Home Cuisines Japanese Teriyaki Sauce Vs Tonkatsu Sauce – What’s The Difference?

Teriyaki Sauce Vs Tonkatsu Sauce – What’s The Difference?

Teriyaki and tonkatsu sauce next to a chicken and rice dish

If you enjoy Japanese cuisine then you’ll probably be familiar with teriyaki sauce, a condiment that’s an essential component of teriyaki chicken. Shall we take your knowledge further? Let’s look at the difference between teriyaki sauce and tonkatsu sauce. They’re both dark, silky sauces originating from Japan that bring meat to life. So how do they differ? Let’s take a look now.

Comparing flavor and texture

Teriyaki sauce is a sweet and salty Japanese sauce with a slightly sour undertone. It has a shiny appearance, suitable for glazing chicken, eel, beef, and salmon. Teriyaki can also be used as a marinade, and as a dipping sauce for meat, vegetables, potstickers and more.

Tonkatsu sauce is sweet and tangy with a rather unique tinge of spicy flavor. It is best described as a type of Japanese barbecue sauce and is thicker than teriyaki in texture. This sauce is often drizzled onto Tonkatsu, a Japanese dish consisting of deep-fried, panko-crumbed pork cutlets. It is also a perfect addition to meat, curries, or as a dipping sauce. If you love meatballs then this sauce adds a lovely glaze to them.

You can pick up either sauce bottle from the supermarket or Asian grocers, but making them at home is easy and well worth the effort. For an authentic Japanese meal, here’s how it’s done.

How to make teriyaki sauce


  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup water + ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp ginger, ground
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch


  1. Add soy sauce, sugar, one cup of water, garlic, and honey to a small saucepan and cook on a medium-high heat for one minute.
  2. Combine ¼ cup water and cornstarch in a small bowl then pour the slurry into a saucepan. Continue heating for 6-8 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Teriyaki sauce on chicken
Teriyaki sauce is a lovely combination of sweet and saltiness.


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Tonkatsu sauce recipe

A popular brand of tonkatsu is Bull-Dog sauce, the leading product which is also known as fruit and vegetable sauce. It contains ingredients like carrots, onions, apples, dates, and tomatoes. But the recipe below will taste surprisingly similar to the store-bought version.


  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • Pinch of salt, to taste


  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk until combined.
  2. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. It will last up to three months in the fridge.
Tonkatsu pork cutlet
Katsu sauce is sweet and tangy.

Do you need a sharp knife that is razor sharp?
Check out our comparison of the santoku and gyuto knives, two excellent Japanese knives.
If you need a specialist knife for chopping vegetables, take a look at our comparison of the usuba and nakiri knives.

Fast facts

  • In Japanese, “Teri” means shiny or glazed, and yaki means grilled. “Ton” is translated to mean pork and “katsu” means cutlet.
  • The most common side dish to serve with tonkatsu is shredded cabbage.
  • Traditional teriyaki sauce made in Japan includes soy sauce, mirin, water, and sake.
  • Although teriyaki sauce is intended as a cooking sauce, it also works well as a condiment.
  • Either sauce is delicious for accompanying okonomiyaki, ebi fry, takoyaki, yakisoba, or korokke.
  • Tonkatsu is a thicker sauce than other similar Japanese sauces such as chuno and usuta sauce.
  • The katsu sando is a sandwich which commonly includes tonkatsu and cabbage.
A katsu sandwich
The katsu sando is very popular in Japan.


Although teriyaki and tonkatsu sauce have different flavor profiles, they can be used interchangeably in cooking. A Japanese iron chef would notice the difference, but your friends and family will be none the wiser.

Tonkatsu vs okonomiyaki sauce

These two condiments are made from a similar mix of fruit, vegetables, and spices and have comparable taste and texture. However, tonkatsu is traditionally served with pork cutlets while okonomiyaki is used on Japanese pancakes. Both sauces combine deliciously with creamy Japanese mayonnaise to provide a balance of sweet, salt and creaminess in one mouthful.

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The 8 best tamarind paste substitutes.
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Mirin vs rice vinegar – what’s the difference?
5 excellent substitutes for yakisoba sauce.

Summing up

Japanese recipes often combine grilled or deep-fried meat with flavorful sauces to create sumptuous dishes. Every food they use has a purpose, and they are the masters of balancing flavors in their cooking. Two Japanese ingredients, which are now eaten around the world, are teriyaki and tonkatsu sauce. They’re both useful for adding to food during cooking; alternatively, they make an excellent a condiment. Their flavors are similar although tonkatsu has more tang and is closer to a barbecue sauce.

Have you tried both these sauces? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Hey Nate! I love the idea of Japanese barbecue sauce. I don’t think I’ve ever had it but I have almost all of the ingredients. The only one I have to switch out is the sugar because I don’t use brown sugar but I do use coconut sugar so I think that could work well.

    Thanks. I’m copying down the formula after this. I have some bean curd that I could try it on.

    Wishing you and the family well.

    • Both of these sauces are incredibly easy to make and they are amazing for marinades and basting meat. Give it a try next time you feel like something a little different for dinner.

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