Why is mirin so expensive? Consider supply, quality & import tax

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 19, 2021

3 easy recipes anyone can make...

All the tips you'll need to get started in Japanese cooking with our first email the FREE Japanese with ease quick-start recipe guide

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Cooking with mirin is a typical thing to do in Japan. Most Japanese dishes use this liquor condiment to add a subtle sweetness to the dish. It can also give a whole new level of umami to sauces.

Unfortunately for cooks outside Japan, mirin is quite hard to find and can be very expensive.

Why is mirin so expensive? Consider supply, quality & import tax

Mirin, especially hon mirin, needs a bit of time to get fermented and bottled up for use. Additionally, these products are liquors, which are subjected to alcohol tax, making them more expensive.

Be wary of mirin-like condiments because some sellers might sell these as “hon mirin” due to the similar taste.

Mirin as a condiment

Although mirin is an alcoholic drink, it is mainly used as a condiment to enhance the taste of food, not to drink.

You can use it to enhance broths, make a great dipping sauce, and even use it on sushi rice.

You can find a bottle of mirin and mirin-like substitute in Asian grocery stores or online international groceries.

Hon mirin – why is it so expensive?

Hon mirin, or the real imported mirin from Japan, is made out of fermented glutinous rice, rice koji mold, and shochu. These ingredients are quite hard to find outside Japan.

Additionally, Hon mirin takes 40 to 60 days to ferment properly. If you find the real deal, consider yourself very lucky.

Getting an authentic bottle of hon mirin in Japan is quite simple since you can find these bottles everywhere. However, this liquor is a rare item outside the country.

You can find a real bottle of hon mirin in grocery stores, but be prepared to spend more than ten bucks a bottle. Imported hon mirin usually ranges from $14 to $20, or even higher for good-quality imports.

Of course, its rarity and long processing time make the final price bigger. However, the main culprit of hon mirin’s high price is the alcohol tax.

A usual bottle of hon mirin has 14% alcohol content. This is the same with unfortified wine and very close to malt beverages.

Even though mirin is usually used as a condiment, importing it from Japan means also levying alcohol tax. This is the main reason why hon mirin has a big price tag for a condiment.

What is cheap mirin?

Some mirin knockoffs are available in the market. These bottles might not be the same thing, but they are cheaper and can do the same job.

Since this mirin has a lower alcohol content (or none at all) sellers were able to sell them cheaply.

Be wary about sellers who claim to sell authentic hon mirin at a very low price. Some of these hon mirin scams market themselves as suppliers for cheaper mirin alternatives.

Since identifying hon mirin from lower-quality mirin alternatives can be difficult for a beginner, you must check for the ingredients list instead. Look for four important ingredients: glutinous rice, rice, koji mold, and shochu.

On the other hand, why are ramen noodles so cheap? The main 4 reasons

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.