10 Best Mirin Substitutes
For those whose taste buds have been forever enchanted by the unique flavor that is umami, mirin is no mystery. A special Japanese rice wine rich in flavor, sticky, and sweet, mirin is usually paired with soy sauce to get that one-of-a-kind sweet and salty taste.
It also has a syrupy consistency, which is perfect for glazes. The combination of mirin and soy sauce is the base for many Asian stir-fries and teriyaki sauce but also works very well with other kinds of food.
As a rice wine, mirin is similar to sake, but it has a lower alcohol and higher sugar content. There is no added sugar in the traditional fermentation process.
There are three types of mirin in Japan: hon mirin, with about 14% alcohol; shio mirin, with 1.5% alcohol; and shin mirin, with less than 1% alcohol. The last one is, in fact, mirin-like seasoning.
As a rice wine, mirin is similar to sake, but it has a lower alcohol and higher sugar content.
Shin mirin is also easier to come by outside Japan, as it is produced in larger quantities, and it is cheaper. Traditional mirin is made by combining steamed glutinous rice, cultured rice, and a distilled rice liquor. Then it is allowed to ferment for anywhere from two months to several years.
The longer it ages, the darker the color and the more intense the flavor. Mirin produced this way has a complex and rich flavor with loads of umami.
Mirin pairs well with soy sauce, but it can also be used in other combinations. It comes with a mild sweetness and it is especially good with grilled foods because grilling burns off the alcohol and leaves only the sweet taste behind.
Mirin can be used in varied recipes and combinations, and is an important part of the burst of flavors typical of Japanese and Asian cuisines. It goes well with ramen, pork, fish, and seafood (it lessens the fishiness of some fish), tofu, and mushrooms.
However, there are countless situations when a recipe calls for mirin, but there is none available at your local grocery store, and while they keep saying shopping online is quick… well, not always. In these situations, there are some good mirin substitutes available.
Aji-Mirin means tastes like mirin, so this type of mirin is not the real thing: it a substitute. It is what you find in most markets outside Japan, as the original, traditional mirin is very rare and expensive. With a lower or non-existent alcohol content and a higher sugar content, Aji-Mirin is very different from hon-mirin.
While it is not exactly the mirin used in authentic Japanese cuisines, you can use it in your daily cooking as it will do a good job of adding that umami flavor.
Kikkoman Manjo Aji Mirin
With a delicate, but persistent flavor, Kikkoman Aji Mirin is a Japanese rice wine perfect for cooking. It has a balanced taste, so it will enhance the other flavors in the dish rather than overpower them. It is recommended for use in stir-fries, teriyaki, sukiyaki, and tempura, but customers also say they add it to boiled white rice, steaks, and even desserts for a fine flavor.
Sake is probably the mirin substitute most similar to the original product. To get the same flavor, sake should be mixed with white sugar to make it sweeter. In substituting mirin with sake, also be aware that mirin has a lower alcohol content. Adding sugar will also lower the alcohol content of sake.
As a ratio, if a recipe requires 1 tablespoon of mirin, use 1 teaspoon of sake and 2 tablespoons of sugar for a similar flavor. Sake is best used in marinades as it removes odors from meat and fish. It is usually added before cooking to remove some of the alcohol content. Sake makes a good job of tenderizing meat and adding umami flavor.
Kikkoman Ryorishi Cooking Sake Seasoning
A cooking version of sake containing 13% alcohol, Kikkoman Ryorishi Cooking Sake is considered more of a seasoning than a wine, so it has a non-refined taste and is not recommended for drinking. For cooking, it is the perfect addition to Japanese dishes, as it adds the characteristic umami flavor.
3. Shao Xing Cooking Wine (Chinese Rice Wine)
The Chinese equivalent of sake, Chinese Rice Wine, is also called Shao Xing Cooking Wine. In replacing mirin, Chinese cooking wine acts just as sake does, so it should be combined with sugar.
The Chinese cooking wine is a rice wine made specifically for cooking. It has a salty, harsh alcohol flavor and it’s not intended for drinking. It is used in most Chinese foods from stir fry sauces to soup broths, marinades, and wontons.
