Sweet and savory teriyaki chicken cooks in one pan and gets a flavor boost from healthy veggies and crushed pineapple–(not tons of sugar!) Marinate this chicken in the morning for a quick weeknight meal you can serve over brown rice.
Teriyaki might be one of the easiest international flavors for little kids to get excited about. And it’s easy to see why. Sweet and salty, slightly tangy, drizzled on familiar chicken, veggies, and rice, this meal has kid appeal built right in!
We wanted to create the perfect chicken teriyaki recipe for healthy families, so we made a few adjustments to the typical teriyaki marinade. We cut way back on the sugar, and we added a special fruity ingredient that makes the flavors totally pop. Your kids will love it!
With a teensy bit of advance planning, chicken teriyaki makes a fantastically fast meal you can sizzle up in your skillet on any old weeknight.
Secrets of a Lower Sugar Marinade that Still Tastes Great
We’ve seen a lot of recipes for teriyaki chicken that include a lot of sugar–up to a full CUP. When it’s in balance, we’re OK with some sugar (though personally, we’d rather have our sugar in something like chocolate cake.) But a cup of sugar in a dinner recipe raises some red flags for us, nutritionally.
Cutting back on the sugar in a marinade recipe can be tricky, because the sugar has to balance out the salt and acid in a marinade… like really HAS to, or you’ll know instantly the flavors are off. (A previously tasty amount of soy sauce will suddenly taste overpoweringly salty.)
So here’s how we got a great balanced flavor along with less sugar in our marinade: we subbed in sweet, fruity crushed pineapple. YUM.
Crushed pineapple adds vitamins, fiber, and a fantastic depth of flavor to a marinade. You’ll add it straight from the can to your marinade, juices and all, and then you’ll find that 1/4 cup of brown sugar is all it takes to get that kid-favorite teriyaki taste.
What Veggies go with Teriyaki Chicken?
We chose zucchini and mushrooms to go with our teriyaki chicken, because both veggies have a mild flavor that really soaks up that tasty marinade in the skillet. But you’re free to substitute in whichever veggies you like. Here are some that work especially well:
- bell peppers (any color)
- snow peas
When you’re making adjustments to the veggies in this dish, add the sturdier veggies (like carrots, peppers, and onions) earlier in the cooking process, and quick-cooking veggies (like snow peas, celery, and broccoli) closer to the end of cooking. You want your veggies to be tender-crisp at serving time.
We love to serve this chicken over whole grain brown rice, which soaks up some of the extra marinade in the pan.
Prep Ahead Tips for Making Chicken Teriyaki a Weeknight Meal
This one-pan dinner cooks fast with a little time spent prepping ahread. Here are a few steps you can take to shorten your cook-time:
The most important make-ahead step is to get the chicken into the marinade. Do this in the morning before work/school, and you’ll have a major head start at 5pm.
- 2 breast chicken breast
- 3/4 cup soy sauce, low sodium
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cup pineapple tidbits
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon ginger root, fresh
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 5 stalk green onion
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup sliced zucchini
- Cut chicken into cubes about 3/4 inch across. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, pineapple (with juices) and cubed chicken in a gallon zip-top bag or large mixing bowl. Marinate at least one hour, and up to a day ahead.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high head. Add sesame oil, scallions, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring often, until soft.
- Lower the heat to medium; add zucchini and chicken with marinade and cook 10 minutes, until chicken is done and sauce has thickened.
- Serve hot with sides of your choice. We like brown rice and veggies!
You can also chop your veggies in the morning or afternoon, whenever you have a few spare minutes in your day, and store them in a glass jar or covered Pyrex dish. Lastly, feel free to get that rice cooked early!
One of the best parts of prepping ahead (aside from budgeting your time YOUR way) is that you avoid creating a pile of dishes all at once. Three cheers for great food and easy cleanup!