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16 Perfect Alternatives For Mirin To Love

A Japanese rice wine, mirin is popularly used in a variety of dishes to provide the legendary umami flavor.

Umami is defined by savory characteristics that can’t often be achieved without the help of mirin, providing a distinctive savory flavor with a hint of sweetness. 

Mirin is most commonly found in Asian dishes, including glazes, dressings, sauces, broths, and marinades. It is made of a fermented mixture of steamed glutinous rice, cultured rice, and a distilled rice liquor. 

12 Best Substitutes For Mirin

Unless you keep your cooking ingredients cabinet stocked up 24/7, you’ve probably come here because you don’t have a bottle of mirin available, but it’s an imperative ingredient in your recipe. 

So, if you don’t have mirin available, you’ll be happy to know that there are several alternatives to use instead. Here are the 16 best substitutes for mirin

Nutritional Value Table

SubstituteCalories (per 100g)Protein (per 100g)Fat (per 100g)
Sake1340.5g0g
Balsamic Vinegar880.49g0g
Chinese Cooking Wine500.5g0g
Rice Vinegar2003.33g3.33g
White Wine810.07g0g
Kombucha141.2g0.2g
Apple Cider Vinegar210g0g
Vermouth1170.1g0g
Dry Cherry1160.1g0g
Marsala Wine1170g0g
Agave And Water1351g0.3g
White Grape Juice610.56g0g
Aji Mirin411.80g0g
Sweet Marsala Wine164.80.2g0g
Sake With Sugar1345g0.5g
White Wine Vinegar00g0g

What Is Mirin?

Before we go into the substitutes for mirin, let’s take a look at what mirin actually is. 

Mirin is a tangy and slightly sweet rice wine that is a staple in Japanese cuisine. It is made of steamed glutinous rice, cultured rice, and distilled rice liquor fermented for between several months to 2 years. 

There are actually 3 main types of mirin. The truest form of mirin (hon mirin) has an alcohol content of 14%, which is the most like sake.

The lowest alcoholic form of mirin is new mirin, which has less than 1% alcohol content. Salt mirin has a minimum of 1.5% salt. 

With the exception of true mirin, most bottles of mirin are low in alcohol but high in sugar.

The sugar isn’t actually added to mirin to make the distinctive sweet flavor – instead, it is made naturally as a result of the fermentation process. 

1. Sake 

Sake 

Sake is arguably the most commonly used ingredient in replacement for mirin. This is because sake is already a rice wine, made of a mixture of fermented rice, koji mold, and water. 

As the alcohol content is still slightly higher than true mirin, sake is typically added at the beginning of a recipe to allow enough time for the alcohol to reduce.

This also helps to enhance the umami flavor that is synonymous with mirin, which is why sake is used in sauces, marinades, stocks, and soups to tenderize and flavor meat and fish

The only downside to using sake instead of mirin is that sake isn’t as sweet as mirin, but the alcohol content of 15-16% is a close enough match to true mirin that it makes a pretty great substitute. 

If the sake isn’t sweet enough, you can always add a pinch of sugar or a small splash of white grape juice or apple juice. 

How To Substitute

Sake comes with higher alcoholic content when compared to Mirin. It gives the best option for both cooking and drinking and it is primarily used for baking. Substituting sake for Mirin is using 1:1 to often result in an end dish.

2. Balsamic Vinegar 

Balsamic Vinegar 

Balsamic vinegar might seem like a rogue substitute for mirin, but it works nonetheless – especially considering virtually every kitchen has a bottle of balsamic anyway. 

Balsamic vinegar is an unfermented grape juice that is thick and dark brown, featuring an acidic yet sweet flavor.

It is most commonly used as a dressing for salads, in marinades, risotto, pasta dishes, roasted meats and vegetables, a variety of sauces, and even desserts. 

The best way to substitute balsamic vinegar for mirin is to replace every one tablespoon of mirin with two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.

Just be aware that the color of the dish will be significantly darker than it’s supposed to be, and it might taste slightly more acidic. 

How To Substitute

Mirin is a Japanese rice wine that has a slightly sweet and sour taste. The substitute is to substitute 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup of mirin. The balsamic vinegar is used as a condiment and will add a sweet, slightly tart flavor to the recipe.

3. Chinese Cooking Wine 

Chinese Cooking Wine 

Chinese cooking wine is another great substitute for mirin because it is made from distilled and fermented rice.

It’s not quite as sweet as mirin, and instead features a slightly nutty and aromatic flavor profile. 

It is prominent in a lot of Chinese dishes, including stir fries, soups, stocks, and marinades.

As it doesn’t contain any sugar, you can make your own mirin-like liquid by combining Chinese cooking wine with sugar, adding to your taste.

