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10 Best Mirin Substitutes (With Pictures)

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Mirin is an extract from white rice that is common in Japanese cuisines. It is similar to sake, but has a low alcohol content.

Its sugar is high and is also naturally formed from the fermentation process, which means they added no sugars. When this liquid is heated, the alcohol content is further lowered. But what if you suddenly ran out of mirin while cooking or you just want to use something else?

There are many mirin substitutes that you can use instead, such as sherry, white wine, sake, vermouth, rice vinegar, aji-mirin, shaoxing wine, balsamic vinegar, marsala wine, and white grape juice.

What Is Mirin?

Mirin is a common ingredient used in Japanese cooking. They are produced majorly from rice, koji, and alcohol. In Kansai cooking, mirin is usually boiled for a short time to remove its alcohol.

This style of cooking is called the nigiri mirin. Although the mirin is similar to sake, it is sweeter. The natural sweetness in mirin comes from its brewing process.

There usually are three types of mirin that are very common: the hon mirin, shio mirin, and shin mirin. Hon-mirin contains about 14% alcohol and involves 40-60 days of mashing; shio mirin is also known as the salt mirin. It has 1.5% salt and shin mirin, also known as a mirin-fu choir containing less than 1% alcohol.

Best Mirin Substitutes

You can always use these sweetened swaps mirin substitutes that would be discussed below for your Japanese white rice needs.

1. Sake

Mirin Substitutes

Sake is an excellent substitute for mirin, and since it is already a rice wine, it is already halfway prepared. Many kinds of sakes, especially the unfiltered ones, can be used as a direct substitute for mirin without any extra sweetening.

But in cases of drier sakes, just a splash of apple or white grape juice can make up for the taste. Even a pinch of sugar would do.

2. Sherry

Sherry tends to be very sweet, even the dryer ones. It has a delicate and complex flavor that contains the depth and acidity of white wine.

It has a sharp and robust flavor of its own. Continue to add a teaspoon of cherry until you achieve the richness you’re looking for.

3. White Wine

You can use any form of white wine as a substitute for mirin, though it is advised that you avoid the very sweet ones like ice wine because they can be too sugar-forward when using them in a recipe.

If you’re using a medium dried white wine, try dissolving a little sugar in it before adding it to the recipe to mimic mirin’s sweetness.

4. Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar has a sharp fermented flavor like rice wine. Add a tiny pinch of sugar to it or a splash of light-colored juice like white wine. You can use it to sweeten sushi rice in your Asian cuisines.

5. Vermouth

The same rule that applies to white wine and rice vinegar applies in this case. Add a little juice or sugar to dry vermouth to ensure the acid is balanced, but if you’re making use of sweet, fresh vermouth, use it as it is.

6. Aji-mirin

Although aji-mirin tastes and sounds like its mirin, it is not, which is why it’s a fantastic substitute for mirin.

You can find it in most markets outside Japan, but the original, traditional aji-mirin is very rare and expensive. It has a very low or nonexistent alcohol content and a very high sugar content.

Since it is not the original mirin used in Japanese cuisines, you can use it in your daily cooking to bring out that rich, umami flavor.

7. Shaoxing Wine

Shaoxing can be said to be the Chinese equivalent version of sake. It acts the same way sake does in cooking and should also be combined with sugar.

It has a salty and harsh flavor and is not intended for drinking. It is used mainly in Chinese foods ranging from stir fry sauces to soup broths and marinades.

8. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is an Italian vinegar made from boiled grapes, including the skin and seeds from the grapes. The best quality balsamic vinegar is aged between 18 to 100 years. The longer this vinegar stays, the better, and the more expensive it is.

It has thick consistency as the moisture evaporates during the maturation process; it has a dark color and a relatively strong flavor with a rich, tangy, and slightly sweet taste.

9. Marsala Wine

This fortified wine from Sicily is perfect for sauces with rich caramel and a nutty taste. There are two types also: the dry masala and the sweet masala.

The sweet marsala is said to be the best replacement for mirin as you can use it as it is without any need for additional sugar.

If using the dry marsala, add a pinch of sugar to regain its slightly sweet taste, which you might have lost. Marsala is majorly used in sautéing dishes, marinade meats, and poultry. It is very versatile, multipurpose, and contains many flavors.

10. White Grape Juice

White grape juice is another alcohol-free and sweetened substitute for mirin. To obtain the tangy taste of mirin in white grapes, add a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of white grapefruit until you get great results.

Adding white grape juice to your recipe gives it a fruity flavor and diverse taste, giving your dishes an umami flavor.

Can You Make Your Own Homemade Mirin?

Yes, you can make your own mirin at home. All you’ll be needing for your mirin recipe is just ¾ sake wine, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, and ¾ cup of water, nothing complex.

To make your homemade mirin, add sugar and water to a small saucepan, and place it on medium heat. Allow boiling for about 2-3 minutes before removing from heat.

You can now dribble in your sake slowly until you reach your desired level of sweetness. Stir in the mix and set it aside to cool completely. Then you can store it in a jar before putting it in the fridge.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Mirin Taste Like?

Mirin tastes a lot like sake, except that it has a lower alcohol content and a sweeter taste, but not to worry, the alcohol burns away during cooking.

What Is Mirin Used For?

Mirin is used to make sauces like the kabayaki sauce (made of mirin, soy sauce, and fishbones), nikiri mirin sauce (made of soy sauce, dashi, mirin, and sake), and teriyaki sauce. It is also used to make sushi, so the sushi rice vinaigrette.

Can I Mix Sake and Mirin in A Recipe?

Yes, mirin and sake can be used together to prepare a steamy sukiyaki hot pot. And in recipes where one has to be substituted for the other, it can be used in a ratio of 1:1 (sake: mirin), and for a similar and sweeter flavor, use a mixture of sake and water in the ratio of 1:2.