Teriyaki sauce is tremendously popular across the globe but it’s synonymous with Japanese cuisine where it was originally developed back in the 17th century, however, some say that its origin can also be traced back to Japanese migrants that settled in Hawaii, who ended up creating a local marinade using local products like pineapple juice, which they blended with soy sauce, creating what we now know as teriyaki sauce.
Is teriyaki sauce vegan? Fortunately, the standard teriyaki sauce is vegan because it’s typically made with ingredients such as soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, salt, spices, and a few preservatives, all of which are suitable for vegans.
However, some brands of teriyaki sauce (particularly, in America) may include honey and other controversial ingredients like cane sugar, which may be processed in a way that is not vegan.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about teriyaki sauce.
What is Teriyaki Sauce?
Teriyaki sauce is a staple of Asian cuisine and is traditionally made with soy sauce, mirin, and sake with a few pinches of sugar, whilst ginger and garlic are used occasionally.
However, it’s now common for people (especially in America), to add a significant amount of brown sugar or honey, garlic, ginger, pineapple juice, and sesame seeds.
It turns out that this variation was what Japanese migrants in Hawaii came up with, especially because they add pineapples to spare, so they decided to include it in the recipe.
Teriyaki, the term, does not refer to the sauce, but it’s used to describe how the food is prepared.
Basically, it describes the grilling, broiling, or pan-frying of a dish with a shining glaze, however, using the term to describe the sauce is a by-product of Americanization.
Also, traditionally, teriyaki sauce has always been used in fish such as mackerel, salmon, marlin, trout, etc, but in the West, it’s popularly served with meat such as chicken, beef, and pork.
Is Teriyaki Sauce Vegan?
Most commercially available teriyaki sauces are suitable for vegans, as they usually don’t contain any animal ingredients, however, that’s not always the case.
Some brands actually use non-vegan ingredients such as honey, for example, the Takumi teriyaki sauce sold by Kikkoman contains honey, therefore, it’s not suitable for vegans.
It’s quite common, especially in the West, for teriyaki sauces to be made with honey, however, you can certainly find many variations that do not have it, and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a vegan one.
Some teriyaki sauces also might contain cane sugar, that even though it is derived from a plant source, it can be processed with animal ingredients. However, this practice usually only occurs in North America.
Why Sugar Isn’t Always Vegan
Unfortunately, sugar refineries in North America tend to use a property called bone char, which they use as a means to decolorize and purify cane sugar.
Bone char is basically derived from cattle bones that are sourced from countries like Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. The bones are sold to traders in Egypt, Scotland, and Brazil who then resell them to sugar refineries in the United States to create bone char.
However, not all cane sugar is processed with bone char. Many suppliers use plant-based alternatives such as granular carbon or ion-exchange resins. Still, it’s often difficult to trace which type of sugar is being used, since a lot of companies use a mixed pool of suppliers.
Therefore, this is something that will vary from brand to brand. If you really want to avoid cane sugar because of this reason, you can look for teriyaki sauces that use high-fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar, as that type of sugar is not processed with animal ingredients.
Breaking Down Commercial Teriyaki Sauces
Below we’re going to break down a few commercial teriyaki sauces from popular brands, and we’re going to see whether they’re vegan or not.
Mr. Yoshida’s Teriyaki Sauce
Ingredients: Soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), sugar, high fructose corn syrup, Yoshida’s mirin (water, dextrose, mirin [rice, alcohol, enzymes, salt], lactic and succinic acids), water, dehydrated garlic, spice, modified corn starch, and sunflower oil.
There are no animal ingredients within Mr. Yoshida’s teriyaki sauce, however, some vegans might have an issue with regular sugar, because it may be processed with bone char.
Also, even though this particular sauce contains high fructose corn syrup (which is often the sole source of sugar in these products), they have decided to include cane sugar.
From a technical standpoint, this teriyaki sauce is suitable for vegans, however, some vegans might hesitate because of the sugar in it.
Ingredients: Naturally brewed soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), wine, high fructose corn syrup, water, vinegar, salt, spices, onion powder, succinic acid, garlic powder, and sodium benzoate.
The original teriyaki sauce by Kikkoman is suitable for vegans, as it doesn’t contain animal ingredients, nor ingredients that vegans may deem controversial.
However, Kikkoman has had a long history of animal testing, and they’ve even been called out by PETA.
In fact, here is what Kikkoman has to say about their animal testing policy: “Kikkoman is introducing and developing non-animal testing methods, and conducts no animal testing across any of its product lines. However, on rare occasions, we must do so to be accountable for public safety and to comply with the demands of government authorities in several countries.”
Therefore, even though they might try to minimize animal testing, they still do conduct it when demanded by certain governments, such as the Chinese government.
This, obviously, is something that not all vegans approve of, and therefore may not consume Kikkoman products for that reason.
Soy Vay Veri Veri Teryaki Sauce
Ingredients: Soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), sugar, expeller pressed vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola), dried onion, sesame seeds, dried garlic, ginger puree (ginger, water), expeller pressed sesame oil, and dried ginger.
This teriyaki sauce by Soy Vay is similar to Mr. Yoshida’s because it contains cane sugar, an ingredient that may or not be vegan depending on how it’s processed.
If you’re purchasing this product somewhere in North America, make sure that you contact the company first before you buy it just to confirm whether it’s vegan.
For most vegans, it won’t be vegan because it does not contain animal ingredients, but for vegans that are particularly strict about controversial ingredients, this is an issue of concern.
Annie Chun’s Teriyaki Sauce
Ingredients: Tamari (water, soybeans, salt, vinegar), cane sugar, water, salted sake (water, rice, koji, salt), dehydrated onion, crushed garlic (garlic, citric acid), sesame seeds, distilled vinegar, lactic acid, ginger powder, black pepper, and xantham gum.
Annie Chun’s teriyaki sauce also contains cane sugar, unfortunately, therefore it’s hard to tell for sure whether it’s vegan or not.
Therefore, depending on how strict of a vegan you are, you may or not be willing to buy this sauce.
Most teriyaki sauces are suitable for vegans, as they do not contain animal ingredients.
However, some vegans might hesitate to consume sugar, especially in the United States, because sugar refineries often use bone char to decolorize and purify cane sugar.
Some brands of teriyaki sauce may also use honey, which is not a vegan ingredient by most vegan standards, therefore, you should definitely keep an eye out for that ingredient.
Teriyaki Sauce FAQs
Is Teriyaki Sauce Gluten-Free?
Unfortunately, most teriyaki sauces are not gluten-free, as they usually contain soy sauce, a sauce that is traditionally made with wheat. However, there are also gluten-free sauces such as Annie Chun’s teriyaki sauce, which is made with tamari sauce, a Japanese form of soy sauce that does not contain wheat.
Is Teriyaki Sauce Spicy?
Most teriyaki sauces will be sweet, but you can find a few that may have a more spicy flavor, though that is definitely not the norm, especially if you consider the traditional recipe.
Is Teriyaki Sauce Keto?
Even though teriyaki sauce does contain sugar, it’s usually around 2g of sugar per tablespoon, which means that teriyaki sauce is still suitable for someone that follows a keto diet.