Use this quick and easy Teriyaki Salmon recipe to make a light and savory meal any night of the week. Salmon fillets are pan-grilled to tender perfection in the traditional method and finished with an authentic homemade teriyaki sauce.
Growing up in Japan, I enjoyed eating a variety of fish, with salmon being one of the most readily available option in our household. It’s a great source of protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Today, I’m going to share with you an authentic Teriyaki Salmon recipe and illustrate how the Japanese prepare it at home.
The salmon fillets are pan-grilled to achieve a golden-brown exterior while retaining their tender and juicy texture. We then finish it off with a sweet-savory glazed homemade Teriyaki Sauce. It’s easy and absolutely no fuss.
Table of Contents
- What Makes Authentic Teriyaki Salmon
- How to Cut the Salmon into Japanese-Style Fillets
- Homemade Teriyaki Sauce with 4 Ingredients
- Important Condiments: Sake and Mirin
- How to Cook Teriyaki Salmon
- Cooking Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What to Serve with Teriyaki Salmon
- What to Do with Leftover Teriyaki Salmon
- Related Recipes
What Makes Authentic Teriyaki Salmon
I noticed most of the teriyaki salmon recipes online are quite different from how the Japanese make it at home. Here are the main differences:
- Make your own teriyaki sauce. In Japan, convenient “teriyaki sauce” in a bottle is not as common as the ones found in American grocery stores. Instead, we typically prepare teriyaki sauce from scratch. Each family makes the sauce to suit their preferences and with the ingredients they have at hand. More on authentic teriyaki sauce below.
- Cut the salmon into Japanese-style fillets. The fillets are thinly sliced, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick, and cut diagonally (see the next section). Since they are thinner, they cook faster in a frying pan.
- We do not marinate the salmon. Japanese cuisine focuses on bringing out the original flavor of an ingredient without overwhelming it with spices and seasonings.
- Pan-fry the salmon. Cooking in an oven is not very common in Japan. Most of the dishes are cooked on the stove as a typical Japanese kitchen has a countertop microwave oven and does not have an oven unless you’re a baker.
How to Cut the Salmon into Japanese-Style Fillets
In Japan, the salmon fillet is sliced differently than in the US. You will find the fillet available in diagonal cuts and thinner slices. Each cut is about ½ to ¾ inch (1.3-2 cm) thick.
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce with 4 Ingredients
When you come across authentic Japanese teriyaki recipes, you’ll find that 99% of them use just 4 ingredients: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and optionally sugar.
The best way to start making teriyaki sauce is to use equal parts of soy sauce, sake, and mirin and add sugar to your liking. My basic teriyaki sauce ratio is 2:2:2:1.
For optimal taste, we often play around with the ratio, depending on the ingredients and flavor combination of the dish. Therefore, each teriyaki recipe should have a slightly different taste.
In this recipe, for example, I cook the salmon with butter to give it a layer of rich creaminess. So I’ve tweaked the teriyaki sauce ratio to work perfectly with all the flavors.
If you’re a beginner cook, start with my basic teriyaki sauce (2:2:2:1). It’s easy to remember and you’re guaranteed a delicious sauce!
Important Condiments: Sake and Mirin
Japanese cooking doesn’t require many condiments compared to other ethnic cuisines. However, two of the essential pantry items I highly recommend are sake and mirin. Japanese recipes use both of these condiments 90% of the time (have you noticed?). You can’t create authentic Japanese flavors without sake and mirin because they are foundational to Japanese cooking.
Use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari if needed. If you prefer to use honey or maple syrup, go ahead but take care as it burns easily.
How to Cook Teriyaki Salmon
The Ingredients You’ll Need
- Skin-on salmon fillets – ¾ inch (2 cm) thick
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- All-purpose flour – You can use cornstarch or potato starch for gluten-free
- Cooking oil (for cooking)
- Unsalted butter (for cooking)
- Sake (for steaming) – You can substitute it with Chinese rice wine, dry sherry, or water
- Homemade teriyaki sauce: sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar
The Cooking Steps
- Make the teriyaki sauce by combining the ingredients.
- Season the salmon with salt and black pepper. Coat the fillets with flour.
- Sear the skin of the salmon. Cook the salmon from the skin.
- Use skin-on salmon fillets that are in diagonal cut and thinner slices. Don’t remove the skin. It will prevent the flesh from overcooking and drying out. You don’t have to eat it, although it’s delicious and good for you! Each cut is about ½ to ¾ inch (1.3-2 cm) thick. If you buy a whole fish, you can fillet it the Japanese way. It will cook faster and absorb flavors quickly.
- Coat the salmon evenly with flour for crispy skin. This is the secret to juicy salmon. The flour creates a protective layer and retains its umami flavor and juiciness. It also helps to thicken and absorb the sauce well. You can use cornstarch or potato starch for gluten-free.
- Sear the salmon skin before laying it down. Salmon skin is so delicious when it’s crispy. Hold the fillet and press the skin against the hot frying pan’s surface for 15 seconds.
- The presentation side (also the skin side) should go down into the pan first because the pan is clean and you will get the best browning on the first side that hits it.
- Highly recommend getting an instant-read thermometer and cooking the salmon until an internal temperature of 125-130°F* (52-54ºC) is registered at the thickest part of the fillet. Take the guessing out of your cooking: every salmon is cooked perfectly with the thermometer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why don’t you add these ingredients to teriyaki sauce while other popular recipes do?
