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12 Best Sake Substitutes (With Nonalcoholic Options)

Sake substitutes can be made by adding various flavors and herbs to lower the alcohol content of regular sake.

Some of the best non-alcoholic options to include are Shaoxing rice wine, dry sherry, dry vermouth, dry white wine, apple cider vinegar, broth, white grape juice, water, rice wine vinegar, and mirin.

Anyone familiar with Japanese cooking is likely no stranger to sake. This alcoholic beverage is typically used in making all kinds of delicious recipes.

However, sometimes you find out halfway into making a dish that sake is a required ingredient and don’t have time to go get it. In those moments, having a good substitute always saves the day.

So in this post, we’ve put together the best sake substitutes to use in your cooking, and if you’re not a fan of alcohol in your food, then you’ll find some great non-alcoholic replacements as well. 

What Is Sake?

Sake is a Japanese beverage made from polished and fermented rice. It is an alcoholic beverage, also commonly referred to as Japanese rice wine.

Although the name rice wine may lead one to assume it is made in a similar process to most wines, sake is actually made from a brewing process very similar to the one used in making beer.

It usually involves a straight fermentation process where the rice starch is converted into sugars, and then the sugars are fermented into alcohol.

The main ingredients used in making sake typically include rice, water, yeast, and koji; each one contributes to its unique flavor profile. 

Traditionally, sake is commonly enjoyed as a beverage served warm, and it often comes in many varieties with flavors ranging from sweet to dry. 

However, there are certain varieties specifically made for cooking. These are known as cooking sake. They usually contain more salt and other ingredients that are not in regular drinking sake.

You can, however, use drinking sake for cooking, as the two essentially do the same thing when added to food.

In cooking, sake adds an umami taste that imparts a rich flavor and aroma to dishes. It also acts as a tenderizer for meats and removes the strong aroma of fish.

This is why it is a staple in Japanese cooking and is added to soups, sauces, marinades, fish, and grilled meats.

Sake also has a fairly low alcohol content, with most bottles ranging from 15-18% alcohol by volume. The most common sake used for cooking typically has even lower alcohol content than the drinking variety.

Nutritional Value Table

SubstitutesCalories
Dry Sherry58
Mirin72
Dry Vermouth45
Madeira Wine64
Rice Wine Vinegar34
Shaoxing Rice Wine36
Dry White Wine77
Shochu53
White Grape Juice160
Apple Cider Vinegar3.1
Broth38
Water0

1. Dry Sherry

Dry sherry is a fortified white wine made from grapes. It has a crisp and tangy flavor that isn’t as sweet as most sherry wines which is why it makes a great replacement for sake. 

It has a slightly similar alcohol content to sake and ranges between 15-20% alcohol by volume, which means it will similarly enhance the flavor of any dish. 

However, dry sherry has a slightly stronger flavor than sake, so you may need to reduce the quantity a bit.

How To Substitute

Use a 2:1  ratio when substituting sake when dry sherry. 

2. Mirin

Mirin is another common staple ingredient in Japanese cooking and is a great substitute for sake. It is a type of rice wine very similar to sake, but it has a higher sugar content and considerably less alcohol.

The alcohol content in mirin is typically in the 1% alcohol per volume range.  

Although mirin is sweeter and has a slightly more syrup consistency than sake, it still has a very similar effect when used in cooking.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting sake with mirin.

3. Dry Vermouth

Dry vermouth is another fortified wine that makes a great sake substitute. It is made from a base of grape wine that is flavored with botanicals, so it is sure to add an interesting depth of flavor to any dish.

Dry vermouth also has a floral and herby flavor profile that works well with most savory dishes that call for sake.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sake with dry vermouth.

4. Madeira Wine

Madeira wine is another great fortified wine that can easily replace sake. It originates from Madeira Island in Portugal, where it gets its name, and is primarily made from grapes. 

Depending on the variety, the taste of this wine can range from dry and crisp to sweet and light, but they generally have a strong spicy and caramel flavor that works well when incorporated into any dish.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sake with Madeira wine.

5. Rice Wine Vinegar

Rice wine vinegar is another excellent substitute for sake. Unlike the name suggests, it is actually not wine at all but a type of vinegar made from fermented rice.

To make this vinegar, the rice is first turned into alcohol and then converted into acetic acid, giving it the acidic properties of vinegar.  

Rice wine vinegar is a staple in many Asian cuisines, so it is sure to make a great replacement for sake. Its mildly sweet and slightly acidic taste also brings a rich flavor profile to any dish that calls for sake. 

How To Substitute

Dilute one tablespoon of vinegar in three tablespoons of water and use the mixture for every quarter of a cup of sake required.

6. Shaoxing Rice Wine

Another great substitute for sake is Shaoxing rice wine. This rice wine is a Chinese staple that is very similar to sake. It is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice that is distilled and converted to alcohol.

Shaoxing rice wine is slightly sweeter and stronger than sake in terms of flavor, but it brings the same acidity and enhances the flavor of any dish to it is added to.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sake with Shaoxing rice wine.

7. Dry White Wine

Dry white wine is a great beverage to use in place of sake. It is less sweet than other white wines, which is why it works well in most dishes. 

