What is the difference between teriyaki sauce and teriyaki marinade?

Teriyaki sauce and teriyaki marinade are two common ingredients used in Japanese cuisine and Asian-fusion cooking. While they share some similarities and are often used for similar purposes, there are some key differences between traditional teriyaki sauce and marinade.


Teriyaki sauce is a sweet and salty glaze or sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, sake or sugar. It has a glossy, sticky texture from the sugar content and provides a sweet-salty flavor to foods it is brushed or glazed onto before or during cooking.

Teriyaki marinade is a liquid mixture used to soak raw meats or vegetables in before cooking. The marinade is meant to infuse flavor and tenderize the ingredients. It contains soy sauce, sake or mirin, sugar and often garlic, ginger or other aromatics.


While teriyaki sauce and marinade share some main ingredients like soy sauce, sweet rice wine (mirin) and sugar, the proportions vary between the two.

Teriyaki sauce contains a higher ratio of sugar to soy sauce, making it sticky and sweet. A basic teriyaki sauce may contain:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar

Teriyaki marinade has a higher ratio of soy sauce to sweetness. A basic teriyaki marinade may contain:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup mirin
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar

In addition to these main ingredients, teriyaki marinades often include:

  • Fresh ginger
  • Garlic
  • Scallions
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sake
  • Chili peppers or flakes

These aromatics and extras help add more complexity of flavor to the marinade.


Due to a higher sugar content, teriyaki sauce has a thicker, stickier, syrup-like consistency. Teriyaki marinade is thinner in texture, often similar to soy sauce.

The mirin, sugar and starch in teriyaki sauce cause it to caramelize and glaze onto food. Teriyaki marinade has a lighter texture that prevents it from getting as thick and tacky when cooking.


Teriyaki sauce is typically used as a glaze or finishing sauce. It provides shine and concentrated flavor when brushed over meat, fish, vegetables or other foods toward the end of cooking or right before serving.

Common uses for teriyaki sauce include:

  • Glazing salmon, chicken, beef or pork
  • Tossing with stir fries and fried rice
  • Dipping sauce for dumplings or spring rolls
  • Drizzling over rice bowls

Teriyaki marinade is used to soak raw ingredients to amplify flavor and make them tender. It is not typically used as a finishing sauce.

Teriyaki marinade is great for:

  • Marinating chicken, steak, fish or tofu
  • Quick pickling vegetables like cucumber or carrots
  • Soaking bamboo skewers before making yakitori

Flavor Profiles

Due to higher sugar content, teriyaki sauce has a bolder, sweeter flavor compared to the marinade. It provides a glossy glaze and sticky texture along with concentrated sweet and umami flavors.

Teriyaki marinade has a more complex, savory flavor from the soy sauce, aromatics and liquids like sake and rice vinegar. It provides a more subtle infusion of flavors rather than a bold glaze.

Shelf Life

Properly stored, both teriyaki sauce and marinade can last several months refrigerated. However, teriyaki sauce generally has a longer shelf life than marinade.

The higher sugar concentration acts as a natural preservative in teriyaki sauce. Kept in a sealed container in the fridge, it can last 6-8 months or longer before spoiling.

Teriyaki marinade has a shorter shelf life, lasting 2-3 months when refrigerated in an airtight container. The aromatics like fresh ginger and garlic have a shorter shelf life. Eventually, the flavors in a teriyaki marinade can start to turn muddy or bitter over time.


When applied to food, teriyaki sauce will coat the exterior with a sticky, shiny, caramelized glaze. It turns an amber brown color when cooked onto proteins like chicken, beef or salmon.

Teriyaki marinade doesn’t change the appearance of food as much since it flavors from the inside out. You may get some light browning or caramelization if sugars are present, but it does not typically leave a tacky glaze or coating.


Both teriyaki sauce and marinade are high in sodium due to the soy sauce content. Teriyaki sauce contains more sugar and therefore more carbohydrates and calories per tablespoon. However, teriyaki marinade may have more nutrients from fresh ingredients like ginger, garlic and scallions.

