Bring the Tradition of Grilled Chicken Yakitori to Your Own Home

Ever since we got back from Japan, I have been craving Japanese food.

Vertical overhead image of a gold and black square plate of grilled chicken yakitori on bamboo skewers, arranged so they are all facing the same direction, on a wood table on top of a red cloth, with bowls of snack and dried fruit, and glasses of beer, printed with orange and white text near the middle and at the bottom of the frame.

Honestly, I never felt so incredible as I did eating there. We loved the flavors, and the lightness of the meals. The simple, straightforward recipes were a delight to indulge in.

My favorite meal was yakitori.

Vertical overhead image of a square gold and black serving platter of grilled chicken on skewers, on a red cloth, with small black dishes of dried fruit and nuts and a larger white bowl of caramel popcorn, with a tall glass of foamy beer on a brownish gray wood surface.

If you don’t know what yakitori is, it literally means grilled chicken, but can also refer to skewered food in general.

It’s usually skewered meat or vegetables that are grilled over a fixed charcoal grill that you can find either on the street, or in tiny izakayas, or Japanese pubs.

Vertical image of grilled chicken yakitori on bamboo skewers, piled on a square gold serving dish with a black border, on a red cloth on top of a dark colored wood table.

My husband and I would spend our evenings moving around from izakaya to street food and back to an izakaya, eating as much yakitori as our stomachs could handle.

Many local office workers frequent these go-to shops or stands, in search of snacks and drinks after work, often paired with a delicious beer or two.

Vertical head-on image of a black and gold plate of grilled chicken skewers, on a red cloth with a blue stitched border, with two tall glasses of beer and black and white bowls of snacks in soft focus in the background, on a brown wood table.

As a customer, you can watch the chefs grill the chicken over the open charcoal fires. Not only was it dinner, it was dinner and a show, especially for the food enthusiasts like me.

In most of these restaurants, you can choose a flavor of either salt (shio) or yakitori sauce (tare).

Simple poultry is transformed into something truly special and delicious. Not to mention that every part of the chicken is available when this dish is served in Japan, from breasts to thighs, skin to hearts, and everything else in between.

Vertical image of a square black and gold plate of grilled marinated Japanese-style chicken on bamboo skewers, on a red cloth with a glass of beer and bowls of snack foods in the background, on a wooden table.

This particular recipe is a marinated version that’s easy to make at home, and the poultry takes a nice dip in a flavorful homemade mixture. The different flavors of the soy sauce, honey, ginger, and red pepper flakes infuse a ton of flavor into the chicken tenderloin.

After the poultry sits in the marinade, it is threaded onto wooden skewers. These are placed on a very hot grill and cooked for just five minutes on each side.

The result? Juicy, succulent poultry that you can serve in a variety of ways. Enjoy it as a main entree, with brown or white rice and a pile of vegetables. Or try it as a snack or appetizer for a party.

Vertical overhead image of a hand reaching for a piece of grilled chicken on a stick, with more on a gold and black serving plate, on a red cloth on top of a gray table, with small bowls of snacks and dried fruit.

This has been our favorite way to bring a taste of Japan home, without having to labor over a complicated recipe or buy a bunch of specialty ingredients. In fact, you likely have all of the ingredients for the sauce right in your own pantry.

Print
Overhead horizontal image of skewers of grilled chicken piled on a square black and gold serving dish, on top of a red cloth with blue stitching at the border, on a gray wood surface.

Grilled Chicken Yakitori


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

This grilled chicken yakitori is a fantastic way to bring a savory Japanese tradition into your own home. The recipe is simple and flavorful.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 810 wooden skewers
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce, gluten-free tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins (about 8-10)

Instructions

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes before using.
  2. Place soy sauce, honey, fresh ginger, garlic, and red pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Place chicken in the bowl and turn the tenderloins to coat well with the marinade.
  4. Let it soak in for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat grill.
  6. Thread 1 or 2 chicken tenderloins onto each skewer.
  7. Discard remaining marinade.
  8. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is completely cooked through.

  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Snacks

Keywords: appetizer, snack, grilled chicken, Japanese, yakitori

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Soak Skewers, Peel and Grate Ginger, Mince Garlic, and Measure Out Remaining Ingredients

Place the wooden skewers in a shallow dish of water for at least 15 minutes before using, to avoid scorching on the grill.

Peel and grate enough fresh ginger until you have 1 teaspoon total.

Horizontal overhead image of four small square glass dishes of oil, chili pepper flakes, minced garlic, and grated fresh ginger, with a black plate of raw chicken tenderloins, and a small round glass dish of soy sauce, on a grayish brown wood surface.

Peel and mince two cloves of garlic.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can omit the red pepper flakes.

Step 2 – Marinate

Add the soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a large bowl. Whisk until combined.

Overhead closeup horizontal image of a wire whisk stirring a marinade of minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and red chili flakes in a glass mixing bowl, on a grayish brown wood surface.

Add the chicken tenderloins to the marinade, and turn with tongs to coat completely.

Horizontal overhead closely cropped image of raw chicken tenderloins in a glass bowl, on a marinade of soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, on a gray surface.

Let soak in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or for up to 8 hours.

Step 3 – Skewer

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the grill.

Thread one or two chicken tenderloins onto each skewer.

Horizontal overhead image of a black plate with bamboo skewers of marinated raw chicken on top, on a grayish brown wood surface.

Discard any remaining marinade.

Step 4 – Grill

Place the tenderloin skewers on the grill.

Vertical overhead image of seven bamboo skewers of marinated chicken being cooked on a hot grill, with a black background.

Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is completely cooked through.

Overhead horizontal image of skewers of grilled chicken piled on a square black and gold serving dish, on top of a red cloth with blue stitching at the border, on a gray wood surface.

Serve immediately.

What Type of Sauce Can I Serve with This?

Honestly, there is so much flavor in the chicken, you don’t need to serve a dipping sauce with it.

That’s kind of the point of the appetizer – it’s a handheld food with all the flavor you need right there on the stick.

Having said that, I know how much fun dipping can be. We’re already talking about food on a stick, so why not take it all the way?

If you really want to serve something to dip the chicken into, I find that soy sauce with a handful of sliced green onion is a tasty option. It’s simple and complements the flavors in the chicken without masking them.

Overhead horizontal image of a square gold and black plate of grilled chicken on skewers, on a red gathered cloth napkin with a glass of beet, with dishes of various sizes filled with snacks to the right, on a gray surface.

Are you looking for even more appetizers that are conveniently handheld, savory, and perfect for feeding a crowd? Here’s some of my favorite recipes from Foodal:

Will you serve this dish as an entree, or a party appetizer? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to give it a rating after you’ve tried it, to let other readers know how much you enjoyed it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 23, 2013. Last updated: September 3, 2019 at 13:20 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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