Soeos Shaoxing Cooking Wine
The Seos Shaoxing cooking wine is a Chinese Wine brand with a lower salt content than the others, which perfectly balances the flavors, mixing salty, sweet, tangy, and caramel notes. It can be used for lots of foods, not just Asian cuisine, as it tends to soften the flavor of any kind of meat.
As it has a stronger flavor than sake, and smaller amounts are necessary for replacing mirin. It also has a darker color, closer to that of soy sauce.
4. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is another close substitute for mirin. Also known as rice wine vinegar, it is non-alcoholic.
The rice wine is put through a fermentation process to get this product, so the alcohol turns to acetic acid.
It is especially suitable as a mirin substitute in dipping sauces and dressings. Rice vinegar has a mild flavor and a slightly sweet taste.
As a vinegar, it is sour, so add half a teaspoon of sugar to every teaspoon of vinegar to counteract the sourness.
Marukan Genuine Brewed Rice Vinegar
Gluten-free and diluted with water to 4.3% acidity, Marukan Rice Vinegar is unsweetened rice vinegar, perfect for sushi rice. Less acidic than apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, Marukan rice vinegar has a naturally sweet taste, which makes it very good for savory dishes.
When used as a mirin substitute, you need to add sugar to get the resemblance in taste, and it also enhances the natural umami flavor.
5. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is an Italian vinegar, made from boiled down white grapes, including all its skin, seeds, and stem. It must then be matured in wooden kegs for at least 12 years to be called balsamic vinegar. The best quality balsamic vinegar is aged between 18 and 100 years: the longer, the better, and the more expensive.
It has a thick consistency, as the moisture evaporates during the maturation process. It has a dark color and a strong flavor, with a rich and slightly sweet taste.
Balsamic vinegar is used in salad dressings, dipping sauces, gourmet marinades, and soup broth. Because of its rich flavor, it is also suitable as a mirin substitute.
To get a taste similar to mirin, add a small quantity of sugar as balsamic vinegar is not as sweet.
Giuseppe Giusti Gran Deposito Balsamic Wine Vinegar
This balsamic vinegar is made using a traditional recipe and in one of Italy’s most representative balsamic vinegar regions, Modena. Giuseppe Giusti Balsamic Wine Vinegar is aged for a minimum of 12 years. The vinegar has notes of plum jam, red fruit, honey, and vanilla. It has a deep brown color and a glossy, velvety smooth texture.
It pairs very well with fresh pasta such as ravioli, beef, soft cheese, or fresh fruit, such as strawberries. The strong flavor and delicate combination of tastes make it a suitable substitute for mirin, as it is naturally sweet.
6. Dry Sherry
Dry sherry wine is a cooking wine made from wine and brandy. It has a stiff, acidic flavor, similar to mirin, but it’s less sweet.
That’s why home and professional chefs alike recommend adding sugar to sherry, all depending on each individual’s taste.
The usual quantity, however, is half a tablespoon of sugar for every tablespoon of sherry (this is equal to a tablespoon of mirin). However, the substitute combination will lack a very important part of mirin, and that is the umami taste.
So, choose this or another substitute depending on how much you want to have that in your dish.
Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine
A cooking wine with a semi-sweet but tangy aroma, Holland House Sherry is a cooking wine that will add a perfect silky finish to soups and sauces. It has a nutty, caramel-like flavor and is recommended for use with rice, desserts, soups, and sauces.
Vermouth, a flavored wine fortified with brandy, is like dry sherry and is also an excellent substitute for mirin.
Vermouth is sweetened and infused with herbs and spices, so it adds a delicate flavor to food. There are two kinds of vermouth: red, which is the sweet one, and white, which is the dry one. Both are suitable for cooking.
Add sugar to recipes where you substitute vermouth for mirin, as it is less sweet than the Japanese rice wine. As a general recommendation, 2 tablespoons of sugar are necessary for every 1/2 cup of vermouth that you use. However, it all depends on individual taste. This is perfect for glazing, dressings, and dipping sauces.
