Authentic Japanese pan fried teriyaki salmon is made with fresh salmon fillets coated in a sweet and sticky homemade teriyaki glaze. This versatile dish is quick and easy to make, and goes perfectly with rice and sautéed vegetables!
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What is teriyaki?
Teriyaki a Japanese cooking method where meat or fish are broiled or grilled with a sweet sauce made with soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar.
The word "teri" (照り) means shiny or glossy and "yaki" (焼き) means to fry or cook. Although many people believe teriyaki is a sauce, it's not technically the sauce itself. It's more like the method of creating a sweet, sticky soy sauce glaze.
Teriyaki as a cooking method can be used for many different ingredients. I know that teriyaki chicken is probably the most well known, but actually, in Japan, teriyaki made with yellowtail called "Buri no Teriyaki" is the most popular.
I'm not sure how easy it is to buy yellowtail outside of Japan, but one fish that is universally accessible, well loved and goes perfectly with teriyaki is... you guessed it! Salmon!
Ways to serve teriyaki salmon
Teriyaki salmon is very versatile and goes well with both Japanese style dishes (of course) and also Western style!
If you want to eat it the Japanese way, you could try serving it with rice, miso soup and a side salad or some pickles (tsukemono). We tend to serve our meals in separate plates and bowls as a "set" like below:
In this recipe, I decided to serve my teriyaki salmon with a bit of a Western twist. Served on a single plate over a bed of fluffy rice, buttery pan fried spinach and asparagus, this is definitely not traditional at all but it tastes so good!
I also sprinkled some sesame seeds and chopped spring onions for the finishing touch!
Ingredients to make authentic teriyaki salmon
Here are the ingredients I use in my teriyaki salmon recipe.
You might be surprised, but it's very simple to make teriyaki glaze. In fact, you only need 4 main ingredients!
- Soy Sauce (I recommend Kikkoman or Yamasa)
- Sake (I use Takara cooking sake)
- Mirin (I recommend Hinode Hon Mirin)
- Sugar (Regular white caster or granulated sugar)
These four ingredients are essential in Japanese cooking. In fact, because most Japanese people always have these ingredients in their cupboards, it's pretty rare to find pre-made teriyaki sauce in the supermarket in Japan. We have everything we need to make it from scratch at home!
If you're interested in cooking Japanese food often, I really recommend stocking up on these four items! You can also learn more about the 20 most commonly used ingredients in Japanese cooking with my handy list here.
It's also worth noting that don't need to use any thickening agents when making teriyaki sauce. The sugar melts and caramelises and the liquid in the soy sauce, mirin and sake reduces to make a thick glaze. Don't be tempted to add starch or flour to thicken it up, patience is key here!
If you can't get hold of mirin, you can increase the amount of sugar but I don't recommend substituting anything else.
Ingredients for the rest of the dish
Other than the teriyaki sauce ingredients, you will also need:
- Salmon fillets with the skin on
- Cooked rice (I used a rice cooker to cook my rice, but you can learn how to cook Japanese rice on the stove here.)
- Salt and pepper
- Potato starch (alternatively you can use corn starch)
- Unsalted butter
- Sesame seeds
- Chopped spring onion
For ingredient quantities, see the recipe card at the bottom of the page!
Instructions how to make teriyaki salmon
Here is my step by step guide on how to make teriyaki salmon with homemade sauce served with buttery spinach and asparagus. For the ingredient quantities, see the printable recipe card below!
Prep the spinach
In Japan, spinach is sold with the stems and roots attached. Here is how I prepare the spinach for frying. (If you buy spinach leaves only you can skip this step.)
Start by washing it thoroughly with cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Then divide it into 3 parts, the thick stems, the middle and the top leaves like this:
I tied them with butchers string to make it easy to remove them from the pan later.
Blanch the spinach
Blanching helps the spinach maintain its colour and texture. Because the thick stems take longer to cook than the leaves, I blanch them for different times to ensure even cooking when we pan fry them later.
You will also need to prepare a bowl of ice cold water to transfer the spinach once they've finished being blanched.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the stems first and boil them for 1 minute.
After 1 minute, add the middle part and boil for 45 seconds. (Leave the stems in there to continue boiling.)
Add the top leaves and boil the whole spinach together for 30 seconds.
Once 30 seconds are up, use tongs to transfer each bundle to a bowl of ice cold water. This will holt the cooking process.
Finally take each bundle out of the bowl, squeeze out the water and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess liquid.
Pan fry the vegetables
Heat a pan on medium and add butter. Once the butter is melted, add the spinach and asparagus at the same time and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Stir fry for a few minutes until the asparagus is slightly softened and remove it from the heat. Set aside for later.
Alternatively, if you have two stoves you can carry out this step halfway through cooking the salmon so that they're ready at the same time.
Mix the teriyaki sauce
Mix soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside for later.