With this option, you might notice a slightly fruity note in your dish, but it imparts a crisp acidity that enhances the flavor in the best way possible. You can use white wine in dishes like seafood, meats, and vegetables, so it is very versatile.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sake with dry white wine.

8. Shochu

Shochu is another Japanese liqueur that can be used in place of sake. It is typically distilled from either rice, potatoes, barley, buckwheat, or brown sugar

It has a strong fragrance and great flavor that works well in any dish that calls for sake. This liqueur typically has a higher alcohol content than sake and ranges between 20-40% alcohol per volume. 

So, it means your dish will contain a lot more alcohol. To best replicate the flavors of sake, try to get shochu that has been distilled from rice.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting sake with shochu.

Here is a video to give you more insights into how shochu is made-

9. White Grape Juice

White grape juice is an ideal sake substitute for those who prefer to eliminate alcohol from their cooking.

Its sweet and slightly tart taste makes a great addition to any dish that calls for sake, as it enhances the flavor of the dish while imparting a touch of acidity.

Use 100% grape juice to get the richest flavor without unnecessary added sugars.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sake with white grape juice.

10. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another great nonalcoholic replacement for sake. It is mostly made of apple juice combined with yeast, so there is no alcohol in it.

Adding apple cider vinegar to any dish that calls for sake will impart a nice acidity and a slightly sweet and tart flavor that boosts the base flavors.

However, you’ll need to be careful with apple cider vinegar, as using too much can overpower the flavor of your dish. It works best with marinades, sauces, and soups, where there are other base flavors that will mask the acidic taste.

How To Substitute

Use one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for every ¼ of a cup of sake required in a dish.

11. Broth

Broth is another great non-alcoholic replacement for sake.

While it technically doesn’t have the same intense taste that comes from the alcohol properties of sake, when added to any dish, it imparts a rich umami flavor similar to the one you’ll get from using sake.

Broth is also a great flavor enhancer, so it will surely boost any dish’s flavor profile. Beef or chicken broth works best, but if you’re on a vegan diet, then you can use vegetable broth.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 Ratio when replacing sake with broth.

12. Water

If you’re completely out of options, water is a great replacement for sake.

It might not seem like it’ll do much, but adding water in place of sake will help you replicate a similar consistency in a dish where sake is being used primarily for texture. 

Since it is a flavorless liquid, it will also not impart odd flavors that could completely alter the taste of your dish. 

Water is the ideal choice to try at the last minute when you don’t want to skip the sake step completely or want a non-alcoholic alternative with a neutral taste.

How To Substitute

Use half a cup of water for every cup of sake required.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Good Halal Substitute For Sake?

The best halal substitutes for sake include white grape juice, rice wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar. These options do not contain alcohol and will do a good job of imparting the same acidity and flavor of sake into a dish.

Can You Drink Sake?

Sake often comes in many variations that are suitable for drinking, so you can absolutely drink it as a beverage. In fact, in many Japanese restaurants, sake is commonly served as a hot or cold drink.

Does Sake Need To Be Stored In The Fridge?

It is best to store sake in the fridge once it is opened to keep it fresh for longer and reduce oxidation. 

However, it isn’t always necessary if it is unopened, as sake has a pretty stable shelf life, preventing it from going bad so long as it is still sealed. 

So, if you have an unopened bottle of sake, all you really need to do is store it at room temperature in an area away from direct sunlight.

Does Sake Go Bad?

Like most drinks and food, sake can go bad. This typically happens if it has been stored improperly. 

For example, not storing it in the fridge after opening or exposing it to direct sunlight. However, if the sake is left for too long without being consumed, it can also go bad after some time. 

Properly refrigerated sake will last a little over a week before it starts to get finicky.

You’ll notice your sake has gone bad when the color changes to a slightly more yellowish tint, and it starts to smell pungent. 

What Does Sake Add To A Dish?

Sake is used to enhance the flavor of a dish, and it does so by adding a layered combination of sweet and umami flavors.

What Does Sake Do To Meat?

When sake is added to meat, it helps to tenderize the flesh and also removes any strong smell contained in the meat. It also adds a sweet and savory layer of umami to the meat.

Can You Use Drinking Sake For Cooking?

You can use drinking sake for cooking since it is very similar to cooking sake. However, drinking sake generally has a higher alcohol content than cooking sake. So, it means your dish may contain more alcohol. 

Drinking sake also contains less salt and umami-enriched ingredients that are in cooking sake, so if you use it for cooking, you may need to adjust and add other seasonings to get the same robust flavor.

12 Sake Substitutes You Can Try

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time

15

minutes
Cooking Time

25

minutes
Total Time

40

minutes

Sake is a popular drink, but what if you can’t find it or don’t want to spend the money? Check out our list of sake substitutes for the perfect drink.

Ingredients

  • Dry Sherry

  • Mirin

  • Dry Vermouth

  • Madeira Wine

  • Rice Wine Vinegar

  • Shaoxing Rice Wine

  • Dry White Wine

  • Shochu

  • White Grape Juice

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Broth

  • Water

Directions

  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith