16 Best Substitutes For Mirin (Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic)

16 best substitutes for mirin
21 min reading time

If you’re used to cooking Japanese food, chances are that Mirin is a staple in your kitchen. It’s widely used for its sweet and mild flavor and can add depth of sweetness to sauces, marinades, and glazes. But what happens if you don’t have any Mirin on hand? Not to worry! There are plenty of other ingredients that can lend the same sweet ‘umami’ flavor as Mirin – some even healthier alternatives too.

In this blog post, we’ll explore different substitutes for Mirin so keep reading to find out more!

What is Mirin?

Mirin is an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. It is a type of rice wine that provides sweetness and flavor to many dishes, including marinades and glazes for grilled fish, teriyaki sauce, sauces for tempura and mochi (rice cakes), soups, and pickles. It has a distinct sweet flavor that helps to bring out the subtle flavors of other ingredients.

It is made from fermented glutinous rice with shochu (distilled liquor) added after it has been steamed until it becomes a thick syrup-like liquid called amasake. The ratio of shochu to water will determine the grade of mirin – hon mirin (true mirin) contains 14 percent alcohol while shin mirin or ‘new’ mirin contains less than one percent alcohol by volume. Hon mirin also has higher levels of sugar than shin mirin which makes it sweeter overall.

Types of Mirin

There are several types of mirin available on the market today, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics.

  • The most commonly used form of mirin is sweetened ‘hon mirin’, which is made from steamed glutinous rice, distilled alcohol, and amino acids. This results in a distinctively syrupy texture with a mild flavor that adds sweetness but not overpowering intensity to recipes. Hon mirin also contains about 14% alcohol so it must be cooked before serving to avoid leaving an alcoholic taste or aroma behind in your dish.
  • Another type of mirin is shio-mirin, which has been salty flavored to make it more versatile for different dishes like pickled vegetables or teriyaki chicken where you want some saltiness without having to add extra sodium during the cooking process itself. Shio-mirin consists mostly of hon-mirin but salt has been added into the mix as well resulting sweeter yet salty taste when compared to its regular hon-mirin counterpart. Additionally, this kind offers 20 % fewer calories than regular ones making it an easy choice for lighter recipes like salads or dressings, etc.
  • Finally, there’s awase-mirin (a mixture produced by combining hon & shio) which combines the best qualities of both worlds mentioned above – it provides both sweetness & saltiness at the same time giving food rich depth flavor without being too heavy in terms of calories either way. The combination also works great as umami bases adding complexity to many sauces including teriyaki, gyoza, nimono, and so forth.

In conclusion, there are three main types – Hon Mirins (sweetened), Shio Mirins (salty), and Awase Mirins (combination). When selecting one for your recipe you should consider what kind of flavor profile suits best for a particular case – do you need more sweetness? Or more saltiness? Or perhaps something balanced between these two? Depending on that you can choose the right kind of Mirin easily enough!

Does Mirin Contain Alcohol?

Mirin, like other rice wines, does contain alcohol. It is a type of Japanese rice cooking wine that has an alcohol content between 5-14% ABV (alcohol by volume), depending on the brand. It’s used specifically for cooking and not intended to be consumed as an alcoholic beverage. The added sweetness helps balance out the salty flavors in many dishes, while the alcohol evaporates quickly during the cooking process leaving behind savory umami notes.

However, it’s important to note that depending on the brand and type, the alcohol content in mirin can vary. Some brands have a higher alcohol content than others, while some may even be completely alcohol-free. So before using mirin in your next dish, it’s always best to check the label and the ingredients to determine the alcohol content.

How Much Alcohol Is There in Mirin?

It varies depending on the brand and type of mirin. Traditional mirin, also known as “hon mirin,” has a higher alcohol content of around 14%, while newer variations like “aji mirin” have a lower alcohol content of around 1%. It’s important to note that hon mirin is often sold in smaller quantities and used for cooking, as opposed to being consumed as a beverage. When using mirin in your cooking, be sure to read the label and choose a type that fits your needs and preferences.

Is There a Non-alcoholic Mirin?

Since Mirin is a type of alcohol, which may make it unsuitable for those who abstain from drinking alcohol for personal or health reasons. Fortunately, there are non-alcoholic options available that can provide a similar taste and texture to mirin without the alcohol content. These alternatives may use different ingredients, such as vinegar or sugar, to mimic the flavor of mirin, but they can still be incorporated into dishes for a delicious and satisfying result.

There are a lot of pre-made non-alcoholic mirins available at the local store and online.