The main downside to using Chinese cooking wine is that it has a higher alcohol content than mirin, with an ABV of 18-25%. 

How To Substitute

Chinese cooking oil is a traditional staple in the Asian kitchen, but it has a number of health risks associated with it. Substituting Mirin for Chinese cooking oil gives a distinctive sweet and sour flavor. It is typically used in Japanese dishes such as sushi rice and in dipping sauces.

4. Rice Vinegar 

Rice Vinegar 

Just like mirin, rice vinegar is made of fermented rice, making it a great substitute.

Unlike balsamic vinegar, rice wine comes in a variety of colors (white, black, and red), meaning it won’t necessarily change the color of the dish, unless you use colored rice vinegar. 

The only difference between rice vinegar and mirin is that the former is slightly more acidic and sour, but it’s fairly easy to mimic the sweetness of mirin.

For every one tablespoon of rice vinegar, add half a teaspoon of sugar to the mix. You can then use this mixture as a substitute for mirin, with the same amount according to the recipe. 

Even if you’re only buying rice vinegar because you can’t find mirin, rice vinegar is a versatile ingredient that is prevalent in most Asian dishes, including stir-fries, many sauces, marinades, and even for pickling foods. 

How To Substitute

It is an alcohol free mirin substitute that is much sourer in flavor. To achieve sweet rice taste you must add the sugar. Like all vinegar types, the sour and acidic taste refers to the same non-alcoholic recipe.

5. White Wine 

White Wine 

If you’ve got a bottle of white wine lingering in your refrigerator, you’ll be happy to know that you can use it as a substitute for mirin!

The key is to use a dry white wine, like a pinot grigio or chardonnay, with some added sugar to best mimic the sweet and tangy flavor of mirin. 

White wines come in a magnitude of flavors – including nutty, citrus, and floral tones – depending on the variety.

It’s important to keep this in mind when using white wine as a substitute for mirin, because the undertones will also affect the flavor of the dish. 

For every one tablespoon of mirin, substitute one tablespoon of dry white wine mixed with half a tablespoon of sugar.

Dry white wine can be used in sauces, marinades, dressings, dips, glazes, soups, and stocks. 

How To Substitute

You can substitute Mirin with white wine as it gives a very umami type flavor. Ideal for cooking meats, it helps add glaze to the recipe. It has a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that compliments many dishes, including stir-fries, soups, and braises. It can be substituted with a similar amount of white wine.

6. Kombucha

Kombucha

Nothing has divided people quite like kombucha. Kombucha is a type of black or green tea that is fermented with yeast and flavored with sweeteners, herbs, spices, fruits, and juices. It can also be used as a substitute for mirin. 

This traditional Chinese drink can be found in virtually any grocery or Asian food store.

When you take away the flavors of the sweeteners and spices, kombucha is slightly acidic and has the alcohol content of 0.5-2%. 

Kombucha isn’t a naturally sweet drink, unless it has been produced with ingredients to make it sweeter.

So, you’ll have to add honey or sugar to increase the sweetness. Kombucha with a ginger flavor is particularly good for Chinese dishes, especially in stir-fries, meat marinades, sauces, and dressings. 

With the remaining kombucha, you can use it in desserts, baked goods, cocktails, and lots of other recipes. Once you get over the taste, kombucha comes with a myriad of health benefits, too. 

How To Substitute

Mirin is a Japanese cooking ingredient that can be substituted for kombucha in a recipe. It has a sweet, almost syrup-like flavor. It can be used in a wide variety of dishes including sushi, ramen, or stir fry.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Basically any form of vinegar you have in your kitchen will be a good substitute for mirin, including the humble apple cider vinegar.

This staple classic is a vinegar made of fermented pressed apples, and has been prevalent in Western cuisine for centuries. 

Apple cider vinegar is most popularly used in dressings, sauces, stir-fries, stews, and even desserts and cocktails.

This is because the flavor profile of apple cider vinegar is a mixture of sweet and sour, with a slight fruity flavor depending on the variety of apples used in the fermentation process. 

Sure, apple cider vinegar won’t provide the exact same flavor as mirin thanks to the fruity tones, but it’s a good enough substitute. Plus, it adds slightly sour and fruity tones that might actually improve the dish. 

The best way to substitute apple cider vinegar for mirin is to replace every one tablespoon of mirin for two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. 

How To Substitute

There are a few ways to make a substitution for apple cider vinegar. One way is to substitute it with rice wine vinegar, which has a similar taste. Another way is to use white wine vinegar.

8. Vermouth 

Vermouth 

Another popular alcoholic substitute for mirin is vermouth.

Vermouth is a red or white wine made of various wine grapes and flavored with aromatic herbs, most commonly found in cocktails such as a Martini. 

