Home » Food Information » Mirin Vs Rice Vinegar: How To Use Each In Dishes

Mirin Vs Rice Vinegar: How To Use Each In Dishes

In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between mirin vs rice vinegar. We’ll discuss their flavor profiles, uses, and how to substitute one for the other.

Mirin and rice vinegar are two popular ingredients in Asian cooking. They’re particularly useful in Japanese cuisine. Both enhance the dish’s flavors by providing acidity and sweetness. But they have unique properties that make them different from one another.

dish filled with mirin sauce and dish filled with rice vinegar on the table.

Mirin Vs Rice Vinegar -Why should we compare both?

Mirin and rice vinegar are both made from rice. They have distinct differences in flavor, sweetness, and acidity.

Understanding how different they are is crucial in cooking. And using the wrong ingredient can greatly affect the overall taste and texture of the dish.

For instance, mirin’s sweetness can help balance out salty or savory flavors in a dish. But rice vinegar’s tanginess can enhance the taste of a salad dressing or marinade.

You can decide which ingredients to use in your recipes by comparing these two ingredients. This decision will ultimately result in a more successful and enjoyable dish.

What is Mirin?

Definition Of Mirin

Mirin is a sweet-flavored Japanese rice wine. It is somehow similar to sake, but it is sweeter and not as alcoholic.

People make it by fermenting steamed glutinous rice and koji in shochu. It has a golden color, and people commonly use it as a condiment in Japanese cooking.

It adds a mild sweetness and a nice aroma to dishes, making it a staple in many Japanese kitchens.

Mirin has a lower alcohol content than sake, at 14%, so it pairs well with soy sauce.

This condiment is popular for its inclusion in a teriyaki sauce recipe.

You can find mirin in most grocery stores that carry Japanese items. There are also plenty of suppliers online.

Types Of Mirin


Aji-mirin is a unique variation of mirin. It blends starch syrup, rice, and salt to create distinctive properties, with 8-14% ABV. Aji-mirin is more versatile than most mirin varieties due to its complementary flavors.


Hon-mirin, also known as “true mirin.” It is the most traditional form of the seasoning. This type of mirin incorporates shochu, a distilled spirit, to achieve its 14% ABV. Because of this ABV, hon mirin is subject to alcohol tax in Japan.


Shio-mirin, or “salt mirin,” is distinctive for its salty taste. After all, it contains at least 1.5% salt, which people add post-fermentation.

Shio-mirin is unsuitable for consumption as a beverage because of its salty flavor. That said, it is not subject to alcohol tax. And for the same reason, people use it exclusively for cooking.

Flavor Profile

Mirin’s unique flavor profile is sweet, tangy, and savory, known as umami. Its versatile taste can transform bland sauces into something more flavorful.

It has a thick, syrup-like consistency that distinguishes it from sake.

Fermentation adds depth and complexity to its taste. So its flavor is similar but more subtle than a sweet dessert wine.

Its sweetness tends to overpower the taste of alcohol, so people find it a great sipping liquor.

Uses In Japanese Cuisine

Mirin adds a punch of umami and sweetness to any dish that requires it. People usually combine mirin with soy sauce to create braising liquids.

For this reason, you can see it in dishes such as braised pork ramen. Additionally, mirin eliminates fishy or meaty odors during preparation. For this reason, it is a common addition to fish dishes.

With its high sugar content, mirin is an excellent ingredient in glazes, marinades, and dressings.

As mentioned, mirin is a fundamental component of teriyaki sauce. Recipes such as stir-fry, spice-rubbed tenderloin, and miso soup also call for mirin.

Nutritional Value

Mirin is a Japanese condiment that contains several important vitamins and minerals. It is a good source of vitamin B6.

Mirin also contains sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Phosphorus, copper, and manganese are also present in mirin.

Adding mirin to your meals not only adds flavor but also offers essential nutrients to your diet.

What Is Rice Vinegar?

Definition Of Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is a vinegar that uses fermented rice as its main ingredient. Another name for this condiment is rice wine vinegar. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor.

Unsurprisingly, it is a staple in many Asian cuisines, particularly Japanese cooking. The fermentation process converts the rice’s sugar to alcohol and then to acetic acid.

This particular process gives Japanese rice vinegar its distinct tangy taste.

Rice vinegar is commonly used as a condiment in marinades and dressings. It is also common in dishes such as sushi rice and stir-fries.

It is typically less acidic than other types of vinegar. That said, people who like milder flavors usually go for this.

Types Of Rice Vinegar

White Rice Vinegar

The most common type of rice vinegar is white rice vinegar. You can find it in any grocery store. It has a mild flavor with a clean and subtle tang.

This type is perfect for dressings, marinades, and pickling.

Seasoned Rice Vinegar

People commonly use seasoned rice vinegar to brighten sushi rice. This rice vinegar combines white rice vinegar with sugar and MSG for added flavor.

Brown Rice Vinegar

Like its base grain, brown rice vinegar brings a few more nutrients to the table. And, of course, it has a toastier color.

Brown rice vinegar is mild enough, so you can use it interchangeably with white rice vinegar. People often add it to dressings and marinades for its nutty and toasty notes.

Black Rice Vinegar

Black rice vinegar is a popular dipping sauce. Made from black glutinous rice with wheat and other grains like sorghum, the result is rich in umami. It also has a distinct, deep flavor with a hint of smokiness.

