Mirin Substitutes: We Test the Best Options

Mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine, has been a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine for centuries. It is commonly used to add a mild sweetness and enhance the flavors of various dishes, such as teriyaki, sushi rice, and marinades. However, not everyone has access to this ingredient or may want to avoid it for various reasons, such as the alcohol content or dietary restrictions.

In such cases, mirin substitutes come to the rescue. These alternatives provide similar flavors and effects to mirin in a recipe without causing any significant changes. Many mirin substitutes can be easily found in the pantry or at local grocery stores.

Some of the most popular substitutes for mirin include sake, rice wine vinegar, and over-the-counter mirin-style condiments. These alternatives can effectively replicate the unique flavor profile of mirin in most dishes, allowing home cooks to explore and enjoy the best of Japanese cuisine without compromising on taste.

What is Mirin

Mirin is a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice, typically glutinous rice. It is a type of sweet rice wine that adds a distinct combination of sweetness and umami to various dishes. Mirin plays an essential role in Japanese cuisine, and it is a staple ingredient in many traditional recipes.

The process of making mirin involves steamed rice, koji (rice inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae mold), and distilled liquor. The mixture is allowed to ferment for several months, resulting in a sweet and slightly viscous liquid. The alcohol content of mirin is relatively low, usually between 10-14%.

Mirin is not just used for its sweetness but also for its ability to enhance the flavors of other ingredients in the dish. The umami quality of mirin comes from the fermentation process, which produces amino acids that contribute to the savory taste. This characteristic makes mirin an invaluable ingredient in many sauces and marinades.

There are different types of mirin, which can be categorized based on their production methods and quality:

  • Hon-mirin: This is the highest quality of mirin, made exclusively from rice, koji, and alcohol, without any additives or sweeteners. It has a well-rounded flavor and a rich umami taste.
  • Shio-mirin: Shio-mirin contains added salt, which helps to preserve it for longer periods. The salt content does not significantly affect its taste but makes it unsuitable for consumption as a beverage.
  • Shin-mirin: This type of mirin has lower alcohol content (around 1%) and a milder flavor. It is often used as an alternative to hon-mirin due to its lower price and availability.

In summary, mirin is a versatile ingredient that imparts a unique combination of sweetness and umami to various dishes. It is an essential component of Japanese cuisine, used in numerous recipes, and is available in different types to suit different cooking needs.

Common Mirin Substitutes

Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine used for adding sweetness and depth to various dishes. However, if you don’t have mirin on hand, there are several substitutes available. This section features five common mirin substitutes and how to use them in your cooking.

Sake and Sugar or Honey

Sake, a Japanese rice wine, is an excellent option for replacing mirin. When combined with sugar or honey, it closely mimics mirin’s sweetness and flavor profile. To create this substitute:

  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar or honey

Mix the ingredients well and use the same amount as you would for mirin in your recipe.

Dry Sherry

Dry sherry is another suitable mirin substitute due to its similar flavor and moderate sweetness. To use dry sherry as a mirin substitute, simply use the same amount of sherry as you would use mirin.

Dry White Wine and Sugar

A combination of dry white wine and sugar can work as an alternative to mirin. The sweetness of the sugar and the acidity of the white wine create a similar flavor profile. To create this substitute:

  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar

Mix the ingredients well, and use as you would use mirin in your recipe.

White Grape Juice and Vinegar

White grape juice and vinegar can approximate the flavor of mirin, especially when a non-alcoholic substitute is necessary. To create this substitute:

  • 2 tablespoons white grape juice
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Combine the ingredients and use this mixture in place of mirin, maintaining a 1:1 ratio.

Natural rice vinegar

Rice Vinegar and Sugar

Rice vinegar, when combined with sugar, can function as a mirin substitute. The vinegar provides acidity while the sugar adds sweetness. To create this substitute:

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar

Mix the ingredients well, and use the same amount in your recipe as you would with mirin.

Choosing the Right Substitute

When replacing mirin in various recipes, it is important to consider the dish’s requirements and tailor the substitute accordingly. Mirin’s sweet and tangy flavor enhances a wide range of dishes, including sauces, marinades, glazes, stir-fries, soups, dipping sauces, and dressings.

In instances where sweetness is the key ingredient, a mixture of sugar and water can be used as a mirin substitute. The ratio can be adjusted based on the desired level of sweetness. For example:

  • For a milder sweetness: 1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
  • For a stronger sweetness: 1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 3 tablespoons water

Sake, a Japanese rice wine, is another popular option for replacing mirin. However, it is important to note that sake offers a drier taste than mirin. Sake can be used in combination with sugar to mimic the sweetness of mirin:

  • 3 tablespoons sake and 1 teaspoon sugar

Alternatives with more complex flavors can be used to replicate the richness of mirin in specific dishes. Here are a few examples of flavor profiles and their corresponding substitutes:

  • For a fruity accent: Apple or grape juice mixed with a small amount of lemon juice
  • For a slightly tangy and earthy taste: White wine or dry sherry with a pinch of sugar
  • For a version without added sugar: Rice vinegar mixed with a small amount of stevia, erythritol, or another sugar substitute

When selecting a mirin substitute, assess the dish’s specific requirements and adjust the substitute accordingly. By doing this, the flavors and characteristics of the original recipe can be maintained while offering a suitable alternative to mirin.