Prepare the salmon
Dry the salmon on both sides using kitchen paper and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper on both sides. Drying the salmon not only prevents them from sticking to the pan, but also helps the skin crisp up more beautifully.
Next, coat with a thin layer of potato starch all over. This is going to crisp up the skin even further and also helps the teriyaki sauce stick to the surface better.
Heat a frying pan on medium. Once it's hot, add a drizzle of oil and swirl it around so the pan is evenly coated. Place the salmon fillets with the skin side down and fry for 4 minutes. The cooking time is longer on this side to ensure the skin is extra crispy!
After 4 minutes, flip the salmon over and fry for 2 minutes on the other side.
Pour your homemade teriyaki sauce over the salmon.
Scoop up the sauce and continuously spoon it over the surface (skin) of the salmon. This is to avoid flipping the salmon again, which can cause it to break once it's cooked through. It also stops the sauce from burning as it's being continuously lifted from the pan. You can also gently move the salmon around the pan to make sure the underneath is fully coated too.
Repeat this until the sauce is thickened and then remove the pan from the heat.
Start by making a bed of rice and placing the buttery spinach on top.
Place the salmon on top of the spinach and arrange the asparagus on the side.
Pour any leftover sauce in the pan over the salmon and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. You could also add some chopped spring onions for a final touch.
Other Teriyaki Recipes
If you liked this recipe, you should check out some of my other teriyaki recipes!
Pan Fried Japanese Teriyaki Salmon
- 100 g Chinese spinach - or similar
- 100 g asparagus
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- salt and pepper
- 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp mirin
- 1 ½ tbsp sake
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2-4 small salmon fillets - skin-on
- 1 tbsp potato starch - or corn starch
- 1 tbsp cooking oil - like vegetable oil or canola
- 2 portions cooked Japanese short-grain rice
- toasted sesame seeds - optional garnish
- finely chopped green onion(s) - optional garnish
Spinach and asparagus
- Wash 100 g Chinese spinach with cold water and cut it into 3 parts, the stems, the middle and the leaves. Tie each bundle together with butcher's string. (If you're only using the spinach leaves you can skip these steps.)
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Prepare a bowl of ice cold water next to it.
- Add the spinach stems to the water and set a timer for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, add the middle part and set a timer for 45 seconds, leaving the stems in.
- After 45 seconds, add the leaves and boil all the spinach together for 30 seconds.
- Transfer all the bundles to the bowl of ice cold water and leave to cool for 1-2 minutes.
- Gently squeeze the spinach to remove the water and place on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb the excess.
- Heat a pan on medium and melt 1 tbsp unsalted butter. (Alternatively, you can start this step half way through cooking the salmon so that they're ready at the same time.)
- Add the spinach and 100 g asparagus to the pan along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes and then remove from the heat. Set aside for later.
- In a small bowl, mix the 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce, 1 ½ tbsp mirin, 1 ½ tbsp sake and 1 tsp sugar until the sugar is dissolved to make the teriyaki sauce. Set aside for later.
- Heat a frying pan on medium. While it heats, dry the surface of 2-4 small salmon fillets with kitchen paper and sprinkle each side with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the salmon with 1 tbsp potato starch, rubbing it over both sides to create a thin even layer. Gently tap and brush off any excess starch.
- Once the pan is hot, add 1 tbsp cooking oil and place the salmon fillets in the pan with the skin side down. Fry for approximately 4 minutes or until the skin is crispy.
- Flip the salmon fillets and fry on the other side for 2 minutes.
- Pour the teriyaki sauce over the salmon. Move the salmon around the pan so that the sauce sticks to the bottom and spoon it over the top to coat the skin side.
- Once the sauce is thick, glossy and the salmon is well covered, remove the pan from the heat.
- Dish up 2 portions cooked Japanese short-grain rice and top with a bed of buttery spinach.
- Place the salmon fillets on top and arrange the asparagus next to them. Pour the leftover sauce from the pan over the salmon and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and finely chopped green onion(s) (optional).
What is teriyaki sauce made of?
Teriyaki sauce is made with soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin.
Can I make teriyaki sauce without mirin/sake?
Teriyaki only uses 4 ingredients and each one plays an important part. Some recipes don't use mirin, it's possible to use more sugar instead of mirin. (Mirin is a sweetened rice wine and you can find it on Amazon.)
Sake is more important and I don't recommend switching it out. But if you have to, then you can try switching it for Chinese rice wine, dry sherry or even just plain water. (It won't be so flavourful though.)
What does teriyaki taste like?
It's a sweet soy glaze so the taste is a nice balance of sweet and salty packed with umami.
What do you eat with teriyaki salmon?
Any teriyaki dish tastes best with rice. You can serve it on the side or in a bowl, it's up to you! You could even wrap it in rice and make onigiri if you like!
Should I marinate teriyaki salmon?
Because teriyaki sauce has sugar, it's better not to marinate. If you do, the sugar will burn when you fry it and it won't taste so good.