Aside from being a dipping sauce, this vinegar is popular in marinades and stir-fry dishes.

Red Rice Vinegar

Red rice vinegar is sweet, sour, and a little funky. It uses red yeast rice and other grains, so it is reddish-brown.

People often use it in Chinese cuisine to add flavor and color to dishes. For instance, you can add it to braised meat and fish.

Flavor Profile

What does rice vinegar taste like? Like apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Its taste is crisp and tangy, with a hint of sweetness.

Of course, the seasoned varieties come with added sugar. So, their most evident taste is sweet rather than tangy.

Uses In Asian Cuisine

Rice vinegar is a versatile ingredient that you may use in many dishes that call for light vinegar.

People add it to Asian dishes like pickled vegetables and sushi rice. Salads and slaws also taste better with some rice vinegar. You can also use it in stir-fry recipes and vegan barbecue sauces.

Nutritional Value

Rice vinegar contains several essential vitamins and minerals. It has vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, for starters. It also has niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, sodium, iron, and zinc.

On top of that, rice vinegar is a good source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus as well. Unsurprisingly, vinegar is a rich source of antioxidants.

Rice Vinegar Vs Mirin Differences


Mirin and rice vinegar share similar ingredients. They both have water, rice, salt, and sweeteners like fructose/glucose.

But mirin typically contains less sugar than rice vinegar. Plus, mirin has added alcohol, which enhances its umami flavor.

Making mirin involves fermenting steamed mochi rice, koji, and shochu for around 40 to 60 days. In contrast, people make rice vinegar by fermenting steamed rice, koji, and water.

Alcohol Content

Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine that counts as a light alcoholic beverage. On the other hand, rice vinegar typically has little to no alcohol content. Its fermentation process converts alcohol to acid.

Sweetness Level

Mirin is significantly sweeter than rice vinegar, which tastes more bitter and sour. Despite the high sugar content of rice vinegar, it is not that sweet. After all, its strong umami flavor balances its sweet taste.

That way, the sweetness mellows. In mirin, no other flavor masks the sweetness, so it translates to the final product.

Acidity Level

Rice vinegar has an acidic taste due to its fermentation process. After all, fermenting rice with water and koji converts the sugars in the rice into acid.

Mirin has a more neutral flavor and is primarily known for its sweetness. It has a more balanced, mostly sweet flavor.

Cooking Applications

Mirin and rice vinegar are both versatile ingredients in Asian cuisine. But they have different cooking applications. Mirin is often used as a sweet seasoning to flavor and balance dishes. As mentioned, people use it in teriyaki sauce and to sweeten rice dishes.

On the other hand, people add rice vinegar to provide a sour taste and acidity to dishes. It is a common pickling agent, and you can use it to add zest to white rice.


In many recipes, you can use mirin and rice vinegar as a substitute for one another. You may use dry sherry or a sweet marsala wine instead of mirin.

Dry white wine or rice vinegar can also work. But you must add some sugar to balance the sourness. Another option is to combine sake and sugar as a substitute for mirin.

Apple cider vinegar is also an excellent substitute for rice vinegar. But bear it may be cloudier and more potent. White wine vinegar and champagne vinegar are also good substitutes.

Ultimately, the choice of a replacement depends on the specific recipe.

When To Use Mirin Or Rice Vinegar

When deciding whether to use mirin or rice vinegar, it is important to consider the flavor profile of the dish you are making. Decide whether the recipe calls for a sweet or sour seasoning.

In some cases, you can use mirin and rice vinegar interchangeably.

It all depends on the specific recipe and desired flavor profile.

Mirin is best when a dish needs a sweet flavor, while rice vinegar is perfect when a dish needs acidity.

Can You Substitute Rice Vinegar For Mirin?

Yes, you may use rice vinegar as a substitute for mirin in recipes. This swap is especially beneficial if the recipe calls for only a small amount. But since mirin has a sweeter taste than rice vinegar, you may need to add sugar to balance its flavor.

What Does Mirin Do To Rice?

Aside from adding sweet and savory flavor to rice, it can also help to tenderize it. When used in sushi rice, mirin balances the soy sauce’s saltiness and the rice vinegar’s acidity. That said, it creates a more well-rounded flavor.

How To Use Rice Vinegar?

You can use rice vinegar in a variety of ways. Its mild and slightly sweet flavor works in both Asian and non-Asian cuisine. You can use it as a marinade for meat or vegetables. It is also an excellent salad dressing and a sushi rice flavoring.
People also use it in stir-fries, pickling, and dipping sauces.


Mirin and rice vinegar are two essential ingredients in Japanese cuisine. Understanding their differences is crucial in cooking to achieve the desired taste and texture of the dish.

Both provide acidity and enhance the taste of many dishes. But they have unique properties that make them different from one another. Mirin is a sweet rice wine people use in marinades, dressings, and sauces.

Rice vinegar has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. For this reason, it is a better choice for sushi rice, stir-fries, and dressings.

More Food Articles

Filed under
Food Information
Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
pinterest instagram instagram

Get new recipes and tips via email
when you subscribe!

Have a comment? I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

As seen in:

Eating WellmashededibleWomans WorldTasting TableHomes and Gardens
Back to the Top