Mirin vs. Rice Vinegar: What Is the Difference? (Explained)

If you’re interested in Asian condiments and seasonings, you may have already gotten confused between Mirin and rice vinegar. In most cases, these two are often used interchangeably, even though they differ in several aspects. But what is the difference between the two?

The main difference between the two is their flavor and acidity. Mirin is a seasoning made from sweet rice wine, and it comes with a neutral flavor. On the other hand, Rice vinegar is more acidic, with a distinct sour taste. For this reason, the two should not be used as a substitute for each other.

Both seasonings may add unique, sweet, and umami flavor to dishes. However, they both have different flavors, which means they also differ in every cook’s necessities. Thus, while often interchanged, you shouldn’t use one as a substitute for the other.

Now, if you’re new to using Mirin and rice vinegar, you must understand the difference between the two. This way, you can use them to achieve your specific and desired flavor, and you can use them to the best way they are meant to be used. While it may seem overwhelming, we simplified everything below to make things easy for you.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Mirin vs. Rice VinegarPin

Is mirin rice vinegar?

No, Mirin is not rice vinegar. It’s a type of rice wine, which makes it different from vinegar. Thus, it lacks the acidity and sourness that you get in rice vinegar. But, unfortunately, it also means you can’t use Mirin as a substitute for rice vinegar.

Mirin is a typical seasoning you’ll find in Japanese cuisine. It’s pretty similar to sake, but it has lower alcohol and higher sugar if compared.

Now, the sweetness of Mirin doesn’t come from adding sugar. Instead, it comes from the fermentation, causing the carbohydrates to sweeten it up. 

Besides the sweetness, Mirin is often used to give shine to sauces. It is also a typical ingredient in creating glazes since it clings easily to food. 

In short, Mirin isn’t the same as rice vinegar, although often misunderstood as similar. The two differ in several aspects, including their purpose and taste.

What is the difference between Mirin and rice vinegar?

The difference between Mirin and rice vinegar is the taste, flavor, and acidity. Mirin is a variant of sweet rice wine. It’s not vinegar, which means it lacks the acidity and sourness of rice vinegar. 

Let’s tackle each of these differences.

Rice vinegar has more acidity, and so it comes with a sourness and acidic taste compared to Mirin. Thus, if you need acidic taste and flavor to your dish, you’ll go for rice vinegar, and you can’t use Mirin as a substitute.

Since Mirin is a type of sweet rice wine, it comes with a sweeter flavor. While it comes with a small amount of alcohol, it should be gone if subject to the heat of your recipe.

When you put Mirin in a heated environment, it quickly reduces itself, creating a perfect glaze for food and a thickening texture to sauces.

In general, both are sweet, fruity seasoning solutions that will add a lot of flavors. Still, they are distinct in terms of the overall food experience.

While these two spices are related, you must handle them in unique methods to enjoy the most out of both in your recipes. 

When using Rice Vinegar, use it sparingly to enable the natural acidity and sweetness to come through in dishes such as dressings or marinades.

When utilizing Mirin, on the other hand, you may make it the star of the meal. For example, using the rich, round sweetness and salt content of Mirin, you may use it as a dipping sauce or as a critical component of a soup or braised meal like short ribs.

Whether you’re making traditional Japanese cuisine, Asian-inspired foods, or your favorite fusion dish, Mirin & Rice Vinegar Products may add a lot to your cooking.

Can you substitute Mirin for rice vinegar?

If you got no other resources available, you could substitute Mirin for rice vinegar. The only thing to note is that it might produce a different taste.

In general, you might find other better substitutes. For instance, you can use rice wine vinegar or sweet Marsala wine. If you have dry sherry or dry white wine, it will also be an excellent alternative.

If you substitute Mirin for rice vinegar, you may not achieve the acidic and sour taste you’ll get from using rice vinegar. Instead, you’ll have a sweeter and more alcoholic flavor from this type of sweet rice wine.

Can you substitute rice vinegar for Mirin?

You can also substitute rice vinegar for Mirin, although you may also get a different outcome. However, many people use rice vinegar as a substitute for Mirin.

Besides the acidity of rice vinegar, it lacks the sweetness of Mirin. Thus, when you use the latter as a substitute, you may want to add half a bit of sugar to a tablespoon of rice vinegar that you use.

Mirin and rice wine vinegar are two things commonly used interchangeably despite considerable differences in flavor and function.

Mirin is a sweetened rice wine almost the same as sake, whereas Rice Wine Vinegar is fermented rice wine. Both these seasonings offer unique, rich, and savory flavors to food. Although their tastes are similar and they are frequently matched, you should not use them alternately.

Mirin or rice vinegar for sushi?

Rice vinegar is ideal for sushi instead of Mirin. Mirin lacks the acidity that you’ll want to have in your sushi. Also, the sweetness of Mirin may not be suitable for sushi.

In general, sushi rice contains a seasoning of rice vinegar and salt. Now, some chefs may add sugar, but it depends entirely on the recipe they’re trying to achieve.

While Mirin and rice vinegar may originate from similar ingredients, they come with different flavors, tastes, and cooking purposes.

If you’re confused, think of Mirin as wine while thinking of rice vinegar as it is – vinegar. Since you need the acidity in sushi, you’ll find rice vinegar ideal, and you wouldn’t use something sweet and less acidic like Mirin.

If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can get other types of acidic seasoning like cider or other vinegar. You can also use any citrus-based seasoning.


In a nutshell, Mirin and rice vinegar might often be interchanged, but they differ in many aspects. Such differences include taste, flavor, and acidity. As a result, their purpose in cooking and recipes differ as well.

For this reason, it would be best to use whatever the recipe calls for and not to interchange the two. This way, you can achieve a perfect dish without misusing these two unique ingredients.



Image credits – Canva

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