Teriyaki is the best BBQ sauce that isn’t barbecue at all

Teriyaki sauce is the ultimate grilling glaze, delicious on salmon, especially when paired with broccoli rabe. The sauce tastes terrific on meat as well--and go ahead and drizzle it on vegetables.
(Ren Fuller / For The Times / Prop styling by Nidia Cueva)

In Japanese, “teri” means shiny and “yaki” means grilling or broiling. The shine comes from brushing on tare, the classic Japanese sweetened soy sauce, during cooking.

Teriyaki is the instant version of tare — which is often boiled and reboiled, fed and improved over time, like a starter for a sourdough bread, though it isn’t fermented. It is salty from soy sauce and sweet from sugar or mirin, with depth from sake (it doesn’t need garlic or ginger or scallions or anything else), and it works as a grilling sauce for just about anything. A final sprinkle of togarashi or chile powder adds heat, and a squeeze of lemon juice brightens with acidity.

Although you can simmer the sauce on the stove any time and keep it in the fridge, you can make the following dish even quicker by cooking the sauce in a saucepan right on the grill next to the fish or whatever you’re grilling. (Just make sure your saucepan is heavy-duty enough to handle the heat.) When the sauce sits on the grill, it soaks up some of the smokiness from the salmon and — partnered with broccoli rabe, its leaves charred until crisp — makes for a quick and undeniably satisfying weeknight dinner.

Salmon tastes extra succulent and silky when it isn't cooked through all the way.
(Ren Fuller / For The Times / Prop styling by Nidia Cueva)

Grilled Salmon Teriyaki

View this recipe in our California Cookbook »

30 minutes. Serves 4.

  • ½ cup sake
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup mirin (or 2 tablespoons honey mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
  • 4 salmon fillets (4 to 6 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • Shichimi togarashi or other ground red chiles, sesame seeds and lemon wedges, for serving

1 Set up a charcoal grill for direct heat over three-quarters of the grill or heat three-quarters of the burners of a gas grill on medium-high. Keep the remaining quarter of the grill unheated. (Alternatively, heat a large skillet or grill pan on a stove-top over medium-high heat.)

2 Put the sake, soy sauce and mirin in a heavy-duty, small saucepan. Put the saucepan on the hot part of the grill and bring the mixture to a boil. Wearing an oven mitt, move the saucepan to the part of the grill that will keep the mixture at a steady simmer, either over the unheated part of the grill or between the heated and unheated parts. If working on a stove-top, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. In either setup, simmer until syrupy, about 10 minutes.

3 While the sauce simmers, rub the salmon all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and place flesh-side down on the hot part of the grill. Toss the broccoli rabe with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and arrange on the hot grill grate in a single layer. Cook everything together, turning the broccoli rabe once, until the salmon releases easily from the grill grate and the broccoli rabe is charred and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the broccoli rabe to serving plates and carefully flip the salmon. Brush some teriyaki sauce on the salmon and continue grilling, brushing on more sauce once more, until the fish is almost cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes longer. A thin-bladed knife or metal cake tester should slide through the thickest part of the fish with little resistance.

4 Transfer the salmon to the plates with the broccoli rabe. Drizzle the teriyaki sauce all over, sprinkle with togarashi and sesame seeds, and serve with lemon wedges.

Make ahead: The teriyaki sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Note: Mirin is a golden rice liquor, naturally sweetened through its traditional fermenting process. Many versions now are loaded with corn syrup, so look for mirin labeled hon-mirin (“real”) mirin or honkaku (“authentic”) mirin. If you can’t find any, substitute with the honey mixture indicated in the recipe.


Shichimi togarashi: Togarashi means chile pepper in Japanese and refers to any variety, including blends. Shichimi togarashi is a dried mix of seven seasonings, usually red chile pepper, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed.