In order to figure this out, our Japanese editors gathered the 25 best-selling yakiniku sauces from EC sites popular in Japan, like Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping, and tasted them all.
We tested each yakiniku sauce with the following meats:
Megumi is a certified wine and Japanese sake expert as well as is a vegetable sommelier, seasoning sommelier, vegetable and fruit beauty advisor, junior food education meister, food coach, IFA olive specialist, and Edo Tokyo vegetable concierge. She wears many hats, crafting and publishing family-oriented recipes, writing columns, teaching at a cultural center, running the Aomori Vegetable Marché, and making radio appearances.
She uses her knowledge as a vegetable sommelier pro and seasoning sommelier to develop new recipes and products, introducing the charm and flavor of fruits and vegetables to all generations. She's very active, making appearances on on NHK Radio's "Saitamazu" and Television Saitama's "Machikomi."
She's a cooking professional that holds many certifications, including that of vegetable sommelier and seasoning sommelier. She works to share the joy that comes through food and cooking with children, who are our future. She conducts short courses for elementary schoolers and above.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
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Table of Contents
In Japanese, the word yakiniku can directly be translated to grilled meat. In practice, though, yakiniku refers specifically to Japanese-style barbecue. Although its roots can be traced back to Korean cuisine, sharing traits with Korean dishes like bulgogi and samgyeopsal, since it was introduced to Japan by Koreans in the mid-20th century, it has since evolved and split off to become its own unique culinary style.
At a yakiniku restaurant, diners grill their own meat on a griddle or on a wire net, often over charcoal. Broadly speaking, diners can choose their meats to be served in two styles; either tare, which is Japanese for meats usually marinated in a sweet soy-sauce based marinade, and shio, or meats served with either just some salt and lemon or marinated in a salt-based sauce.
Once the meat is grilled, its dipped into yakiniku sauce, which is most commonly made from a soy sauce, salt, or miso base, with plenty of sake, salt, garlic, sesame, or even chili peppers, to provide extra flavors. Soy-based and miso-based sauces usually offer a sweet and savory taste with hints of spice and plenty of garlic, while salt-based sauces have a sharp, salty taste with hints of lemon and garlic to not overpower the simple flavors of the meat.
It's worth noting that tare meats, or meats marinated in the usually soy-based marinade, are intended to be enjoyed with similar soy or miso-based sauces, while shio flavored meats are meant to be enjoyed either with a salt-based sauce or simply just a dash of lemon and salt to fully enjoy the flavors of the meat itself.
Here, we'd like to introduce two big things to look out for when choosing the best yakiniku sauce.
In this ranking, we’ve rated yakiniku sauces with soy, salt, and miso bases. Each has its best uses, so take a look below to figure out which one would go well with your dish.
Most soy sauce-based yakiniku sauces often include strong and sweet ingredients like garlic, ginger, green onion, lemon, and sometimes even apples and pears, offering various flavors ranging from more savory to more fruity sauces. These are probably the most similar to American barbecue sauces in terms of having a sweet and savory taste with hints of spice.
While soy sauce-based sauces pair with most meats, they are best at bringing out the flavor of beef as it has a rich smell and taste. This is the kind of sauce you’re most likely to find in restaurants or households.
If you’ve had yakiniku, then you know it’s not just the short ribs or tender belly meat that’s consumed; it’s the whole animal. That includes parts like hearts, livers, and intestines, known as horumon (ホルモン) in Japan. If you find yourself facing a plate of innards, then a miso-based sauce will take it from good to delicious.
Miso-based sauces, like soy-based sauces, are often accented with potent flavors like grated garlic and chopped green onion. It can add a distinctly Japanese element to your yakiniku experience.
Salt-based sauces are becoming more popular with home cooking due to their compatibility with chicken as well as vegetables, making them more versatile than other sauces.
Obviously, you’re the one that knows your flavor preferences the best. However, if you are having yakiniku with a large amount of people, we would recommend using a mild sauce.
This is because you can season it however you want; it’s easier to add spice than to take it away. You can also make it taste more refreshing with a dash of lemon or lime juice.