Here is a nutrition comparison of 2 tablespoons each:

Nutrient Teriyaki Sauce Teriyaki Marinade
Calories 74 38
Fat 0g 0g
Carbs 18g 5g
Sugar 12g 4g
Sodium 898mg 714mg


Teriyaki sauce is often more expensive to purchase than teriyaki marinade. You can expect to pay:

  • Teriyaki sauce: $3-$8 per 8-10 oz bottle
  • Teriyaki marinade: $2-$5 per 8-10 oz bottle

Of course, you can save money by making homemade versions of either one very affordably.


Teriyaki sauce only requires mixing the ingredients together and heating briefly to dissolve sugar. It does not require lengthy cooking.

Teriyaki marinades often involve sautéing aromatics like garlic and ginger before mixing in wet ingredients. This extra cooking time releases more flavor but requires more hands-on preparation.

So teriyaki sauce is generally faster and easier to whip up than marinade.


There are many variations of both teriyaki sauce and marinade across regions and cultures. Some examples include:

Teriyaki Sauce Variations:

  • Ponzu teriyaki – uses citrusy ponzu sauce instead of soy sauce
  • Sesame teriyaki – contains toasted sesame oil and seeds
  • Ginger teriyaki – extra grated ginger added
  • Pineapple teriyaki – contains pineapple juice
  • Honey teriyaki – uses honey instead of sugar

Teriyaki Marinade Variations:

  • Lemongrass teriyaki – contains lemongrass and lime zest
  • Orange teriyaki – uses orange juice and zest
  • Spicy teriyaki – contains sriracha or red pepper flakes
  • Beer teriyaki – uses beer instead of mirin or sake
  • Tofu teriyaki – has blended silken tofu

So there are endless ways to give both teriyaki sauce and marinade your own unique spin!


In a pinch, teriyaki sauce and marinade can be swapped for one another. The flavor and texture may be a bit different, but they can still work.

Some other possible substitutions include:

  • Instead of teriyaki sauce – hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce, plum sauce, honey
  • Instead of teriyaki marinade – regular soy sauce, ponzu, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce

Homemade Versus Store-Bought

Both teriyaki sauce and marinade can be readily found prepared in grocery stores. However, there are some benefits to preparing your own at home:

  • Control over ingredients – leave out additives or preservatives
  • Adjust flavors to your taste
  • Much cheaper per ounce
  • Fresher tasting
  • Fun to experiment with new recipes

Store-bought versions offer convenience and longer shelf life. But homemade can be more affordable, customizable and often tastier.

Common Uses for Teriyaki

Teriyaki sauce and marinade are staple ingredients in many types of Japanese and fusion cuisine. Here are some of the most popular ways they are used:

  • Teriyaki Chicken – Chicken thighs, drumsticks or breast marinated then cooked with teriyaki sauce glaze
  • Teriyaki Salmon – Fresh salmon filets grilled or broiled with teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Steak – Flank steak or sirloin tips marinated then seared with teriyaki glaze
  • Teriyaki Stir Fry – Protein and vegetables stir fried then tossed with teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Bowls – Chicken, beef or tofu over rice with vegetables and drizzled teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Kabobs – Meat, vegetables or shrimp skewered and grilled with teriyaki
  • Teriyaki Burgers – Beef or turkey patties with teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Meatballs – Baked meatballs glazed with teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Rice – White or fried rice tossed with teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Noodles – Lo mein, udon or soba noodles tossed in teriyaki sauce
  • Teriyaki Tofu – Baked or pan fried tofu cubes glazed with teriyaki sauce

As you can see, both teriyaki sauce and marinade are extremely versatile ingredients in a wide variety of dishes!


In summary, teriyaki sauce and marinade are two closely related but distinct ingredients used in Japanese cooking:

  • Teriyaki sauce is a sweet glaze while teriyaki marinade is a more savory liquid mixture.
  • Teriyaki sauce contains a higher ratio of sugar for thickness and glossiness.
  • Teriyaki marinade often includes aromatics like garlic, ginger and scallions.
  • Teriyaki sauce is brushed on as a finishing glaze, marinade tenderizes and infuses flavor.
  • Both add sweet and umami flavors but teriyaki sauce is bolder in taste.
  • They can be substituted for one another in a pinch.
  • Homemade versions allow for customization and cost savings.
  • Teriyaki is popularly used in chicken, beef, fish and noodle dishes.

Understanding the differences between traditional teriyaki sauce vs. marinade helps you best leverage their unique flavors and textures in your cooking.

Leave a Comment