Mirin is a sweetened Japanese rice wine that is a rich, syrupy liquid with a distinctly sweet taste. It adds a wonderfully unique sweet flavor to anything it’s added to including soups, marinades, and sauces. Apart from Japanese cuisine, mirin also makes for an excellent addition to many Western dishes and can even be used to make different beverages. You’ll be surprised by the world of possibilities mirin can offer.
Given the unique flavors of mirin, it can be a hard-to-replace ingredient. But, if you’re looking for alternatives, these mirin substitutes can add a similar complex flavor and depth to your dish.
1. Agave Syrup (Diluted)
Agave syrup has a thick consistency and may vary in color, ranging from light to amber and dark. It has a caramel-like flavor that will give your dish a similar sweetness to mirin, although at a much more intense level. However, if you make minor changes in its consistency, agave syrup can work as a good alternative.
Agave syrup will work as a substitute for mirin in certain dishes only, such as glazes, specialty cocktails, and drinks. Keep in mind that agave does not have the acidity of mirin, so it can make your dish overly sweet. To avoid that, you can dilute agave syrup with water to add a milder, more neutral flavor to delicate-tasting dishes.
1 teaspoon mirin = 1 teaspoon agave + 3 teaspoons water.
2. Rice Wine Vinegar
Rice wine vinegar, as the name suggests, is a type of vinegar made using rice wine. It is a clear-colored liquid with a sweet, acidic taste that’s similar to mirin. Because both ingredients are made using fermented rice, rice wine vinegar can be considered one of the best mirin substitutes.
You can use rice wine vinegar in any dish that calls for mirin. But, you should know that rice wine vinegar has an 18-25% alcohol content, so it will not be suitable for those looking for an alcohol-free alternative. Rice vinegar also has a tart flavor that’s stronger than mirin, so you will need to add in a little amount of sugar (or a splash of juice) to balance out the acidity of the vinegar and make it more palatable.
1 teaspoon of mirin = 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar + 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
Sake is a sweet alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice and comes in different varieties. It will give your dish various fruity flavors similar to apples, bananas, and other fruits, which isn’t far from the subtle sweetness of mirin. Given that sake is also a type of rice wine like mirin, it makes for an easy substitute.
You can use sake to replace mirin in sauces, soups, and many other recipes. Although sake tends to be less sweet than mirin, so you may want to add a splash of fruit juice or some sugar to balance out the flavors. Sake’s higher alcohol content can also increase the recipe’s cook time, so add it earlier than you would add mirin to get the desired results.
1 teaspoon mirin = 1 teaspoon of sake + 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
Sherry is a wine made with white grapes. It has a very distinctive nutty flavor, although the flavor varies greatly depending on the type of Sherry. But, it does have a more nuanced and complex flavor that can help you mimic the taste of mirin.
You can use sherry to replace mirin in various dishes including sauces, glazes, and marinades. However, since sherry has a sharp, strong flavor, it’s best to use dry sherry to avoid overpowering the delicate flavors of your recipe. You will also need to add a bit of sugar or honey to mimic the sweetness of mirin and get the richness you’re looking for.
1 teaspoon mirin = 1 tablespoon dry sherry + 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
Vermouth is a red or white wine that’s flavored with aromatic herbs. It differs in taste and strength across manufacturers but typically brings in bitter, sweet, acidic, and herbal notes. While commonly used to make cocktails, the sweet vermouth with its hearty notes of spices can be used to replace mirin in many dishes.
When used as a stand-in for mirin, vermouth can add exceptional flavors to everything from cocktails to dressings and marinades. Since vermouth does not have the sweetness of mirin, you will need to add a little juice or sugar before using it to create a balanced flavor.
1 tablespoon mirin = 1 tablespoon vermouth + 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
Vinegar has a sour taste that lends itself beautifully to a range of dishes. It offers similar acidic notes as mirin without any alcohol content, making it the perfect substitute for those on halal or alcohol-free diets.
When using it as a substitute, keep in mind that mirin is much sweeter than vinegar. So, you will need to add some granulated sugar to the mix to replicate the flavor profile of mirin in your dishes. Make sure you use plain vinegar and not white wine vinegar as the latter can give you quite a challenge in the tempering process.
1 tablespoon mirin = 1 tablespoon vinegar + 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
7. White Wine
White wine is an alcoholic beverage made with different types of white grapes. Just like red wine, white wine is also used for cooking and adds richness to a dish. It has the same consistency and flavor as mirin, so it will work exemplarily well as a substitute.
You can use white wine to add a complex flavor to any dish including soups and sauces. Just make sure you don’t use Moscato, ice wine, or other sweet white wine types as they can add lots of sweetness to your dish. Stick to dry white wine like Sauv Blanc or Pinot Grigio to mimic the sweetness of mirin, but make sure you mix in a small amount of sugar for an authentic mirin flavor.
1 tablespoon mirin = 1 tablespoon white wine + 1/2 teaspoon sugar.