Are you ready to simplify dinners with this salty, sweet & sticky teriyaki chicken marinade that’s made with just 4 ingredients and works equally well with chicken breasts and chicken thighs? It’s such an easy recipe to effortlessly whip up for grilled or oven baked teriyaki chicken, plus it can be thrown in the freezer for future meals. Perfect as an easy dinner idea or as part of protein meal prep.

Side angle close up shot of spooning brown sauce on top of sliced, grilled chicken topped with sliced green onions on top of white rice in a large white bowl.

5 star review

“Another family favorite! We all loved this one and I especially loved how easy and quick it was. Lots of flavor, marinating it kept the chicken nice and juicy. Easy to serve with some rice and veggies and a quick dinner is done. Thanks for another great recipe!”

– Jodi

Visual Guide: How to Make Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

Jump to Recipe Instructions

Robyn’s Testing Notes

My secret to saving time in the kitchen and having delicious meals on hand is to throw chicken into a zip top bag with marinade and stow away in the freezer for another day.

This strategy has significantly simplified my life as a healthy habits expert, and I find it especially helpful as part of my weekly protein meal prep!

Packed with umami flavor, teriyaki chicken marinade is a new favorite to add to my marinade arsenal for effortless dinners especially because there’s no chopping and there are minimal ingredients!

Featuring 4 easy-to-find and flavor-packed ingredients – soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and garlic – the marinade creates a sticky glaze when cooked that is irresistible.

And side note, ginger would be a great addition here too! I just left it out for simplicity’s sake.

The key to getting that delicious glaze is the brown sugar which also helps tenderize the meat and gives the chicken beautiful browning when it’s cooked.

Testing note: Be sure to keep an eye on the chicken while it’s grilling because the sugar makes it prone to burning.

And if you’re baking in the oven, be mindful of pouring the extra marinade in the pan as it will burn around the edges.

To make this easy main dish, simply whisk up all the marinade ingredients, add chicken to half of the marinade and either marinate for 30 minutes and grill or bake or throw it in the freezer right away for another time.

The chicken and marinade will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months, and when you’re ready to use it, just let it thaw in the fridge and use right away.

If you’re obsessed with sweet and savory Asian-inspired sauces like this one, make sure to try this honey soy marinade and garlic soy slow cooker chicken.

Origins of Teriyaki Sauce

Authentic teriyaki sauce is made with soy sauce, mirin (rice wine), and sugar. I had trouble finding mirin, so I wanted to create a teriyaki-like marinade using ingredients I had readily available. I used rice vinegar in place of mirin, but if you have or can find mirin, use that in place of the vinegar.

Overhead shot of a wooden cutting board with sliced, grilled chicken thighs. Cutting board is surrounded by bowls of sliced green onion and sesame seeds.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce: You can use regular soy sauce, however since so much goes into the marinade, I chose to use reduced sodium, however, traditional soy sauce will also work. For gluten free, use reduced sodium or regular tamari.

Rice Vinegar: You can use seasoned rice vinegar or mirin as well.

Brown Sugar: I love the depth of flavor brown sugar adds to this marinade, but you can use white sugar or coconut sugar. Since the sugar is key to the marinade consistency and stickiness, I do not recommend reducing the amount. If you want a similar flavor with a little less sugar, this honey soy marinade is delicious, or try this balsamic marinade.

Fresh Garlic: Traditional teriyaki does not have garlic, so you could leave it out, but I love the flavor it adds to this marinade.

Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts work well in this recipe, but thighs hold up especially well to the strong flavors of the marinade.

Marination Timing Suggestions

You only need to marinate the chicken for 30 minutes to get maximum flavor, however, you can marinate it for up to 6 hours, but no longer since the acid can alter the texture of the meat.

If you need longer than 6 hours or overnight, I recommend using the freezer method described above.

Overhead shot of a large white bowl with sliced, grilled chicken topped with sliced green onions on top of white rice. Bowl is surrounded by bowls of sesame seeds, sliced green onion, and brown sauce, and a striped towel.

This Recipe Is…

Side angle close up shot of spooning brown sauce on top of sliced, grilled chicken topped with sliced green onions on top of white rice in a large white bowl.
5 stars (2 ratings)

Easy Teriyaki Chicken Marinade (for Grilling & Oven)

Are you ready to simplify dinners with this salty, sweet & sticky teriyaki chicken marinade that’s made with just 4 ingredients? It’s such an easy recipe to effortlessly whip up for grilled or oven baked teriyaki chicken, plus it can be thrown in the freezer for future meals.

Ingredients

  • cup reduced sodium soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)

Equipment

Instructions 

Grilling Instructions

  • Whisk the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and garlic in a small bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Pour half of the marinade along with 2 tablespoons of water and the chicken into a 1-gallon zip-top bag or baking dish. Set the remaining half of the marinade aside.
  • Toss the chicken to coat, then press as much air out of the bag (if using) as possible, or cover with plastic wrap (if using a baking dish). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 60 minutes, flipping every 15 minutes.
  • When ready to grill, heat a grill to medium high. Allow to preheat for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off any excess, and discard any remaining marinade from the bag or dish.
  • Grill, with the cover down, until chicken thighs register 170F or chicken breasts register 165F.
  • Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into ½ inch slices, and serve drizzled with reserved marinade.

Oven Baked Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F. Set aside half of the marinade, then add the chicken and the remaining marinade into a small baking dish. If you have a large baking dish or rimmed sheet pan, omit the marinade as it will spread and possibly burn. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until or until chicken thighs register 170F or chicken breasts register 165F.
  • Optional: If you want a dark, caramelized color you can run the chicken under the broiler for 2-3 minutes at the end of the baking time. Note you'll need to use a broiler safe pan and watch the chicken carefully, as it will burn exceptionally easily.
  • Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into ½ inch slices and serve, drizzled with reserved marinade.

Notes

  • If oven baking, note that the color and caramelization will not match the photos, which show the chicken grilled. For a closer match to the photos, use the optional broiling step included in the instructions.
  • A note about the nutrition information on this recipe, since we discard the marinade before grilling or baking it can be a little difficult to calculate.
  • Marinade makes a little more than ½ cup.
  • See blog post, above, for substitution suggestions, storage, and more. 

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 (of 8), Calories: 172kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 417mg, Potassium: 472mg, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 34IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 1mg
Nutrition disclaimer
Did you make this recipe?If you do, be sure to share it on Instagram and tag me at @realfoodwholelife so I can see!

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