I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of mirin substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured I’ve got you covered.
The best substitute for mirin is Aji-mirin, a cheaper and slightly sweeter mirin copy. Sake, dry white wine, or dry sherry are also good options but you might need to add a bit of suagr for sweetness. For an alcohol-free mirin substitute, mix rice vinegar with a sweetner.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of teriyaki sauce which I paired with a seared salmon filet (yum!!) to try out different mirin substitutes.
Mirin is a rice wine made by fermenting steamed glutinous rice and koji in distilled rice liquor. It’s got an ABV of around 14%.
It’s a staple in Japanese cuisine and boasts a delicately sweet, umami taste with a subtle acidity.
You’ll find mirin in sauces, dressing, sushi rice, dips, and marinades (where it helps tenderize proteins). Teriyaki sauce wouldn’t be the same without it!
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Aji-Mirin||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Sake||1 tbsp mirin = 1 tbsp sake + 1/4 tsp of sugar or honey||10/10|
|Dry white wine||Replace in a 1:1 ratio with dry white wine + pinch of sugar||9/10|
|Rice vinegar||1 tbsp mirin = 1 tbsp sake + ½ tsp of sugar or honey||9/10|
|Sherry||Start with a teaspoon of sherry, add more to taste||9/10|
|Kombucha||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Diluted sweeteners||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|White grape juice||1 tbsp mirin = 1 tbsp juice + splash lemon juice||8/10|
|Vermouth (sweet)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
Common uses of mirin
Here are some common use cases for mirin and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For marinades, glazes, and sauces: Try using aji-mirin, sake, or white wine. Rice vinegar also works, but you’ll need to combine it with a pinch of sugar to tone down the tang.
- For soups and stews: Try using aji-mirin, sake, white wine, or sherry.
- For seasoning rice: Try using aji mirin, sake, or sweetened rice vinegar.
If you’ve seen a bottle of aji-mirin and are wondering if it’s the same as mirin, you’re in luck! They’re extremely similar and you can use them interchangeably.
Aji-mirin literally translates to “tastes like mirin“, and it’s a cheaper alternative to traditional mirin.
They generally have more sweeteners, but the difference isn’t too drastic.
The untrained palate won’t notice a difference!
And you can always add a splash of vinegar to balance out the sweeter profile.
How to substitute: replace mirin in a 1:1 ratio with Aji-mirin.
Sake (+ honey)
Sake is another Japanese alcohol that makes a great replacement for mirin.
It’s also made with fermented rice, so is has a similar base flavor.
But it’s more alcoholic that mirin (around 18-20% ABV) and it’s less sweet. Though you can easily fix this by mixing the sake with a pinch of sugar or honey.
Have a small taste of the sake first before deciding how much sugar to add, if any. Sweetness varies by brands and some might already be sweet enough for you.
Psst… apple of white grape juice can also work instead of sugar.
How to substitute: replace 1 tbsp mirin with 1 tbsp sake + a small amount of sugar or honey.
Dry white wine
That bottle of white wine in your mini-bar can save the day when you realise you’re out of mirin.
But tread lightly with your selection.
Sweeter wines like Moscato will make your dish overly sweet. So it’s smarter to opt for a dry, more acidic white wine.
The extra acidity is also useful for marinades where you want to keep your protein tender and oh-so-juicy.
Pro-tip: choose a white wine you like drinking, and add a bit of sugar to mirror the sweet notes of mirin.
How to substitute: replace mirin in a 1:1 ratio with dry white wine, adding sugar or your chosen sweetener to taste.
Rice vinegar (alcohol free)
Rice vinegar is a great non-alcoholic substitute for mirin.
Being a vinegar, it’s a lot more tart and acidic than mirin. So like with sake and wine, you’ll need to mellow this out with a sweetener like sugar or honey.
For every tablespoons of rice vinegar, add 1/2-2 teaspoon of sugar.
And a pinch of salt to round out the flavours.
You can also use white wine vinegar.
Pro tip: if you use sugar it’s best to make a simple syrup first to make sure the sugar dissolves.
How to substitute: replace 1 tbsp mirin with 1 tbsp rice vinegar + ½ tsp of sugar or honey.
Another potential substitute for mirin you might already have is sherry, but make sure it’s a dry variety.
Sweet sherry will be far to sweet!
Even the dry options are on the sweeter side compared to mirin, but they also have undertones of acidity which mimic the complexity of mirin.
Sherry has a pretty strong flavor, so it’s best to treat it like a potent spice. Start by adding a small amount and build up from there to prevent it from stealing the show.
How to substitute: start by replacing mirin with a teaspoon of sherry, and gradually add more to taste.
This is a surprisingly good (and super healthy) non-alcoholic stand-in for mirin.
Kombucha is sweet, acidic, and has lots of complexity.
There’s loads of flavors available, but try to go for a plain or more savory one like ginger. The fruity options might clash too much with the other ingredients in your dish.
One catch with kombucha is the fizzy consistency, it didn’t really make much difference in my teriyaki sauce. But if you’re using a lot it’s something to be aware of.
How to substitute: replace mirin in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of kombucha.
Sugar (alcohol free)
If mirin’s primary role in your dish is to add sweetness and you don’t need any acidity, you can get away with replacing it with sugar – although there wont be any of that umami depth.
White sugar is easy, cheap, and accessible. But let’s not limit our options!
Consider honey, agave nectar, or even maple syrup for a more exotic touch.
I even tried using the syrup from canned pineapples for my teriyaki sauce – and it was a hit.
Pro ti: to make sure the final sauce doesn’t end up too sweet, dilute the sweetener with water first.
How to substitute: replace mirin in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of diluted sweetener.
Vermouth is a really good substitue for mirin, but it’s not something most people have to hand or will want to buy a whole bottle of (unless you like martinis!) which is why it’s so low down.
It’s got herby, aromatic undertones that added a delicious depth to my teriyaki sauce.
And a decent amount of acidity to keep things bright.
Sweet vermouth is best, but you can also use dry and add a bit of something sweet to balance out the sharpness.
How to substitute: replace mirin in a 1:1 ratio with sweet vermouth.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for mirin substitutes, but here are some other alternatives you can try:
- Apple cider vinegar – this pantry staple has a mildly acidic kick and a fruity sweetness, making it a solid alcohol-free alternative for mirin. Like with the other vinegar options, a bit of sugar won’t do any harm!
- Sweet Marsala wine – this shares mirin’s sweet, umami, and acidic notes with a nice caramelized flavor. It’s a great option if you have some in your kitchen (go for the sweet version).
- Chinese cooking wine – also known as Shaoxing wine. It’s a variety of rice wine, but has a higher content than mirin and a richer, more savory flavor profile. You’ll want to add it quite early in the recipe to make sure all the alcohol cooks off.
- Apple or white grape juice – both these juices have a similar amber color to mirin and a delicious sweet-but-sour flavor. They aren’t quite as tart, but a splash of lemon juice can fix this.
Balsamic vinegar – substitute to avoid
I wanted this substitute option to work because balsamic vinegar is a kitchen staple, but I wasn’t impressed.
Balsamic vinegar will work if you’re making a dressing, but it tasted too fruity and tangy to be a replacement for mirin.
Plus, it has a dark color and a syrupy consistency that can affect your dish’s final appearance.
BEST Mirin Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1 tbsp aji-mirin
- 1 tbsp sake + ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp white wine + ½tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar + ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sherry, add more to taste
- 1 tbsp sugar or any sweeteners
- 1 tbsp white grape juice
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen mirin substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.