If you like to cook Japanese dishes, you’ve likely come across an ingredient called mirin.
Do you love teriyaki? Then, chances are you’ve had mirin before, as it’s an essential ingredient in the sauce.
It’s actually a rice wine with a sweet and tangy flavor. It’s a must-have pantry staple, which contributes to that umami richness of many Asian dishes.
But what if you can’t find mirin? Don’t worry; several tasty substitutes give a similar rich umami flavor with a hint of tanginess and sweetness.
The best alternatives to mirin are alcohol-based drinks like rice vinegar, dry white wine, or sake, which must be combined with about a ¼ teaspoon of sugar to counteract the sourness and acidity of alcohol.
Read on to learn more about mirin, what to look for in a mirin substitute, and to see how to prepare mirin alternatives.
Or check out the video I made on the topic, full of inspiring dishes and imagery on how to substitute mirin in your recipes:
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Mirin, what kind of flavor do you need to substitute for?
- 2 Why Substitute Mirin?
- 3 What Makes a Good Mirin Substitute?
- 4 7 Best Mirin Substitutes
- 5 Best halal mirin substitute: Water + Agave
- 6 What is Mirin?
- 7 Conclusion
Mirin, what kind of flavor do you need to substitute for?
It’s mostly used to complement soy sauce and teriyaki sauce.
It is a key ingredient in all kinds of glazes, marinades, and sauces. As a marinade, it makes the meat more tender and juicy.
Why Substitute Mirin?
Mirin is not always easy to find.
The real thing, called “hon-mirin,” is much harder to find even in Asian grocery stores than “aji-mirin,” which is made with extra sweeteners.
But you can use the substitutes below if you can’t get a hold of it.
You might also be looking for an alcohol-free alternative, perhaps if you’re not allowed to have any, and below is an option for you if you need to go that route.
What Makes a Good Mirin Substitute?
Mirin has a sugar content of up to 45%, so any kind of substitute or alternative must have high sugar content.
The goal is to find something with both acidic and sweet properties. Mirin substitutes are made by combining alcohol and sugar.
While you can’t imitate the exact flavor of mirin, there are several ingredients you can combine to create similar flavors for your dishes.
7 Best Mirin Substitutes
These substitutes work very well in teriyaki-sauce, Asian style stir-fries, soy marinades, ramen, and as a glaze for beef, chicken, and seafood.
Some people also love to use these substitutes to make a sauce for vegan sushi (sans honey).
Closest match: Rice Wine with Sugar
Rice wine is the perfect mirin substitute because it also has fermented rice as the base flavor.
However, rice wine is very sour, so to counteract the sour taste, you need to add sugar. All you have to do is add 1 tablespoon of sugar to every ½ tablespoon of rice wine.
Since this combination has a very similar flavor to mirin, you can use it for all types of dishes.
You can use it to make a dipping sauce for sushi, as a marinade for fish, and as a condiment for noodles.
Best sweetness: Sake, Honey, and Maple Syrup Mixture
This substitute sauce is all about bringing out that sweetness.
All you have to do is mix sake with honey and maple syrup in a 5 to 1 ratio.
This means the second quantity is five times larger than the first. You need a bit of sake and lots of honey and maple syrup.
You then need to cook the ingredients together until the mixture is reduced by half.
As the best mirin substitute, this mixture has a thick syrup-like texture and consistency, so you can use it in all dishes that require mirin.
Use it as a glaze for meats and vegetables and even as a sauce in noodle dishes.
Looking for good sake to cook with? We have listed the best cooking sake + Differences with drinkable sake & buying tips here.
Easiest to find: Dry White Wine
Take a ¼ cup of dry white wine and add about ¼ or even ⅓ of a teaspoon of white sugar.
The sugar balances out the acidity of the dry wine and gives a very umami type flavor. Therefore, white wine is a good mirin substitute.
The high alcohol content of white wine is ideal for cooking meats.
Since the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, use the wine + sugar combo to make teriyaki sauces, marinades, and meat glazes.
Best for glazes: Dry Sherry
Sherry is an alcoholic beverage originally from Spain. It is a white wine with brandy or a neutral distilled spirit.
This fortified wine is used when making sauces, glazes, and cooking meats like pork and poultry.
It has a flavor similar to rice wine, so when combined with a ¼ teaspoon of sugar, it is a good substitute for mirin.
Use sherry for cooking meat, especially beef, and poultry. It makes the meat very tender and adds a hint of sweetness.
You can also use it in teriyaki and soy sauce to flavor your favorite Japanese fusion dishes.
Better umami: Sweet Marsala Wine
Sweet Marsala is a fortified wine, similar to sherry. It contains brandy or other distilled spirit and has a sweet flavor.
It is a good mirin substitute because it has both acidic and sweet properties and gives a bit of umami flavor.
To make it taste like mirin, add a ¼ teaspoon of sugar to your sweet wine.
You can use sweet marsala wine in all the recipes that call for mirin.
It works well with soba noodles, as part of glaze for beef, and it can replace mirin in Japanese salad.
Strong flavor: Vermouth
If you haven’t heard of vermouth, it is an aromatized fortified wine. Usually, it has a botanical aroma and sweetness.
Just like the other alcohol mirin substitutes, you can add a ¼ teaspoon of sugar to ¼ cup of this drink and use it instead of mirin.
Vermouth works well when cooking meats, but it has a stronger flavor than you’d expect, so use it sparingly for sauces.
Avoid vermouth in ramen because it’s not going to give that classic taste you’re looking for.
Best halal mirin substitute: Water + Agave
Not a fan of alcohol? If you want to cook without any alcohol (maybe for halal purposes) but still get a similar flavor to mirin, you can always use a mixture of water and agave syrup.
Best halal mirin substitute: Water + Agave
- ⅓ tbsp agave syrup
- 1 tbsp water
- You need to use a ratio of 3:1 water and agave syrup. This gives a similar syrupy texture as mirin, but the flavor is less like mirin.
What is Mirin?
Mirin is a type of rice wine, used as a condiment or sauce, with a consistency similar to soy sauce.
Authentic mirin is called “hon-mirin,” and it’s a fermented food made with cultured koji rice, steamed glutinous rice, and distilled rice liquor.
The mirin ferments for at least two months, but it can also ferment for a few years before it’s ready.
It is similar to sake, but it has a lower alcohol content of 14% and more sugar. Many people confuse mirin with rice vinegar, but they are not the same thing.
Mirin is much sweeter because it has higher sugar content. Therefore, it complements many dishes and helps bring out umami flavor.
It helps to balance the saltiness of soy sauce. Since it has a syrup-like consistency, it is often used as a glaze for foods like teriyaki sauce.
Next time you come across a recipe that requires mirin feel free to use a sweet syrup, honey, or alcohol and sugar mixture.
While you may not achieve that exact umami flavor, these substitutes come close enough!