Easy Chicken Yakitori Recipe

The goal here was to make one of my favorite Japanese dishes simple enough to be prepared for a weeknight meal. 

I am still amazed that dedicated Japanese Yakitori restaurants have not spread like wildfire across the U.S. What's not to love about beautifully grilled meats and vegetables combined with delicate sauces and spices? Be that as it may, we cook Yakitori at least a couple of times a year, for special occasions.

I just love Yakitori, and would eat it a lot more often, except for one thing: it's a lot of work. In the interests of time and convenience, I looked for a way to make one of my favorite Yakitori dishes as quickly as possible. 

With Chicken Yakitori, it's all about the sauce and the green onions. Since the sauce is pretty easy to make, I looked for ways to simplify the rest of the dish. After numerous brain contortions, I came up with a skillet version that I think is about as easy as you can make it. Start with boneless, skinless thighs which are ready to cook, coat them with sauce, add onions partway through, and voila! (note - I only know about 20 Japanese words, and Voila is not one of them).

This turned out absolutely delicious. The thighs were super tender, the sauce was mild but uniquely flavorful, and the onions were cooked just right. Rave reviews from they family, so this will definitely be a mainstay. Further modifications I am planning on testing include:

  • Using a non-stick skillet. Sacrifices some caramelization of the chicken, but the cleanup is SO much better.
  • Cutting out the 30 minute cook-down time for the sauce. Either buy it online (still looking for a cheap source), or make larger batches of sauce and refrigerate them for future use.

My reference for the Yakitori sauce came from Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook.

Traditional yakitori is amazing, but the prep is incredibly time-consuming.

TOTAL TIME: 40 min

  • Prep:      20 min
  • Cook:     20 min

YIELD:    4 servings

LEVEL:  Easy

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, at room temperature
  • 9 - 10 green onions (scallions)
  • Olive oil
  • Yakitori Sauce:
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 3 tablespoons mirin
    • 1 tablespoon sake
    • 2 tablespoons sugar

 

DIRECTIONS

Make the sauce. Bring sauce ingredients to a boil in a small pot over medium-high heat, then reduce heat until sauce is simmering. Simmer 5 - 8 minutes until the sauce is reduced enough to become slightly syrupy. 

Prepare the chicken. Pat the thighs dry with paper towels. Pour some of the sauce over it and toss the chicken until it is entirely coated with sauce. Set the remainder of the sauce aside for use when serving.

Get the chicken cooking. Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet and put on medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the chicken piece by piece. You don't want any extra sauce in the skillet, or the chicken will not brown properly.

Chop the green onions while the chicken is cooking. Cut the white and light green parts of the onions into 1 inch pieces. Discard the green leafy part of the onions.

After 10 minutes, flip the chicken, then add the green onions to the skillet. Make sure they are touching the pan surface and not hitching a ride on a piece of chicken : )

Finish cooking. It's done when the thighs reach 175 degrees internal temperature (165 minimum). Use a food thermometer to avoid under or overcooking it.

Serve the chicken together with the onions. At this point it is acceptable for the onions to be placed on top of the chicken! Spoon a little of the sauce you set aside on for extra flavor. The sauce is also excellent over rice.


More Photos

The yakitori sauce, and green onions, are what makes this dish stand out.

Only use the white and light green parts of the onions. 

Pat the chicken thighs dry before adding Yakitori sauce.

After drying, add Yakitori sauce and toss chicken to ensure even coating.

Cook the chicken over medium high heat about 10 minutes before adding green onions. This is a non-non-stick pan, otherwise known awkwardly as a stick pan.

Add the green onions part-way through. cook about another 10 minutes until chicken reaches 175 internal temperature.