I’ve seen many non-Japanese recipes that include ingredients such as rice vinegar, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, or garlic in the teriyaki sauce. Some recipes also use ground ginger or garlic powder. I would not recommend them if you wish to follow the authentic Japanese cooking method.
Some people even use cornstarch to thicken the sauce, but it is not needed for my recipe. The sauce will be naturally reduced and thickened during the simmering process. Plus, we coat the fish with flour (or starch) which helps thicken it.
We also don’t usually garnish the salmon fillet with sesame seeds, but it’s personal choice.
Depending on the teriyaki recipes, I occasionally add grated ginger and grated onion for extra flavors but never include rice vinegar, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce.
Q: Can I adapt your method for baked teriyaki salmon recipe?
If you prefer to bake or broil the salmon, you can follow the baking method from my Miso Salmon recipe for the instructions. You will need to make the teriyaki sauce separately and brush the salmon with the sauce several times while baking for a minimum of 10-15 minutes.
What to Serve with Teriyaki Salmon
With a sweet and savory soy-based flavor, teriyaki salmon pairs perfectly well with many different side dishes. For a healthy Japanese-style weeknight dinner, I like to serve the fish with pan-grilled asparagus and miso soup, alongside steamed brown rice.
Other veggies such as green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, and spinach are also delicious with salmon. Here are more suggestions I think you’d like:
- Blanched Broccoli with Sesame Oil
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Spinach with Sesame Miso Sauce
- Japanese Potato Salad
- Roasted Cauliflower Kale Salad
- Green Bean with Crumbled Tofu & Sesame
- 15 Best Healthy Side Dishes to Serve with Salmon
For a low-carb diet, you can serve the salmon with cauliflower rice or quinoa.
What to Do with Leftover Teriyaki Salmon
You can do a lot with leftover teriyaki salmon! Here are some of my favorites:
- Teriyaki Recipes: Check out my authentic Chicken Teriyaki recipe and don’t miss our 17 Best Teriyaki Recipes You Must Make at Home!
- Salmon Recipes: Try out my other salmon recipes which I share on my blog. You can also substitute this recipe with fresh seasonal fish such as yellowtail or other white fish.
For the Teriyaki Sauce
For the Salmon
- 2 skin-on salmon fillets (¾ lb, 340 g; ¾ inch (2 cm) thick)
- ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour) (use cornstarch or potato starch for gluten-free)
- ½ Tbsp neutral oil (for cooking)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (for cooking)
- 1–2 Tbsp sake (for steaming; can substitute Chinese rice wine, dry sherry, or water)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make the Teriyaki Sauce
- In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce: 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp mirin, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp sugar. Mix well to dissolve the sugar.
- To help dissolve the sugar, you can microwave the mixture for 30 seconds.
To Prepare the Salmon
- Rinse 2 skin-on salmon fillets and pat dry. Season one side with half of the ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and half of the ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Tip: The salmon skin will hold the flesh together while cooking.
- Flip over and season the other side with the remaining salt and black pepper.
- Sprinkle half of the 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour) on one side of the salmon and coat evenly. Tip: Coating the salmon with flour helps it retain its umami flavor and juiciness. It also helps absorb the sauce and thickens it.
- Flip over and sprinkle the rest of the flour on the other side. Gently press it to adhere and then remove the excess flour.
To Cook the Salmon
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add ½ Tbsp neutral oil and 1 Tbsp unsalted butter. Take care not to burn the butter. If the frying pan gets too hot, reduce the heat or remove it from the heat temporarily. Then, sear the skin of the salmon fillets: One at a time, press the skin against the hot frying pan‘s surface for 15 seconds before laying it skin side (or presentation side) down in the pan. Repeat with the remaining salmon. Tip: The presentation side (skin side) should go down into the pan first because you will get the best browning on the first side that hits the clean pan.
- Cook the salmon for 3 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown, and then flip.
- To the pan, add 1–2 Tbsp sake—1 Tbsp for thin fillets and no more than 2 Tbsp for thicker fillets. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the stove‘s heat to low. Steam the salmon for about 3–5 minutes, depending on the fillet thickness. If the sake has evaporated but the salmon isn‘t cooked through yet, add another tablespoon of sake and continue steaming.
- Cook the salmon until it registers an internal temperature of 125–130°F (52–54ºC) at the thickest part of the fillet (I use a Thermapen instant-read thermometer). Then, transfer the salmon to a tray or plate. These fillets were about ¾–1 inch (2–2.5 cm) in thickness and took roughly 4 minutes to cook. Tip: The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (63ºC); however, the residual heat will continue to cook the salmon, so you must remove the fillets at 125–130°F (52–54ºC) to avoid overcooking.
- Add the teriyaki sauce ingredients to the pan and increase the heat a bit. When the sauce starts to boil, add the salmon back to the pan.
- Spoon the sauce over the salmon. When the sauce thickens, turn off the heat. Transfer the salmon to a plate and drizzle the sauce on top.
- Serve immediately. I like to serve my Teriyaki Salmon as part of a Japanese-style meal with Green Bean Gomaae (Sesame Dressing) or pan-seared asparagus, Tamagoyaki, Homemade Miso Soup, and Steamed Rice. Other side dishes that pair well with this savory-and-sweet salmon include Spinach with Sesame Miso Sauce, Japanese Potato Salad, Blanched Broccoli with Sesame Oil, Green Bean with Crumbled Tofu and Sesame, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, and Roasted Cauliflower Kale Salad.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for 2 weeks.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 25, 2013. New step-by-step images and final images were added in March 2022. It’s been republished with a new video and new content on October 13, 2023.