International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Yakitori (Japanese grilled chicken skewers)

(Japanese grilled chicken skewers)

Image by Eryn Vorn

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Yakitori is great Japanese street food. Bite-sized pieces of chicken are threaded onto bamboo skewers, grilled over a charcoal flame and basted with tare, a teriyaki-style glaze.

Hungry commuters, scurrying home at the end of the day, buy yakitori from vendors outside train stations and gobble them down, finishing up with a shot of sake.

Skewers basted with sweet-savory sauce are called tare yakitori. Alternating bands of chicken and scallions are called negima yakitori. No sauce and a simple sprinkling of salt gives you shio yakitori.

About 4 servings


For the chicken

  • Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless -- 1 pound
  • Soy sauce -- 3 tablespoons
  • Sake -- 3 tablespoons
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked in water -- 8 to 10

Tare basting glaze

  • Soy sauce -- 1/2 cup
  • Mirin -- 1/2 cup
  • Sake -- 1/4 cup
  • Sugar -- 1 tablespoon


  1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss it in a bowl with the 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and sake. Set aside to marinate for at least 15 or 20 minutes.
  2. Mix the tare glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce flame to low and simmer for about 15 minutes to meld the flavors and reduce the sauce's volume a bit.
  3. Thread the chicken pieces on the soaked bamboo skewers, leaving an inch or two free at each end. Brush the skewered chicken lightly with oil.
  4. Grill the chicken over hot charcoal or broil in the oven, turning to cook both sides. When the chicken begins to brown, give the skewers a few brushings of the tare glaze.
  5. When the chicken is cooked through, give the skewers a final brush with glaze and serve hot. Offer diners a sprinkling of kona sansho (Japanese pepper) or shichimi togarashi (7-spice seasoning) if you like.

Yakitori Variations

  • Negima Yakitori: Cut Japanese leeks (negi) or scallions into 2-inch pieces and thread on skewers, alternating with the chicken pieces.
  • Other Ingredient Options: Any number of ingredients can be grilled for yakitori. Try chicken breast, chicken livers, chicken wings or little chicken meatballs. Beef, pork and duck are other tasty options. Vegetable skewers are popular too. Use mushrooms, asparagus or green peppers. Skewer vegetables separately from meat so they don't get overcooked.
  • Tare Sauce: Add chicken bones and trimmings to the simmering tare sauce to give it even more flavor.
  • For Grilling: To keep the skewers from sticking to the grill, place two clean bricks on the grill, about 6 inches apart and lay the skewers between the bricks. They will be suspended over the fire without touching the hot grate.
  • For Broiling: Cover the ends of the skewers with a little aluminum foil to keep them from burning.


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