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Japanese Marinade

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Our Japanese marinade tastes like a Japanese steakhouse marinade and is a fantastic way to tenderize any cut of meat. We use Sake to give the marinade extra flare and umami flavor. This simple recipe will transform economical cuts of beef, pork, or chicken into sensational meals!

Pouring sake soy marinade over beef steaks.

Sake Marinade

Sake is a Japanese rice wine that is often used in cooking. It has a slightly sweet and fruity taste that pairs well with any meat. Even if you don’t care for Sake as a drink, it imparts a tremendous amount of flavor to food when you use it as a marinade.

Here is Why This Recipe Works

  • Sake adds a subtle umami flavor and helps tenderize meat. 
  • The flavors in the marinade go with any type of meat, including beef, chicken, pork, and seafood. 
  • The flavors in this marinade will give your meat a Japanese steakhouse-inspired flavor. 

The Ingredients

Here is a list of the ingredients you will need for this Japanese marinade. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

  • Sake. The acidity in the Sake helps tenderize the meat and it adds a distinct flavor that you can’t find in any other beverage. 
  • Soy sauce. The salty soy sauce helps the meat retain moisture. Along with the Sake, it makes this sauce taste like a Japanese steakhouse marinade.
  • Toasted sesame oil. Make sure the sesame oil says “toasted.” The difference between regular sesame oil and toasted sesame oil is vast. 
  • Sugar. A small amount of sugar enhances the sweetness of the Sake. 
  • Worcestershire. Adds an extra bit of savory, umami flavor. 
  • Ginger. Did you know you can freeze fresh ginger and grate? I keep my ginger in the freezer and grate it with a microplane while still frozen. It is easier to grate when it is frozen. 
  • Garlic. If you love garlic go ahead and mince up a couple of extra cloves. 
Ingredients used for sake soy marinade.

How to Make It

Here is a brief overview to get an idea of what to expect with this sake marinade. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details.

  1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl or a zip-top bag,
  2. Use right away or store in the fridge for up to two weeks. 

How to Marinate Meat

Resealable plastic bags work great because you can squeeze the air out of the bag, letting the marinade settle all around the meat. 

If you want a more environmentally friendly method, place the meat in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the meat. Depending on the size of the dish, you may need to double the marinade recipe if you use this technique. You may also need to flip the meat occasionally as it marinates. 

Japanese Marinade for Steak

We tend to use this marinade (or any marinade) mostly on less expensive cuts of beef, such as flank steak. You can use it on more pricey cuts of steak like ribeye, but we recommend you shorten the marinating time. 

Prime cuts of steak already have a great flavor and tender texture, so your goal is to accentuate the meal’s flavor profile. If you marinate expensive cuts of steak too long, you can change the texture and alter the flavor to the point that you would have been better off starting with a less expensive steak in the first place.

How Long To Marinate Meat

If you marinate meat too long, it will break down the fibers and make it mushy.

 If you wonder how long is too long, it depends on the type of meat, thickness, and the quality of meat. Expensive, tender cuts of meat really don’t need to be marinated. However, you may want them to take a quick dip to add an exciting flavor profile. 

Delicate cuts of meat like tilapia or shrimp also need less time in the marinade. 

Marinade for Beef, Pork, and Lamb

As a general rule, beef, pork, and lamb can marinate anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. Thin cuts and more expensive grades of meat should spend 1 to 4 hours in the marinade. 

As a Japanese Marinade for Chicken

Marinate chicken for 1 to 10 hours. Thin pieces of chicken like chicken cutlets and chicken tenderloins should spend less time in the marinade. Dark meat like chicken legs and chicken thighs can handle more time in the marinade than chicken breasts.

Whether you use this Japanese marinade for chicken, pork, beef, or seafood, it will make dinner taste like you ate in a Japanese steakhouse. 

As a Marinade for Seafood

Since most seafood is pretty delicate it should spend less time in the marinade. Usually, 15 minutes to an hour is sufficient.

Marinade in a jar.

More Condiment Recipes

Tips for Success

Experiment with different brands and grades of Sake and try using a more robust flavored brand. Junmai sake tends to be more bitter and acidic, but the flavor mellows when combined with the other marinade ingredients. The marinade will be less assertive if you start with a mild, mellow sake like Daiginjo Sake. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I substitute mirin for the Sake?

You can use mirin if you can not find Sake, but the mirin will be sweeter and have less umami flavor. Just like beer and wine, Sake has a wide range of flavor profiles, and the taste will vary depending on the brand of Sake you use. 

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Pouring sake soy marinade over beef steaks.

Japanese Marinade

This Japanese sake marinade is perfect for adding flavor and juiciness to chicken, beef, pork, or seafood. Plus, it's easy to make and only requires a few simple ingredients.
5 from 3 votes
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Calories: 44kcal
Author: Dahn Boquist


  • ½ cup sake
  • cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped


  • Combine all the ingredients in a dish and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.


Marinating Times

  • Marinate beef, pork, or lamb for 1 to 24 hours.
  • Marinate chicken for 1 to 10 hours.
  • Marinate shrimp for 15 to 30 minutes and flaky fish for 20 to 60 minutes.
  • Nutrition

    Serving: 1tablespoon | Calories: 44kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 310mg | Sugar: 2g

    Dahn Boquist

    Dahn is a retired nurse, recipe creator, home cook, baker, and self-proclaimed foodie. She loves creating in the kitchen and cooking for family and friends. She lives in Washington State with her husband and dog. When she isn't cooking or baking, you can usually find her spending time with her grandchildren or exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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    Monday 14th of February 2022

    Would be GREAT to use in cod and salmon!

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