In many foods, mirin is an important additive.
It lends a sweet and syrupy flavor when combined with soy sauce in teriyaki or marinades for grilled chicken.
Mirin itself, however, is an essential part of many Japanese recipes, such as sushi rice and teriyaki sauce.
The reason behind all this? Essentially just one thing: sugar.
Mirin is a sweet rice wine with about 14% sugar contained in each bottle.
Unfortunately, mirin isn’t the easiest thing to find, and many people who rely on it for recipes don’t keep it stocked at home.
For those that want to avoid buying mirin altogether, five alternatives can be used as substitutes.
So, if you want to pull off a Japanese dish without having mirin in your kitchen, here are five alternatives to consider.
What is Mirin?
Mirin is a rice wine used in Japan to make sauces and glazes.
It is similar to sake but has much lower alcohol content and higher sugar content.
It has a sweet flavor and a clear consistency that makes it ideal for cooking.
It is typically used to make teriyaki or sweet-and-sour sauce but can be added to other foods like stir fry vegetables, eggplant, and tofu.
Mirin comes in a clear bottle and is easily mistaken for water.
It is often stored next to sake in the Asian section of a supermarket or sold in a grocery store.
The alcohol content is negligible, so it can be enjoyed by pregnant or abstain from drinking.
The alcohol in mirin acts as a preservative to keep for several months after opening.
For this reason, it is a popular cooking ingredient in Japan.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Mirin
There are many alternatives to mirin, but these are the ones that most closely replicate its flavor.
1 – Dry Sherry
Dry sherry is an alcoholic beverage produced from white grapes.
This wine has a high alcohol content, typically between 15 and 22%.
The drink is popular in Spain and South America, particularly Chile.
Sherry has a sharp taste along with a yeasty flavor.
It can be used as a substitute for mirin because it contains sugar, a critical component of mirin.
It can be used as a substitute for mirin when making teriyaki sauce.
This ingredient acts as a sweetener and helps balance out the salty taste of soy sauce.
In addition, sherry will add depth to your dish.
In some cases, dry sherry may also have additional flavor.
Remember that it may have a nutty or salty flavor, so use it sparingly.
2 – Sake
Sake is traditional Japanese alcohol that has been celebrated and treasured for over 1,200 years.
Although it resembles white wine, sake is fermented rice with added yeast and water.
It can be enjoyed on its own or as an ingredient in cooking.
Though not as sweet as mirin, sake may be used as a substitute when making marinades or glazes.
As mentioned earlier, sake will add depth to your meal with the perfect balance of sweet and salty flavors.
It is optimal for use in teriyaki sauce but can also be used with soy sauce on meat or vegetables.
Sake may have a stronger flavor than mirin, so adding it slowly and over low heat is best.
3 – Rice Wine Vinegar
Rice wine vinegar is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine.
It contains a higher acidity level than other rice vinegar types and tastes tangy on the palette.
In addition to cooking, it can be used as a dipping sauce for fried foods or vegetables.
This product has less sugar than mirin but does have an equal acidity.
When used in cooking, rice wine vinegar is an excellent substitute for mirin when making chicken.
It will add the perfect flavor to your meal without being too sweet or cloying.
Rice wine vinegar adds a punch that will have your mouth singing with delight.
4 – White Wine
White wine does not have as much sugar as mirin but can be used in some cases to replace this important ingredient.
If you are new to cooking with wine, white is a great place to start.
It has more fruity notes than dry sherry, and the flavor pairs nicely with new or basmati rice.
Chicken is one of the most common meats in Asian cuisine and can easily be made with white wine.
White wine has less alcohol content than mirin, so it is safe for anyone to consume, including pregnant women or those who abstain from drinking.
It also contains fewer calories.
To reduce the tart flavor of white wine, use it in equal parts with water.
5 – White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is a popular ingredient in the Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine and Thai cooking.
It has less acidity than rice wine vinegar, making it a perfect substitute for mirin when you want a sweet flavor without an overwhelming amount of tartness.
Like white wine, this product contains similar levels of alcohol and sugar to mirin.
Mirin and white wine vinegar make a great substitute when making fried rice.
When using this product in your food, add it slowly and mix thoroughly to balance added ingredients such as soy sauce.
White wine vinegar is also good for delicate dishes with subtle flavors.
Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine that is the backbone of many Asian dishes.
However, it can be difficult to find depending on where you live or your dietary restrictions.
Fortunately, several great substitutes are available for each ingredient with similar flavor profiles.
As always, be sure to use your best judgment when cooking.
Only substitute ingredients if necessary, and remember that these products cannot act as a direct replacement.
While it may take a little trial and error to find the perfect ratios, we hope this guide will help you in your quest to recreate these delicious dishes.