Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sauce – A Flavorful Twist on a Classic

Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sauce

Sweet onion teriyaki sauce takes the savory-sweet realm of teriyaki to a whole new level. This sauce boasts the rich, umami notes of traditional teriyaki with a delightful burst of sweetness and a subtle oniony bite from caramelized onions. Incredibly versatile, it can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce, or glaze, adding a unique depth of flavor to a variety of dishes.


The beauty of sweet onion teriyaki sauce lies in its familiar ingredients. Here’s a breakdown of the essentials:

  • Sweeteners: Sugar is the primary sweetener, but alternatives like honey or brown sugar can add depth.
  • Vinegar: White vinegar provides a tangy base, while rice vinegar or red wine vinegar offers subtle variations.
  • Soy Sauce: The foundation of teriyaki flavor, soy sauce adds umami and saltiness. Opt for low-sodium varieties for more control.
  • Onions: The star of the show! Sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla caramelize beautifully, releasing their natural sweetness.
  • Cornstarch or Arrowroot: These act as thickeners, creating a glossy sauce consistency.
  • Spices: Garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper add a background layer of warmth.
  • Sesame Oil: A touch of sesame oil infuses a nutty aroma and Asian flair.
  • Optional Extras: Dijon mustard, ginger, or sriracha can be added for a kick depending on your preference.

Preparation and How to Make:

  1. Caramelizing the Onions: In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of water over medium heat. Add the grated sweet onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions become golden brown and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. This step adds sweetness and depth of flavor to the sauce.
  2. Whisk the Dry Ingredients: In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, dehydrated onion flakes (if using), and black pepper.
  3. Combine Wet Ingredients: In the saucepan with the caramelized onions, add the water, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and tomato paste. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  4. Thicken the Sauce: Gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture until fully incorporated. Continue simmering for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. It should coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Flavor Tweaks: Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the Dijon mustard (or mustard powder), sesame oil, and poppy seeds (if using). Taste and adjust seasonings with additional salt or vinegar as needed.


  • For a smoother sauce, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve after cooking to remove any onion bits.
  • If the sauce thickens too much, whisk in a little additional water or broth to thin it out.

How to Serve:

Sweet onion teriyaki sauce is incredibly versatile. Here are some ways to enjoy it:

  • Marinade: Marinate chicken, fish, tofu, or tempeh in the sauce for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight for deeply flavorful results. Grill, pan-fry, or bake your marinated protein and baste occasionally with leftover sauce for extra caramelization.
  • Dipping Sauce: Serve the sauce alongside chicken tenders, dumplings, egg rolls, spring rolls, or any finger food for a sweet and tangy dipping experience.
  • Glaze: Brush the sauce on salmon, chicken wings, or vegetables during the last few minutes of cooking to create a sticky, caramelized glaze.
  • Stir-Fry Sauce: Use the sauce as a base for your next stir-fry, adding vegetables, protein, and cooked rice for a quick and flavorful meal.
  • Sandwich Spread: Spread a thin layer of the sauce on your next burger or sandwich for a unique and delicious flavor twist.
  • Noodle Bowls: Use it as a finishing touch for noodle bowls, adding depth of flavor to udon, soba, or rice noodles.

How to Store:

  • Refrigeration: Store leftover sweet onion teriyaki sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat gently in a saucepan over low heat, whisking occasionally, until warmed through. The sauce may thicken upon storage, so thin it out with a little water or broth as needed.
  • Freezing: For longer-term storage, freeze the sauce in ice cube trays or freezer-safe containers. Once frozen, transfer the cubes or portions into a resealable freezer bag. Frozen Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sauce can last for up to 3 months.
  • Thawing: When ready to use frozen sauce, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or gently heat it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until thawed and heated through.


  • Spicy Kick: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or Sriracha to the sauce for a touch of heat.
  • Ginger Twist: Grate in a teaspoon of fresh ginger along with the onions for a warming and aromatic flavor.
  • Fruity Addition: For a unique twist, add a tablespoon of pineapple juice or chopped pineapple to the sauce for a sweet-and-sour flavor profile.
  • Tropical Twist: Substitute pineapple juice for some of the vinegar for a sweet and tangy tropical twist.
  • Citrus Symphony: Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or orange juice for a citrusy brightness.
  • Go Vegan: Use tamari instead of soy sauce for a completely vegan version.


With these tips and tricks, you’re well on your way to creating and enjoying your own signature sweet onion teriyaki sauce. So unleash your creativity, experiment with flavors, and elevate your culinary creations with this delectable condiment!


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