Chicken yakitori is an easy and delicious appetizer or main dish. And this keto yakitori recipe is sugar-free and yet maintains all the classic flavor.
Before I go any further, let me just tell you that this chicken yakitori recipe was a huge hit with my whole family. Call me jaded, but it’s always a shocker for me when all three of my kids agree on a meal.
And it’s a rare treat to see my reserved 15 year old son be so enthusiastic about anything I’ve made. He’s in that delightful phase of being naturally suspicious of anything his parents do. He always eats what I make, because he’s growing like a weed and is extremely hungry. But there is often plenty of grumbling to go along with it.
When I stated that we were having chicken yakitori for dinner, his expression was a muddled look of confusion and distain. But upon one bite of this asian-inspired grilled chicken, his faced opened up to pure happiness.
He’s been raving about it ever since and keeps asking me to make it again. And since it’s so easy and delicious, I am happy to oblige!
What is chicken yakitori?
I had only heard of these Japanese grilled chicken skewers myself a few years ago. They really are just that: Japanese chicken skewers.
They often use many parts of the chicken, including gizzards and liver, as well as thigh meat. It’s all cut up into bite-sized pieces, and threaded onto bamboo skewers, then basted and grilled.
Chicken yakitori has plenty of that classic umami flavor. And it makes a great handheld appetizer or an easy dinner recipe.
Making keto friendly chicken yakitori
When I saw chicken yakitori for the first time, I inquired about the sauce and whether it had sugar in it. That was a strong affirmative, so I had to give it a pass at the time.
But I started researching homemade yakitori recipes to see if I could make a keto-friendly version. The sauce is usually made of soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sometimes sake, and sometimes other seasonings like ginger and garlic. It’s also often thickened with cornstarch.
This combination results in a salty sweet sauce that pairs perfectly with grilled chicken.
For my keto chicken yakitori, I used tamari instead of soy sauce, because it’s gluten-free. I know many keto and paleo proponents recommend coconut aminos but it simply doesn’t have that classic umami flavor, and I find it a weak substitute for keto Asian recipes. Additionally, it’s actually much higher carb than real soy sauce or tamari.
I skipped the mirin because it tends to have a high sugar content as well. I also skipped the sake.
For the sweetener, I used mostly Swerve Brown, with a bit of BochaSweet so that the sauce wouldn’t recrystallize as it cooled. And then I added garlic, ginger, and a dash of hot pepper flakes, as I love that spicy kick in Asian inspired dishes.
Finally, I used xanthan gum as my thickener. You could also try using glucomannan, if you prefer.
This sauce. Oh, this sauce! People, if I could drink the sauce alone, I would. It was so good and I think it’s easily going to become my favorite keto stir fry sauce.
How to serve chicken yakitori
Chicken yakitori can be an appetizer, if you serve it on small skewers. This keto recipe would probably make 12 to 15 small skewers.
As a main course, it can be paired with any sort of vegetable. I’ve seen yakitori include veggies like zucchini or mushrooms right on the same skewers.
Cauliflower rice is an ideal side dish for chicken yakitori, and the extra sauce can be tossed in to give it a true Asian flavor. You could also serve it with sautéed zucchini noodles or shiritaki noodles. Or with these delicious Broccoli Stem Noodles.
More delicious keto Asian recipes to try
Keto Chicken Yakitori
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup Swerve Brown
- 2 tbsp BochaSweet (can use allulose)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
- 1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
- 2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (chopped into bite sized pieces)
- 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 medium scallion, chopped
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the tamari, water, Swerve, BochaSweet, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.
- Sprinkle the surface with the xanthan gum and whisk vigorously to combine. Continue to boil 2 to 3 minutes until somewhat thickened. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Place the chicken in a bowl and toss with 2/3 of the sauce. Refrigerate 2 hours to marinate. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving with the chicken.
- If you're using bamboo skewers, place in a pan with water to soak for at least an hour. You will need 6 to 8 large skewers or 12 small appetizer-sized skewers.
- Preheat the grill to medium high and grease the grates to prevent sticking. Thread the chicken onto the skewers. Place the skewers on the grill and brush the the marinating liquid.
- Grill 5 to 6 minutes per side, brushing frequently with the marinating liquid. Remove to a platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with the reserved sauce at the table.