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Azabu-Juban Sankouen Yakiniku Sauce
Full of Flavor, Making It the Best Sauce for All Meats
KNK Kamikita Agricultural Processing
Stamina Source Sauce Salt-Grilled
The Perfect Salt-Based Yakiniku Sauce, Packed With Flavor
Delicious Miso Flavor Yakiniku Sauce to Get Your Appetite Going
Hiden Yakiniku Sauce
A Yakiniku Sauce With Fragrant Sesame and a Mouth-Watering Taste
Tasty Salt Sauce
A Salt-Based Sauce With Powerful Garlic Flavors
Yakiniku Sauce Miso Soy Sauce Flavor
A Deliciously Sweet Miso-based Yakiniku Sauce With Hints of Sesame Flavors
Yakiniku Sauce, Miso
The Perfect Blend of Miso and Ginger
Bansankan Roasted Garlic Yakiniku Sauce
Pairs Well With All Three Meats
Special Yakiniku Sauce
A Yakiniku Sauce With Mild Garlic Flavors
Yakiniku Golden Sauce
An Excellent Blend of Spicy and Sweet With a Prominent Garlic Flavor
Though this yakiniku sauce may look light and refreshing at first glance, it’s actually packed with flavors like garlic, salt, and black sesame that are balanced in a way that perfectly suits any meat.
The black sesame in particular pairs excellently with pork and chicken, making the flavor milder. Overall, we rated the sauce as a well-balanced yakiniku sauce in terms of spiciness and flavor, without overpowering the flavor of the meat!
The experts were all impressed how the Yakiniku Sauce from FUKI FOOD has the rich flavor of miso that reminds of Hatcho Miso, traditional miso made with 100% Japanese soybeans. The sauce has a deep fragrant miso aroma that's stronger than its garlic flavors, and its sweetness is stronger than its spiciness.
While it's easy to pair with any meat, one expert suggested that this rich sauce goes well with chicken. Another expert commented that it would be great for pork katsu, or deep-fried pork. The strong miso and sesame flavors of the sauce adds a rich and fragrant flavor to meats.
While Daisho's Hiden Yakiniku Sauce has relatively strong garlic flavors, its sesame flavors win out in the end. It's packed with tons of sesame seeds, and combined with garlic, it makes for a fantastically delicious yakiniku sauce. It also contains just enough chili pepper to keep your appetite going.
We think this sauce is best paired with pork, giving it a taste akin to ginger and pork saute. Overall, it is a versatile yakiniku sauce that enhances the flavor of meat.
The garlic flavor packs a punch and keeps the appetite going. Gyukaku's Tasty Salt Sauce was well received by our experts, commenting that the spiciness of the garlic matches well with rustic flavors like chicken.
Our flavor experts loved how the balance of garlic and salt in this sauce brought out the richness of meat, and it even had a touch of spice as well. If garlic is your thing, this sauce could be your next thing, too. This would also make for a great dressing for a salad to eat alongside your grilled meats!
Ebara’s miso-based yakiniku sauce has hardly any spice to it and is incredibly sweet, with more prominent sesame flavors rather than garlic flavors.
Our experts said the flavor was a little too heavy to go with pork, but overall it was well-balanced and went great with chicken and beef.
Tomura’s Yakiniku Sauce has a strong miso flavor with a prominent and appetizing fragrance of ginger. Because of its thick consistency, our testers initially expected it to be a bit sticky and heavy in the mouth, but they were pleasantly surprised to find that the aftertaste was light and that the flavors overall were well-balanced.
The miso takes away some of the gamey flavors from meat that may concern some and tastes great with any meat. Since the sauce also mixes well with rice, it may be great for dishes like pork bowls as well.
Nihon Shokken's Bansankan Roasted Garlic Yakiniku Sauce struck a great balance between its ginger and garlic flavors, pairing well with all three types of meat we conducted taste tests with.
In particular, the sauce's ginger flavors paired well with chicken, enhancing the meat's flavors. Some of our experts commented that since the sauce has the unique spiciness found in ginger, as well as there's a slightly sweet aftertaste, it would pair well with vegetables too, making it a great way to season a stir fry.
What we liked about Jojoen’s Special Yakiniku Sauce is that it wasn't overpoweringly spicy or wasn't too garlicky and has a thick consistency that clings to the meat well.
It has a gentle and versatile taste that can be paired well with all kinds of meat, including chicken, pork and beef.
When our experts tried this Ebara Yakiniku Sauce, they were pleased by how sweet and spicy flavors blended well together. Its distinct garlic flavor also added a punch to the already appetizing sauce.
The aftertaste is sweet, so we think it’s best paired with a lighter meat like chicken.
We put the yakiniku sauces to three tests, each designed to gauge a different flavor pairing.