Comparison of Mirin Substitutes

Mirin is a popular Japanese cooking wine known for its sweetness, slight tang, and umami flavor. However, if you don’t have it on hand or wish to avoid its alcohol content, here are a few substitutes that can be used in various recipes.

Rice Vinegar and Sugar

Combining rice vinegar with sugar can mimic the sweetness and tanginess of mirin. The ratio is often 2:1, comprising two parts rice vinegar and one part sugar. Although lacking in mirin’s umami flavor, this mixture offers a balanced, slightly acidic taste when used in sauces and marinades.

  • Alcohol content: None
  • Sweetness: Moderate
  • Umami flavor: Low
  • Tang: Moderate
  • Acidic: Moderate

Dry Sherry or White Wine

Dry sherry or white wine can be used as a substitute for mirin due to their similar alcoholic content and tanginess levels. To add sweetness, an additional sugar source is required, such as simple syrup or honey. Dry sherry or white wine can provide depth to a dish, but the umami flavor will be less pronounced.

  • Alcohol content: Moderate
  • Sweetness: Low to moderate (when additional sugar is added)
  • Umami flavor: Low
  • Tang: Moderate
  • Acidic: Moderate

Sake and Sugar

Sake, a traditional Japanese rice wine, is another suitable substitute for mirin. It has a similar alcohol content and can be combined with sugar or other sweeteners to replicate mirin’s taste profile. Although sake lacks the robust umami flavor of mirin, it still brings complexity to various dishes.

  • Alcohol content: Moderate
  • Sweetness: Moderate
  • Umami flavor: Moderate
  • Tang: Low
  • Acidic: Low

Non-Alcoholic Options: Apple Juice or Grape Juice

Although lacking in alcohol content and umami flavor, fruit juices, such as apple or grape juice, can serve as mirin substitutes. The natural sweetness and slight acidity of these juices can help achieve a semblance of mirin’s characteristic taste. This option is suitable for those who prefer alcohol-free alternatives.

  • Alcohol content: None
  • Sweetness: Moderate to high
  • Umami flavor: Low
  • Tang: Low
  • Acidic: Low to moderate

Alcohol-Free Mirin Alternatives

There are several great alternatives to mirin that can be used in recipes while keeping them alcohol-free. These nonalcoholic substitutes maintain the sweet flavor characteristic of mirin, without the alcohol content. Some of the most popular options include white grape juice, corn syrup, and maple syrup.

White grape juice is a natural option that closely resembles the sweetness and flavor of mirin. This choice is ideal for those looking for a more fruit-forward, natural substitute. To use white grape juice as a mirin substitute, a 1:1 ratio is recommended.

Corn syrup is another excellent alternative, providing a smooth texture and a mild, sweet flavor. This option works well in recipes that call for mirin to be reduced into a syrup or glaze. When substituting with corn syrup, a 1:1 ratio should also be used.

Maple syrup, while not as closely resembling the flavor of mirin as white grape juice and corn syrup, can still make an effective nonalcoholic substitute. Its distinct flavor can bring a pleasant twist to recipes, adding a unique depth of flavor. When using maple syrup as an alternative, it is suggested to use a 1:1 ratio, but taste testing for your desired level of sweetness is encouraged.

Healthy Mirin Options

Several healthy mirin substitutes are available for those who want to add a similar flavor to their dishes without the added calories, fat, sodium, and carbohydrates that come with traditional mirin. They also make excellent options for individuals watching their sugar or sodium intake.

One fantastic alternative to mirin is rice vinegar. Rice vinegar contains fewer calories, and while it is not as sweet as mirin, it does impart some of the tangy flavors that enhance dishes. To mimic mirin’s sweetness when using rice vinegar, you can mix in a small amount of sugar or a sugar substitute like stevia:

Rice Vinegar30 g0 mg0.1 g0 g0 g

Another healthy option for a mirin substitute is apple cider vinegar. Like rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar offers a tangy flavor but lacks mirin’s sweetness. Again, you can add a little bit of sugar or a sugar alternative to achieve the desired taste. Apple cider vinegar is also low in calories and carbohydrates, making it an attractive option for those watching their intake of these nutrients.

Apple Cider Vinegar30 g0 mg0.1 g0 g0 g

A final option for a healthy mirin substitute is a combination of white grape juice and lemon juice. This mixture provides the acidity and sweetness that mirin brings to dishes, while still being low in calories, sodium, fat, and carbohydrates. Mixing these two ingredients creates a versatile and healthier alternative to use in various recipes.

