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Substitute for Mirin and Sake

Substitute for Mirin and Sake

Mirin and sake are for people with taste buds that are enchanted by rich and unique flavors.

Mirin gives your food a mildly acidic flavor. It is a sweet rice wine from Japan and a common ingredient in most Asian recipes.

Sake is also a rice wine, but the bran has been removed. The process of removing the bran is called polishing.

Mirin has a golden appearance, while Sake is clear. The difference in color is because the Sake is polished.

Sake and Mirin are used in the kitchen to enhance food flavors and also as a marinade. Both can be used to tenderize meat.

Sake and Mirin are not common in households outside of Japan. When you are preparing a recipe that calls for Mirin or Sake, and you don’t have any on hand, you will need a replacement for Sake and Mirin.

Some of the best substitutes for Mirin and Sake include dry sherry, Shao Xing Wine, Dry Sherry, Dry Vermouth, White Wine, Aji-Mirin, Rice vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, and Kombucha.

Related: What can substitute for a Wok?

Can I use Rice Vinegar instead of Mirin?
Authentic Mirin

Shao Xing Wine

Shao Xing wine is a rice wine and is sometimes made from millet. It is brownish yellow and not as clear as sake. But it adds a similar rich taste desired by those who love adding mirin and sake in their food.

It can be substituted 1:1 with sake and mirin, but may need to be combined with sugar for some recipes. This wine is intended for cooking only; it is not a drinking wine. It is salty with a harsh alcohol taste. It is perfect for marinades, wontons, sauces and soup broths.

Dry sherry

Dry sherry is a wine made using grapes. It has a high level of alcohol – almost the same as sake. However, wines made from rice are more robust than those made from grapes. Sherry has a dark color. If your recipe requires sugar, use sweet sherry and reduce sweetening ingredients.

Dry Vermouth

If you have dry vermouth in your home’s liquor cabinet, you can use it instead of mirin and sake. It is aromatized with natural flavors.

However, it may be too much for some people, and you should try it out before making a meal for your guests. Avoid it if your recipe requires sugar.

White Wine

White wine is readily available and is often the best option when looking for a mirin or sake replacement.

It tends to work well with most recipes, although its not quite identical to mirin or sake.

The wine you select may add some fruit flavors to your dish. When using it as a mirin substitute, you may have to add sugar to get excellent results. Many people use white wine as a sake replacement.


Aji-Mirin means tastes like mirin, but it is not the real thing. This product is readily available in most markets in Japan and across the world.

The original mirin is quite expensive, so most stores sell Aji-Mirin, and it gives your Japanese cuisine an authentic taste when used to cook.

Aji-mirin is made from glucose syrup, water, alcohol, rice, corn syrup, and salt.

As noted above, genuine Mirin is a rice wine made with the bran included.

Rice Vinegar   A Common Substitute for Sake and Mirin
Rice Vinegar A Common Substitute for Sake and Mirin

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar works like mirin and is also referred to as rice wine vinegar. The rice is fermented to produce this rice wine.

It is used for dressing salads and making dipping sauces. The best thing is that rice vinegar is a bit sweet though you may add some sugar if you really want a lot of sweetness.

Note that although it is sometimes referred to as rice wine vinegar, rice vinegar is non-alcoholic.

Balsamic Vinegar

This vinegar is Italian and made from boiled white grapes. The stem, seeds and skin are included but must mature in wood kegs for about 12 years to qualify as balsamic vinegar. The best balsamic is over 18 years, with some as old as 100 years.

The older the vinegar, the more expensive and the better it is. The thickness of balsamic vinegar is consistent as most water evaporates during the maturing process. It becomes dark in color and gets a strong flavor with an excellent sweet taste.

Balsamic vinegar comes handy for dipping sauces, soup broth, gourmet marinades and salad dressings. For a perfect flavor, add a small amount of sugar because it’s not sweet and may therefore not be ideal for sweet recipes.


Kombucha is acidic but doesn’t contain much alcohol – typically under 1%. You can make it at home or buy it from your local store. It works perfectly as an alternative for mirin and sake. However, when buying a commercial kombucha, avoid those with flavors if your recipe doesn’t need one.


If you want to explore Japanese cooking, you definitely have heard of mirin and sake. Unfortunately, these two ingredients may not be at hand when you want to use them.

Fortunately, you will find many alternatives that are likely to be in your house. However, remember these are replacements and may not come with the original properties of mirin and sake.