Mirin is a Japanese rice wine used for cooking just like sake. But, unlike sake, mirin has a lower alcohol content (14%) and contains more sugar, so it’s sweeter.
Mirin is a must-have Japanese cooking wine, and no pantry is complete without it.
What if you don’t want alcohol-based mirin though, do you have other options?
The best substitute for mirin is alcohol-free mirin called mizkan honteri mirin. This Japanese bottled seasoning has basically the same flavor as regular mirin, with the same amount of sweetness. It can be used in all recipes where mirin is required, and you’ll get the same results.
Check out my top pick for the ultimate best alcohol-free mirin. Then, I’m listing some substitutes for this alcohol-free mirin which have a similar flavor profile.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Does all mirin have alcohol?
- 2 Best alcohol-free mirin substitutes
- 3 What happens to the alcohol in mirin while cooking?
- 4 Conclusion
Does all mirin have alcohol?
No, not all mirin has alcohol. Although it is intended to have alcohol, some brands have taken it upon themselves to create a non-alcoholic version to cook with to cater to those who can’t or don’t want to use alcohol, even though it evaporates if cooked properly.
Best alcohol-free mirin to buy: Mizkan Honteri
Have you been searching for an alcohol-free alternative for mirin?
I’ve got good news. There is a really good one available, and it will surely become a new pantry staple seasoning.
Alcohol-free mirin is called honteri, and it has almost identical flavors to regular rice mirin. It infuses your food with a distinctly sweet flavor.
Honteri works well in teriyaki, sukiyaki, and as a marinade for meat and seafood. In addition, you can substitute it for regular mirin in all recipes like soups, stocks, sauces, noodles, and stir-fries.
You can also use alcohol-free mirin to tone down fishiness and the strong flavors in game meat and beef.
It’s a truly versatile ingredient, but even people who don’t cook with or drink alcohol can enjoy its sweet umami flavor.
Non-alcoholic mirin vs mirin with alcohol
The flavor of this sweet seasoning is almost identical to regular mirin. Just like mirin, it combines well with salty sauces like soy and tamari.
But, some types of mirin substitutes contain a lot of corn syrup, so you can liken the taste to corn syrup and even maple syrup.
Poor quality mirin substitutes will also taste a lot like artificial sweeteners. I wouldn’t use them if I’m trying to make an expensive recipe with costly meat or seafood.
The one thing to takeaway is that alcohol-free or low-alcohol mirin substitutes are similar in flavor but don’t have that distinct tanginess that comes with alcohol.
You can use them as seasonings for all kinds of recipes, and you’ll achieve a similar flavor.
Best alcohol-free mirin substitutes
If you’re not interested in Honteri or simply cannot find it and get a hold of it, other alcohol-free mirin substitutes are available.
White grape juice
This is probably the cheapest non-alcoholic mirin substitute. White grape juice is readily available at all supermarkets.
I recommend a brand like Welch’s because it doesn’t contain added sugars, but it is sweet enough to mimic the flavor of mirin.
As well, grape juice is acidic and works just like mirin to tenderize meats.
White grape juice has similar flavor notes to wine, yet it’s a juice, and it is alcohol-free. I don’t recommend red grape juice because it has a dark color and mirin is light yellow colored.
Therefore, white grape juice is the overall best substitute for mirin.
If you want to make white grape juice a bit sour to mimic mirin’s flavor even more, you can add a splash of lemon juice. I recommend this grape juice and lemon combo whenever you’re cooking red meats like beef and game.
Looking for a mirin substitute WITH alcohol? I discuss some really good options here.
High-quality organic apple juice with few or no preservatives is a very good substitute for alcohol-free mirin.
Apple juice has a similar acidity as grape juice and the same sweetness. You can use them both interchangeably when you run out of alcohol-free mirin.
Mirin has a certain tanginess to it, and apple juice has this, too, especially if you buy one without a lot of added sugar.
Kikkoman Kotterin mirin
The Kotterin mirin is a sweet syrup with similar characteristics to mirin.
It is labeled as a sweet cooking seasoning and made from corn syrup, vinegar, and fermented rice. Luckily, this seasoning is alcohol-free.
I wouldn’t go as far as labeling it a type of authentic mirin, but it can be used in all kinds of foods, especially teriyaki and sukiyaki.
It’s very sweet and full of sugars, but it gives food a pleasant flavor, so it’s a great alcohol-free mirin substitute.
The key to making this product work as a substitute is to use only a small amount.
Use less than you’d use mirin because it does have that artificial sweetener type of flavor. You don’t want to make the food overly sweet.
Kikkoman Seasoned Rice vinegar
Rice vinegar is a great alcohol-free mirin substitute.
It is much sourer in flavor, so you have to counteract this sourness with extra sugar. As a general rule, you can add about ½ a teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon of rice vinegar you use.
Mirin is made up of about 30% or more sugar, so if you want to achieve that sweet rice taste, you must add the sugar.
Like all vinegar types, rice vinegar has a sour and acidic taste. You will find this vinegar labeled as rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar, but they refer to the same non-alcoholic product.
It’s made out of fermented rice vinegar and has a clear yellow color.
If you want to use it as a mirin substitute, you’ll be glad to know it works very well in dressings, dipping sauces, and marinades when it’s combined with brown or white sugar.
Low-alcohol option: Aji-mirin seasoning
Aji-mirin is not considered real mirin. It is a sweet syrup-based seasoning liquid that sweetens your food like mirin but without alcohol.
Most aji-mirin contains a syrup made of either high-fructose corn or sugar, salt, and monosodium glutamate. It’s not the healthiest seasoning, but it does infuse foods with that Japanese-style sweetness.
Aji-mirin is not a cooking wine because it’s not manufactured in the same way. Instead, it’s more of a cooking wine type of seasoning.
Watch out when you buy Aji-mirin because many varieties, including the Kikkoman one, contain a small quantity of alcohol. It’s not noticeable, and grocery shops still sell it because it’s not considered an “alcoholic seasoning.”
Thus, you can basically consider it alcohol-free because the alcohol in there is close to nonexistent.
What happens to the alcohol in mirin while cooking?
Regular mirin has an alcohol content between 1% to 20% maximum. It all depends on the brand, but generally, most mirin contains about 10% – 14% alcohol.
Since this is a low amount, it quickly burns off while you’re cooking. However, it still has enough time to impart flavor to the food.
Mirin without alcohol is not quite the same as the real thing. But, you can confidently use these alcohol-free mirin substitutes for cooking delicious Japanese meals.
They all have a similar sweet syrupy flavor, and it pairs perfectly with salty sauces, especially soy.
There’s no reason not to give fruit juices or Kikkoman mirin seasonings a try next time you’re looking to replace alcoholic mirin.
I’m sure you’ll appreciate the delightful taste, and the good thing is, you only need to use a small amount because it goes a long way.
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