Best Substitutes for Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce is one of those odd ingredients that you likely didn’t purchase for a long, long time, only for it to become an indispensable part of your cooking life. From chicken teriyaki to a splash or two in a hearty stew, teriyaki is both versatile and wonderfully flavored.

If you’re cooking up a storm in your kitchen and you run out of a specific ingredient, you might feel the wind fall from your sails a little. Well, never fear – there are always options for great substitutes! In this article, we’re going to run through our top five, and talk about what makes each of them a good substitute option.

5 Best Substitutes for Teriyaki Sauce

Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce and teriyaki sauces aren’t that dissimilar, really. At the end of the day, they’re both quite rich and smoky, though with Teriyaki sauce being a little milder overall – BBQ is generally less sweet, and a little smokier.

Barbecue is a great substitute for teriyaki sauce in any situation where you’re cooking meat. They both work similarly with meat to bring out umami and smoky flavors that would surprise and delight anyone and everyone.

Most people have a favorite BBQ sauce that they pick up from the grocery store, and that’s all well and good. Personally, we’d recommend seeking out the most unassuming bottle of BBQ sauce – typically, the ones that don’t have to sell themselves taste impeccably good!

You can also make your own BBQ sauce at home – it’s not too tricky at all, and you likely already have the ingredients in your cupboard. The thing we like about making your own BBQ sauce in this way is that you could if you chose, add a little honey or whiskey to the mix – making a more American-style BBQ sauce, rather than a traditional Teriyaki sauce. The choice is yours, and that’s how great cooking is done.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is a common fixture across all of Chinese cuisine, though most particularly in stir-fried dishes. It’s a great substitute for when you haven’t got any teriyaki since it cooks into a thick, caramel-like sauce over time.

The overall flavor of oyster sauce is a sweet-savory mixture, and it goes really well with nearly any dish that you might be cooking. Because the sauce has complex flavor notes overall, it works well with veggies and meat alike.

A great idea when using oyster sauce is to mix it with a little barbecue sauce. This will bring some tanginess to the dish that you’re cooking and can allow it to be used as a great glaze when barbecuing. Since oyster sauce is quite sweet, you can’t really tell the difference if a small portion of this is used on a dish, rather than teriyaki sauce.

Soy Sauce with Sugar

Soy sauce with a little added sugar is the most common base ingredient for recipes that make BBQ sauce from the comfort and convenience of your own kitchen. It’s really simple indeed, and it’s perfect for having on hand in situations like this one – mixing soy sauce and sugar is child’s play.

Start off with half a cup of soy sauce, and dissolve two tablespoons of sugar into it. This might seem like quite an odd proportion, but it’s got a great taste to it, and it works wonderfully well in most meals. The sauce works great as a meat marinade, and also as a flavor conductor – add some cloves of garlic to the marinade along with the meat, and you’ll end up with a warm, earthy note to the final sauce. The longer you allow it to sit, the better the final flavor will be.

We mention using this mixture for marinading here, but it can also be used for cooking, too. When grilling or frying pieces of meat or chunky bits of veg, you can brush the sauce across the cooking food – it will be absorbed, as will the flavors.

Ponzu Sauce

Ponzu is a sauce that’s not particularly well known, which is a crying shame! It’s fundamentally quite similar to teriyaki sauce and was created during the Edo period in Japan. To that end, ponzu is typically considered to be the Japanese version of tamarind sauce, having a similar flavor – though typically less sour overall.

Ponzu adds some great sweetness and umami flavor to dishes like sushi, or similar options.

Swapping ponzu and teriyaki in a recipe is particularly easy – they both make use of soybeans as their primary ingredient, which means that the final consistency and flavor of both are quite similar. While they’re not identical twins, it’s easy to tell that the two sauces are, perhaps, siblings.

Korean Galbi Sauce

Galbi is, very sadly indeed, even worse known than ponzu! It’s considered to be the Korean version of a barbecue-flavored marinade, just like how Japanese food has teriyaki. Galbi is just as smoky as teriyaki, though it’s a little sweeter at the same time.

This sauce is typically well known to those that are familiar with Korean cuisine or have spent some time in the country. While it does make a wonderful substitute for Teriyaki sauce, it’s worth buying a bottle of for the sake of simply having and tasting it – it’s a wonderful ingredient, truly!

To get started with this sauce, we would suggest using it to marinade some meat. Ideally, marinating the meat overnight would be great, with just the sauce and the protein in a small container. This will give you a great insight into the flavors that are up for grabs in this great sauce, and how you might be able to use them in your kitchen.

Teriyaki sauce is a wonderfully tasty ingredient that we love to have in the kitchen. If we run out, though, any one of these options makes a wonderful substitute at the last minute. Whichever of these options you decide to opt for the next time you’re doing some cooking, we hope you have a great time in the kitchen, and we know you’ll make a wonderful meal.

Kunal Sharma
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