chefs. Some of the most popular ones include:
Some of these are the names of a particular barbecue dish, while others are the names of the sauces. Kalbi (or Galbi), for example, is a type of barbecue that uses short ribs.
However, people also use the word “kalbi” to describe the sauce used with the kalbi recipe. Whatever you call it, this condiment is an excellent substitute for teriyaki sauce.
It’s a sweet and salty sauce, but it has a slightly smokier flavor than teriyaki sauce.
Even so, the two are similar in many ways. They both use some of the same ingredients, such as soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and honey. Some kalbi sauce even has rice wine in it, though more often, people use Asian pears for the sweetness.
Most people who use Korean barbecue sauce use it as a marinade instead of adding it to their meat while it’s cooking. If you allow your food to sit overnight in the marinade, it results in a better flavor than simply coating the meat (or veggies) with it while they’re on the grill.
There are plenty of great recipes for Korean BBQ Galbi online if you want to make your own. I like this one from All Recipes.
6. Ponzu Sauce
Many people have never heard of ponzu sauce.
If you haven’t heard of it and are looking for an alternative to teriyaki sauce, you should research it. Like teriyaki, it’s a Japanese sauce, and they both share similar ingredients.
The main differences between the two are that ponzu sauce is much thicker than teriyaki sauce, and it includes citrus juice as the main ingredient. The citrus gives the condiment both a sweetness and a tanginess.
Other ingredients include soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, rice vinegar, and bonito fish flakes. Ponzu sauce has more of an umami flavor than teriyaki sauce, and because of that, it works best when you’re cooking fish or other seafood.
There are plenty of recipes online if you want to make ponzu sauce yourself, but I generally stick with Kikkoman Ponzu Sauce. You can usually find it on Amazon.com or in the ethnic food aisle at your local Walmart or Target.
7. Hoisin Sauce
If you’re looking for an exact replica of teriyaki sauce, you aren’t going to find it. Sadly, as close as some of these substitutes get, none of them will taste precisely like teriyaki.
However, if you’re looking for a good, general-purpose Asian sauce, you might consider hoisin sauce. It’s much thicker than teriyaki sauce, and it has a lot more heat and spice, but there are things about its flavor profile that teriyaki lovers appreciate.
As this article on SPICEography will tell you, there are several ingredients you can add to teriyaki to make it taste more like hoisin sauce, but it’s harder to go in the other direction. Hoisin is a more complicated sauce than teriyaki and it has more flavor.
However, if you have nothing else you can use and want to add a sweet, savory, and salty Asian kick to your food, you can use hoisin sauce. Your food won’t taste the same as it would with teriyaki, but it’ll still taste delicious and will have plenty of flavors.
I keep a bottle of the Lee Kum Kee sauce around in case I need it. However, I love garlic, so most of the time, I use the Soy Vay garlic hoisin instead. It doesn’t taste exactly like “true” hoisin sauce, but I love the extra garlicky zing.
Note: Hoisin sauce is not a good substitute option if you don’t like spicy food.
Easy Teriyaki Sauce Recipe
All the substitution options listed should make your food taste pretty yummy.
However, none of them will give you the same flavor you would get from using teriyaki sauce. When you’re cooking at home and have no other options, though, some flavor is better than no flavor.
However, there are those times when nothing but teriyaki sauce will do the trick. In that case, you either have to put your meal on hold and run out and buy some, or you can make your own sauce at home.
There are hundreds of teriyaki sauce recipes floating around online, but the easiest, quickest one I’ve ever used comes from The Adventure Bite.
They call it 3 Ingredient Easy Teriyaki Sauce, and it’s pretty amazing (although it does require more than three ingredients, so I’m not sure it was well-named). Here it is:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 4-5 tablespoons honey, to taste
Optional Ingredients (for tweaking the recipe to suit your tastes):
- 2-4 tablespoons rice vinegar, to taste
- 4 tablespoons crushed pineapple
- 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon green onions
- Whisk together the four main ingredients in a small pot until they’re smooth.
- Add any optional ingredients you want to suit your tastes and continue whisking.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium heat while continuing to whisk.
