General Tso Sauce vs. Teriyaki: Differences & Which One to Use?

General Tso Sauce Vs. Teriyaki 2
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You probably know General Tso sauce as a staple ingredient to General Tso chicken and Teriyaki sauce from teriyaki tuna. You may even mistake one for the other because of their similar appearances, but rest assured, they are different sauces. So, what are the differences between General Tso sauce and Teriyaki? 

Teriyaki is made with sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. It is a traditional Japanese sauce with a sharp flavor and great overall intensity. General Tso sauce is an American-Chinese sauce made with rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, water, sugar, and cornstarch.

Knowing the differences between General Tso sauce and Teriyaki has surely made my meal decisions easier. I love them both, and probably you will too, but using them wrong will give them a bad name, which is a borderline crime. So, to save you time and make things clearer for you, in this article, I will tell you all about these two sauces. 

Differences in Ingredients 

So, the ingredients are where everything starts, and they pretty much decide how these sauces taste. Since they use different ingredients, they result in different flavors. 

Teriyaki sauce is a traditional Japanese sauce made with sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. The sake and mirin are what gives the Teriyaki sauce its sharpness, as they are both alcoholic ingredients. In short, sake is an alcohol made from fermented rice, and mirin is rice wine. 

Japanese cuisine uses sake and mirin for a lot of dishes, usually as glazes but as dipping sauces too. 

Anyway, back to Teriyaki sauce. The cooking method is as simple as can be. The ingredients are simply mixed together in a sauce bowl or a ramekin, and that’s it. 

I like adding a bit of grated ginger to add more flavor, but you can skip it if that’s not something you are interested in. 

General Tso sauce uses rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, water, sugar, and cornstarch. While Teriyaki sauce is a traditional Japanese sauce, the General Tso sauce is a product of American-Chinese cuisine. As a result, it is thicker than Teriyaki sauce. 

It was made as a substitute for the Hunan-style General Tso sauce, which is much spicier and hotter. 

Today, when you think of General Tso sauce, you mean the milder version we’re discussing here. 

Taste Test

Difference in Taste of General Tso Sauce Vs. Teriyaki

When talking about the taste of these two sauces, things are pretty much self-explanatory, given their different ingredients. So, Teriyaki sauce is the sharper one, having a more expressive flavor and a greater overall intensity. 

It is sweet, savory, and slightly tangy and has umami written all over it. You can adjust the ingredient amount to tailor the flavor to your palate but don’t change too much because it will lose its charm. 

I like the tangy note of the Teriyaki sauce, so I add a little bit more soy sauce, and as I said, I also like to spruce things up with some grated ginger. 

General Tso is the milder of the two, attuned to the American palate. It has that typical American cuisine sweetness combined with the liveliness and vibrancy of the Hunan cooking style. It is sweet, salty, and a bit tangy from the rice vinegar and balances the flavors amazingly. 

I add a few lemon juice drops to balance the flavors out when I want some extra tanginess. Still, if you are not into tangy flavors as much as I am, you absolutely don’t need to change or add anything. 

Differences in Uses

Oddly enough, even though they differ so much in ingredients and flavor, the uses of Teriyaki sauce and General Tso sauce overlap to an extent greater than you would think. 

Teriyaki sauce is great to use as a glaze. In fact, the word “teriyaki” means “glazed and grilled.” So, you can use Teriyaki as a glaze for grilled vegetables, tenderloin, duck breast, tuna, or pork. It is also a great way to season your noodles, tofu, stir-fried rice, or veggies. 

You can also turn it into the marinade and let whatever you plan to cook soak inside. 

In short, you can use Teriyaki sauce as a dip, glaze, or marinade with virtually any dish. I like to dip stuff in it and enjoy that succulent and umami flavor it gives to ordinary food. 

General Tso sauce is also very versatile. It does great as a marinade or dipping sauce. Although you know it best from General Tso chicken, you can use it to batter other types of meat, such as pork or duck, as well as veggies before you fry them. 

In general, you can use Teriyaki and General Tso sauce in the same ways, but you will get different results. If you want a sharp and clear-flavored dish, use the Teriyaki sauce, and if sweater and gentler flavors are your things, General Tso sauce is your guy.