How To Select The Right Substitutes For Mirin In Your Recipe?

With so many substitutes for Mirin, you must be wondering which one might be the best for your recipe. When selecting a substitute for Mirin, it’s important to understand its flavor profile and how it enhances the overall taste of the dish. While there are a variety of herbs and spices that can mimic Mirin’s earthy and slightly sweet taste, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the dish you are cooking.

It’s important to be mindful of the quantity you use as well, as certain substitutes can overpower the dish if used too liberally. The key is to experiment and discover which substitute works best for your specific dish. By trying different options and adjusting the measurements as needed, you can still create delicious Japanese-inspired meals without relying on Mirin.

16 Substitutes For Mirin That You Can Use

For those who are unable to find mirin in their local grocery stores or are looking for a substitute due to dietary restrictions, there are several alternatives to try. Rice vinegar mixed with sugar, sake, sweet sherry, white wine, etc, are all excellent alternatives to mirin.

Each of these ingredients can give dishes the sweetness and depth of flavor that mirin does, and they can also create a unique twist on traditional Japanese cuisine. Experimenting with mirin substitutes in your cooking is a great way to explore and discover new flavors.

Let’s check out the alcoholic & non-alcoholic substitutes for Mirin.

Alcoholic Substitutes For Mirin

1. Sake + Honey

Image with sake.

Sake and honey can make an acceptable substitute for mirin, a type of sweet Japanese cooking wine. While it may not match the exact flavor profile of mirin, mixing sake with honey can produce something similar.

The sweetness comes mainly from the ripeness of the rice used to create traditional mirin so making this replacement won’t give you some of those nuanced flavors that come when using real mirin. However, if you’re looking for an acceptable alternative that will still impart sweetness and umami notes into dishes like teriyaki or gyoza sauce then this combination could work well!

2. Dry Sherry

Image with dry sherry.

If you’ve been looking for a substitute for Mirin in your cooking, you might be surprised to learn that dry sherry can work as a great alternative. While Mirin is a sweet rice wine that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine, dry sherry is a fortified wine that offers a distinct nutty flavor. When it comes to cooking, dry sherry can be used in a variety of dishes to add flavor and depth, and it can be especially effective in glazes and marinades.

Keep in mind that dry sherry has a higher alcohol content than Mirin, so you’ll want to use it in moderation. Experimenting with different flavors is one of the joys of cooking, and using dry sherry as a substitute for Mirin can be a fun and delicious way to switch things up.

3. Sweet Marsala Wine

Image with sweet marsala wine.

Sweet Marsala wine is one of the best substitutes for Mirin that you might be looking for. Both Mirin and Marsala wine are used in cooking to add a sweet, caramel-like flavor to dishes. However, while Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine, Marsala is a fortified wine hailing from Italy. Despite their differences, a splash of sweet Marsala wine can add the same depth of flavor and sweetness to a recipe that Mirin would.

Just keep in mind that Marsala wine has a higher alcohol content than Mirin, so use it sparingly and cook it for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off.

4. Aji-Mirin

Image with aji mirin image.

Aji mirin has been used as an alternative to regular mirin for centuries due to its more budget-friendly price tag. However, there are some key differences between them which means you should exercise caution when using it as a replacement for regular mirin. For instance, while both types of alcohol are fermented from rice, their sweetness levels differ significantly – while normal mirin contains up to 14% sugar content (glucose or fructose), seasoned sake only contains about 6%.

Aji Mirins also tend to pack less flavor punch than regular Mirins since they contain much less lactic acid. As such, when making culinary dishes with Aji Mirins you will often need more than what the recipe calls for—up to twice as much in some cases! The reduced sweetness level also means that dishes cooked with Aji Mirins tend to come out saltier than those made with regular Mirins so remember to adjust seasoning accordingly when swapping one out for the other!

Finally, unlike traditional Mirins which are low-alcohol beverages at around 15–20%, seasonings like Aji Mirin have significantly higher levels of alcohol content ranging from 40–60%. This means that if you plan on drinking your dish then you should choose your ingredients carefully since consuming large amounts of high-alcohol content products can be dangerous!

5. Chinese Cooking Wine

Image with chinese cooking wine.

