What Is Mirin, and How Do I Use It at Home?
One of the hallmarks of Japanese cuisine are sauces packed with umami flavor. While everyone is familiar with soy sauce, another key ingredient in Japanese recipes that you may be less familiar with is mirin, a Japanese rice wine. Below, why you should make this a pantry staple in your kitchen and our favorite recipes that highlight mirin's sweet, umami-rich flavor.
What Is Mirin?
Mirin is a subtly sweet Japanese rice wine with a flavor profile similar to sake, but a lower alcohol content (approximately 10 percent to 14 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV). The alcohol cooks off once it's heated through. It boasts bold umami flavor, which is why it's a popular ingredient in Asian sauces and marinades, including teriyaki sauce. And the sugar content of mirin means it adds shine to sauces, glazes, and dressings.
Substitutes for Mirin
If you don't cook Asian food frequently at home, you probably don't have mirin on hand. In a pinch, substitute vermouth, dry sherry, or marsala wine for mirin. You could also mix 1/2 teaspoon sugar into one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar to mimic mirin's flavor.
How to Shop for Mirin
There are two types of mirin-pure mirin and "aji-mirin," which is a sweeter, more commercialized version that's usually easier to find. Kikkoman is the most common brand of aji-mirin, and it's available in grocery stores for approximately $3. Pure mirin is sold in specialty Asian grocery stores and some gourmet markets.
How to Cook with Mirin
Mirin is a key ingredient in sweet Teriyaki Sauce, which can be brushed on beef, chicken, and salmon, or vegetables. It's also delicious in the marinade for Korean Beef Chuck Roast, Japanese Salad with Shiso Leaves, Sake, and Soba Noodles, and as a key component of the sauce for Vegan Sushi.