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BEST Shaoxing Wine Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of Shaoxing wine substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.

Dry sherry is the best substitute for Shaoxing wine. The secon best option is another Chinese rice wine. To replace small amount of Shaoxing wine you can use sake or mirin. And for a non-alcoholic alternative, chicken broth is your best bet.

The experiment

I made small batches of kung pao chicken to test several Shaoxing wine substitutes. 

Shaoxing wine is a rice wine that originates from a city in China that has the same name. It has a dark amber color and boasts a rich, nutty flavor with a slight sweetness. It has an 18-25% Alcohol by Volume (ABV), which is pretty boozy. But it’s not made for drinking! Most of the Shaoxing wine in the US has added salt to avoid high alcohol taxes.

It’s a staple ingredient in pretty much all of your favorite Chinese dishes. Seriously, they can’t get enough of the stuff! Finding an exact substitute that could match its flavor was difficult, but I did find options. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesSubstitute directionsVerdict
Dry SherryReplace in 1:1 ratio9/10
MijiuReplace in 1:1 ratio8/10
SakeReplace in 1:1 ratio6/10
MirinReplace with ¾ the amount6/10
Dry white wineReplace with 1/2 the amount5/10
Chicken brothReplace in 1:1 ratio5/10
Ginger-sichuan peppercorn waterReplace in 1:1 ratio8/10

Common uses for Shaoxing wine

For marinades: Use dry sherry, another Chinese rice wine, or sake (a Japanese rice wine). For a non-alcoholic alternative, try ginger and Sichuan peppercorn-infused water. 

For stir-fries and sauces: Any rice wine will work, or mirin if you don’t mind some added sweetness. Chicken stock is a non-alcoholic option.

For braises, soups, and stocks: The only real option here is dry sherry, but you really should try and get the real deal!

Dry sherry

Dry sherry may have originated from Spain, but it’s a very popular stand-in for Shaoxing wine and you’ll sometimes see it called for in Asian recipes online, not because it’s an ingredient in the traditional recipe, but because they’ll assume you don’t have any Shaoxing wine!

It’s much easier to find, and it matches the deep complexity and slight sweetness of Shaoxing wine’s flavor well.

I would go with regular drinking dry sherry if you can, but cooking sherry will work too. Like most Shaoxing wine sold in the US, cooking sherry has added salt to preserve it and this dulls the flavor. SALT

Psst… whiskey isn’t a bad shout either if you have some good quality stuff to hand.

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio with dry sherry.

Mijiu (Chinese cooking wine)

Mijiu translates to “rice wine”, and Shaoxing is a type of mijiu. But there are plenty of other varieties of Chinese cooking wines you can use instead.

Some will be clear and some might have a yellow tinge. The clear stuff is more common and has a more delicate flavor compared to Shaoxing wine, which makes it an excellent choice for dishes with lighter proteins like chicken or seafood.

You could compare the difference between the two rice wines to the difference between light and dark soy sauce. One adds a slight saltiness (clear rice wine), while one also adds richens and depth (Shaoxing wine).

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio with Mijiu.


Sake is also a rice wine but with Japanese origins instead of Chinese. It has rich, umami notes like Shaoxing, but the actual flavor is pretty different, it’s more fruity and floral than nutty and caramely.

It works well as a substitute if you’re using small amounts, but if you need to use a lot the flavor differences will become more pronounced.

Similarly to Shaoxing wine, you can get regular sake that you can cook with and drink with, or cooking sake, which is salted and cheaper. If you have the regular sake, taste it before you add it to your dish because it can vary in sweetness.

Soju is another option. It’s sweeter than sake, but has a fairly neutral flavor profile, so it’s best in dishes where Shaoxing wine isn’t providing the bulk of the flavor.

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio with Sake (or use less if it’s a sweet version).


In a real pinch, you can use mirin instead of Shaoxing wine. And I mean in a pinch.

Mirin is a lot sweeter than Shaoxing wine, so you’ll need to cut out any sugar in the recipe and hold back on other sweeteners like honey. The flavor is also quite different and you won’t get that ‘Chinese’ feel from the dish, but it will add richness and umami notes.

Pro tip: if there’s no sugar or sweeteners to omit, either accept your dish will end up sweeter or add a splash of lime juice to counteract the sweetness.

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine with 3/4 the amount of mirin and leave out any sugar the recipe calls for.

Dry white wine + soy sauce

Dry white wine’s light, crisp taste is a far cry from Shaoxing wine’s unique flavor, but it’s a handy substitute for recipes like kung pao chicken, where only a tiny amount is needed. And mixing it with soy sauce adds some depth.

Stick with lighter-flavored dry white wines like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc to avoid overpowering your dish.

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine with half the amount of white wine to start and add more to taste.

Chicken broth

Chicken broth is the way to go if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative for Shaoxing. It won’t have anywhere near the same flavor, but it will add a savory depth to your dishes.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative, go for mushroom stock. I find it’s much more full-flavored than traditional vegetable stock, so works better to replace the robust Shaoxing wine.

And to level up the flavor, try mixing the stock with a tiny splash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar. The acidity and sweetness help balance out the savory flavors of the stock and give the mixture more complexity.

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio with chicken or mushroom stock.

Ginger-sichuan peppercorn water

If you’re using the Shaoxing wine in a marinade, a common alcohol free alternative used in China is ginger and sichuan peppercorn water, or simply ginger water.

Smash around 1 inch of ginger and optionally mix in 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns. Then pour over half a cup of hot water and let it steep for 15 minutes before removing the solid ingredients.

I tried this substitute in my kung pao, and it didn’t really add the same qualities as Shaoxing wine. But I will definitely try it next time I need something for a marinade!

How to substitute: replace Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio with your infused water.

Other substitutes to consider

The suggestions above are my top substitutes for Shaoxing wine, but the list continues! Here are other alternatives worth a try if you have them on hand: 

  • Dry vermouth: Vermouth isn’t a perfect substitute, but a practical one because it’s widely available. Although it lacks the fermented nuance of Shaoxing, it will bring a similar balance of sweetness and herbal undertones to your dish.
  • Cheongju: Cheongju is a Korean rice wine that’s pretty hard to find, which is why it’s not on the main list. It’s got a crisper flavor compared to Shaoxing wine and a hint of sweetness.
  • Leave it out: If your recipe calls for less than a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine, then you can simply leave it out. It’s mostly there as a flavor enhancer, and the recipe will still taste delicious without it… my kung pao definitely did.

Substitutes to avoid

Most of the substitute suggestions for Shaoxing wine aren’t an exact flavor match, but I came across some suggestion that were utterly off-mark. For example, fruit juices like apple or white grape are far sweeter than Shaoxing wine. Even after I mixed them with a bit of vinegar, they were still too sweet. 

Some people also get confused and assume that rice wine vinegar is the same or similar to rice wine, but they’re not and they shouldn’t be substituted for one another. A good way to think of it is that you can potentially drink rice wine, because it has an inherent sweetness. Rice vinegar would be waaaay too acidic to drink.

Best Shaoxing Wine Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I tested several different Shaoxing wine substitutes to find the best one.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: shaoxing wine substitutes, substitutes for shaoxing wine
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
Calories: 18kcal


  • 1 tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp mijiu
  • tbsp dry white wine + 1/4 tsp lime juice
  • ½ tbsp sake
  • ¾ tbsp mirin + pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp ginger-sichuan peppercorn water


  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chosen Shaoxing wine substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.


Serving: 1tbsp | Calories: 18kcal

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