8 Best Mirin Substitutes

Need a last-minute mirin substitute? These best eight ingredient alternatives will get you out of trouble.

best mirin substitutes

What is Mirin?

Mirin is a type of Japanese rice wine often used in Japanese cuisine. It is made by combining steamed glutinous rice with distilled liquor. After they are combined, the mixture is left to ferment. This process can take anywhere between two months and years. You will know how long its color has aged it. The color of mirin gets darker with time. Also, the longer it is aged, the more intense the flavor will be. 

It’s an everyday staple that packs a lot of flavor in it. It has a sweet taste to it that is often paired with meals such as ramen and teriyaki. It has a high sugar content, which helps create a balance with the salt in soy sauce. It has a consistency similar to syrup. That is why it is often used as a condiment or even as a glaze. 

The sweetness is not all that mirin contains. It also has an alcohol percentage of about 14%. This is less than what you will find in sake, but all the same, it still does the trick. Mirin is often sold in various forms, depending on the manufacturer. You may find it as true mirin, or sometimes as mirin-fu or aji-mirin, a type of mirin condiment. This one will not be the same as true mirin, but you can use it in its place as a condiment.

Sake

This is an alcoholic drink made from fermented rice. It is often called rice wine. It can either be served hot or cold. It tends to bring out a richer flavor when it is cooler. The high-end sakes will usually be served when they are chilled a bit. The lower end sakes will usually need to be warmed up. However you decide to serve it, it’s important to keep it between no less than 40˚ and no higher than 105˚. The exact temperature you choose is up to you and has more to do with personal preference. 

It makes a great substitute as it is closest to mirin, especially when compared with other substitutes. The difference is that sake has a higher alcohol content. You can add sugar to the mix, which will help lower the alcohol level. To replace one tablespoon of mirin, mix one teaspoon of sake with two tablespoons of sugar. You also have the option of simply substituting the mirin with sake on its own.

Rice Vinegar

This is a vinegar made from fermented rice. It is popular in Japanese cuisine in the same way that mirin is used. As such, they make great substitutes for each other. Rice vinegar, just like mirin, has a mild and yet slightly sweet flavor to it. If you can’t find rice vinegar in stores, you may find it as rice wine vinegar. The rice wine is fermented to make rice vinegar. 

It makes a good mirin substitute because of the similar flavors. It can be used as a dipping condiment. Since vinegar is sour by nature, you will need to add about half a teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon of rice vinegar to replace a tablespoon of mirin.

Balsamic Vinegar

This is a dark, dense, glossy vinegar from Italy with a rich texture to it. It is made from grapes that are boiled down. The sweet notes make it a good substitute for mirin, even though it is not quite as sweet. To counter this, you can add a dash of sugar to the balsamic vinegar. However, it is better used as a condiment rather than a cooking ingredient. You can drizzle it over salads or desserts. You can substitute one tablespoon of mirin with two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.  

Dry Sherry

Dry sherry is a type of wine that is fortified with brandy. This process increases the alcohol content. It makes a great cooking wine, and as such, can be substituted in recipes that require mirin to be cooked in. it makes a good substitute for mirin because it is stiff and acidic. However, they differ in that mirin is sweeter. 

If you want to get the same taste, you may need to add a bit of sugar to it. To get the amount equal to one tablespoon of mirin, you will need to use ½ a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of sherry.

Vermouth

This is a fortified wine, just like sherry. It is often confused with spirits because of how strong it is, but this is fortified. Alcohol is added to the wine to raise the alcohol percentage. It can then also be infused with herbs and spices to tailor the taste further. 

It makes an excellent mirin substitute as it adds a sweet flavor to dishes, as well as richness. You can get either red or white vermouth, and both can be used in place of mirin, white will give a dry taste whilst red will give a sweeter taste. It is also often used as salad dressings. However, you may need to increase the amount of sugar. You can add two tablespoons of sugar to every ½ cup of vermouth.

Marsala Wine

This is a fortified Sicilian wine. It is often a natural choice, especially for cooking sauces, especially the caramelized sauces. It makes excellent cooking substitutes for mirin and also adds a rich and nutty flavor. You can find marsala wine in vanilla, apricot, and tamarind flavors, amongst other flavors. 

It makes an excellent substitute for mirin because it is a fortified wine often used for cooking, and also, it is just as sweet as mirin. You can use equal amounts, and you will not need to add extra sugar to match the tastes. 

White Wine

White wine can be used as a substitute for mirin in different dishes. The best would be dry white wine. There are different types of white wine that you could use as a substitute, and it is always better to go with the one that pairs best with your meal. The difference between white wine and mirin is the sugar level. As such, when you substitute mirin with white wine, you will need to add some sugar. 

For each tablespoon of mirin, use one tablespoon of white wine, sweetened with two tablespoons of sugar. 

White Grape Juice

As the name suggests, this is juice taken from white grapes, with several health benefits. You can also use white grape juice in place of mirin in a recipe. This is an excellent alternative if you are looking for something with no alcohol but still gives you similar results. However, it will not be as tart as mirin, so you will need to add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each cup of grape juice to replicate it. 

This makes a great mirin substitute as it has the right amount of sweetness to match what you would get from mirin. You can then use equal amounts for the substitution.