I have been hesitant to do this review but I noticed that Trader Joe’s changed the packaging on this recently and it’s much more attractive than the last packaging they had. This is one of those products that never seem to go away and is always available. I’ve had it in the distant past but not recently, and I wasn’t too impressed with it back then but thought it might’ve changed with the new bag it comes in.
First I want to backtrack a little. Chicken Teriyaki or Teriyaki, in general, is a Japanese dish that is fairly common street food, but not as common as you might think in the United States.
In the United States, Teriyaki really became a thing in Seattle in 1976 when a guy named Toshi set up shop. He kept it simple, grilled chicken, rice, and a side salad with lots of Teriyaki sauce for just a couple of bucks. Other people saw how successful he was and copied him. Pretty soon, there was a Teriyaki joint on just about every street corner in the Seattle area.
When my wife and I moved from the East Coast to Seattle I kept hearing about Teriyaki and when I landed a job right away people were telling me about their favorite Teriyaki joint. It was cheap, filling eats.
There are literally hundreds of Teriyaki joints in the Seattle metro area now. My little town of about 10,000 people has at least six of them. People all have their favorites in town but they all seem busy. The funny thing is that none of them sell beer or wine and are never open on Sundays.
You can get Teriyaki in all kinds of meats and seafood now. Chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, salmon. Usually $10 for a large carryout meal and more than even I can eat in a sitting anymore. Our family orders out Teriyaki 2-3 times a month. I would say I am a Teriyaki connoisseur at this point. I have been eating it for almost twenty years. This is why I never bought the Trader Joe’s BBQ Chicken Teriyaki because I didn’t feel it could ever compete with my local shop.
For what it’s worth, at $5.99 for 21 ounces, you get a lot of calories and meat here. There are only two things in the bag, cooked and frozen chicken thigh meat that is not seasoned very much. Then also two small bags of teriyaki sauce. This bag comes in at a whopping 1 lb and 5 oz of food. That’s enough to feed a small family if you add rice and veggies on the side.
The preferred method to cook this Trader Joe’s chicken teriyaki is in the microwave. First I took the frozen teriyaki sauce and put it in a bowl of hot water to thaw it out.
Then, I filled up a small bowl with about 1/3 of the contents of the bag and microwaved it for a couple of minutes until it was steaming hot.
Then I dumped it on top of a pile of rice I cooked up. Poured the warmed-up sauce on top of it all and then sprinkled some chopped green onions for flavor. There you have it! Easy enough.
But how did it taste? Did it stack up to real Seattle-style teriyaki? Not quite. First, the meat was overcooked. Cooking it twice rendered it a little tough (The meat is fully cooked when you buy it and it’s cooked again in the microwave). The sauce was sweeter and had less flavor than I am used to. The Seattle teriyaki sauce has a slightly burnt edge to it with more black pepper in it. Just a lot more flavorful.
Trader Joe’s Teriyaki Final Verdict
I understand why people buy this and why it’s been a staple of Trader Joe’s for so long. It’s like the Orange Chicken. It was cheap. It feeds at least two people and it’s infinitely adaptable. You can add a large variety of things to the meat. Kids probably love it and if I was a starving college student, I would eat this all the time.
Would I buy this again? Probably not. Teriyaki is cheap and plentiful here in the Seattle area. Making your own is a snap to do if you have a grill.
I will give this 6 Bells because I am not really a fan of this.
skinless chicken leg meat, water, sugar, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybean, salt), salt, sake (rice, water, yeast), lime juice, ginger, garlic, green onion.