Cooking Guide: All the Things You Need to Know about Mirin

One of the Japanese cuisine trademarks is the sauces with umami flavor. Everyone is familiar with soy sauce, but there is another key ingredient in Japanese recipes that you must know of, mirin. It is a Japanese rice wine that highlights a sweet, umami-rich flavor.

Mirin is a staple condiment in Japanese cooking, so you should make this a pantry essential in your kitchen. Its mellow sweetness is different from sugar, which gives a rich flavor to dishes and a nice contrast in combination with other Asian sauces. You can also check out a mirin substitute if you can’t find one. Nevertheless, mirin is a versatile ingredient for Japanese dishes. Thus, here’s a simple guide to know more about mirin.

What is Mirin

Mirin is composed of rice years, Japanese rice wine, and alcohol. There are three types of mirin that contain different amounts of alcohol, from 20% to 1%. It is light gold and boasts a bold umami flavor, which makes it a popular ingredient in Asian marinades and sauces. The sugar content of the mirin also adds shine to dressings and glazes.

History of Mirin

Japanese people have used mirin for many centuries. It started as a drink which is consumed in small cups like sake. Over time, it was discovered that this sweet rice wine was an excellent addition to sauces and cooked meals. And this is how it is used these days. Mirin is sold in bottles and can be found with other Asian cooking ingredients in grocery stores worldwide. Also, it is sold under many brand names, so it is recommended to try various brands until you find the one you like the best.

How Mirin Is Made

Mirin’s main ingredient is koji—cooked rice or soya beans that have been inoculated with a fermentation culture. It is also used in making popular ingredients, such as sake, miso, and soy sauce. When koji has been cultivated, it is mixed with larger quantities of rice or soya beans with glutinous rice and distilled spirit shochu. The enzymes in the koji break down proteins and carbs into simple sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids. One of the amino acids released is glutamate, giving mirin an umami taste.

Why Is Mirin an Asian Staple

Known as one of Japan’s secret ingredients, mirin has a unique flavor. It may not be as popular as the other seasonings and condiments, but it is also an essential ingredient in several Asian recipes. Its delicate and careful fermentation process is the answer to mirin’s sweet flavor, which is hard to create with other ingredients. Hence, it is an Asian staple that you must add to your pantry.

How to Use Mirin

As a versatile ingredient, mirin is appropriate for numerous recipes, including vegan and vegetarian ones. A little goes a long way when adding mirin to your dishes. Just add a little amount until you get the right flavor you want.

One of the primary ingredients used in making teriyaki sauce is mirin because of its sweetness and tendency to create a shiny glaze when heated. It consists of equal parts of soy sauce and mirin with a bit of sugar. You can use it to flavor fish, vegetables, and other dishes.

In addition to the teriyaki sauce, mirin can also be used in other recipes, like miso soup, tempura battered veggies, salad dressings, tofu marinades, Asian vegetable slaw, broths for noodle-based dishes, fish, and more.

Mirin Substitutes

If you can’t find mirin, there are some alternatives you can opt to use. Although none of these substitutes can give you the exact mirin flavor, you can still try them. Due to the unique compounds found in mirin, there will be no same match. But you can use dry white wine, apple juice, rice wine vinegar, sake, or dry sherry, and add one teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon used. Remember, the main quality of mirin is its sweetness, so be sure to add honey, sugar, or other sweeteners to get the most from your chosen alternative.

How to Store Mirin

Because of the alcohol content found in fermented seasoning mirin and hon-mirin, it does not spoil easily. You can store these in the cupboard or a cool and dark place. On the other hand, the mirin-style seasoning does not contain alcohol, so it must be kept in the refrigerator once opened.


Armed with all this knowledge about mirin, you can now try using it! If you are not used to adding this to your recipes, this is the perfect time to do so. It never hurts to try something new from time to time, so head over to the nearest supermarket today and get a bottle of mirin! It will surely give you an exciting flavor to love.


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