Salad dressings, marinades, and many Asian sauces call for this Japanese sweet wine. 
Credit: Cooking Light

Is mirin the same as rice vinegar? Many assume it is, but mirin is a Japanese sweet wine made from rice that lends mild acidity to a dish. It is similar to sake, but is lower in sugar and alcohol, and provides a more umami flavor to savory dishes.

It’s a handy ingredient to have in your pantry because many Asian and fusion recipes call for it. But if you don’t have it in your cupboard, no worries: Simple subs and hacks can easily mimic mirin’s sweet-tangy flavor.

These pantry staples can all be used as 1:1 substitutes for mirin.

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar is a fermented, slightly salty, slightly sweet condiment used in salad dressings, to season sushi rice, and other Asian dishes and marinades. Since mirin is much sweeter than rice vinegar, you'll need to add about a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of rice vinegar before you use it as a substitute for mirin. 

Dry sherry

Being a wine, sherry has a similar body and flavor to mirin, so it's an excellent substitute. It's sweeter than rice vinegar and it has an alcohol content similar to mirin. Depending on whether the recipe you're cooking is sweet or savory, you may want to add a little sugar or honey to sweeten the dry sherry, as mirin is a little bit sweeter than sherry. 

Sweet marsala wine

Marsala is another wine that shares mirin's sweetness, umami, acidic, and alcohol flavors. However, it is also a bit less sweet than mirin, so add a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of marsala wine. 

Dry white wine 

If you don't have sherry, marsala, or rice vinegar, you likely have a bottle of dry white wine in your pantry or refrigerator. You can use dry white wine as a 1:1 substitute for mirin, as long as you add the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of dry white wine. 

If you’re ready to try mirin (or one of its sweet substitutes), check out these recipes:

If you can't find mirin in the vinegar aisle, check your Asian grocery store or the Asian section in your traditional grocery store. If that fails, head to online retailers.

You may more commonly find it in grocery stores as "aji-mirin," which is essentially mirin with extra sweeteners, but we recommend going the extra mile to buy the real thing. Mirin is shelf stable for several months to more than a year, so one bottle will last you a while.