What Is a Good Mirin Substitute? (UPDATED!)

image of a Good Substitute For Mirin

Even if you’ve never bought mirin, chances are you’ve had it. This sweet, tangy rice wine has been used in many Asian dishes since the 15th century.

However, most mirin sold in stores is made of corn syrup and a ton of salt. To find the real stuff you need to go to a liquor or wine distributor but they rarely stock this pricey item.

This is because taxes are less for products with a certain percentage of salt, so why not use real ingredients instead? 

You have plenty of options; even non-alcoholic alternatives. Let’s get started and see all the mirin substitutes we can find!

What Is Mirin Exactly?

There are three types of mirin: 

  • Hon mirin, also known as true mirin with about 14% alcohol
  • Shio mirin, with 1.5% alcohol
  • Shin mirin, with less than 1% alcohol

Hon-mirin (true mirin) is a distilled rice liquor made from steamed glutinous rice, cultivated rice, and rice liquor. The deeper the color and the stronger the flavor, and the longer it was fermented.

It is often one of the key ingredients behind that addictive umami flavor in many Japanese dishes.

Mirin has more sugar and less alcohol than sake and complements soy sauce particularly well, with the same looks as cooking sake or white wine.

Mirin can be used in both Asian and Western foods such as soups, gravies, sauces, and stews.

Here’s a tip:

Mirin isn’t just for cooking; try it in a Bloody Mary.

What’s The Difference Between Hon-Mirin and Aji-Mirin?

Hon-mirin and Aji-mirin are the two most common types of mirin.

  • Aji-mirin is more affordable and widely available. It’s basically “false” Mirin made with artificial sweeteners.
  • Hon-mirin is a more expensive and difficult-to-find pure Mirin. It has more alcohol due to no added sugar or salt. Aji-mirin does the job, but not as well as Hon-mirin. A real hon-mirin bottle will last much longer than aji-mirin.

What Is A Mirin Substitute?

You may be looking for a mirin substitute for a variety of reasons: 

  • You don’t have any
  • It’s not available at your local grocery store
  • It’s too expensive and you won’t use it as often
  • You prefer an alcohol-free alternative.

Either way, there are simple subs and hacks that can easily mimic mirin’s sweet-tangy flavor. (*)

SubstituteRatioAdditional Ingredients
Sake and Sugar or Honey1 tbsp sake + 2 tsp sugar/honey per tbsp mirinSugar or honey (optional)
Rice Wine Vinegar1 tsp rice wine vinegar + ½ tsp white sugar per tsp mirinWhite sugar (optional)
Rice Vinegar½ tsp sugar per tbsp rice vinegarSugar (optional)

1. Sake And Sugar or Honey- A Basic Mirin Replacement

Tasting similar to mirin, sake has a much higher alcohol content. However, sake is far less sweet than mirin, so depending on your recipe you may also need to add some sugar, honey, or corn syrup. (*)

  • If you want to avoid mirin’s alcohol content, then sake certainly won’t work.
  • You can use sake in place of mirin in a 1:1 ratio. 
  • For every tablespoon of sake, add two teaspoons of sugar or honey to perfectly replace mirin.

Instead of sugar or honey, try a splash of apple or white grape juice. This is an excellent choice for recipes that call for a higher level of sweetness (like teriyaki sauce).

2. Rice Wine Vinegar

Rice wine vinegar is another excellent mirin substitute that can be found all over the world. It is important to note that rice vinegar is not the same as rice wine, and the two cannot be used interchangeably.

  • Rice wine vinegar does not contain any alcohol and is less sweet and far more acidic. 

You may find that you need to add some sugar to neutralize the acidity of the vinegar. 

  • We recommend 1 tsp rice wine vinegar and ½ tsp white sugar for every tsp of mirin.

You can use this blend in all of your recipes to substitute mirin.

3. Rice Vinegar- Alcohol-free Alternative to Mirin

Rice vinegar has a fermented flavor similar to rice wine. You can cut the tartness with sugar and a splash of light-colored juice, or you can use sweetened sushi rice vinegar. ( * )

To use it as a substitute for mirin, add about a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar/tbsp of rice vinegar.

Other Mirin Substitutes For Every Occasion

SubstituteRatioAdditional Ingredients
Dry Sherry1 tbsp dry sherry + ½ tsp sugar/honey per tbsp mirinSugar or honey (optional)
Dry White Wine1 tbsp dry white wine + 2 tsp white sugar per tbsp mirinWhite sugar
White Wine Vinegar1 tbsp white wine vinegar + sugar to taste per tbsp mirinSugar (to taste)
Vermouth1 tbsp sweet vermouth or dry vermouth + sugar/juice to taste per ¼ cup mirinSugar or juice (to taste)
White Rice Wine1 part white rice wine + 1 part sugarSugar
Sweet Marsala Wine½ tsp sugar per tbsp marsala wineSugar
Alcohol-Free Mirin & Halal Mirin Substitute1 part vinegar + 0.5 part water + 1 part sugarWater, sugar
Chinese Shaoxing Cooking Wine1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine + ½ tsp sugar per tbsp mirinSugar
Homemade Mirin Substitute3 tbsp water + ¼ cup sugar + ¾ cup sakeWater, sugar, sake
Kombucha1 part plain or ginger kombucha per part mirinN/A
White Grape Juice½ tsp lemon juice per 1 tbsp grape juice per 1 tbsp mirinLemon juice
Vodka and Corn Syrup/Agave SyrupN/ACorn syrup or agave syrup

4. Dry Sherry

Dry sherry is frequently used in cooking, and you can expect the same depth and flavor, and level of sweetness as from mirin. (*)

  • If you’re avoiding mirin because of its alcohol content, then sherry will not be a good option.

