Mirin is Japanese rice wine used to give sweet umami flavor to sauces, dressings, broths, marinades, and glazes. It is a product made as a result of the fermentation process of distilled rice liquor, steamed glutinous rice, and cultured rice.
This mixture is left to ferment from two months to several years. If it is fermented longer mirin will have a stronger flavor and darker color.
There are three common types of mirin. True mirin with 14% alcohol in its content, salt mirin which has a minimum of 1,5% of salt, and new mirin with less than 1% of alcohol in its content.
Mirin is high in sugar but low in alcohol. The sugar is made naturally during the fermentation process; therefore, mirin doesn’t have any added sugars in its content.
If you want to cook a recipe that calls for mirin, however, you can’t find it in the store you can use some other products as its substitute.
Sake, rice vinegar, sherry, balsamic vinegar, Chinese cooking wine, vermouth, white wine, marsala wine, and white grape juice make great substitutes for mirin.
The next list contains a few more substitutes for mirin, so make sure to read on and find the one that works for your recipe.
Best Mirin Substitutes
When you want to use some ingredient as a substitute for mirin you need sweet, acidic flavors to get a flavor similar to the flavor of the mirin.
However, there are also nonalcoholic substitutes if you don’t want to use the ones with alcohol content. Which one you will choose depends on the flavor you want to accomplish in your dish.
Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice, water, and koji mold. It has higher alcohol content (15-16%) and is less sweet than mirin.
Sake works in sauces, stocks, soups, and marinades for meat and fish to make them tender and remove any bad smells and flavors.
It is added earlier in the dish to reduce the alcohol content and develop a lovely umami flavor. You can substitute mirin with sake in a 1:1 ratio in your dishes.
2. Rice vinegar
Rice vinegar same as mirin is made of fermented rice. However, it has a sourer and more acidic flavor than mirin. Rice vinegar can be found as white, red, and black and they all have a different flavor.
It works well in many sauces, marinades, salad dressings, stir-fries, pickled vegetables, and other recipes. Rice vinegar has a mild slightly sweet acidic flavor and doesn’t contain alcohol.
For one tablespoon of vinegar add ½ teaspoon of sugar and substitute the mixture for the same amount of mirin. You can also add some sugar to get a similar flavor to mirin.
3. Dry sherry
Dry sherry is a fortified wine available in many types and with different flavors.
There are dry and sweet types of sherry with nutty, saline, and dry fruit flavors. Dry sherry usually contains 15-17% of alcohol. People use it in sweet and savory dishes to improve their flavor.
It has a delicate flavor and is not very sweet. So, if you want to use it as a substitute for mirin you can add some sugar or some other sweetener to get a flavor similar to mirin.
Use ½ teaspoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of dry sherry as a substitute for 1 tablespoon of mirin in sauces, glazes, and marinades.
4. Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is a thick liquid with dark brown color made of unfermented grape juice. It has a sweet and acidic flavor that works well in salad dressings, marinades, roasted vegetables and meat, sauces, risotto, pasta, and desserts.
You can use it instead of mirin in different sauces, salads, soups, stews, marinades, etc. You can substitute one tablespoon of mirin with two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar in your recipe.
The flavor and color will be different but you will get a new flavor that you will like to repeat.
Also check: 10 Best Substitutes for Kirsch
5. Chinese cooking wine
Chinese cooking wine is made from fermented and distilled rice. It is used for cooking in many Asian dishes. Chinese cooking wine is not so sweet like mirin but it has an aromatic and slightly sweet nutty-caramel flavor.
It is a common ingredient in marinades, soups, stocks, sauces, stir-fries, etc. You can use Chinese cooking wine with or without added sugar as a substitute for mirin according to your taste.
But note that this wine contains more alcohol (18-25%) than mirin. Substitute one tablespoon of mirin with one tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine and half a teaspoon of sugar.
Vermouth is flavored with various herbs and spices and has different flavors. This fortified wine made from many types of wine grapes is used as an ingredient in cocktails like Manhattan and Martini and as an aperitif.
Vermouth is also used in cooking as a substitute for the white vine. There are 2 main types of vermouth sweet and dry.
Sweet vermouth has 10-15% of sugar and makes a better substitute for mirin than dry vermouth which contains about 4% sugar.
You can use vermouth as a substitute for mirin in dressings, dipping sauces, and marinades. Use two tablespoons of sugar and ½ cup of vermouth to substitute ½ cup of mirin.
7. White wine
White wine is also a good substitute for mirin. You can use dry white wine and add some sugar to reach a flavor similar to mirin.
Dry wines can have nutty, floral, and citrus flavors depending on the type of the grapes, making process, and the region where the grape is grown. They are not sweet, but acidic so you have to add sugar to get a similar flavor to mirin.
Use dry white wine in stocks, soups, marinades, dips, glazes, and sauces. Replace 1 tablespoon of mirin with 1 tablespoon of white wine and ½ tablespoon of sugar.
