3 ingredient Teriyaki Pan-Fried Chicken (easiest recipe ever!)

“Mommy,” my six-year-old leaned her head on my shoulder, “Thanks for making this for dinner.” Music to this mothers ears. This super simple teriyaki is a new favorite of mine because it is so easy and fast to do, but it is also our new family favorite because it is sooooo good! I think that this recipe is very similar to teriyaki we have gotten at favorite Japanese restaurants!

Granted, we still love my family’s version of teriyaki with the sour notes, and the ginger and garlic too. But one day I was in a hurry and decided to try the method a local Asian chef had told me about that used just soy sauce and brown sugar for teriyaki. I used coconut sugar (and have since then tried it with a variety of unrefined sweeteners) and it was amazing! You would think that it would be too plain with just two ingredients, but what I realized was that soy sauce is a complex ingredient. Just using sweetened soy sauce allowed that complexity to shine through in a new way. Our other family recipe covers up the complexity a little with all of the “add-ins”. Plus, this recipe actually uses  less sugar because it doesn’t have the vinegar, which make you add more sugar to balance out the acidity of the sauce.

Just make sure you use an organic brand of soy sauce that is traditionally made (I give some information here and linked to another favorite brand below as well)

There have been few dishes that I have made so often in such a short amount of time, but this one has been such a clear winner in my household that I have made it numerous times each week (seriously).

Now you can use these proportions to marinate drumsticks or wings (like my other recipe), and that is delicious too. But since I have already walked you through that process, I thought it would be nice to give instructions for cooking flattened chicken thighs for a very fast and easy method. My kids love this!

I am listing this recipe under my “$10 main” category as it is also quite frugal. I recently found out that both Costco and Whole Food’s sell organic chicken thighs for $4 dollars a pound, which makes this dish not very expensive to make.

Cost Per Item:
Chicken: $4-6 dollars
Organic Tamari: $1.70 (as per ounce when bought from, Vitacost.com)
Organic Coconut Palm Sugar or other sweetener: $.25-1.00
Fat for pan: Approx. $.66
Total:$6.61 to $9.61

3 ingredient Teriyaki Pan-Fried Chicken (easiest recipe ever)
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 2-4
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Using a cast iron pan will give you better browning and flavor, however it will still cook in a stainless steel. I would love to grill this recipe sometime soon too!
  • 1 to 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs (or breast), trimmed of excess fat
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar, unrefined cane sugar, or sweetener of choice
  • ½ cup soy sauce or tamari (use tamari for gluten-free option)
  • Heat safe fat for cooking (coconut oil, ghee, tallow, etc.)
  1. Place a chicken thigh/breast in a gallon freezer bag (I use freezer bags as they hold up better to the pounding process), wrap in plastic wrap, or place between two sheet of wax papper.
  2. Using a meat mallet, pound the thigh/breast lightly, but firmly with the flat side. Start at the middle and work your way to the edges. I like to flatten mine to about ¼ inch. Flatten all of the chicken thighs/breasts. Place the chicken in the freezer bag or in a pan, and pour over the soy sauce and sugar of choice. Make sure that the marinade is evenly covering the chicken and place in the refrigerator. Marinate for 20 minutes (for a light taste) to 2 hours (for a stronger flavor).
  3. In a cast iron pan,heat enough fat of choice to coat the bottom of the pan, over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped in the pan.Add chicken (you may have to do this in batches if you have a small pan). Cook until the first side is starting to get a nice browned color, and then flip. Brown the other side. It should cook quickly (5-8 minutes total) since you pounded it thin.
  4. Once there is no pink in the thickest part of the chicken when cut, remove and let sit for about 5 minutes. Slice thinly and serve. (If not serving right away or if you are cooking it in batches, don’t cut the chicken right away, but place in a serving bowl and cover with foil to help it keep warm).


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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. Tywana says

    Oohhh…Can’t wait to try this with my Braggs Liquid Aminos and coconut sugar!! So easy…just right for me on a bed of quinoa with zucchini! Thank you!!

    • shane says

      Braggs is actually hydrolyzed soy protein, basically MSG and all the amino’s listed are available in a micro amounts, one would need to consume a quarter cup or so to obtain a reasonable amount. Its a total marketing scam. You may want to just stick with real fermented soy sauces.

  2. Francesca says

    This is truly inspiring–3 ingredients and delicious… and super-quick! Great for those it’s 5 o’clock and I still don’t know what to do with that chicken I thawed this morning kind of day.
    On a more bureaucratic note–is there any way to get the title of these fantastic recipes in the subject line of the e-mails we receive? I hate to think how many of these great ideas I’m missing because of the daily e-mail glut clogging my in-box every day! Thanks!

  3. says

    yum. i’ve been making a stirfry recently with soy sauce, honey, and ginger. boom! honey is my favorite in this context because i think it balances the soy so well. i’ll have to try it with coconut sugar. cheers!

