When we think of rice wine, we think of a refreshing Asian beverage to enjoy without worrying about the alcohol content.
But did you know we can also use rice wine for cooking a variety of Asian dishes, too?
You have probably come across many recipes that require a form of rice wine.
And while you’re ready to cook, you might not carry that vital ingredient!
Not to worry, there are excellent rice wine substitutes you can try.
Check out our list and learn all about rice wine here!
- What is Rice Wine?
- The 3 Best Substitutes for Rice Wine You Might Now Know!
- The 6 Best Rice Wine Substitutes (Non-Alcoholic)
- What Substitute for Rice Wine to AVOID
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping It Up
What is Rice Wine?
Rice wine is an essential ingredient when cooking Asian dishes, particularly Chinese cuisine.
Rice wine is made from fermented glutinous rice, compared to other wines made of fruit. With rice wine, the sugars convert into alcohol through yeast. (*)
Rice wine looks slightly clear and sweet, resembling white wine. There are different kinds of rice wine depending on the country it’s from, such as:
- Shaoxing Rice Wine is common in Chinese cuisine and has a reddish-brown hue. As the name suggests, it comes from one of China’s provinces, Shaoxing.
- White rice wine, or Miiji, comes from Taiwan and Southern China. It helps mask the smell of fish and meat without adding any extra flavor to your food.
- Sake is an all-purpose alcoholic beverage in Japan. While it’s considered a Japanese rice wine, the process it goes through is closer to how we brew beer.
- Mirin is another Japanese rice wine, a pale and sweet wine you can find in various recipes.
- Kulapo is a type of red rice wine from the Philippines
- Makgeolli is a milky rice wine from Korea
While we can find rice wine readily available in Asian grocery stores, it can be difficult finding it in regular supermarkets.
The 3 Best Substitutes for Rice Wine You Might Now Know!
Not sure what goes well with your recipe that calls for rice wine? If you run out of rice wine or need a non-alcoholic substitute, here are the ones to look into:
1. Pale Dry Sherry
Pale, dry sherry is one of the most popular rice wine substitutes. It’s the closest to Shaoxing wine in terms of flavor. That said, dry sherry isn’t as sweet, so you may need to add a bit of sugar or your choice of sweeteners.
You can use an equal ratio when substituting rice wine with dry sherry. But when you add one tablespoon of dry sherry, add half a tablespoon of sweetener to get a more accurate flavor profile.
We recommend using this as a rice wine substitute for marinades and sauces.
All varieties of gin are great alternatives to rice wine. Gin and rice wine have a similar color and flavor, so your dish might even come out tasting as if you used rice wine!
You can use an equal ratio when replacing rice wine with gin, and you can just adjust your seasonings, herbs, and spices until you get the taste you want. Gin is a good substitute for rice wine when making sauces, dressings, or beef and fish recipes.
3. White Wine
White wine is one of the best substitutes for rice wine in every aspect. They both have similar colors and flavors, so you can use an equal ratio in any of your recipes.
However, note that white wine has a stronger alcohol content than rice wine, and it won’t be as sweet. You can fix that by adding a bit of honey, sugar, or other sweeteners to reach your desired flavor.
You can use white wine instead of rice wine in sauces, salad dressings, or meat dishes. There are many varieties of white wine to choose from, so make sure what you get has a similar taste to rice wine and the flavor you want to achieve. (*)
The 6 Best Rice Wine Substitutes (Non-Alcoholic)
4. Apple Juice
Apple juice is a versatile non-alcoholic alternative to many types of wine, including rice wine. It has a balance of acidity and sweetness to it, providing rich flavors to your dishes.
Apple juice will taste fantastic in salad dressings or vegetable recipes, such as stir-fries. When using apple juice, you can use the same ratio as rice wine.
That said, don’t expect exact same flavor. While your dish will taste similar, it won’t be as sweet and will have a fruitier taste you won’t find in rice wine.
5. White Vinegar
White vinegar has a similar color as rice wine, and it’s the biggest reason this is a good substitute. But white vinegar has a much higher acidity level compared to rice wine, so you shouldn’t use an equal ratio.
It’s best to use less white vinegar on dishes calling for rice wine because too much will make your food taste acidic. White vinegar has no sweetness, so you must add any sweetener to balance out the flavor.
When using white vinegar instead o rice wine, add only half of the amount required. Then, increase the amount of white vinegar as needed.
It’s better to start with a smaller amount and add as you please. Besides that, add honey, sugar, or other sweeteners as you go until the flavor is more balanced.
6. Lemon Juice
Like vinegar, lemon juice will give the acidity rice wine has but without any sweetness. That’s why you should use only a bit of lemon juice to avoid your dish from tasting too tart.
When using lemon juice, you can adjust the flavor by adding sweeteners of your choice. Use the similar ratio as you would with vinegar, placing only half the amount your recipe needs.
If you require more liquid in your recipe, add more water until it reaches the desired consistency.
