Best Substitutes for Mirin

Best Substitutes for Mirin

Considered a star ingredient in teriyaki sauce and as a staple in Japanese cuisine for soups, dressings, marinades, sauces, stews, and soups, mirin is made from rice, koji (as in good yogurt bacteria), and distilled sake mixed together and kept for at least two months. 

Mirin is a bold, umami-rich seasoning that adds a flavorful depth to your dishes. Pure mirin can be quite difficult to find in your commercial grocery stores as they are often found in Asian specialty grocery stores and markets. 

If you don’t have any mirin in your kitchen or in stores, you might want to substitute the following for it: sake, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry, vermouth, marsala wine, and white wine. 

7 Best Substitutes for Mirin

A small amount of this condiment is all you need for the perfect recipe. However, nothing lasts forever, and so is your bottle of mirin. You would have to come prepared with substitutes in case you run out or your local grocery stores do. 

This article will save you from a kitchen nightmare! Read more to find out how:


This already constitutes half of mirin, which makes it a great substitute. Sake has a deodorizing and tenderizing effect for meat and fish while also adding that delicious umami flavor. 

Sake, especially when unfiltered, is sweet enough without needing any additives. However, there are some sakes that are rather dry. In this case, add a splash of white grape or apple juice or a pinch of sugar to sweeten it up. 

Follow a 1:2 ratio when using sake in recipes. That is, use 1 teaspoon of sake and 2 tablespoons of sugar for every 1 tablespoon of mirin a dish typically requires. 

Rice Vinegar

If you want none of that alcoholic content, you can use rice vinegar as a substitute for mirin. It has a sharp fermented but sweet flavor, perfect for sauces, dips, and dressings. 

Rice vinegar can come in various colors but most commonly transparent, red, black, or yellow, depending on the type of rice used in making the vinegar. You can use red rice vinegar for soups and noodles while black rice vinegar is great for stews. 

Make sure to add half a teaspoon of sugar to 1 teaspoon of vinegar to balance the sourness. You can also add a splash of any light-colored juice or just purchase sweetened rice vinegar right away. 

Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar

Made from boiling white grapes, including all of its parts (seeds, stem, and skin), and matured in wooden kegs for about a minimum of 12 years. Some of the top-quality balsamic vinegar is aged between 18 and 100 years. The general understanding is that the longer the time, the better, and the more expensive!

Best used in dipping sauces, soup broth, salad dressings, and gourmet marinades, balsamic vinegar has a rich, slightly sweet flavor with a thick consistency. 

You’re going to have to use a small amount of sugar to mimic the taste of mirin since balsamic vinegar tends to be too sour for cooking. 


Sherry, or sherry wine, has a complex taste with enthusiasts claiming it’s a mix of lemon and jackfruit with some savory flavors like mushroom. It has a sharp, acidic flavor similar to mirin but with less sweetness. 

You can use sherry for both sweet or savory dishes such as onion soups, grilled cheese, sautéed chicken, braised short ribs, and pork chops. 

Add sherry slowly by teaspoon so as to not overwhelm your dishes with its flavor profile. It is also recommended to add half a tablespoon of sugar for every tablespoon of sherry or honey for some sweetness, depending on your preferences. 


Here’s yet another mirin substitute coming from the liquor stash. Vermouth is flavored wine, similar to sherry, with fortified brandy. It has a sweet taste with some added flavors from herbs and spices to add a little adventure to your recipes.

Vermouth is best for dressings, glazing, dipping sauces, chicken dishes, braising meat and vegetables, poaching fish, or adding it into stews. 

The general recommendation for using vermouth is to add 2 tablespoons of sugar for every half a cup of vermouth required in your recipe, although it all still depends on your taste. You may also opt for some juice to balance the acidity. 


Marsala Wine

With its flavorful caramel and nutty taste, it’s not only a great complement after a meal or used as a deodorizing agent in cooking, but it’s also a great replacement for mirin. 

Its versatility is perfect as marinades for meat and poultry dishes or for sautéeing vegetables. Marsala wine also shares a similar sweet but acidic umami flavor as mirin.  

Marsala wine comes in two varieties: dry and sweet. Sweet marsala wine is more suitable since you don’t have to use any sugar additives anymore. If you only have the dry version, you’re going to have to add sugar. 

White Wine

When you’re in the mood for some kitchen experimentation, white wine can be a fun substitute to mirin. Medium-dry to dry white wine is the most suitable since you only need to dissolve a little amount of sugar to replicate the sweetness of mirin. 

White wine is surprisingly versatile, used as a deglazing agent for a pan sauce for fish, chicken, pork, or mushrooms. It can also be used in risotto if you want that extra acidic taste or for a pot of shellfish just before steaming. 

It’s best if you avoid sweet white wines like moscato or ice wine since they can prove to be a little too much for cooking. You can discover and try using fruity flavors for that extra kick in your recipes. 

Can Water Be A Substitute For Mirin?

Yes, water is decent enough as an alcohol-free substitute. It certainly won’t give you any of that sweetness, mild acidity level, or flavor you get from mirin. However, sugared or honeyed water would do. If you’re in a really tight pinch, you can add 1 part sugar or honey to 2 parts water.

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