White Grape Juice380 g4 mg9.4 g0 g0.3 g
Lemon Juice (per tbsp)30 g0 mg1.1 g0 g0 g

These healthy mirin substitutes provide a variety of options for those aiming to maintain a well-balanced diet. By using these alternatives, you can still enjoy the unique flavors in your dishes without the added calories, fat, sodium, or carbohydrates.

Mirin in Japanese Cuisine

Mirin is a sweet rice wine frequently used in Japanese cooking to add a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor to various dishes. With its distinctive taste and glossy sheen, it plays a significant role in Japanese Cuisine.

Teriyaki Sauce

In Teriyaki sauce, mirin’s inclusion is essential as it contributes to the balance of flavors achieved by combining soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Teriyaki sauce is widely known for its glossy appearance and a balance of sweet and salty flavors, which is mainly provided by mirin.


Ramen, a popular Japanese dish, often includes a touch of mirin in the broth. While mirin is not always used in every ramen recipe, it can add a hint of sweetness and umami to the dish. The use of mirin in ramen can enhance the depth of flavor in the soup, creating a more satisfying and rich experience.


In Sushi preparation, mirin is occasionally used to enhance the flavor of the sushi rice. By adding mirin to the rice, you create not only a gentle sweet taste but also a glossy appearance. This addition contributes to the overall experience of enjoying sushi, making it more than just a simple rice dish.

Mirin Alternatives for Specific Dishes

When preparing various dishes that call for mirin, there are suitable alternatives that can be used to achieve a similar taste and effect. In this section, we will discuss mirin substitutes for specific dishes, including stir-fries, soups, sauces, marinades, dressings, and dipping sauces.


  • Dry sherry: An excellent substitute for mirin in stir-fries, dry sherry contributes similar sweet and complex flavors. Use equal amounts of dry sherry as a one-to-one replacement for mirin.


  • White grape juice: White grape juice can be used in soups that require a subtle sweetness, similar to mirin. Add a splash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice to the grape juice for acidity. Use a 3:1 ratio of grape juice to vinegar or lemon juice.


  • Rice vinegar: In sauces that require a balance of sweetness and acidity, rice vinegar can be an effective alternative. Add sugar or honey to the rice vinegar, with a 3:1 ratio of vinegar to sugar, to replicate mirin’s distinct sweetness.


  • Sake: Sake, a Japanese rice wine, works well in marinades that call for mirin. Since sake is less sweet than mirin, it is recommended to add a bit of sugar. Use a 1:1 ratio of sake to sugar.


  • White wine: To create a similar flavor profile to mirin in dressings, consider using white wine. Combine the wine with 2 parts sugar for every 3 parts wine to create a mirin-like sweetness.

Dipping Sauces

  • Honey and water: For dipping sauces that require a touch of sweetness, a mixture of honey and water can be used as a mirin substitute. Combine equal parts honey and water to achieve the desired consistency.

Keep in mind that the alternatives listed above may not be perfect replacements for mirin, but they can provide a similar taste and effect in a variety of dishes. Adjust the quantities as necessary to suit your preferences and the specific dish you are preparing.

Experimenting with Mirin Substitutes

When cooking, it’s not uncommon for a recipe to call for mirin, a Japanese sweet rice wine with a mild flavor. However, not everyone has this ingredient readily available in their pantry. Thankfully, there are a variety of mirin substitutes that one can experiment with when it’s not on hand.

One popular substitute for mirin is a mixture of dry sherry or white wine with a small amount of sugar. This combination closely mimics the sweet and tangy taste of mirin. For every tablespoon of mirin, use:

  • 1 tablespoon of dry sherry or white wine
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon of sugar (adjust for desired sweetness)

Another option to consider while experimenting is rice vinegar. Since it’s made from fermented rice, the flavor profile is somewhat similar to mirin. To balance the acidity, this can be combined with sugar as well. For each tablespoon of mirin, mix:

  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

For cooks with a well-stocked pantry, sake may also serve as a suitable mirin substitute. Sake is another rice wine, but with a higher alcohol content and less sugar. To recreate mirin’s sweetness, combine sake with sugar. To replace 1 tablespoon of mirin, blend:

  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar

If sugar content is a concern, it’s possible to experiment with sugar alternatives like honey, maple syrup, or even stevia. Adjust the ratios to taste, always considering the unique flavor profiles these alternatives may introduce.

While these mirin substitutes may not be a perfect match, experimenting with them and adjusting proportions can still yield delicious results in the dishes, such as teriyaki sauce, marinades, or glazes where mirin is often used. So, don’t hesitate to try out these alternatives and make the most out of the available pantry options.

Mirin Substitutes: We Test the Best Options

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 6 votes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 123 kcal


  • Sake
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Sherry
  • White Wine
  • White Wine Vinegar


  • Try our kitchen tested ,mirin substitutes.


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Calories: 123kcal
Keyword mirin substitute
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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