Sake is a Japanese wine made with rice that has its bran removed. It’s a clear wine with a water-like consistency and a robust flavor. Sake gives dishes a mild sweet taste and a nutty, fruity scent.
Apart from being a popular drinking wine, sake is also commonly used to tenderize meat and fish as well as to make baked products, stir-fries, flavored rice, soups, stews, brine, and sauces. You may not always have sake on hand. So, these substitutes for sake in cooking will work remarkably well when you can’t find this iconic rice wine.
Sherry is a type of fortified wine prepared with grapes. It comes in different varieties, but we would recommend that you use dry sherry as its alcohol content and flavor profile are similar to that of sake. The only difference is that sherry has a darker amber color and a stronger flavor than sake.
The sharp flavor of dry sherry will work really well in grilled dishes, sauces, stews, and stir-fries that require only a small amount of sake — a tablespoon or two. If you don’t have dry sherry, you can also use sweet sherry. Just make sure you reduce the amount of other sweeteners in your recipe to avoid making the dish overly sweet.
Use dry sherry in a 1:1 ratio to replace sake.
Vermouth is another type of fortified grape wine like sherry, although its composition is different. Vermouth is aromatized with herbs and spices to give it a unique depth of flavor. This also means that vermouth will have a different flavor than sake, but it can still make for a good substitute in a pinch.
You can replace sake with vermouth in several dishes including martinis, soups, and sauces. We recommend using white and dry vermouth to perfectly mimic the flavor profile of sake. If you’re making a sweet dish, you will have to mix more sugar than what your recipe calls for to make it more palatable.
1/2 cup sake = 1/2 cup vermouth + 2 tablespoons sugar.
Kombucha is a fermented sweet and sour drink made with black tea and yeast. It has a slightly tangy and tart taste, which is quite similar to the acidity of sake. While it contains some alcohol, it will not add the distinctive alcoholic taste of sake to your dish.
You can use kombucha to add flavor to dishes without worrying about extra calories. It also gives your dish a boost of probiotics and antioxidants, making it a healthy alternative. Keep in mind that store-bought kombucha will contain added flavors that can mess with the other flavors in your recipe. So, make sure you use homemade kombuchas for the best results.
Use kombucha in a 1:1 ratio to replace sake.
4. Rice Wine Vinegar
Rice wine vinegar is a type of vinegar made by fermenting rice. It has a moderate acidic taste with subtle sweetness and a flavor profile that matches that of sake. The only difference is that rice wine vinegar has a more intense flavor.
While you can use rice wine vinegar to replace sake in various dishes, it works best in dipping sauces and dressings. Keep in mind that rice wine vinegar tends to have a bitter and intense flavor. But, you can remedy that by diluting it with water or white grape juice to better mimic the flavor profile of sake.
1/4 cup sake = 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar + 3/4 tablespoons water or grape juice.
5. Shaoxing Wine
Shaoxing wine is a type of Chinese rice wine that is an essential ingredient in Chinese cooking. It’s made with rice that isn’t polished, so the wine has a more brownish yellow color. It also contains a small amount of salt, so it will be a good option for those on a low-sodium diet as you won’t have to add salt separately.
Shaoxing wine can add richness to just about any recipe that calls for sake. You can use it to marinate meats and veggies, but it will shine best in pale-colored dishes like sauces and soups. You can also use it to flavor wontons, dumplings, and stocks.
Use Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio to replace sake. (Start with a small amount and adjust to taste.)
6. White Wine
White wine is a type of wine made with white grapes and can range in color from straw-yellow to yellow-green and yellow-gold. It has zesty acidity and fruity flavors similar to sake, only at a much milder level.
You can use white wine in place of sake to add a touch of acidity to your meals. Full-bodied wines like 13% Chardonnay or Semillon will be great options because they’re easily available. However, they will not work well in sweet dishes. However, you can just use sweet white wine or add more sugar than what your recipe calls for to get the desired flavor.
1 tablespoon sake = 1 tablespoon white wine + 2 teaspoons sugar.
An easy substitute for sake is to simply use water. Water is colorless, odorless, and pretty much tasteless. So, while water will not match the flavor profile of sake, it’s a great alternative if you’re using sake for its consistency or merely as a liquid ingredient.
You can use water to replace sake in braising, boiling, simmering, and other cooking applications. It makes an easy substitute because it does not alter the flavors of other ingredients in the dish. Additionally, it does not contain alcohol (unless, of course, you add some yourself), so it will work wonderfully for those on an alcohol-free diet.
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