Chinese cooking wine may be a suitable substitute for Mirin. While the two may differ in flavor profiles, Mirin and Chinese cooking wine both serve as sweet and slightly acidic ingredients that can add depth and complexity to a variety of recipes. Additionally, Chinese cooking wine is typically more readily available and affordable than Mirin.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the two cannot be swapped in equal proportions, as Chinese cooking wine tends to be stronger and saltier than Mirin. To ensure the best results, it’s recommended to use a bit less Chinese cooking wine than you would Mirin, and balance the flavor with a bit of sugar. With some adjustments, you can successfully create delicious Japanese dishes using Chinese cooking wine.

6. Vermouth

Image with vermouth.

Vermouth could be a great substitute for Mirin. Since Mirin is used to add a sweet and slightly acidic taste to dishes like teriyaki sauce and glazed vegetables, similarly, Vermouth is an aromatized wine that also has a sweet taste and is acidic. It is made by infusing wine with various botanicals such as herbs and spices.

Vermouth can be used as a substitute for Mirin in the same quantity in cooking. It will provide a similar flavor profile to Mirin and add a unique touch to your dishes. So next time you run out of Mirin, grab that bottle of Vermouth and get cooking!

7. Dry White Wine

Image with dry white wine.

This might not be one of the first choices for substitutes for Mirin, however, it still works. Dry white wine has a similar acidic taste to Mirin, and while it won’t give the dishes the exact same flavor, it can still provide an enjoyable taste. When using dry white wine as a substitute, it’s important to keep in mind that it has a higher alcohol content than Mirin, so use it in moderation.

Be sure to choose a dry white wine that isn’t too sweet and has a high alcohol content, as this will help replicate the unique taste of Mirin. Whether you’re cooking up a stir-fry or preparing a marinade for meat, dry white wine can be a versatile and tasty alternative to Mirin.

Non-Alcoholic Substitutes For Mirin

8. Rice Vinegar

Image with rice vinegar.

Mirin may not be to everyone’s liking due to its sweetness. This is where rice vinegar comes in as a great substitute. Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and has a tangy and acidic flavor that can add depth to any dish. While there are differences between Mirin and rice vinegar, rice vinegar can add a similar depth of flavor to your dish without the added sweetness.

Additionally, rice vinegar can also be diluted with water and sugar to create a substitute that is closer to Mirin’s sweetness level. Don’t be afraid to experiment with rice vinegar in your recipes as it can make a perfectly delicious substitute for the harder-to-find Mirin.

9. White Wine Vinegar

Image with white wine vinegar.

White wine vinegar can be one of the best substitutes for Mirin when you don’t have it on hand or don’t want to use alcohol in your recipe. The acidity and sweetness levels of white wine vinegar can be adjusted to mimic its taste. To use white wine vinegar as a substitute, simply mix it with sugar or honey to taste and use it in the same amount as the Mirin called for in your recipe.

Note that white wine vinegar will be more acidic than Mirin, so start with a smaller amount and add more as needed. With this substitution, you can still achieve delicious results in your cooking without compromising on flavor.

10. White Grape Juice

Image with white grape juice.

White grape juice can be a great alternative to Mirin when cooking. Not only does it add a sweet and tangy flavor to your dishes, but it’s also a healthier option. Sometimes, it gets difficult to find Mirin outside of an Asian market, and it contains alcohol, making it unsuitable for certain diets or lifestyles.

White grape juice, on the other hand, is widely available and contains no alcohol. It can provide a similar sweetness and acidity to dishes, making it a viable alternative to Mirin. Although it may not have the same depth of flavor or complexity as Mirin, it can still give dishes a delicious touch. So, next time you’re in a pinch and need a Mirin substitute, give white grape juice a try!

11. Balsamic Vinegar

Image with balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic vinegar comes in as a great substitute for Mirin. While it has a stronger taste and a darker color, you can achieve the same sweet and sour balance in your dishes by using it in a 1:1 ratio. Whether it’s a teriyaki sauce for your stir-fry or a marinade for your grilled meats, Balsamic vinegar can add a unique flavor that will make your taste buds dance. Give it a try and start experimenting with different Japanese dishes using Balsamic vinegar as a substitute for Mirin.

12. Apple Cider Vinegar

Image with apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is a popular kitchen ingredient known for its versatility and health benefits. One of its uses is as a substitute for Mirin in cooking. Its tart taste and acidity can mimic Mirin’s flavor, and it provides the same balance to dishes without added sugar. Plus, apple cider vinegar is more readily available in most grocery stores compared to Mirin, which can be harder to find.

Using apple cider vinegar in place of Mirin is a simple swap that can make a big difference in the taste of your dish. Simply add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to your recipe in place of Mirin and adjust to taste. Keep in mind that apple cider vinegar is more acidic than Mirin, so you might want to use less to avoid overwhelming the dish.

