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

Mirin and rice wine are often misunderstood by anyone who isn’t familiar with Japanese cuisine. Thus, if you’re interested in learning about these things, one of the questions you may wonder is the difference between Mirin and rice wine. Now, if you want to know the difference between Mirin and rice wine, they are similar in many ways.

The best way to look at Mirin and rice wine is through this fact: In general, Mirin is a type of rice wine. Rice wine can be a dry one (which is Sake) that is primarily used for drinking. On the other hand, you can get a sweet rice wine for cooking, which is Mirin.

Understanding mirin and rice wine will give you an idea about their difference and how you look at them every time you use them in your dish. If you like Japanese cuisine, you’ll indeed find both things interesting to study.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the basic things about Mirin and rice wine. This way, you’ll get an idea about both and their differences as well. It will benefit your cooking process and help you use both in the best way you can.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Mirin vs. Rice WinePin

Are rice wine and Mirin the same thing?

Rice wine and Mirin are the same things because Mirin is a type of rice wine. In general, Mirin is a sweet rice wine that people use mainly in cooking Japanese cuisine. 

In Japan, rice wine falls into two main types, and they are Sake and Mirin. Sake is a dry rice wine used for drinking and cooking, while Mirin is a sweet rice wine used mainly for cooking.

Thus, you may refer to rice wine when you talk about Mirin, but you may get other types when you talk about rice wine.

In short, you can tell that a cooking rice wine can be mainly Mirin, while drinking rice wine refers to Sake. 

What is the difference between Mirin and rice wine?

Mirin is no different from rice wine because it’s rice wine itself. However, if you compare it with Sake (a type of rice wine), it’s a lot sweeter and has lesser alcohol content.

Now, the sweetness of Mirin comes naturally due to its fermentation process. Thus, while Mirin turns out sweet, there’s no sugar added in its manufacturing process.

When speaking of rice wine, Mirin is sweeter and perfect for cooking if you prefer Sake. The former is better for drinking but can also be used in cooking.

Can you substitute Mirin for rice wine?

Yes, you can substitute Mirin for rice wine. Because Mirin is a type of rice wine, you can get almost the same output as you would if you need a rice wine in your recipe.

Even though the sweetness and alcohol concentration of Sake and Mirin varies, the two are the exact rice wine. As a result, you may exchange both with minor variations based on your recipe.

The only difference is that Mirin gives a sweeter flavor. Thus, you can expect a step of sweetness in your dish, unlike when you put Sake in your recipe.

Can you substitute rice wine for Mirin?

Yes, you can substitute rice wine for Mirin. If you find other types of rice wine, they can be the best alternatives to Mirin. Now, if you refer to Sake when you talk about rice wine, it’s the same thing.

Although Sake and Mirin have differences in sweetness and alcohol content, the two are the exact rice wine. Thus, you can interchange both, with slight changes depending on your recipe.

In general, you can find several types of Sake that are sweet enough to be an excellent mirin substitute. Unfortunately, these are mostly the unfiltered ones. 

Now, if you have a drier rice wine or Sake, you can have a dash of fruit juice or a pinch of sugar. It will be enough to get the sweet touch of Mirin.

Mirin vs. cooking rice wine

Cooking rice wine and Mirin is almost the same. In Japan, Mirin is the cooking rice wine, and it’s due to its sweetness and glazing texture.

Mirin is a Japanese rice wine that is used to sweeten up a variety of Japanese meals. While it is commonly called “rice wine,” Mirin is created uniquely compared to Sake and other rice wines. 

Classic mirin is created of glutinous rice, distilled liquor, and rice grown with koji, a starch-eating fungus used to produce liquor, vinegar, and fermented soy items. Mirin is used to provide a salty-sweet umami taste to dishes.

Mirin has a wide range of uses in Japanese cooking. Consider it a go-to sweetener for everything flavorful. An excellent bottle of Mirin will moderate the saltiness of soy sauce while also bringing out the sweet notes in the umami-rich dashi fish stock.

Mirin vs. Chinese rice wine

Mirin is Japanese rice wine. Thus, if you will compare it to Chinese rice wine, it is packed with more sweetness. On the other hand, Sake, which is an alternative to Mirin, comes with lesser sweetness. Thus, it can be lighter in flavor compared to Chinese rice wine.

Now, if you want to substitute Mirin for Chinese rice wine, you can do so, but take note that you’ll get a sweeter output. Thus, you can fix that by adding a dash of saltiness to your dish.

If you use Chinese rice wine instead of Mirin, then expect it to be less sweet. If you want to fix it, you can add some sugar to compensate for the lack of sweetness in the Chinese rice wine.

Mirin vs. Shaoxing rice wine

Shaoxing rice wine is Chinese rice wine. It comes with a similar flavor to Mirin, although it has a lesser sweet factor.

In general, Shaoxing rice wine makes a good substitute for Mirin if you don’t have any. Now, if you can find Mirin, use it for your dishes. However, you can still find substitutes other than Shaoxing rice wine.

Whenever you replace Mirin with other rice wine, make sure you add a little bit of sugar to compensate for the sweetness of Mirin.

Mirin vs. Korean rice wine

Mirin is a Japanese cooking rice wine, and it has a Korean counterpart, which is called Mirim. Both of these cooking rice wine is identical in flavor and taste. Thus, you can use them interchangeably.

You can use both Mirin and Korean rice wine to add some luster to your dish. Also, it can help alleviate the fishy smell. 

If you’re adding some sugar to your dish, a touch of Mirin or Korean rice wine is also an excellent alternative.


In a nutshell, Mirin and rice wine only have a slight difference as the former is the latter. Mirin is a kind of rice wine often used for cooking. On the other hand, rice wine is a general term that can be Mirin for cooking or Sake for drinking.

Mirin is a Japanese condiment, and you can substitute it for several rice wines, including Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) and Mirim (Korean rice wine).



Image credits – Canva

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