- Continue whisking on medium heat for 8-10 minutes.
- Adjust the ingredients as desired to create the perfect flavor.
If you’re a more visually-oriented person and would rather see someone using this recipe, you’re in luck. The Adventure Bite made a video showcasing it, which you can check out here:
Lazy Teriyaki Sauce Recipe
If you really, really, really want teriyaki sauce but don’t have any, and you don’t have those four required ingredients to make the easy teriyaki sauce recipe above, there is one other option.
Simply add brown sugar to your soy sauce.
I recommend adding two tablespoons of sugar for every half-cup of soy sauce to balance the sweet and savory flavors. I tend to stick with what I know, so I use Kikkoman Soy Sauce and Domino Light Brown Sugar (both available on Amazon.com), but any soy sauce and sugar combination should work.
You can mix them in a separate container to make what I call “lazy teriyaki sauce,” or you can mix them while cooking. This video from Cooking with Camilla shows her making teriyaki chicken:
If you fast-forward to about the eight-minute mark, you’ll see her combining soy sauce and brown sugar right in the pan as she cooks, which is another way to mix the ingredients.
I tend to be more of a stick-to-the-measurements kind of chef, so I prefer to mix mine exactly using measurements and a separate container. If you trust your culinary skills, though, feel free to do it Camilla’s way.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. So if you don’t have at least these two ingredients in your house, you’re either going to have to do without or bite the bullet and buy some teriyaki sauce.
What Are the Best Teriyaki Sauce Brands?
Picking the best anything is a subjective task. Finding the “best” of something means using your own tastes and preferences. However, if you don’t often buy teriyaki sauce and have no clue which ones are good, you might not know what to choose.
Here are the best teriyaki sauce brands on Amazon.com that you might want to check out:
- Best overall: Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce
- Best gluten-free: Annie Chun’s Teriyaki Sauce
- Best low-sodium: Kikkoman Less Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
- Best for BBQ: Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet Teriyaki Sauce & Marinade
These should give you a few options to get you started.
Can You Substitute Soy Sauce for Teriyaki?
Teriyaki sauce and soy sauce are two very different sauces. They don’t taste alike, so using straight soy sauce as a substitute for teriyaki isn’t going to give you the flavor you want. However, soy sauce is an essential component of teriyaki sauce.
You cannot substitute soy sauce for teriyaki, but if you have the right ingredients, you can use soy sauce to make teriyaki sauce. Using the three-ingredient teriyaki sauce recipe mentioned above, all you’d need aside from the soy sauce would be water, cornstarch, and honey.
There are plenty of other teriyaki sauce recipes online, as well. For example, to make this one from the Spend with Pennies cooking blog, you’d use soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and water.
Furthermore, simply adding two tablespoons of brown sugar for every half-cup of soy sauce can make a pretty decent substitute if you’re in a pinch.
Your homemade version isn’t going to taste identical to your favorite teriyaki sauce brand. However, depending on the brand you usually buy and the specific recipe you use, it should be close enough to satisfy your craving for teriyaki.
What Tastes Like Teriyaki Sauce?
Teriyaki sauce somehow tastes sweet, salty, savory, and a little bit sour all at once. That’s because the real thing contains sugar, rice wine (called “mirin”), sake, and soy sauce, and when you eat it, you taste some of all of those ingredients with each bite.
Barbecue sauce or anything else that is sweet and salty tastes like teriyaki sauce. The closest you can get to replicating teriyaki sauce is making your own. After that, either ponzu sauce, pineapple BBQ sauce, or tangy mango sauce is probably your best option.
As a result, there’s nothing that tastes precisely like teriyaki sauce, but any of the above-listed substitutions will add extra flavor in a pinch.
Is Teriyaki Chinese or Japanese?
Most of us know what teriyaki sauce is, but not everyone knows where it originated. Teriyaki sauce is a shiny, reddish-brown sauce from Japan.
Teriyaki is Japanese, as the word “teriyaki” comes from two Japanese words – “teri” and “yaki” – which means “glazed/shiny” and “grilled,” respectively.
For more, don’t miss 9 Yummy Substitutes for Barbecue Sauce (And Easy DIY Recipe).
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