Turkey Heart Yakitori

This recipe utilizes 3 wild turkey hearts (you can also use venison heart!)

By: Olivia Menard

Yakitori is a traditional Japanese skewered and grilled meat often found at izakaya (Japanese pubs).  One of the most common pub foods in Japan, the name yakitori (焼き鳥) means, literally, grilled chicken.  Kushiyaki is the generic term for skewered and grilled meat.  Chicken is the most often used meat, with variations using all different parts of the animal.  The term yakitori has become more common place for skewered grilled meats, in general, because of the popularity of chicken as the meat.  Yakitori made from chicken heart is called hatsu (ハツ).  

Yakitori can also be found in restaurants specializing in grilled skewered meats.  These restaurants serve anything from chicken to pork or seafood grilled on skewers.  Yakitori is so popular that Asian grocery stores often carry precooked versions in the deli section or frozen foods section for reheated at home.

Sauce and meat make up the basic yakitori.  Four simple ingredients are used to make the sauce for both yakitori and teriyaki: Soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.  In the US teriyaki sauces go much heavier on the sugar, where in Japan the flavor would be less sweet and more soy.  Each yakitori vendor uses their own blend on these same four ingredients to make highly individualized sauces.  There really is no right or wrong recipe.  Mix it to your tastes and you can’t go wrong.

No utensils necessary.  Yakitori is meant to be eaten directly from the skewer.  This feature makes yakitori a common offering at festivals and along popular streets via vendor kiosks.  In the past few years there have been Michelin stars awarded to high end yakitori restaurants that offer a more refined food on a stick experience complete with wine pairings.

Most restaurants will offer a mix of condiments for use with yakitori including shichimi togarashi (seven spices blend), sansho (powdered Japanese pepper), wasabi, black pepper, cayenne pepper, among others.

Yakitori is best enjoyed with beer or sake.  Add a side of rice and make it a meal.

Serves 2 Prep time 30 min Cook time 30 min Total time 14 hrs

  • 2 scallions
  • 1 batch of yakitori sauce, divided in half
    • ½ c Soy Sauce
    • ½ c Mirin
    • ¼ c Sake
    • ¼ c Water
    • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger
  • 3 turkey hearts
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T sesame seeds


  1. Chop the scallions into 1 inch pieces.  Separate the green parts from the white.
  2. In a saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, water, sugar, ginger, and the green parts of the scallions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half (about 30 minutes).  The sauce is ready when it takes on a glossy shine.  Let cool to room temperature.  Reserve half of the sauce for basting and dipping after cooking.
    • Sauce can be prepared ahead of time and will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months, or can be frozen.  Strain the sauce of any remnants of onions or ginger before storing.
  3. Meanwhile, clean and prep the hearts.  Cut halfway to three quarters of the way through each heart from the side.  Remove blood clots and trim veins/arteries/grey bits as you work the heart muscle to lay open flat.  Make a few relief cuts parallel to the original cut, if needed, to help the muscle flatten.
  4. Cover flattened hearts in a dish with sauce.  Leave to soak overnight.
  5. Heat grill to a medium high heat.
  6. Remove hearts from sauce and discard the sauce.  Slide a skewer lengthwise through the center of each heart.  Cut one of the hearts in half crosswise, and thread one and a half hearts on each of two skewers.  
  7. Lightly coat the grill grates with toasted sesame oil, then lay the skewers directly on the oiled grates.  Brush each heart with the reserved yakitori sauce (not the same sauce used to marinade the meat). Cook 2 minutes.
  8. Flip the skewers, and brush again with the reserved sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes more.
  9. Flip the skewers a third time, quickly brush with the reserved sauce, then remove the skewers from the heat before the final glaze has dried.
  10. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with a small bowl of the reserved yakitori sauce for dipping.
Olivia with a turkey!

Olivia can be found on Facebook @ Olivia M Menard and on Instagram at @oliviammenard