13. Agave Nectar + Water

Image with organic agave nectar light.

For those looking to cut down on their alcohol intake or simply can’t find Mirin at their local grocery store, Agave Nectar and water can be a great substitute. Agave Nectar offers a similar taste profile to Mirin with a more subtle sweetness. Mix one tablespoon of Agave Nectar with two tablespoons of water to substitute for one tablespoon of Mirin in any recipe. This substitution works particularly well in marinades, glazes, and sauces.

Plus, Agave Nectar has the added benefit of being lower on the glycemic index compared to traditional sugar or honey. Next time you find yourself without Mirin or want to switch things up in your cooking routine, give Agave Nectar and water a try!

14. Kombucha

Image with kombucha.

Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, has been gaining popularity as one of the healthier substitutes for Mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine. This substitution is mainly due to the similarity in their sweet, sour, and acidic flavor profiles. While the two are not exactly the same, Kombucha’s effervescence and complexity make it an excellent and healthier choice as it is low in calories, sugar, and alcohol.

Additionally, Kombucha’s probiotic content can also provide several health benefits, including better gut health, improved digestion, and immunity. For those who are unable to find Mirin in their local stores or prefer a non-alcoholic alternative, Kombucha is an excellent substitute that can add depth of flavor to various recipes.

15. Kikkoman Kotteri Mirin

Image with kikkoman kotteri mirin.

Kikkoman Kotteri Mirin has been gaining popularity as one of the most effective substitutes for traditional Mirin used in Japanese cooking. Kikkoman Kotteri Mirin comes as a well-rounded alternative, ideal for those seeking the same flavor profile and glossy finish. Its subtle taste and thick consistency make it perfect for glazing sauces, marinades, and stir-fries.

Plus, it is entirely alcohol-free, making it more accessible to a broader audience. Its versatility extends beyond Japanese cuisine, with Kikkoman Kotteri Mirin working well in Korean and Chinese dishes too.

16. Blutul Bianco Vermouth

Image with Blutul Bianco scaled 1.

Blutul Bianco Vermouth is a lesser-known ingredient in the culinary world, but it can be a fantastic substitute for Mirin. Made from alcohol-free white wine, this Italian vermouth has a slightly sweet and complex flavor that provides a similar taste to Mirin. It’s also much easier to find and less expensive than the Japanese ingredient. It can be used in marinades, sauces, and dressings to add depth and complexity to your dishes.

Not only is it a great substitute, but it also adds a unique twist to recipes that Mirin can’t match. It is alcohol-free so you can swap out Mirin for Blutul Bianco Vermouth in your next recipe and see the difference it makes.

How To Make Home-made Mirin Without Alcohol?

To make homemade non-alcoholic mirin, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of organic molasses
  • 3 tablespoons of shoyu (Pearl brand works well) or tamari soy sauce (San J brand)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

First, combine all of the sugar and salt together and mix thoroughly until all sugar lumps are dissolved. Then add the molasses and mix until blended evenly into the mixture. Next add your water, shoyu, and vinegar/lemon juice to blend everything together well. For best results, let this mixture sit overnight before using it as your own homemade non-alcoholic mirin!

To use it in cooking simply substitute one tablespoon with every tablespoon called for by any recipe calling for mirin–you should find that this substitution creates a great-tasting dish with none of the alcohol’s negative side effects!

Recommended Tips While Cooking With Mirin

Cooking with mirin is an excellent way to add a unique, subtle sweetness to your dishes and elevate flavor profiles. Here are some top tips for cooking with mirin that will help you make the most of this special condiment:

1) Start low and go slow: Mirin has a high sugar content, so use it sparingly and adjust seasoning as needed. Too much can overpower or create cloyingly sweet flavors. Start by adding small amounts (around 1 tablespoon per dish) then work up from there if needed.

2) Use it during marination: If using mirin in marination, be aware that its high sugar content means prolonged exposure could cause food to burn quickly when cooked over higher temperatures. Marinating too long can result in dry foods – it’s best used for shorter time frames like 20 minutes before grilling or pan-frying instead of overnight marination hours before cooking.

3) Consider balancing sweetness with umami: Mirin adds a lovely sweetness which may need balancing out depending on the dish since intense sweet flavors can mask other flavor nuances like saltiness; consider adding dashi stock or sake for balance. A pinch of kombu kelp powder also helps give more depth and complexity without being overwhelming – try different combinations to find what works best for your recipe!