    • Krista says

      I’ve made this a few times in the last couple weeks too! I agree about the honey. The other day I found myself sweetener-less, but I had some sweet Thai chili sauce… And voila! Super tasty!

      • says

        Oooh, thanks for the sweet Thai chili sauce tip! I have a bottle of that hanging out in my fridge and not sure what to do with it. It’ll be going on the menu plan for next week–can’t wait to try it!

  4. Corinne says

    Sounds yummy! Do you buy your chicken thighs boneless & skinless? I didn’t know they were sold that way. I will have to check it out next time I am in the grocery store. Thanks!

  5. says

    This look delicious! I love 5 ingredient recipes, and 3 is even better! I’m not familiar with tamari, but will definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Magda says

    When I make chicken teriyaki at home, DH calls it ‘the best Chinese ever’. LOL I use the recipe from NT, cook up some rice and saute a stir-fry veggie mix. On the second day I use the rice to make a fried rice and reheat meat/veggie mix. All my boys love it. If I have some leftover sauce, I keep it in the fridge and use on various veggie/meat mixed. The longer it sits, the better it tastes…

  7. says

    My Vietnamese father in law is an excellent cook–every time we request a recipe he replies: “garlic, salt and sugar”. Same principle as this! I imagine pork would be fabulous in this, too! I will have to try it!

  8. Melissa says

    Kimi looks delicious, but isn’t pounding the chicken with a plastic bag adding unwanted chemicals to your organic chicken. I thought plastics leek chemicals with contact and during the marinade process

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Melissa,

      You could definitely try pounding it between kitchen towels to avoid plastic. Just makes sure it is well covered so you don’t splatter chicken everywhere! (I also often marinate in glass casserole dishes to avoid the plastic).

  9. says

    I made this tonight with coconut aminos and coconut sugar and my picky picky son ate seconds, then the leftovers on the baby’s plate too. So amazingly simple and tasty!

  10. Steph says

    My husband and I made this for dinner tonight…it was a huge hit. The kiddos even wanted more! 🙂 Thank you.

  11. says

    Kimi, this looks great. My hubby loves meals like this 🙂 Did you just do a plain stir-fry to the veggies in your photo? Or add soy sauce or other flavorings to the veggies? Thanks!

  12. Eva says

    Thanks for the recipe. I made it last week and it was great. I was just a little unsure about what to do with the extra marinade. Some recipes recommend throwing away the marinade, but I didn’t want to waste it. At first I put all the chicken and marinade in the pan, but quickly realized that wouldn’t brown the chicken. So I took the marinade out until the chicken was browned and then put it back in to simmer for a bit. It turned out fine, but I wasn’t sure if this is how you did it. Thanks again.

  13. Matt says

    I am not sure if we should call $5-2.50 per serving frugal. The Food stamps program gives about $70-100 per month per person. At $2.50 for a single meal that’s $75 a month. I am not trying to be mean but please consider that your definition of frugal might be frustrating to other people.

    • KimiHarris says


      I understand where you are coming from. I am basing the term frugal on what most food magazines use. A ten dollar main dish is generally considered in the frugal category (especially for dinner, the most expensive meal of the day for most). And as far as the food stamp program, there is a general mistaken idea that the money you get from food stamps is supposed to be the only money you have for food. Food stamps for many are supposed to be a supplement to your food budget, not be your only means to buy food. This isn’t to downplay the problem of hunger and need in the US, simply to point out that the amount given in food stamps is figured out by how much the gov thinks you should be able to spend on food from your income, and then supplementing it.

  14. Ivette says

    I tried this this evening but mine came out a little bitter. I used honey as The sweetener. Do you have any idea what could’ve happened? I definitely want To make it again!

    • shane says

      I would try again with coconut nectar or coconut sugar. I fund that honey does not like a hot pan very much! I made these tonight, and added smashed garlic to my marinade… absolutely amazing!

  15. Adrianne says

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I made a double batch the other night, and it was fabulous! The leftovers the second night were great too! But I have one question… It seemed to be very hard on my cast iron skillet. It is a new skillet that I have only used a few times… So maybe was it not seasoned enough for this type of dish yet? I had to scrape off so much stuff, and I’m afraid that it ate through my seasoning layer. So I am reseasoning it now. Should I not make this dish again in that pan until it is better seasoned? I’m rather new to using cast iron. So thanks in advance for the advice!

  16. Kristy says

    Thank you for sharing this!! I suffer from fructose malabsorption so I haven’t been able to have Teriyaki anything all year!! I was able to modify this recipe so I could eat it! I used Gluten free Soy sauce and swapped the Coconut Sugar for Rice Malt Syrup – I used the same amounts of each. It was very tasty!

  17. xochilt says

    Trying this recipe right now. Love the sinplicity. I had all ingredients on hand, cane sugar & coconut aminos.

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