5 Mirin Substitutes That Live in Your Pantry (or Bar)

Try these easy swaps for all your sweetened Japanese rice wine needs.

February 15, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Mirin is a sweetened Japanese rice wine commonly whisked into sauces, dressings, and marinades, and added to simmered dishes like soups and stews. A little goes a long way, but a bottle won't last forever. If you find yourself fresh out of this fragrant, umami-rich seasoning but still want to add the flavor and depth that comes from cooking with wine, here are our best mirin substitutes, so you can get that Japanese-style roast chicken on the table without further delay.

1. Sake

Sake makes a great substitute for mirin—already being rice wine takes it halfway to the finish line. Many kinds of sake, especially unfiltered, are sweet enough to substitute for mirin without any doctoring up. In the case of drier sake, a splash of apple or white grape juice or a pinch of sugar will make up for it.

2. Sherry

Sherry tends to be on the sweet side (even the drier ones), and has a delicate but complex flavor that can mimic the depth and acidity of rice wine. It has a sharp, strong flavor on its own, so add it by the teaspoon until you've achieved the richness you're looking for.

3. Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar has a similarly sharp fermented flavor as rice wine (seeing as it used to be rice wine). As with white wine, temper rice vinegar's tartness with sugar, add a little splash of light-colored juice, or use the sweetened rice vinegar used to season sushi rice in your supermarket's Asian foods section.

4. White Wine

You can also use most kinds of white wine to substitute for mirin, though it's generally best to avoid very sweet ones like moscato or ice wine (as they can be too sugar-forward for cooking). If you're using a medium-dry to dry white wine, dissolve a little sugar in it before adding to the dish to mimic the sweetness mirin would contribute.

#5. Vermouth

You may notice you'll be hitting the liquor stash more than the pantry when it comes to mirin substitutes. The same rule applies in this case: Use sweet vermouth, or add a little juice or sugar to dry vermouth to ensure the acid is balanced.

Which mirin substitute would you use in a pinch? Let us know in the comments.

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Jess Kapadia

Written by: Jess Kapadia

Jess is a food and travel writer/editor who grew up in her mom's Indian-Jewish hybrid kitchen. She's written for publications including Edible Los Angeles, Saveur, The Daily Meal, Food Republic, The Spruce Eats, and Food52. Jess lives in Brooklyn with her cats, Frasier and Niles.