The 12 Best Mirin Substitutes

Chris Starks
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The Best Mirin Substitutes

Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice liquor used to add flavor and umami to Japanese dishes, made by mixing glutinous rice with koji (Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae), a fungus starter, and yeast. It is rich in flavor, sticky, and sweet, usually paired with soy sauce to get that one-of-a-kind sweet and salty taste.

It’s important to know that mirin is not sake, though they both have alcohol in them and complement various dishes. Now you may ask, why can't we use sake for the same purpose? Here’s the difference: mirin has approximately 30 to 40% more sugar than sake and has a lighter body.

There are a couple of mirin substitutes out there. But when it comes to the most simple and cheap replacement, the choices come down to two things: water and sugar.

Most people choose to use sugar because it’s simpler and practical. But a lesser-known substitute is using 2 1/4 to 3 cups of water mixed with 2/3 cups sugar as a mirin substitute. The ratio is roughly two to one, and this can reasonably be called homemade mirin.

Here are 12 simple mirin substitutes to create a delicious Japanese meal in minutes.


Aji-Mirin translates to "tastes like mirin.” With a lower or non-existent alcohol content and a higher sugar content, Aji-Mirin is very different from hon-mirin.

Mirin is low-alcohol, viscous rice wine. The alcohol content is below or equal to 14%. The seasoning is used as a condiment, a marinade while grilling, a glaze for meats, and sauces for soy sauce.
The mirin flavor is slightly sweet and smoky, like that of sake, but not as strong. The sweetness comes from the endosperm of the rice. Aji-mirin has a slightly higher sugar content than standard mirin.

Takara Mirin

Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine made from fermented rice, and it is used as a cooking ingredient and a food ingredient in many types of Asian cuisine. The traditional method of making mirin includes combining alcohol (koji-alcohol) with steamed rice to form an alcoholic and acidic starter mash. The mash is then strained to separate the liquid from the solid matter and heated until it’s fully fermented.

Takara Mirin is also the original creator of our Mirin Replacement product. So it’s prudent to mention it as a possible alternative to replacing traditional mirin.

It is a unique combination of three key components – alcohol, amino acids, and sugar – and their synergetic effects in cooking. Takara Mirin is made with premium sake, rich in natural amino acids, containing alcohol and additional natural sweeteners.

Besides using this mirin to replace traditional mirin in recipes, it can also be used as a sweetener for hot drinks like tea or coffee.

Dry Sherry

Dry sherry wine is a fine cooking wine made from brandy and wine. It has an acidic, stiff flavor, similar to hon-mirin, but it’s way less sweet. Sherry is a fortified wine similar to Madeira. Look for a medium-dry variety, preferably with a nutty character and a tight, concentrated, cherry-ish finish. Amontillado is ideal. However, this substitute will lack an essential part of the original mirin, and that is the umami taste.

Many home and professional chefs also recommend adding a suitable amount of sugar to dry sherry, depending on each individual’s taste to imitate the mirin taste in your recipe.


Similar to dry sherry, Vermouth is a flavored wine fortified with brandy. It is also an excellent substitute for mirin.

Vermouth is sweetened and infused with spices and herbs, so it adds a subtle flavor to your favorite food. There are two kinds of vermouth: white, which is the dry one, and red, which is the sweet one. Both are equally suitable for cooking.

Since vermouth is less sweet than the Japanese rice wine, you may add extra sugar to recipes where you substitute vermouth for mirin. As a general recommendation, try adding two tablespoons of sugar for every 1/2 cup of vermouth in your recipe. However, it all depends on individual preference. This is perfect for dressings, glazing, and dipping sauces.

Marsala Wine

Marsala wine is a golden, rich cooking wine with a mild and pleasing flavor. It is a sweet cooking wine with hints of hazelnut. Marsala wine is a fortified wine which means that dry Marsala has a higher alcohol content than many other wines. It can be used as a natural marinade for meats and poultry, and it is a versatile choice for sautéing vegetables. It’s often used as a dessert wine to mimic the flavors of various Dutch and Portuguese desserts.

Its flavor adds a refined depth to sauces, marinades, glazes, and sautés. Its flavor is made mellow with the addition of herbs, spices, and vanilla, along with thick sugar syrup.

Marsala wine has a long history that dates back to 17th century England when the British sailors shipped it in for trading.

White Wine

Another substitute for mirin is white wine. The results won't be identical but they will be somewhat similar to using mirin. Try using white wine, preferably dry, and discover different fruity flavors. Or maybe experiment with using sweet white wine.

Both dry or sweet white wine can be used as a mirin substitute, but you need to make sure you add some sugar to it. Try adding 2 tablespoons of sugar for every tablespoon of white wine while substituting mirin with white wine in your recipe.