8. Marsala wine
Marsala wine can be very sweet and sweet with nutty and brown sugar flavor and hints of dried fruit. It is a fortified wine produced in Sicily used for baking and cooking.
Depending on the level of sweetness, this wine divides into 3 types. Secco has 40g of sugar per liter, semi secco has 50-100g of sugar per liter, and dolce hs more than 100 g of sugar per liter.
Marsala wine is sweet but also acidic. You can use 1 tablespoon of marsala wine to replace 1 tablespoon of mirin in sauces, glazes, dipping sauces, marinades, and other dishes.
9. White grape juice
White grape juice is a nonalcoholic substitute for mirin. It is made from the liquid of crushed and blended grapes and has a sweet flavor.
This juice has many vitamins and minerals good for your health. It is naturally sweet, so you don’t have to use any other sugar.
If you want to get a similar flavor to mirin you can also add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of white grape juice and use it as a substitute for mirin.
To substitute one tablespoon of mirin, use two tablespoons of white grape juice in sauces, steamed vegetables, soups, and other dishes.
10. Sake and sugar or honey
As mentioned before, sake makes a good mirin substitute. However, because it is less sweet than mirin you can add sugar or honey to get a flavor similar to mirin.
Mix 1 tablespoon of sake and 1 teaspoon of sugar/honey. One tablespoon of this mix is used to substitute one tablespoon of mirin in any dish where you would use mirin.
Kombucha is sweetened green or black tea that is fermented with yeast and a symbiotic culture of bacteria. To improve the flavor of the tea are added flavorings, juices, herbs, fruits, and spices.
Kombucha is a traditional Chinese drink with many health benefits. You can find it all over the world, produced commercially or brewed at home.
The flavor of the kombucha depends on the sweetener, the type of the tea, and the ingredients added for its production. But mainly kombucha has a slightly, sweet, acidic, and fresh flavor and contains from 0,5-2% of alcohol.
Since it is not that sweet, you can add honey o sugar to taste. Kombucha works well in different baked goods, dressings, marinades, desserts, cocktails, and many other recipes.
You can use kombucha flavored with ginger, or plain kombucha as a substitute for mirin in sauces, marinades, stir-fries, glazes for meat, and dressings in a 1:1 ratio.
12. Agave syrup and water
Mix agave syrup and water and you will get a nonalcoholic substitute for mirin.
Agave syrup is made from the extracted juice of the agave plant and can have different colors and flavors. It works as a sweetener in dressings, cold/hot beverages, cocktails, or as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal.
Since it is very sweet you can dilute it with water and use it as a substitute for mirin. You will get a different flavor and lack the alcohol that mirin contains. But you can use it in your recipe if you want a vegan and alcohol-free substitute.
Mix one tablespoon of agave syrup and three tablespoons of water and you can substitute mirin with this mixture in a 1:1 ratio.
13. Apple cider
Apple cider is a liquid made of pressed apples. People use it to boost the flavor of barbecue sauces, salad dressings, stews, stir-fries, desserts, and drinks.
Apple cider has a sweet-sour, fruity flavor depending on the apples used in the making. You will not get the same flavor as when you are using mirin but you will still obtain a wonderfully sweet, fruity, and slightly sour flavor.
Substitute one tablespoon of mirin with two tablespoons of apple cider.
If you don’t have any of these ingredients at home use water as a substitute for mirin.
Just mix one teaspoon of honey, sugar, or maple syrup with one tablespoon of water and add it to the recipe instead of mirin. You will not obtain the umami flavor that mirin gives to your food, but you will change the flavor and texture of the dish.
15. Homemade mirin
How do you make homemade mirin? Well, it’s easy and you will only need 3 ingredients including sake, granulated sugar, and water.
Add 3 tablespoons of water and ¼ of a cup sugar in a pan and bring it to a boil for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add ¾ of a cup’s sake.
Mix well and your mirin is ready to use.
Can You Substitute Rice Vinegar for Mirin?
You can substitute rice vinegar for mirin. However, you will have to add sugar since mirin is sweeter than rice vinegar. For 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar use half a teaspoon of sugar, and use it as a substitute for 1 tablespoon of mirin.
Can I Use Apple Cider Vinegar Instead of Mirin?
Yes, however, it is better to use apple cider than apple cider vinegar instead of mirin. Apple cider is sweeter and not very acidic like apple cider vinegar.
Can I Use White Vinegar Instead of Mirin?
You can use white vinegar instead of mirin if you add sugar to neutralize the acidity and the vinegar taste. Add ½ teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon of white vinegar, and use it as a substitute for one tablespoon of mirin.
Are Mirin and Rice Wine Vinegar the Same Thing?
Mirin and rice wine vinegar are not the same things. However, they are both made of fermented rice.
This Japanese rice wine is a common ingredient in many popular dishes like teriyaki and ramen.
It pairs well with salty sauces like tamari or soy sauce. People use it to give sweet umami flavor to sauces, marinades, glazes, and many other dishes.
You can use some of the substitutes listed in this article to obtain a similar flavor to mirin in your dishes. Try them out and let us know which one works best for you.