Sherry is both delicate and complex, but not too overpowering; there is an element of versatility with sherry. In some cases, it is not as sweet as mirin, so you may need to add some sugar or honey to adjust the taste.

  • Replace one tablespoon of mirin with one tablespoon of dry sherry.
  • For every tablespoon of dry sherry, you can add half a teaspoon of white sugar or honey, or any other sweetener you prefer.

It has a sharp, strong flavor on its own, so add it by the teaspoon until you reach the desired level of richness.

5. Dry White Wine – For The Lighter Dishes

We recommend using a relatively dry white wine and then sweetening it with sugar. The sweetness of the sugar and the tang of the white wine will taste similar to mirin.

  • Use it in a 1:1 ratio to substitute mirin

White wine calls for more sugar than some other substitutes: 

  • You’ll need two teaspoons of white sugar for every tablespoon of white wine.

The trick is to pick the right dry white wine:

  • Tart, not too sweet
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Dry Riesling 

6. White Wine Vinegar – Non-alcoholic Mirin Substitute

Despite its name, white wine vinegar is not alcoholic. It has a slight white wine flavor and a sweet, acidic taste. ( * )

It works well as a mirin substitute in many recipes, adding a tang that mirin lacks. To prevent it from becoming too acidic, you can add some sugar to neutralize the vinegar flavor.

  • Substitute mirin with white wine vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.

7. Vermouth

There are two kinds of vermouth: red, which is the sweet one, and white, which is the dry one. Both are suitable for cooking. (*)

  • Use sweet vermouth
  • Or add a little juice or sugar to the dry vermouth to balance the acid. 
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar with ¼ cup of vermouth and use in place of ¼ cup of mirin. 

Vermouth is dry, and clear, and doesn’t go bad like that bottle of white wine in your fridge, but it will spoil if left at room temperature. 

It is sweetened and infused with herbs and spices, so it adds a delicate flavor to food. 

  • Add 2 tablespoons of sugar for every 1/2 cup of vermouth that you use. 

This is perfect for glazing, dressings, and dipping sauces.

8. White Rice Wine and Sugar

White rice wine is made from fermented rice, with relatively high alcohol, a clear color, and a dry flavor. 

Mix the white rice wine and sugar in a 1:1 ratio and check the taste before adding to the recipe.

9. Sweet Marsala Wine

Marsala is a cooking wine from Sicily with a sweet and nutty flavor profile, resembling mirin’s sweetness, umami, acidic, and alcoholic flavors. ( * )

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar/tbsp of marsala wine 

It is a multipurpose mirin substitute; you can use it for typical mirin dishes, but also for sautéing vegetables and marinating meat and poultry.

Alcohol-Free Mirin & Halal Mirin Substitutes

If you’re looking for an alcohol-free or Halal mirin substitute, vinegar is the way to go.

In a 1:0.5:1 (vinegar, water, sugar) ratio, combine plain old vinegar, granulated sugar, and water.

10. Chinese Shaoxing Cooking wine

Chinese cooking wine is a versatile rice wine made specifically for cooking. It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, but it is not overly sweet. ( * )

It also contains more alcohol than mirin, so use it earlier in the cooking process to ensure that all of the alcohol is cooked out.

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine with ½ teaspoon sugar to replace 1 tbsp mirin.
  • Add a pinch of msg to give it more of an umami flavor you’d get from mirin.

You also need to adjust salt levels in addition to sugar since Shaoxing wine is salty. It can be used in most Chinese foods from stir-fry sauces to soup broths, marinades, and wontons.

11. Homemade Mirin Substitute

You may want to take the time to make your own mirin; it is just a few extra minutes, and the flavor will be much better.

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup of sake

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a pot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sake. After thoroughly mixing, set aside to cool.

12. Kombucha

Mirin can be substituted with plain or ginger kombucha.

Even plain kombucha, which has a mild acidity and a bit of sweetness, will change the overall flavor slightly, so keep that in mind when choosing this substitute.

  • It can be used in any recipe in a 1:1 ratio instead of mirin. 

13. White Grape Juice- A healthy mirin alternative

White grape juice is a great alcohol-free mirin substitute. It offers a sweetness that other alternatives don’t. 

You might want to cut the sweetness with a bit of lemon juice. It is best used for recipes that are intended to be on the sweeter side.

  • Add ½ teaspoon of lemon juice to 1 tablespoon of grape juice to replace 1 tablespoon of mirin. 

If you think it’s still too sweet, add a little more lemon juice. White grape juice sacrifices some umami flavor while also adding a fruity tone to your dishes and making them slightly different.

14. Vodka and Corn Syrup/Agave Syrup

Because vodka is relatively neutral, you’d get the necessary alcohol but not the flavor of sake. 

However, that small amount of sake wasn’t really ‘adding’ much flavor in the first place – it was just the alcohol releasing the other flavors.

If we don’t have mirin, we usually substitute agave or corn syrup in dishes that call for soy sauce.


Final words

You can find some wild suggestions to substitute mirin, but it really does come down to vinegar, alcohol, and some kind of sugar. Granulated sugar is the easiest way to get mirin’s flavors. 

Rice wine vinegar is the closest substitute, followed by other clear vinegar. Sake and even dry white wine are best for the alcohol content.

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