The Origins and Popularity of Teriyaki in the US and Japan

The Origins and Popularity of Teriyaki in the US and Japan

In America, we think of teriyaki as a flavor. You may be surprised to learn that the term originated as a reference to a specific style of cooking.

While teriyaki is a flavor that most people associate with Japanese cooking, it should seem understandable that the word’s origins are Japanese.


The term teriyaki can be traced back to 18th century Japan. Then, it referred to the technique of marinating fish and then dipping it or brushing it with sauce throughout a grilling or broiling process.

The word teriyaki is a combination of the word teri, that translates to shiny, and the word yaki, which translates to cooking via broiling or grilling.

In the 1700’s when teriyaki cooking was invented, the two other favored culinary methods were yakitori and sukiyaki. Yakitori involves skewering meat before grilling over a charcoal fire. Sukiyaki is a slow cooking method using a Japanese hot pot known as a nabemono.

However, while the name teriyaki traces back to 18th century Japan as a cooking style, what is accepted worldwide as teriyaki sauce originated in Hawaii in the 1960’s.

Today the common ingredients for teriyaki sauce are:

  • Sake
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Garlic
  • Mirin
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cornstarch

However, the original recipe pioneered in Hawaii in the 60’s was slightly different – reflecting its place of origin.

Hawaii is well known for its luscious pineapple crops. The sweet juice of the pineapple was what was originally used to create the glaze now accepted as teriyaki sauce. Japanese immigrants to Hawaii mixed pineapple juice with soy sauce and brown sugar. Thus was born a flavor that has gone on to captivate the world.


Taking a dish of one culture and adapting it to reflect the influences of another culture is called fusion cuisine. Such dishes resemble the original but incorporate unique twists.

There are many Asian-fusion foods that are popular in modern America:

  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Teriyaki Beef
  • Teriyaki Steak
  • Teriyaki Hamburger
  • Teriyaki Salmon
  • Teriyaki Tuna
  • Teriyaki Mackerel
  • Teriyaki Trout
  • Teriyaki Squid
  • Teriyaki Stir Fry
  • Teriyaki Noodles
  • Teriyaki Tacos
  • Teriyaki Wings
  • Teriyaki Salad
  • Teriyaki Sushi
  • Teriyaki Meatballs
  • Teriyaki Tofu


While teriyaki sauce may not have originated in Japan, since its invention in Hawaii and its ever-growing popularity in the continental US, Japan has come to embrace teriyaki among its common menus. Not only are dishes like teriyaki chicken popular in Japan, many fast food restaurants in the Asian country offer teriyaki dipping sauces as a regular part of their menu.

Generally speaking, the way teriyaki sauce is used is first as a marinade and then as a glaze. Chicken, fish, or beef should be marinated a minimum of 30 minutes before cooking via grilling, broiling, or frying in a wok. Many chefs, both professional and amateur, like to let meat marinate overnight.

After the cooking commences, once the meat is 80% cooked, the chef will begin applying the marinade as a glaze. Application of the glaze should continue until the meat is fully cooked and ready to serve.


After gaining popularity in Hawaii, teriyaki as a flavor started to take off throughout North America. In fact, an interesting craze for teriyaki food emerged in Seattle, Washington. 

The first stand alone teriyaki restaurant in Seattle opened in 1976. Seattle is known for its large Asian American population. Approximately 16.3% of Seattle’s population is Asian.

That restaurant, Toshi’s Teriyaki, was a hit and inspired other teriyaki restaurants to bloom in the coastal city. By 1996, Toshi’s Teriyaki had 17 locations throughout the Seattle area. Now, the Washington State Restaurant Association lists 83 Seattle restaurants with teriyaki in the name.

Part of the popularity of Toshi’s Teriyaki is credited to the uniqueness of the charbroiled taste of meat marinated in sweet and tangy sauce. The other part of the popularity equation is how inexpensive the dishes were. If there’s one thing Americans like its quality, tasty food at cheap prices.


One area of Americana that has fully embraced the teriyaki taste sensation is the beef jerky industry. There is just something special about the way teriyaki flavor mixes with luscious brisket or hearty round cut beef.

Beef jerky, of course, is a wonderful snack. Not only is it tasty, it’s also one of the healthier snacks you can choose. Rather than filling you with empty calories you might get from high sugar candy bars, beef jerky is packed with healthy attributes.

A single serving of beef jerky will deliver 11 grams of protein, at just 80 calories. That’s a filling snack without a high calorie payload.

Teriyaki beef jerky adds the Asian-inspired flavor to an already tempting snack. The sweet brown marinade gives the dried beef an amazing taste sensation that will tickle and tantalize even the most ardent fans of traditional jerky.

Plus, while teriyaki chicken and fried rice may be the dinner meal you love the most, having beef jerky as an on-the-go snack option is something you’ll love as well. You’ll be able to enjoy that savory and tangy flavor anywhere you go because it doesn’t require refrigeration.

BULK offers a number of teriyaki flavor options for beef jerky fans. BULK’s strict dedication to using premium ingredients translates to sinfully good jerky regarded as the best in the industry.

Brisket jerky aficionados will find favor with All-Natural Brisket Teriyaki Beef Jerky or All-Natural Brisket Hot Teriyaki Beef Jerky options. BULK also offers the exquisite California Brisket Orange Teriyaki Beef Jerky and soft and tender Nevada Brisket Teriyaki Beef Jerky.

No matter if you are a teriyaki beef jerky fan, an addict of teriyaki chicken, or a lover of teriyaki wings, you must admit there is something special about America’s take on the classic flavor. Taking a traditional dish of another culture and adapting it to our own is part of what makes America great. We are a true melting pot – and the embrace of teriyaki food is proof of that.

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