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

Mirin and Shaoxing wine are popular cooking condiments in their origin, the former from Japan and the latter from China.  In general, these two condiments share similarities. Thus, you may wonder about their differences. So, you may ask: What is the difference between Mirin and Shaoxing Wine? 

While both Mirin and Shaoxing wines are cooking wines, they vary in their purposes and effects on food recipes. For instance, Mirin and Shaoxing give different effects to food, so cooks use them to achieve different effects. These differences are the things we’ll talk about further.

If you’re interested in learning Asian cuisine, understanding the differences between the two will help you learn how to use each one when you need them. Also, it will help you give the best flavor in your food when you properly use both.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the fundamental questions about mirin and Shaoxing wine. This way, you’ll understand each one and see how they differ from each other. 

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Mirin vs. Shaoxing WinePin

Is mirin the same as Shaoxing wine?

Mirin is not the same as Shaoxing wine, although both cooking condiments are cooking wine. 

Shaoxing wine is China’s famous culinary wine. It’s a bright yellow liquid used to remove fishy smells in the recipe due to its alcohol content.

On the other hand, Mirin is a type of Japanese cooking wine. Further, it has a similar look and function to Shaoxing wine in removing fishy odors from meals. In fact, some people use it as a cooking wine alternative.

Some people claim that mirin is an excellent Shaoxing wine alternative. Further, they said that it will suffice in a pinch provided you reduce the sugar in your recipe since mirin is already sweet. However, you’ll find other alternatives better.

For instance, dry sherry is a safer, comparable option. In addition, Mirin has a sweeter taste than Shaoxing wine, which is rich, fragrant, and somewhat sweet.

What is the difference between mirin and Shaoxing wine?

Mirin and Shaoxing wine is both rice wines. Thus, they obviously share a lot of similarities. However, they have different properties that set them apart from each other. 

In general, the difference between Mirin and Shaoxing wine comes in different aspects. Thus, if you want to compare both, you’ll find it easier to understand by checking all these aspects one by one.

The umami flavor is better with Mirin.

Mirin is a lovely cooking wine with more than nine distinct carbs with varying richness, giving the dish a naturally sweet flavor. 

Furthermore, the glucose may balance the salt’s salty taste and the vinegar’s sour taste, making the food taste more smooth and clean. 

Thus, while Shaoxing cooking wine is slightly peppery and does not have a sweet taste, the refreshing effect is noticeable.

Shaoxing wine tenderizes while mirin firms up meat.

Shaoxing cooking wine tenderizes the meat by dissolving some organic compounds in it. Thus, using Shaoxing wine will help you achieve tender meat if that’s your goal.

On the other hand, Mirin firms up meat since it tightens protein. As a result, this condiment keeps the meat from fracturing while cooking. 

Thus, while preparing meat that requires long-term simmering, a correct amount of Mirin helps retain the structure of the seafood and enhances the flavor of the meals.

Mirin has more uses.

Mirin and Shaoxing wine may be used in cooking, such as searing, simmering, grilling, roasting, steaming, and baking. However, that’s where their similarity ends.

In most cases, Shaoxing cooking wine is mainly used to prepare meat, fish, and shellfish. 

On the other hand, Mirin can be used to prepare meat, fish, seafood, veggies, and noodles. 

When cooking rice, a few drops of Mirin can make the rice grains chewier; preparing pastries can keep the batter from breaking.

Thus, you’ll find Mirin more useful in your cooking tasks. Still, Shaoxing wine has its own benefits for every kitchen.

Can you substitute Mirin for Shaoxing wine?

Yes, you can substitute Mirin for Shaoxing wine. However, you should only do it if you have no other options. 

Although both condiments are rice wine and cooking wine, they have different effects on food. 

Still, one of the alternatives you can use for Shaoxing wine is Mirin. The only thing you’ll need to know is that Mirin is sweeter and packs more flavor.

For this reason, you should reduce the sugar in your recipe, as Mirin already has a sweetness of its own.

Can you substitute Shaoxing wine for mirin?

No, you cannot substitute Shaoxing wine for Mirin. However, if you do so, make sure it’s only for preparing meat and not cooking. 

Shaoxing wine and mirin are different in properties that they have different effects on your food. Now, you may find it alright to use Mirin instead of Shaoxing wine when preparing meat, fish, or seafood. 

However, if you’re cooking or seasoning your food under fire, Mirin may give too much flavor and an overpowering scent. Thus, you’ll need better alternatives to it.


In a nutshell, mirin and Shaoxing wine are different from each other, despite being cooking wines. Both of these cooking wines have different purposes, adding different effects and flavors to the food. While both have alcohol content to reduce and eliminate fishy odors, they still have different effects on the texture and flavor of the food. 

In the end, the choice between the two will depend on your preference. Since both Mirin and Shaoxing wine offers different purposes and effects, you’ll find them both useful in their own ways. Thus, it will all boil down to what condiment you’ll need. Either way, both these condiments will give your food the best flavor.



Image credits – Canva

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