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Japanese Chicken Skewers – Negima Yakitori

31/01/2023

Get these deliciously juicy Japanese chicken skewers (negima yakitori) on the table in just 20 mins! Featuring bite sized chicken and spring onion smothered in yakitori sauce.

Close up of glistening yakitori sauce on chicken skewers.

Why We Love This

Negima yakitori is so easy to make at home with just 4 easy ingredients! They’re quick to prep with no marinating required.

These juicy and delicious Japanese chicken skewers are one of the most popular street food recipes in Japan and around the world. 

Make them in advance for an epic BBQ feast, and serve with your favourite dipping sauce for extra flavour (see below for ideas). 

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Related: Tsukemen Dipping Ramen / Tsukune Meatballs

Top view of chicken skewers scattered on a blue plate with dark background.

What is Negima Yakitori? 

Yaki means grilled or fried in Japanese – you’ll find this word popping up in other recipes like okonomiyaki pancakes and yakisoba noodles.

Tori means bird or chicken, so while yakitori translates as grilled or fried chicken, it has become synonymous with Japanese chicken skewers!

Negima yakitori / ねぎま焼き鳥 is a specific type of Japanese chicken skewer made with pieces of Japanese green onion (negi) and chicken thigh (ma).

In Japan you’ll find Japanese grilled chicken skewers at street stalls, festivals, convenience stores and supermarkets – pre-prepared and ready to heat-and-eat! But the best place to eat them is at specialty restaurants known as yakitori-ya or izakaya bars.

It’s fun watching the chefs cook the skewers in front of you on shichirin charcoal grills using a special kind of charcoal called binchotan. This gives them their deliciously smoky flavour.

What You’ll Need

  • Chicken – Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are best because they’re extra juicy and soak up all the flavour. You can use chicken breast if you prefer, they just won’t be quite as tender and juicy. Slice into even strips about 4 cm / 1.5 inch in width.
  • Spring Onion / Green Onion – Also known as scallions or negi. Use the thicker stem end rather than the soft leaves. Trim to the width of the chicken pieces to make it easier to flip the skewers while cooking.
  • Yakitori Sauce – Make your own or use a store bought brand such as Kikkoman. If making your own, feel free to experiment with the quantity of each ingredient until the flavour is just how you like it. Sub with teriyaki sauce if you already have some on hand.
  • Vegetable Oil – For cooking.
Ingredients laid out to make yakitori chicken skewers.

How to Make Negima Yakitori

First, gather your ingredients: See recipe card below for measurements.

  1. Thread chicken and spring onion / green onion pieces onto bamboo skewers. Tip: Make sure they’re pressed tightly together so they hold their shape and don’t fall off the skewer.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or skillet over a medium high heat. Add the chicken skewers and cook for 3 minutes on each side, then cover and steam for another 5 minutes until almost cooked.
  3. Remove the chicken skewers and pour in the yakitori sauce. Turn the heat up and bring it to a boil – it should be bubbling quite a bit. Return the skewers back into the pan and cook for another minute or two on each side, basting the sauce over the top as you go until it reduces and sticks to the skewers.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Skewers – Regular skewers work fine, you may like to use two per yakitori to make it easier to flip them while cooking. If you have flat cocktail skewers these are even easier to cook with. Soak them in water for around 20 mins beforehand to prevent the bamboo from burning as you cook. 
  • Thread Tightly – Thread the bite-sized pieces of chicken and spring onion tightly onto the skewer, as they will shrink while they cook. 
  • Soak Up Oil – Juices and oil can splatter when cooking yakitori skewers in a frying pan, so use a piece of paper towel to soak up excess oil as you go. 
  • Serving – Baste one last time with any leftover cooked sauce from the pan for an extra glossy shine!
  • Dipping Sauce – Feel free to serve fresh unused yakitori sauce in clean bowls for dipping, or sub with any of your favourite Japanese sauces.

FAQs

Do I have to cook negima yakitori over charcoal?

No you don’t have to. At home, it’s often easier to cook them on a regular frying pan or cast iron skillet. But if you have a charcoal grill handy, by all means go for it!

How do I eat them?

It’s fine to eat the chicken and spring onion straight off the skewer! When eating yakitori in Japan, it’s polite to place your used skewer in a designated cup placed on the table rather than leaving used skewers on your plate. At home, you can use chopsticks or a knife and fork to slide the pieces off the skewer onto your plate first if you prefer.

What should I serve with Japanese chicken skewers?