The Italian beverage is a great substitute for mirin, especially if you use sweet vermouth. Not only this, but vermouth is another good alternative for white wine, if you happen to have it available. 

The reason why sweet vermouth is the better option for a mirin substitute rather than dry vermouth is that sweet vermouth has around 10-15% sugar, whereas dry vermouth only contains 4% sugar. 

So, you can either use the exact amount of sweet vermouth for mirin in a recipe, or you can use half a cup of dry vermouth with 2 tablespoons of sugar for every half a cup of mirin. 

How To Substitute

If you’re looking for a tasty, savory cocktail recipe, you’ll want to substitute a bit of mirin for the vermouth in your favorite drink. To substitute vermouth, mix one part mirin to three parts water in a bowl. You can also add the mirin to a cocktail recipe for a sweeter, less alcoholic drink.

9. Dry Sherry 

Dry Sherry 

While sherry is typically associated with being an unsweetened wine, it’s still a suitable substitute for mirin.

You can get dry and sweet varieties of sherry filled with a range of flavorings, all with an average alcohol content of around 15-17%. 

Not only is sherry used as a festive drink, but it’s also a common ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes to complement the flavors of other ingredients.

This is because dry sherry isn’t very sweet, and instead features a delicate flavor that helps to boost savory flavors. 

A good way to sweeten dry sherry is to combine half a teaspoon of sugar with one tablespoon of dry sherry. Then, substitute this for every one tablespoon of mirin in a recipe. 

Just be cautious that sherry comes in a variety of colors depending on the type of wine grapes used, which might impact the appearance of the dish. 

How To Substitute

Many people substitute dry sherry with Mirin. It has a similar flavor and is also easy to find. Dry sherry is an ideal substitute because it is sweeter than Mirin and also has less alcohol. This is an easy recipe that uses dry sherry instead of Mirin in a Thai curry.

10. Marsala Wine 

Marsala Wine 

Another type of wine that can be used as a substitute for mirin is Marsala wine.

Marsala wine is an Italian fortified wine that is often consumed as a palette cleanser before or after dessert. It is also commonly found in baking and cooking recipes, specifically of Sicilian origins. 

Depending on the type of wine grapes used, Marsala wine can be sweet or not. Either is fine, because you can always add a small amount of sugar to your taste if it’s not of the sweet variety. 

If you have sweet Marsala wine, you can use one tablespoon of the wine for every one tablespoon of mirin. This is a great substitute to be used in sauces, marinades, dipping sauces, glazes, and more. 

How To Substitute

Marsala is a sweet, rich, and sweet red wine that can be substituted for Mirin, a Japanese cooking wine. It is the best substitute and is commonly served as an aperitif.

11. Agave And Water 

Agave And Water

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic substitute for mirin, you should try combining agave syrup with water. 

Agave syrup is the syrup extracted from the agave plant, which is a naturally sweetened juice depending on the type of agave plant it has derived from.

It is most commonly used as a substitute for sugar or honey, as it’s a vegan-friendly and natural sweetener

Agave syrup is used in baked goods, desserts, dressings, stir-fry sauces, and to sweeten hot beverages. The syrup consistency is also good for making food slightly thicker. 

As agave syrup is sweeter than mirin, it’s best to dilute it with water to better match the flavor profile of mirin. Water also helps to loosen the syrupy consistency.

It’ll still lack the slight savory profile, but it’ll do the trick. It’s also a good option for vegans!

Substitute a mixture of one tablespoon of agave with three tablespoons of water to mirin in a 1:1 ratio. You can also add a small amount of lemon juice if you find that the taste isn’t acidic enough. 

How To Substitute

If you want to have non-alcoholic food recipes, agave and water is the perfect substitution for Mirin. It gives a similar flavor of Mirin and you can always add up the mixture of agave syrup to get the same results.

12. White Grape Juice 

White Grape Juice 

Another good non-alcoholic substitute for mirin is white grape juice, which is a liquid made of crushed and blended grapes.

Some white grape juices will also include other crushed fruits, such as pear or apple, which will add to the flavor. 

White grape juice is naturally sweet, meaning you don’t have to add sugar to match the sweetness of mirin. However, as it is a fairly sweet liquid, you’ll need to balance it out with acidity to best match mirin. 

So, the best way to match the flavor of mirin with white grape juice is to combine the juice with lemon juice.

For every 1 cup of white grape juice, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and use as a substitute for mirin in a 1:1 ratio. 

How To Substitute

It is probably the cheapest non-alcoholic substitute for Mirin. Sweet enough, it is the overall best substitute to tenderize meat. You can add a splash of lemon juice when you’re cooking meat or beef.

13. Aji Mirin

Aji Mirin, the name itself means, tastes similar to Mirin made with corn syrup and some other sweeteners. 