We then had our experts try each sauce with chicken, pork, and beef to see how well each sauce suited the most common yakiniku meats.
It was interesting to see which sauces were too overpowering for the light flavor of chicken and which were more akin to a yakitori chicken experience.
We found that yakiniku sauces that had too strong of a garlic, soy sauce, or sesame flavor didn't really work well with chicken. Some of our experts commented that yakiniku sauces that have strong flavors suit beef more than chicken, since chicken has a lighters taste.
Additionally, sauces that were too sweet ended up making the chicken taste more like yakitori and less like yakiniku, since yakitori chicken is usually served in a sweet and savory teriyaki-like sauce. If you want to enjoy more of a yakiniku-style flavor, then we recommend choosing a yakiniku sauce with more ginger flavors.
For yakiniku, Chicken pairs well with ginger-based sauces rather than sweeter sauces. Ginger-based sauces can bring out more flavor from the chicken, which can sometimes taste a bit bland.
We tested pork in a similar way, trying the grilled pieces of meat with each of the sauces and had our experts grade each product on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0.
We found that sauces with a strong sesame flavor paired excellently with pork. Our testers commented that the fragrance and creamy flavors of the yakiniku sauce pair well with the pork for an appetizing taste.
Consider a yakiniku sauce that has a large amount of sesame in it to have a flavorful yakiniku experience.
Pork matched perfectly with yakiniku sauces that used plenty of sesame. These sauces have a great fragrance, and can really draw out the flavors of the meat. I also think they'd work great with stir-fried vegetables!
We tested beef last because of its rich flavor. Again, we graded the flavor pairings on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0.
Our experts noted that it takes a strong flavor like garlic to mellow out the equally strong flavor of beef.
Yakinku sauces that had a strong garlic or soy sauce flavor really drew out the flavors of the beef, making it hard to stop eating.
The hot flavors in spicy sauces tend to overpower the garlic flavors, so if you want to fully enjoy beef, we recommend choosing a medium-spicy sauce.
Yakiniku sauces that had a strong garlic flavor matched beef the best. Additionally, yakiniku sauces that not only used garlic, but also plenty of sesame, were also able to make full use of the beef flavors.
Not only are these sauces great for grilling beef, but also for stir-fried beef and vegetables.
When most people think of yakiniku sauce, they think of a dipping sauce for meat or vegetables. However, yakiniku sauces can also be used as a marinade to add more flavor to your meat. Since manufacturers don't sell yakiniku sauces exclusively for dipping or to be used as a marinade, it's up to you to decide how to use your yakiniku sauce.
Any seasoned pitmaster knows that the key to a great barbecue lies in the prep work. Marinating your meat before grilling it is a great way to use your yakiniku sauce. Acids in the sauces, like mirin, sake, wine, or even fruit juices can make your meat softer and juicier, while the spices and salt in the sauce add tons of flavor.
The time you let your meat marinate can play a big role in how tender and flavorful it is, so if you want to make sure your meat is nicely marinated, make sure to marinate it for at least an hour before grilling.
Marinated meats are both tender and flavorful, making them perfect for kids, too!
Similar to how you might dip some french fries into ketchup, yakiniku sauces are great dipping sauces for grilled meat and veggies. Many think that there's no better combination than grilled meat dipped in yakiniku sauce and enjoyed with a bowl of white rice.
If a yakiniku sauce is too overpowering for your taste buds to be used as a dipping sauce, try squeezing some lemon or thinning it down a bit with a touch of water.
Yakiniku sauces can be used for a variety of dishes. Not only are they great for seasoning vegetable stir-fries, you can use a yakiniku sauce with a strong garlic flavor to marinate chicken and make Japanese-style fried chicken.
You can also make a bowl of unique fried rice using yakiniku sauce to season your rice. Additionally, you can use a soy sauce-based yakiniku sauce to marinate regular steak, chicken, or pork chops and cook it in a smoker or grill for an American-style barbecue with some Japanese flavors.
Looking for other Japanese delicacies? How about products for your Japanese barbecue? Our culinary experts have reviewed some other Japanese foods so you know you’re getting the best.
No. 1: Morita | Azabu-Juban Sankouen Yakiniku Sauce
No. 2: KNK Kamikita Agricultural Processing | Stamina Source Sauce Salt-Grilled
No. 3: FUKI FOOD | Yakiniku Sauce
No. 4: Daisho | Hiden Yakiniku Sauce
No. 5: Gyu-Kaku | Tasty Salt Sauce
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