We recommend using lemon dishes as a replacement for rice wine in cold dishes, like salad.
7. Grape Juice
Grape juice, mainly white grape juice, is a good substitute for rice wine when appropriately used. Use an equal ratio as if you’re using rice wine, and you’ll achieve a good flavor.
Grape juice has a sweet and fruity flavor with less acidity. While the taste isn’t exactly like rice wine, it’s still a good substitute with its flavor profiles.
We like to use grape juice as a rice wine replacement in marinades, stews, vegetable dishes, or dishes with chicken and fish.
8. Vegetable Stock
When you’re making an Asian stew that needs rice wine, you can use vegetable stock instead. This is a suitable choice for vegetable or meat stews, as it adds more flavor and gives the dish a more refined taste.
You’ll need to add more vegetable stock than what the recipe calls for with rice wine. The amount you’ll add will depend on you and your desired taste.
When using vegetable stock in soup or stew, continually taste your food and skip the water since the vegetable stock is adequate to achieve your wanted flavor.
9. Chicken Stock
Another good alternative is chicken stock if you prefer a meatier taste in your soups and stews. You can also use it in marinades for chicken.
That said, using vegetable or chicken stock won’t give it the sweetness or acidity rice wine would provide.
Also, unlike the sweetness you get from vegetable stock, this stock has a more refined chicken flavor. You can use as much chicken stock as the recipe needs or until you reach the taste you want to achieve, adding sweetener to get a more authentic rice wine flavor.
What Substitute for Rice Wine to AVOID
Besides the best rice wine substitutes we mentioned above, what are the worst ones?
We do not recommend that you use cooking wines that are sold in local supermarkets. These wines have too much salt and will have a completely different flavor compared to rice wine.
We’ll also tackle Chinese rice vinegar in the next section, which is entirely different from rice wine. While you may be able to use this like white vinegar, it might be too acidic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learn more about rice wine here with these frequently asked questions our readers have pondered on:
1. What can replace Chinese cooking wine with?
You can replace Chinese cooking wine with dry sherry or sake, another type of rice wine that may be more readily available in stores. Of all the rice wine substitutes stated above, we believe that the best alternative to Chinese cooking wine is dry sherry for its flavor and texture.
2. What’s the difference between rice wine and rice vinegar?
While both rice wine and rice vinegar are essentially fermented rice, they are different in various ways, such as: (*)
Rice wine is an alcoholic beverage one can use to cook or drink. It’s made by fermenting rice starches with fungi, yeast, and lactic acid bacteria, producing alcohol.
Rice vinegar comes from fermenting rice starches using acetic acid bacteria and only a tiny amount of rice wine. This converts sugar to alcohol, then acetic acid.
Rice wines have a slightly sweet and mild flavor, though others have more robust flavors as it contains added fruits, herbs, or spices.
Rice vinegar has an acidic yet sweet taste, similar to apple cider vinegar. We only use rice vinegar in small amounts because of the strong acidic taste.
Both rice wine and rice vinegar are used for cooking but in different ways and dishes. For instance, rice wine is best added directly to dishes or used as sauces and marinades. Rice vinegar can also be used in marinades and sauces and pairs well with fried rice, sushi, and pickled vegetables.
3. What can I do with Chinese rice wine?
We use it as marinades to tenderize seafood and meat and to give food more flavor. Rice wine is also used as the base of a herbal soup, said to help new mothers with recovery after childbirth.
There are rice wine varieties made for drinking, with lower alcohol content, while others are made for cooking.
4. How can I substitute rice wine?
Substituting rice wine will depend on the type of rice wine the recipe calls for and the recipe itself.
- If you need to replace Shaoxing rice wine, we recommend using pale, dry sherry.
- When you need to replace white rice wine, we recommend white wine or gin.
- Replace Japanese Sake with white wine or dry sherry.
- Instead of Japanese Mirin, you can use dry sherry mixed with sugar.
5. Can I make my own rice wine?
Yes, it’s possible to make your own rice wine! It will take some time and effort, but it’s an interesting process to try, so you have a supply of rice wine when needed.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Soak 4 cups of glutinous rice in hot water for 1 hour.
- Drain your rice, then steam for 30 minutes, then allow it to cool.
- Grind ¼ of a Chinese yeast ball, then mix in 1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour. Add this mixture to your rice.
- Transfer your rice to a sterilized container (or more, if needed), then secure its lid. Store it in a dry and warm place to ferment the rice for a month.
- Once a month has passed, get the container then use a strainer to separate the rice mixture from the liquids.
- Now, you have rice wine, which you should transfer in airtight glass containers and keep in the fridge!
Wrapping It Up
We understand how difficult it can be to find a bottle of high-quality rice wine in local supermarkets. Fortunately, there are different liqueurs and non-alcoholic liquids you can use as a replacement.
We hope you found the best rice wine substitute based on our list. Do try one of these alternatives and let us know how your dishes turned out.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.