Condiments – Add a sprinkling of salt or shichimi togarashi chilli powder. Small dabs of wasabi add a delicious kick. We recommend trying the chicken as it is first to see what you think, then feel free to season to taste. 

Popular Side Dishes – Our favourite yakitori chain in Japan is called Torikizoku. We usually order a few side plates like steamed edamame, gyoza dumplings, Japanese potato salad, Japanese fried chicken and takuan pickles. For a simple meal, serve with steamed rice.

Is yakitori sauce the same as teriyaki sauce?

Yakitori sauce is very similar to teriyaki sauce. Both can be used interchangeably in home cooking. The main difference is that yakitori sauce is only used for grilled chicken in Japan, while teriyaki sauce is used for a broader range of grilled meats, including chicken, beef, pork, vegetables and tofu.

Variations

  • Skip the Skewers – Cook the chicken and spring onion directly in the frying pan without threading onto skewers first. 
  • Serve as a Rice Bowl – Serve over rice with fresh or cooked vegetables, topped with goma dare and/or kewpie mayonnaise
  • Cook in the Oven – Set the oven to ‘broil’ (in Australia we also call this ‘grilling’) and cook on high (around 200˚C / 400˚F) for around 20 minutes, basting and flipping halfway through so they’re cooked evenly. 
Pile of yakitori chicken skewers on plate with rice and cabbage in background.

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★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Blue plate with a stack of yakitori chicken skewers.

Japanese Chicken Skewers – Negima Yakitori

Get these deliciously juicy Japanese chicken skewers (negima yakitori) on the table in just 20 mins! Featuring bite sized chicken and spring onion smothered in yakitori sauce.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 6 skewers
Calories: 102kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Thread chicken and spring onion / green onion pieces onto skewers. Tip: Make sure they’re pressed tightly together so they hold their shape and don’t fall off the skewer.
    2 chicken thighs, 6 spring onion / green onion
  • their shape and don’t fall off the skewer.Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or skillet over a medium high heat. Add the chicken skewers and cook for 3 minutes on each side, then cover and steam for another 5 minutes until almost cooked.
    1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Remove the chicken skewers and pour in the yakitori sauce. Turn the heat up and bring it to a boil – it should be bubbling quite a bit.
    6 tbsp yakitori sauce
  • Return the skewers back into the pan and cook for another minute or two on each side, basting the sauce over the top as you go until it reduces and sticks to the skewers.

Video

YouTube video

Recipe Notes

  • Chicken – Thighs are best because they’re extra juicy and soak up all the flavour. You can use chicken breast if you prefer, they just won’t be quite as tender and juicy. Slice into even strips about 4 cm / 1.5 inch in width.
  • Spring Onion / Green Onion – Also known as scallions or negi. Use the thicker stem end rather than the soft leaves. Trim to the width of the chicken pieces to make it easier to flip the skewers while cooking.
  • Yakitori Sauce – Make your own or use a store bought brand such as Kikkoman. If making your own, feel free to experiment with the quantity of each ingredient until the flavour is just how you like it. Sub with teriyaki sauce if you already have some on hand.
  • Skewers – Regular skewers work fine, you may like to use two per yakitori to make it easier to flip them while cooking. If you have flat cocktail skewers these are even easier to cook with. Soak them in water for around 20 mins beforehand to prevent the bamboo from burning as you cook. 
  • Thread Tightly – Thread the bite-sized pieces of chicken and spring onion tightly onto the skewer, as they will shrink while they cook. 
  • Soak Up Oil – Juices and oil can splatter when cooking these skewers in a frying pan, so use a piece of paper towel to soak up excess oil as you go. 
  • Serving – Baste one last time with any leftover cooked sauce from the pan for an extra glossy shine!
  • Dipping Sauce – Feel free to serve fresh unused yakitori sauce in clean bowls for dipping, or sub with any of your favourite Japanese sauces.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Japanese Chicken Skewers – Negima Yakitori
Amount per Serving
Calories
102
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
6
g
9
%
Saturated Fat
 
2
g
13
%
Trans Fat
 
0.03
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
3
g
Cholesterol
 
37
mg
12
%
Sodium
 
720
mg
31
%
Potassium
 
151
mg
4
%
Carbohydrates
 
4
g
1
%
Fiber
 
0.3
g
1
%
Sugar
 
3
g
3
%
Protein
 
7
g
14
%
Vitamin A
 
149
IU
3
%
Vitamin C
 
2
mg
2
%
Calcium
 
16
mg
2
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Japanese Chicken Skewers - Negima Yakitori

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