What Exactly Is Mirin and 8 Best Substitutes for Mirin

Mirin that often appears in Japanese food recipes, Do you know what exactly it is?
Here, I would like to introduce the raw materials of mirin, roles in cooking, and the best substitutes for it

What Is Mirin?

There are actually 2 types of mirin: Hon-mirin and mirin-style seasoning. Both of them are seasoning that sweeten dishes, but the raw materials are different. Please check the differences when purchasing.

What Is Hon-mirin?

The raw materials of hon-mirin are steamed sticky rice, koji rice, brewed alcohol, sugar, etc that are stipulated by the Liquor Tax Law of Japan.

Hon-mirin contains 14% or less alcohol, so it belongs to alcoholic beverages.

It has a rich flavor and mellow sweetness, and the price is generally higher than “mirin-style seasoning”.

What Is Mirin-style Seasoning?

The raw materials of mirin-style seasoning are sugar, rice, koji rice, acidulant, seasonings, etc.

It often contains flavor enhancer, and mirin-style seasoning is a different type of seasoning from hon-mirin.

Unlike hon-mirin, alcohol content is 1% or less. So, you can’t really expect the effect of eliminating the smell of meat and fish that alcohol contained in hon-mirin can do.

Good thing about mirin-style seasoning is that it’s relatively inexpensive than hon-mirin.

What Are the Roles of Mirin in Cooking?

Mirin upgrades food in many ways:

1. Add a slight simple sweetness which is different from sugar.
2. Add great umami (delicious flavor) and koku (richness).
3. Eliminate the odor of meat and fish.
4. Give dishes a glaze that makes them look delicious.
5. Make it easier for seasonings to soak in.
6. Prevent soft ingredients such as boiled fish and vegetables from collapsing.

The 8 Best Substitutes for Mirin

1. Sugar

Representative of the sweetness that is characteristic of mirin should be sugar!

I think for most of you, sugar is seasoning that is always available at home. So, this is the easiest substitute for mirin.

It can be said that it is an excellent substitute for mirin because it gives glaze when used for simmered dishes and teriyaki dishes.

It’s okay to use it alone, but adding it with some sake is highly recommended.
Please click here to see the proportion of it:
Can I Use Sugar Instead of Mirin?

2. Honey

Another sweet seasoning is honey.

Since honey can give great glaze to the dishes rather than sugar, it would be the best substitute for mirin when making simmered dishes or teriyaki.

Also, it is easy to dissolve in liquid and very easy to use.

Honey can produce the same sweetness as sugar in half to 2/3 of the amount, so you could also reduce calories.

3. Cola

In fact, cola can be used as a substitute for mirin too. Because cola contains sugar and caramel, they can add sweetness and koku (richness) to dishes. It can also glaze them.

Note that the strong flavor of cola may ruin the dishes. So, it’s recommended to use cola for dishes with strong seasoning.

For example, strongly seasoned meat dish or barbecue sauce are the best idea! You will have umami and sweetness with the cola. Also, carbonic acid contained in cola softens meat actually.

4. Brown Sugar

Unlike the regular sugar, it has a characteristic scent and rich sweetness. This rich sweetness of brown sugar is especially suitable for simmered dishes that need a robust flavor.

5. Apple

Unlike other substitutes, apple has refreshing sweetness and a little sour taste. So, it can give great accent to dishes.

Actually, the sourness of apple replaces umami (delicious taste) when heated which is the work similar to mirin.

One more thing you should know about apple is that enzyme contained in apple soften the meat. So, this substitute is the best match for meat dishes again!

6. Sake

Sake or cooking sake, both of them have great role of eliminating the smell of ingredients such as meat and fish. It’s because alcohol contained in sake removes odor when evaporating by heating.

Since hon-mirin also contains alcohol, sake would be good substitute for mirin.

Note that you should add a little sugar in order to accurately reproduce mirin.

Please click here to see the proportion of it:
Can I Use Sugar Instead of Mirin?

7. Amazake

Amazake is sweet sake made from koji rice and steamed rice or sake lees. Since it has great sweetness and umami, amazake would be good substitute for mirin too.

Note that it has strong unique flavor, so you should add it little by little when adding to dishes.

What Is Amazake?

8. Plum Wine

Plum wine contains a lot of sugar, in other words, it’s an excellent substitute for mirin that combines good aspects of sake and good aspects of sugar.

If you don’t like the plum flavor, you should use it for strong-tasting food.

If you like or are fine with the smell of plum, just use it as mirin for any type of food while taking advantage of the flavor of plum.

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