If you've ever tasted a dish marinated with Japanese rice seasoning, you know that good mirin is a wonderful flavor enhancer and tenderizer. Mirin's subtle sweetness reduces the need to rely on more calories and fat. Its salty-sweet combination packs an intriguing punch to just about anything, much in the same way soy sauce's salty-sour profile helps bring out the natural flavor and crunch.

Unfortunately, mirin is not sold outside of Japan, so imitation mirin is used widely in Japanese cuisine. Although mirin may have different brand names and packaging, you can easily substitute it with sake.

Sake is probably the best mirin substitute. Just add a little white sugar to it and make it sweeter to get the same flavor. It is to be noted here that mirin has a lower alcohol content compared to sake, but by adding extra sugar, you will be increasing the sweetness and lower the alcohol content of sake.

For every tablespoon of mirin, add 2 tablespoons of sugar to each teaspoon of sake for a similar flavor. Sake is best used in marinades as it removes odors from fish and meat. It is usually added before cooking to remove some of the alcohol content. Sake helps with tenderizing meat and adding umami flavor.

White Grape Juice

Grape juice is an excellent choice as a substitute for Mirin. Just like Mirin, it works well with sauces, soups, and steamed vegetables.
It's free of alcohol and a natural sweetener, but it’s milder than Mirin, so it’s great for enhancing but not overpowering food. To replicate the tangy taste of mirin, add a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of white grape juice for best results.

To substitute for Mirin, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of white grape juice for every tablespoon of Mirin you’d like to replace. Also, you can adjust the amount to suit your preferences or the recipe.

One thing to remember is that grape juice also contains juice. So when substituting for Mirin in a recipe that includes juice, make sure you account for the additional liquid from the grape juice. Replacing mirin with white grape juice in a recipe means adding a fruity flavor and giving up some umami flavor, thus making the recipe more diverse.

Rice Vinegar

Mirin is a condiment commonly used for seafood, sauces, glazes, or a topping for steamed rice. It is essential to Japanese cuisine, and it can be hard to come by if you live outside Japan. But since mirin is used very sparingly to flavor or glaze a dish, it’s easy to substitute with other ingredients you may already have in your kitchen.

Rice vinegar, Also known as rice wine vinegar, is another close substitute for mirin. It is non-alcoholic achieved by putting rice wine through a fermentation process to get this product, so the alcohol turns to acetic acid. It is significantly accepted as a mirin substitute in drawings and dipping sauces. Rice vinegar has a slightly sweet taste and a mild flavor.
To counteract the sourness of vinegar, consider adding half a teaspoon of sugar to every teaspoon of vinegar.

Distilled White Vinegar

Are you looking for an inexpensive and easily obtained substitute for Mirin? Then you should try distilled white vinegar. Combine this with a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. After bringing the mixture to a boil for 15 minutes, let it cool completely. Store it in a lidded jar and use it in place of Mirin at a 2:1 ratio.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a rich, thick, sweet, and dark vinegar. It’s made from white or red grapes. The longer the grape must age, the darker it’ll be, and it will also develop more complexity in flavor.

The price of balsamic will also vary depending on how dark it is and if it’s been aged in oak barrels. The best quality balsamic vinegar is aged between 18 and 100 years: the longer, the better, and the more expensive. Buy the darkest and most expensive balsamic that you can afford because the flavor will be deeper and more complex.

Balsamic vinegar makes a sweet, tart, and slightly tangy addition to any marinade, vinaigrette, or sauce. Balsamic vinegar is used in salad dressings, gourmet marinades, dipping sauces, and soup broth. Because of its rich flavor, it is also suitable as a mirin substitute.

Apple Cider

This acidic vinegar not only works as an amazing mirin substitute but also gives your food a punch and great flavors. Not to mention it has a plethora of health benefits and uses. Apple cider vinegar is the most recommended mirin substitute by most food experts. It is a great alternative that will help reduce the sugar intake in your diet.

One of the great things about mirin is its mild sweetness. But with ACV, you will have to add extra sugar to make your recipe taste right.


From Japan to Thailand, mirin is enjoyed both in its native country and throughout the world. It is produced by first fermenting steamed rice and is aged for at least three years in cedar casks. Mirin is meant to be enjoyed as a beverage and is often used to make a sauce for grilled food. Although it comes from a foreign country, mirin has become synonymous with Japanese cuisine even though it's now made in other places worldwide.

Mirin is used in many dishes and varies from light to dark, sweet to savory. It's a versatile cooking ingredient with a distinctly sweet flavor. However, some people may not want to use it because of its high alcohol content or available in limited supply. If that describes you, here we have presented 12 great substitutes for mirin.