4) Replace sugary alternatives: Use mirin as a healthier alternative to sugar-based ingredients such as honey or maple syrup when working on dishes like teriyaki sauce recipes., such as vinaigrettes, barbeque sauces, stews, braised dishes, etc. As well as being sweeter than both those options, mirin also lends an interesting savory quality – making it ideal for creating flavorful sauces without making them overly sickly sweet!

With these tips in mind, you should be able to incorporate Mirin into any number of recipes easily – bringing each dish something extra while avoiding the pitfalls associated with its strong flavor profile! By taking time to experiment with balances and tasting throughout each step you’ll no doubt find success every time!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Mirin made of?

In terms of ingredients, it is made from glutinous rice which is fermented with koji mold, yeast, and sometimes alcohol to create a unique flavor profile. There are different types of mirin that can be found in stores, ranging from the higher-end artisanal varieties that are made with high-quality ingredients to those that contain additives such as corn syrup. However, traditional mirin is made with all-natural ingredients and has a delicate sweetness that can help balance out the flavors in a dish.

Are Mirin and rice wine the same thing?

No, they are two distinct ingredients with unique flavors and uses. Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine, whereas, rice wine is a fermented beverage. Rice wine also has a higher alcoholic content than Mirin.

Can Mirin and rice wine be used interchangeably?

No, they are not interchangeable in recipes. Mirin is commonly used in marinades, glazes, and sauces, whereas, rice wine is often used in stews, soups, and braised dishes. It is important to use the correct ingredient for the desired flavor and results.

Is Mirin halal?

Halal refers to food and beverages that are permissible under Islamic law. After researching and consulting with Islamic scholars, it has been determined that Mirin is considered haram or not permissible as it contains alcohol.

What are the benefits of using a substitute for Mirin?

One of the main benefits of using a substitute for Mirin is the versatility that comes with it. Also, using a substitute can be a more affordable workaround than buying the expensive Mirin.

Can I use honey instead of Mirin?

While the flavors of honey and Mirin are not identical, they do have some similarities in their sweetness and acidity levels. Keep in mind that the dish may not be exactly the same as the original recipe, but using honey as a substitute could still yield a delicious and unique flavor.

Bottom Line

Finding substitutes for mirin can be an illuminating experience as there are many options available; experimenting with them can lead to unexpected flavors and results. Ultimately, though, success relies on picking the right substitute for your recipe or dish. As long as you research what Mirin is and keep in mind its flavor profile, you should be able to devise new dishes that are every bit as delicious as it is when used Mirin directly.

So why not give it a try? Experiment and create something truly unique! Plus, think of all the money you’ll save and how much more accessible your kitchen creations will become now that everyone has access to delicious mirin-free meals!

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12 Comments

  • Mia Burton

    Sake as a substitute? Interesting! 🍶

  • Paige Griffiths

    This article provides an excellent guide for those moments when you find yourself without mirin in the middle of cooking. The variety of substitutes listed here, from sake to sherry and even sweet marsala wine, are not only easy to find but also maintain the balance of flavors in your dish. The additional tip about adding a teaspoon of sugar to dry substitutes is particularly helpful. It’s clear that while mirin has a unique flavor, there are several accessible alternatives available.

  • Grace Oliver

    I’ve tried rice vinegar and sugar, works great! 👍

  • Lydia Lane

    I don’t think any of these can truly replace the taste of authentic mirin. Substitutes just don’t cut it. 🤷‍♂️

  • Isabel Marsden

    Always have some dry white wine in hand, good to know it can double as a mirin substitute. 🍷

  • Kiera Simpson

    So if I run out of mirin, I can just raid my bar? 😂

  • Alexandra Allan

    For someone who enjoys cooking, this article is a treasure trove of practical information. It’s fascinating to learn about the various substitutes for mirin, each with its unique characteristics that can enhance a dish. This not only broadens our culinary knowledge but also encourages improvisation and creativity in the kitchen. Kudos to the author for this comprehensive guide!

  • Aaliyah Stephenson

    Sherry and sugar, who would’ve thought? 🤔

  • Megan Houghton

    Great info, but I’ll stick to ordering takeout. 🥡

  • Aaliyah Mistry

    While it’s nice to have options, I think relying on substitutes dilutes the authenticity of the cuisine. Why not just use the real thing? 🧐

  • Phoebe Hurst

    Dashi stock and sugar? That’s a new one for me! 🍲

  • Eve Fry

    This is super helpful, thanks! 👏

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