Mirin in small white cup

What Is Mirin and Best Mirin Substitutes

Have you seen recipes call for mirin and don’t know what it is. I’m diving deep into this key cooking ingredient covering what mirin is and what you can use as a substitute.

What Is Mirin?

The rice wine mirin is a Japanese beverage used in cooking a wide range of dishes. When making various stews or soups, you may simmer mirin. You usually won’t use much of this rice wine in your cooking, so a bottle can last for a long time.

Mirin is a key ingredient in a variety of Japanese dressings, sauces, and meat marinades. It adds flavor and substance to your dish, but you may not always have some readily available.

Or, you may want to use something different in place of mirin, so I’m going to share with you some ideas for what is a substitute for mirin.

What Is Mirin Sauce?

You may see some recipes call for mirin sauce, which usually just means that you can use plain mirin.

While this rice wine can be mixed with other ingredients to make a sauce, particularly when mixed with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, it can be used on its own as a sauce as well.

What Is a Good Non-Alcoholic Substitute for Mirin?

If you’re hoping to substitute out mirin because you don’t want any alcohol in your dish, there are a few good options that make great alternatives to the alcoholic mirin wine.

Rice vinegar is probably the closest approximation to mirin and that’s not going to contain any alcohol. This can be a pretty tart liquid, though, so you may need to add a little sugar or juice to sweeten it.

Sweetened rice vinegar works well too, and the sharp, fermented taste of rice vinegar can really add a lot of depth to your dishes. It’s an excellent substitute for mirin because it has a similar viscosity and taste, so you can use it at a ratio of 1 to 1 when trading it out for mirin.

Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar. This has a stronger taste, but it’s sweeter than rice vinegar. It’s a good option for a lot of people who are wondering what is a substitute for mirin in cooking that doesn’t have any alcohol.

It’s also a lot easier to find in most groceries, so if rice vinegar is not available, apple cider vinegar will work as well, but it will flavor your food more and make it taste sweeter.

What Is a Good Substitute for Mirin?

The most straightforward substitutes for rice wine or other alcoholic beverages with a similar taste profile.


Sake is probably the most common mirin substitute, especially if you use an unfiltered sake. These tend to have the required sweetness to be quite similar to mirin. If you’re using a dry sake, you’ll want to add a little grape juice or apple juice to help give it the right flavor. A pinch of sugar will work as well.

White Wine

You could also try using white wine, but you want to be careful about really sweet ones, particularly ice wine and Moscato. They can have too much sugar to serve as a good 1:1 substitute for mirin. For medium white wines or dry ones, try adding a little sugar to give it a taste profile that’s really close to mirin.


Sherry works too, and even dry ones are pretty good substitutes. Sherry tends to have a similar sharp flavor to that of mirin, and it will help you mimic the acidity of the original. It’s also somewhat complex, adding its own layers of flavor to the dish. However, some sherries can be kind of overpowering, and you may only want to add them a little bit at a time until you get the right flavor, taste testing as you work.


Another good option is vermouth, and it’s the final of our alcoholic mirin substitutes. Sweet vermouth tends to work the best, but if you have one that’s dry, you can add some sugar or juice to sweeten it and balance out the acidity.

What Is a Good Substitute for Mirin Sauce?

What if you’re trying to make a mirin sauce for dipping? You can make the sauce the same way as you normally would without using mirin and just use one of the substitutes above. A lot of them work really well if you’re looking for what is a substitute for mirin sauce.

You’ll add your sherry, white wine, or rice vinegar to your other ingredients you’re using to make mirin sauce. You can usually make the recipe for mirin sauce as normal, but you may need to add a pinch of sugar or a little juice to sweeten it out.

Taste your sauce before you serve it to see if it is too acidic or too sweet. If it’s too sweet, you can add more of your substitute. If it’s too acidic, add a little sugar or juice to balance it out.

Whatever kind of mirin sauce you’re using or recipe you’re trying to make with mirin and that you want to substitute out the mirin for, you can use your other liquid at a one-to-one ratio. You shouldn’t need to add more or less of the liquid substitute you’re using.

You’ll want to keep the consistency and texture of the dish about the same, so adding too much liquid can be dangerous. Look to change the flavor by adding sweetener rather than more liquid, if possible.

The mirin substitutes we’ve given you is not a comprehensive list. You can probably find some other things that work as well, but these are the most common options we would suggest.

Whatever you use may be based on what you have available to you at the moment, and perhaps you can find a suitable substitute that’s not on this list but that is in your cupboard. Keep in mind the necessity of balancing sweetness and acidity in whatever you’re making.

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