It tastes similar to Mirin but is different as Aji mirin comes with a more pronounced sugar content.

Compared to traditional Mirin, you can buy Aji Mirin from grocery stores easily, and they are the most popular substitute for Mirin.

How To Substitute

Aji Mirin is a Japanese sweet-cooking wine-flavoring dish such as ramen, stir-fries, and steamed fish. If you are trying to find a substitute for Mirin, try substituting Aji Mirin for the Mirin in your recipe with a slightly sweeter and more fragrant flavor.

14. Sweet Marsala Wine

Marsala wine is a wine produced from a variety of grapes grown in the Southern Italian region of Sicily. The wine is red and is typically made from the Sangiovese grape. 

It is typically sweeter than other red wines because of its lower alcohol content and is often used in cooking as a marinade or sauce. 

You may use the wine for Mirin, a Japanese cooking wine typically made from rice, water, and sugar. Mirin has a similar sweetness and is often used as a glaze on meats or fish.

How To Substitute

You can substitute Sweet Marsala Wine for Mirin, but you should know the difference between the two. Sweet Marsala Wine is a sweeter, less salty version of Marsala wine, while Mirin is a slightly more salty and sour sauce.

15. Sake With Sugar

Mirin is a rice wine with a sweet, toasty flavor commonly used in Asian cooking. Sake is a rice wine with a much drier, more complex flavor. 

However, in many recipes, you may use it to replace Mirin and create a similar flavor by adding sugar.

It is a clear, slightly sweet, and often potent beverage used in cooking. The sugar-mirin mixture is perfect for marinades and can also be used in drinks such as shochu.

How To Substitute

Adding sugar to the Japanese beverage sake becomes a great alternative to Mirin. However, be aware of the sugar content mixed with Sake that makes it unhealthy if you are on a diet or cutting down your sugar intake.

16. White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar has a sweet and mildly acidic taste since it is not an alcoholic beverage so you may use its various dishes.

Unlike Mirin, it comes with a little tangy flavor, so you may add some sugar to deal with that. It contains less alcoholic content than Mirin.

When adding Mirin to sauces, marinades, or braising liquids, the liquid will curdle and become opaque. To avoid this, you can add an equal amount of sugar.

How To Substitute

White wine vinegar can be substituted for Mirin in most recipes, but in some cases, it will not have the desired effect. You may replace Mirin with white wine vinegar in an equal ratio; your recipe calls for Mirin.

Conclusion

So, there you have it! Hopefully, this guide has helped you find a substitute for mirin that you probably already have in your kitchen cupboards.

The key is to make sure you add sweeteners (sugar, honey, or agave) a small amount at a time until you reach the desired flavor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Honey Instead Of Mirin?

Mirin has famously sweet flavors, however, this doesn’t mean that you should use just honey as a substitute.

This is because you will need to dilute the sweetness of honey with something plain or acidic to best match the flavors of mirin. 

Instead, honey is a good ingredient for making a mirin substitute with non-sweet liquids, such as sake, dry sherry, kombucha, dry white wine, and rice vinegar.

This is because honey is a good way to sweeten these dry and unsweetened liquids, making them a great substitute for mirin. 

Can I Leave Mirin Out Of A Recipe?

Unfortunately, just because you don’t have a bottle of mirin available doesn’t really mean you can leave it out of a recipe.

In most Asian dishes (particularly Japanese cuisine), mirin plays a huge role in achieving the flavor of umami, so it’s not really avoidable. 

However, if you don’t have mirin available, you can easily substitute it with a variety of alternatives that you probably already have in your kitchen.

These alternatives include balsamic vinegar, dry white wine, sweet vermouth, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, sake, and even dry sherry. 

What Does Mirin Taste Like?

Mirin is a rice cooking liquid that is commonly used in Asian cooking. Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine that has a sweet and tangy flavor. 

It is a rice wine made from rice, sugar, and water. Mirin is used in many dishes such as marinades, sauces, glazes, and dressings.

It is often used in marinades and sauces, and can also be used to deglaze a pan. 

Mirin is an important ingredient in many Japanese dishes, and its flavor is essential to the overall taste of the dish.

16 Best Substitutes For Mirin

5 from 3 votes
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

15

minutes
Total time

25

minutes

Mirin is an imperative ingredient in a wide range of Asian dishes, but what happens if you don’t have mirin? Here are the 16 best substitutes for mirin.

Ingredients

  • Sake

  • Balsamic Vinegar

  • Chinese Cooking Wine

  • Rice Vinegar

  • White Wine

  • Kombucha

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Vermouth

  • Dry Sherry

  • Marsala Wine

  • Agave And Water

  • White Grape Juice

  • Aji Mirin

  • Sweet Marsala Wine

  • Sake With Sugar

  • White Wine Vinegar

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