Blutul Bianco Vermouth
If you are concerned to about the alcohol in mirin sauce, this non-alcoholic vermouth is the perfect solution. It is a white, dry vermouth made from non-alcoholic wine and white grape must with the addition of herbal extracts. It has a mild, sweet taste and an aroma with the pronounced bitterness of wormwood herbs.
8. Marsala Wine
Marsala wine is a type of fortified wine from Sicily that is perfect for sauces with a rich caramel and nutty taste. There are two kinds: dry marsala and sweet marsala, with sweet marsala being the most suitable replacement for mirin.
If you use the sweet marsala wine as a mirin substitute, there is no need to add any sugar as it is just as sweet as the original product.
You can use Marsala for any of the typical mirin dishes, but you can also use it for sautéing vegetables and marinating meat and poultry. It is a multipurpose and flavor-friendly ingredient.
Holland House Marsala Cooking Wine
A rich, golden cooking wine with a pleasing and mild flavor, Holland House Marsala cooking wine is a sweet wine with hints of hazelnut. It can be used as a natural marinade for meats and poultry, and it is a versatile choice for sautéing vegetables. Its flavor adds a refined depth to sauces, marinades, glazes, and sautés.
9. White Wine
Mirin is wine, so white wine would be a suitable substitute. The results will be fairly similar, but not identical to using mirin. Experiment with white wine, preferably dry, and you could discover different flavors, probably on the fruitier side. Or try sweet white wine.
If using white wine (either dry or sweet) as a mirin substitute, make sure you add sugar. You will need 2 tablespoons of sugar for every tablespoon of white wine you use. This proportion is equal to a tablespoon of mirin. Look for Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc.
A non-alcoholic Chardonnay, St. Regis Chardonnay comes with a splash of delicate apple and pear aromas. It is a full-bodied wine, rich and very similar to alcoholic wines.
10. White Grape Juice
White grape juice is another substitute for mirin. It is alcohol-free, and it is sweet on its own as it is made from skinned grapes. To replicate the tangy taste of mirin, add a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of white grape juice for best results.
While using white grape juice instead of mirin means giving up some umami flavor, it also means adding a fruity flavor to your dishes and making them more diverse.
For a classic Teriyaki Salmon recipe, chef Gordon Ramsay suggests making a sticky dressing with a small piece of finely sliced fresh root ginger, 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon mirin, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Coat 4 salmon fillets with the sticky dressing after seasoning them with salt and pepper, and set aside to marinate in the fridge for up to 2 hours. Then, cook the salmon in a large frying pan, skin side down, for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, add the marinade to the frying pan, until the salmon fillets are opaque halfway up the sides. Turn the salmon over and cook for 3-4 minutes, basting with the sauce.
Salmon cooked like this is best served with the Teriyaki sauce left in the pan.
For an easy ramen recipe, Chef Tim Anderson starts by boiling an egg for 6 and 1/2 minutes.
Once boiled, allow the egg to cool down, peel it, and marinate it in 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon mirin for an hour. In the meantime, blanch a handful of fresh greens, such as spinach, chopped cabbage, and/or bean sprouts, in boiling water until they are hot through and tender. Prepare the instant ramen according to the pack instructions, then halve the egg.
To serve, garnish the ramen with 1/2 tablespoon of flavorful fat, such as lard, bacon fat, sesame oil, chili oil, butter, or chicken fat. Add the halved egg, greens, 1 tablespoon pickled vegetables (bamboo shoots, ginger, mustard greens, or kimchi), and a couple of slices of roast pork, ham, or chicken. For garnish, the chef recommends spring onion.
For a Spring Miso Soup, Chef Jill Dupleix uses Dashi (Japanese stock) or 3 tablespoons of good quality vegetable soup powder, mixed with 3 cups boiling water.
Add 4 asparagus spears or spring onions sliced on the diagonal to the broth and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir 2 tablespoons white or red miso paste with some hot broth, whisking to get rid of the lumps. Then pour the mixture back into the vegetable soup. Add 1 tablespoon mirin, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 cup silken tofu, cubed. Heat everything gently, but don’t bring it to a boil. Serve the miso soup in small soup bowls.