Shoyu Chicken

5 from 5 votes
6 Comments

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Shoyu Chicken is a popular Hawaiian dish made with chicken thighs simmered to perfection in a sweet and savory shoyu sauce and served with rice.

Shoyu chicken being pulled apart with a fork to show tenderness

What is Shoyu Chicken?

To best answer that, first allow me to explain what “shoyu” is. Shoyu = soy sauce. Though it’s a Japanese word, it’s what they commonly call soy sauce in Hawaii (which is why “shoyu chicken” is often considered Hawaiian cuisine). Hawaiian shoyu chicken is a popular dish in which chicken thighs are simmered in, you guessed it, shoyu. Sugar is traditionally added to the sauce to give it a sweeter taste, otherwise the saltiness from the shoyu can be overbearing. It is similar to teriyaki chicken but unlike teriyaki chicken, it is actually simmered in the sauce, not grilled or baked. The chicken shreds off the bone more easily than teriyaki chicken and is more tender (in my honest opinion).

What’s in Shoyu Chicken?

  • Chicken thighs – You can use bone-in, skin on (our favorite) or boneless, skinless thighs. Chicken breasts will be too dry and won’t turn out as good. Trust me, stick with the thighs!
  • Soy sauce (aka a cup shoyu) – I prefer Kikkoman soy sauce or Aloha shoyu because that is what is most often used in Hawaii. You can use low sodium soy sauce if you prefer. 
  • Sugar – Just plain, white sugar. Some recipes call for brown sugar, but brown sugar makes it too sweet and doesn’t taste as authentic.
  • Water – A little bit of water will help tone down the bold flavors and keep the sauce from thickening too quickly. Most of it will evaporate out when the sauce is reduced. You could use chicken broth in place of water for extra flavor.
  • Garlic and ginger – Both of these are a must with shoyu sauce! They both add a delicious flavor and spice that make this sauce over-the-top.
  • Red pepper flakes – Just for a little kick. Can be added to taste.
  • Green onions – for garnish
  • Sesame seeds are another fun garnish option.
Shoyu chicken as part of a plate lunch

How to Cook Shoyu Chicken

As mentioned above, shoyu chicken is not traditionally grilled or even baked. It is simmered in shoyu sauce. This can be done on the stove top, in an Instant Pot or in a Crock Pot. The basic idea is the same for each method but I will break down each one…

Stove Top Method (preferred method)

  1. Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. As soon as sugar is dissolved, place chicken skin side down in a Dutch oven or heavy pan. The chicken can be touching but don’t over-crowd the pan.
  3. Heat until the sauce comes to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Simmer uncovered for 35-40 minutes, turning the chicken over half-way through. The sauce should thicken and reduce as it is cooking.
  5. Remove chicken and serve with the remaining sauce.
  6. If the sauce isn’t thick enough, create a cornstarch slurry with a little cold water and a couple tablespoons of cornstarch. Then mix in with the liquid.
Shoyu sauce being spooned over chicken thighs for shoyu chicken

Instant Pot Method

  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in the Instant Pot and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add chicken thighs to sauce. Cover and seal Instant Pot.
  3. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, quick release.
  4. The sauce will be thinner because it will be covered and unable to reduce while cooking. You can serve with the thinner sauce (still delicious) or remove chicken and use the “saute” function until the sauce reduces. You can also make a water/cornstarch mix to thicken the sauce.

Crock Pot Method

  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in the Crock Pot and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add chicken thighs to Crock Pot and cook on high heat for 3-4 hours or low heat for 8 hours.
  3. Like the Instant Pot, the sauce will be thinner. If needed, you can place the remaining sauce in a sauce pan and simmer until reduced (about 10-15 minutes) or make a water/cornstarch mix to thicken the sauce.
Shoyu chicken on a serving platter

What to serve with Shoyu chicken

Shoyu chicken is a common plate lunch item in Hawaii. It is often served along with white rice, Hawaiian mac salad, and sometimes shredded cabbage or coleslaw. It can also be served as a “mixed plate” with other meats such as teriyaki beef, Kalua pork, grilled chicken teriyaki, or even cooked spam (don’t knock it til you try it)!

Shoyu chicken with Hawaiian mac salad and rice

More Hawaiian recipes

Can’t get enough authentic Hawaiian recipes? Neither can we. Here are some more of our favorites:

Shoyu chicken thigh being pulled apart with a fork

Shoyu Chicken

5 from 5 votes
Shoyu chicken is a popular Hawaiian dish made with chicken thighs simmered to perfection in a sweet and savory shoyu sauce and served with rice.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 8

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Combine soy sauce, sugar, water, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a high-sided saute pan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  • As soon as sugar is dissolved, place chicken in the pan. The chicken can be touching but don't over-crowd the pan.
  • Heat until the sauce comes to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer uncovered for 35-40 minutes, turning the chicken over half-way through. The sauce should thicken and reduce as it is cooking.
  • Remove from heat. Allow chicken to rest 2-3 minutes before serving. Serve with remaining sauce (sauce will thicken more upon cooling).

Nutrition Information

Calories: 364kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 22gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 111mgSodium: 1708mgPotassium: 294mgFiber: 1gSugar: 25gVitamin A: 88IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 17mgIron: 1mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    New favorite chicken recipe. It is excellent as part of the Hawaiian plate. Really good with rice and cole slaw too. So easy. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    Really great flavor! Very similar to the way I make homemade teriyaki sauce – I use honey. But the white sugar definitely has a different flavor than honey and I love the addition of the red pepper flakes! The chicken is definitely more tender than traditional teriyaki. Super yum!

  3. I grew up eating shoyu chicken all.the.time. We got the recipe from a family friend and I’ve never even heard of the recipe from anyone else. I was so surprised to see it is a thing in Hawaii 😁. We usually don’t add garlic and use a big pinch of sushi ginger instead of regular, but the rest is essentially the same. This is good chicken!