Make Authentic Yakitori at Home – A Step-by-Step Guide

by Ella

Yakitori, a traditional Japanese dish, consists of skewered and grilled chicken, often accompanied by various sauces and seasonings. This delectable dish is not only a staple in Japanese cuisine but also a popular choice worldwide due to its simplicity and rich flavor. This article delves into the intricacies of making yakitori, providing a step-by-step guide to help you master this culinary art.

History and Cultural Significance of Yakitori

Origins of Yakitori

Yakitori, which translates to “grilled bird,” originated in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). Initially, it was a street food sold by vendors, catering to the working class who needed a quick and affordable meal. Over time, it gained popularity and became a beloved dish across all social classes.


Yakitori in Modern Japanese Culture

Today, yakitori is a common sight in izakayas (Japanese pubs) and restaurants. It’s often enjoyed with drinks and shared among friends and family. The simplicity of yakitori, combined with its rich flavors, makes it a versatile dish suitable for various occasions.


Essential Ingredients for Yakitori

Chicken and Its Parts

Yakitori traditionally uses various parts of the chicken, each offering a unique texture and flavor. Common parts include:


Thighs (Momo): Juicy and flavorful, ideal for grilling.


Breasts (Mune): Leaner and milder in taste.

Skin (Kawa): Crispy and rich when grilled.

Gizzards (Sunagimo): Chewy with a unique taste.

Hearts (Hatsu): Tender with a slightly gamey flavor.


Bamboo skewers are traditionally used for yakitori. They should be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent burning.

Seasonings and Sauces

Yakitori can be seasoned with salt (shio) or coated with a savory-sweet sauce called tare. Common ingredients for tare include:

Soy Sauce: Provides a salty, umami base.

Mirin: Adds sweetness and a slight tang.

Sake: Enhances the sauce’s depth and aroma.

Sugar: Balances the saltiness with sweetness.

Preparing Yakitori

Selecting and Preparing the Chicken

Choosing high-quality, fresh chicken is crucial for making delicious yakitori. Here’s how to prepare the chicken:

Cleaning: Rinse the chicken parts under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.

Trimming: Remove any excess fat or skin from the chicken parts.

Cutting: Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, ensuring uniformity for even cooking.

Soaking the Skewers

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. This step prevents them from burning during grilling.

Making the Tare Sauce

To make the tare sauce, you will need:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • 1 piece of ginger, sliced (optional)

Combine Ingredients: In a saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. Add garlic and ginger if desired.

Simmer: Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Reduce: Reduce the heat and let it simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10-15 minutes.

Strain: Remove the garlic and ginger pieces, then let the sauce cool.

Skewering the Chicken

Basic Skewering Technique

Even Pieces: Ensure the chicken pieces are even in size to promote uniform cooking.

Space: Leave a small space between each piece on the skewer to allow heat to circulate.

End to End: Start and end with a piece of chicken to secure the skewer.

Advanced Skewering Techniques

Alternating: Alternate chicken pieces with vegetables like scallions, mushrooms, or bell peppers for added flavor and variety.

Double Skewering: Use two skewers for larger pieces to prevent them from spinning when turned.

Grilling Yakitori

Choosing the Right Grill

Yakitori can be grilled over a charcoal grill for authentic flavor or a gas grill for convenience. Charcoal grills provide a smoky aroma that enhances the taste.

Preparing the Grill

Charcoal Grill: Light the charcoal and let it burn until the coals are covered with white ash. Spread them evenly for consistent heat.

Gas Grill: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Grilling Techniques

Preheating: Ensure the grill is hot before placing the skewers.

Basting: Brush the skewers with tare sauce (if using) during grilling to enhance flavor and create a caramelized glaze.

Turning: Turn the skewers frequently to cook evenly and prevent burning.

Timing: Grill the chicken until it’s cooked through and has a slight char, usually 8-10 minutes.

Serving and Enjoying Yakitori


Yakitori is traditionally served hot off the grill. Arrange the skewers on a platter, and sprinkle with togarashi (Japanese chili powder) or sesame seeds for added flavor.


Yakitori is often enjoyed with a variety of sides and beverages:

Side Dishes: Pickled vegetables, edamame, and rice complement yakitori well.

Dipping Sauces: Serve extra tare sauce or a simple soy sauce-based dip.

Beverages: Sake, beer, or green tea pair perfectly with yakitori.

Eating Etiquette

In Japan, it’s customary to enjoy yakitori directly from the skewer. Use your hands or chopsticks to slide the pieces off the skewer onto a plate if sharing.

Variations of Yakitori

Regional Variations

Different regions in Japan have their unique takes on yakitori:

Tokyo Style: Focuses on simple, lightly salted skewers.

Osaka Style: Uses a richer, more flavorful tare sauce.

Nagoya Style: Often includes miso-based sauces for a distinct taste.

Creative Twists

Modern interpretations of yakitori include:

Vegetarian Yakitori: Using tofu, mushrooms, and vegetables instead of chicken.

Fusion Yakitori: Incorporating international flavors like teriyaki or spicy Korean gochujang.

Health Considerations

Nutritional Benefits

Yakitori can be a healthy option when prepared with lean chicken parts and vegetables. It’s high in protein and can be low in fat depending on the cuts used.

Modifications for Special Diets

Low-Sodium: Reduce the amount of soy sauce in the tare and use low-sodium alternatives.

Gluten-Free: Ensure the soy sauce used is gluten-free.

Low-Fat: Opt for chicken breast instead of thigh or skin.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Dry Chicken

If your yakitori turns out dry, try the following tips:

Marinate: Marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, sake, and mirin before skewering to retain moisture.

Lower Heat: Grill over medium heat to prevent drying out.

Uneven Cooking

To ensure even cooking:

Uniform Pieces: Cut the chicken into uniform pieces.

Consistent Turning: Turn the skewers frequently for even heat distribution.

See Also: Make Authentic Udon Noodles at Home – Just 4 Steps


Making yakitori is an art that balances simplicity with rich, complex flavors. By understanding its history, mastering the techniques, and experimenting with variations, you can create delicious yakitori that impresses family and friends. Whether you’re enjoying it as a quick snack or a centerpiece of a meal, yakitori’s versatility and taste make it a delightful addition to any culinary repertoire.



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