Rice wine is a delicious alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice starch. It’s been traditionally consumed for centuries throughout Asia from the west all the way to Japan where they call it “sake”. Rice wine has a sweet and mild flavor accompanied with pleasant notes of savoriness.
Most rice wines are on the sweeter side, but some of them can be dry, especially if they’re made for cooking. If you’re looking for a rice wine substitute, here is a curated list of 5 equally good alternatives.
#1. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is used to prepare a multitude of cuisines. It has balanced acidity and fruitiness that complements a plethora of cooked dishes, sauces, meats, and salads.
White wine vinegar is the closest substitute to rice wine in terms of bitterness, sweetness, and acidity. White wine vinegar has a very mellow presence that makes it a more approachable ingredient for cooking. It’s more accepting of other flavors and offers a crisp finish.
The only difference you may experience with white wine vinegar is a mild element of fruitiness, but it will cut through the other flavors very cleanly. Since the ingredients in white wine vinegar are similar to those in rice wine, you can substitute rice wine evenly with white wine vinegar.
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine = 1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar.
#2. Dry Sherry
Dry sherry has quite a unique flavor. It has traces of nuttiness with flavors of dried fruit and some salinity. Rice wine runs along a somewhat similar trail in terms of taste, but what makes them natural substitutes is their paralleled mildness.
You can use the same amount of dry sherry as rice wine in your recipe. However, remember to pick the dry varieties when you’re out shopping. There are many types of sherry products, so it’s easy to get confused. Cooking sherries are sweeter, while dry sherries are tangier and on par with rice wine. And if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic substitute, try sherry vinegar.
Expect sherry to add a slightly different flavor to your recipes if your recipe requires large quantities of wine. However, if your recipe calls for a wine reduction, cooking sherry would be a more suitable choice than dry sherry.
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine = 1 Tbsp. Dry Sherry.
#3. Champagne Vinegar
Champagne vinegar is made by fermenting champagne and has a distinct flavor. Champagne is a type of sparkling wine made from specific grapes from specific regions. It’s sweet, mildly bitter, and has a velvety mouthfeel bursting with flavors.
The process of turning champagne into champagne vinegar exacerbates all of its flavors, making it similar to rice wine. Like rice wine, champagne vinegar adds a light and delicate flavor to dishes. It’s great for reductions and dressings and goes particularly well with seafood dishes, marinades, and dipping sauces.
Champagne vinegar and rice wine are virtually on par in all aspects of flavor, from sweetness to acidity. So you can substitute champagne vinegar in equal parts with rice wine in any recipe.
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine = 1 Tbsp. Champagne Vinegar.
#4. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar might be the nearest you can come to achieving the nuance of rice wine since they’re both derived from the same product. If you’re preparing an Asian dish, rice vinegar is the next best option. Most traditional Asian recipes for salads, stews, and rice dishes call for rice vinegar.
Rice vinegar adds a tangy flavor to dishes. It has a similar flavor, but it’s a bit stronger than rice wine as it is more fermented. However, rice vinegar is known for being too dry on the palate. If you’re preparing a stir-fry marinade, you should also add some apple or grape juice to rice vinegar for sweetness.
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine = ½ Tbsp. Rice Vinegar.
#5. White Wine
White wine is one of the most balanced ingredients you can use for cooking. It adds a beautiful aroma to cooked dishes along with a mouthful of complex fruity, mineral, or spice notes depending on the winemaker. When you’re incorporating white wine in your food instead of rice wine, proper research to find a suitable wine is an important step you shouldn’t ignore.
Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are popular among wine drinkers and chefs. They’re known for providing just the right amount of crispness and tartness to a dish. However, any medium-bodied white wine with mild sweetness and delicate herbal notes can also do the trick when you’re looking for a rice wine substitute.
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine = 1 Tbsp. White Wine.