In Japanese cooking, one of the most significant ingredients in Japanese cuisine is sake.
However, if you’re unable to drink alcohol due to personal beliefs or medical reasons, cooking with alcoholic beverages can be a struggle – and replacing it is almost impossible.
Not being able to cook for sake shouldn’t mean missing out on authentic flavor.
Fortunately, there are several options to replace sake when cooking.
Water or chicken broth can help mimic the sake flavor without actually using it.
Rice wine vinegar can also be used as an alternative for sake in many recipes.
Keep in mind that substituting sake will cause a major change to the taste of your dish; however, with a little planning and creativity, you can have your dish taste just as good without using sake.
What is Sake?
Sake, also called Nihon Shu, is a Japanese alcoholic beverage fermenting rice.
Sake can be classified into many different categories based on different factors such as the amount of alcohol content, taste, region it comes from, etc.
Each category has its own specific brewing process that helps to create its unique flavor.
Sake is commonly served warm, but it is also delicious cold.
Sake goes great with Japanese dishes such as sushi and sashimi or can be enjoyed on its own.
The unique flavor of sake makes it a worthwhile beverage to try and explore.
When cooking with sake, the flavor from the sake enhances the flavors from the other ingredients in a dish.
It’s clear that sake offers a unique flavor, but what does it taste like? Sake can have a variety of flavors depending on the region it comes from, brewery, etc.
Some examples are fruity or sweet, while others have a distinct or rich aroma.
However, sake’s flavor is not as simple as one-note.
The taste changes depending on how it is served and what it is paired with.
To fully discover sake’s unique flavor, try serving it in different ways and tasting all the different types to see which ones you like.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Sake
When a home cook is going to make a recipe that calls for sake, they may not have the luxury of keeping a bottle on hand.
However, many liquors and wines can be substituted forsake if it’s not available.
One could use many different substitutes depending on what type of dish you’re making.
If your recipe is an Asian dish, you can use some better substitutes.
If your recipe is something with a Western flair, any wine or liquor that goes well with the dish will suffice.
1 – Mirin
Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine that can be substituted forsake when cooking.
It’s a very sweet, low alcohol rice wine similar to sake.
However, Mirin has a lower alcoholic content and sugar content than sake.
It contains about 1 – 3% alcohol content.
The flavor of Mirin is a balance between salty and sweet.
This makes it a great substitute for sake because sake also has a slightly salty flavor.
However, there are some differences between these two ingredients.
First, Mirin typically has a higher sugar content than sake does.
Furthermore, the flavor of the final dish will vary depending on whether or not Mirin is used.
Compared to sake, Mirin produces a mellow, more subtle flavor.
2 – Chinese Rice Wine
Chinese rice wine can be substituted forsake.
However, it’s important to know that Chinese rice wine has a slightly different flavor than Japanese sake.
Also known as Shaoxing wine, it is an alcoholic beverage brewed from rice in China.
This rice wine is most commonly used in cooking and rarely consumed on its own.
Chinese rice wine is best used in Asian dishes.
This rice wine has a nutty and aromatic flavor compared to the more salty and savory taste of sake.
Furthermore, this rice wine contains 15% to 25% alcohol content, much higher than sake’s 10%.
This makes it perfect for enhancing the flavor in any dish.
3 – Sherry
Sherry is the best substitute forsake when it comes to Western dishes.
The alcohol content of both these ingredients is comparable, and sherry also has a nutty flavor.
This wine typically has an amber color with strong flavors.
The main flavor present in Japanese rice wine, sake, and Spanish sherry is nuts.
This is why they work so effectively as a substitute for one another.
In addition, both sake and sherry have a high viscosity level compared to wines.
That being said, sherry can be substituted in any recipe that calls forsake.
4 – Dry Vermouth
Dry vermouth can be substituted forsake.
This wine does have a different flavor than sake.
However, dry vermouth is used similarly to sake, and it has an alcohol content comparable to rice wine.
Like sherry and Mirin, dry vermouth is a fortified white or rosé wine – usually around 17% to 18% alcohol content.
It produces a dry flavor and a slightly spicy or fruity aroma.
When using this substitute, make sure you pick up the dry one.
Sweet vermouth does not work well in place of sake because it will produce a very different flavor in your dish.
5 – White Wine
Almost any white wine can be substituted forsake.
It’s important to remember that the key is finding a wine that you enjoy drinking, so you know it will taste good in your dish too.
White wines are typically dry with an earthy flavor.
With this substitute, one thing to keep in mind is that substituting wines means changing the flavor of your dish.
This is because not all white wines are the same.
Also, substitute with caution – some people may be sensitive or allergic to sulfites in wine.
Sulfites are naturally-occurring chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables.
They’re used as a preservative in winemaking to keep the fresh flavor of the grapes when the grape skins are broken and exposed to air.
Sake is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice.
Finding a proper substitute for sake can be difficult because it is such an integral ingredient in Japanese cooking.
Sake has a slightly salty flavor that other wines don’t have.
This means that the final dish will taste slightly different depending on which ingredients you use as a substitute.
Always look for substitutes with comparable alcoholic content and similar viscosity.
This will ensure that your dish tastes as close to the original as possible.