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Chicken Yakitori Recipe with Leeks

by Emily
chicken yakitori with white rice

Yes! It is our first recipe post since our spicy garlic and parmesan compound butter post in February! It has been quite long; life has been so busy! Today’s recipe is about “yakitori.” Yakitori, or chicken skewer, is one of the most popular street and bar foods in Japan. Try this simple grilled chicken yakitori recipe! It makes a lovely appetizer, or you can try making it into a meal by cooking some rice on the side!

Yakitori in Japan

Lately, my man friend, Jai, has been spending a lot of time in the kitchen when he comes to visit. He is a bit competitive, and wanted to see if he could do the blog thing better than me. A.K.A. he was having fun messing around in the kitchen and photographing his concoctions. He then discovered that there was even an actual competition on Food52 for best grilling recipes (Check out submission on Food52!) . Right away, his competitiveness roared and he decided to submit one of his creations for my blog. So here it is! He created the recipe, photographed the food, and edited the photos all on his own! It is his first attempt!

It is not an exaggeration that yakitori is everywhere in Japan! Jai knew that when I visited Japan, my grandmother, sister, and I passed by countless yakitori bars (which are called yakitori-ya) on the streets. The sweet and savory smell of the chicken skewers was so enticing! However, I could not find any gluten free options for these skewers during my stay. As a big fan of Japanese food, I always wanted to try making them. Unfortunately, without having tasted the skewers before, it was impossible to come up with my own chicken yakitori recipe.

Streets of Osaka, Japan
Streets of Osaka, Japan. They are full of great street food and restaurants!

Fortunately enough, there was a person who has been to Japan and eaten a lot of yakitori: Jai! Being another huge fan of Japanese cuisine, he frequently travels to Japan just to eat. He could regale you of all of his visits just to eat the sushi and fish! Last summer he visited Osaka to eat different styles of Japanese street food. This included yakitori! After some time of experimenting, we came up with our own simple and gluten free chicken yakitori recipe that had Jai’s stamp of approval!

Different Types of Chicken Yakitori Recipe

There are two primary types of yakitori: shio (salty) and tare (salty-sweet). Shio yakitori usually only uses salt as a seasoning, while tare yakitori is grilled with a sauce made with soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. There are also different names for different ingredients. For example, if you make yakitori with chicken meatball, it becomes “tsukune.” “Sasami” means chicken breast skewers.

Jai’s recipe is inspired by “negima” yakitori. It is a type of tare yakitori which uses chicken thighs and spring onions. By using leeks instead, this recipe can bring some extra crunchiness to your table. Please enjoy!

chicken yakitori recipe

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Chicken Yakitori Recipe with Leeks

Recipe by Emily
5.0 from 1 vote
Course: Appetizers, Entrées


Prep time


Cooking time


Total time




  • 1 cup gluten-free low sodium soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

  • 3 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 whole leek

  • 12 skewers

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon warm water (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)


  • Before cooking, soak the wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes. This prevent the skewers from burning when they go on the grill.
  • Add all the ingredients for the sauce (soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger) into a small saucepan, and bring it to boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should be thicker and reduced by half: if not, add 1 tablespoon of corn starch, mixed with 1 tablespoon of warm water, to the saucepan.
  • While the sauce is simmering, cut the chicken thighs into 1-inch cubes. Cut the leek in half lengthwise, and chop each half into 1-inch long pieces. Wash the leek thoroughly, as there might be dirt between the layers of the leek. Alternate the chicken and leek on the skewers.
  • Place the skewers on the grill. Cook each side for about 2 minutes, until the chicken thighs are crispy on the outside. Make sure to not overcook the chicken at this step.
  • Every thirty seconds, brush the sauce on the top side of the skewers. Repeat until you brush the sauce 4 to 5 times on each side. When the chicken is cooked thoroughly, remove the skewers from the grill. Before serving, brush the sauce once more. If you want richer flavor, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds on top.
  • If you have leftover sauce, place it in a small serving dish. You can use this as a dipping sauce during your meal.
  • The sauce has a tendency to remain on the grill, so if you are doing more than one batch of skewers, we recommend cleaning the grill after each batch.

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