If you love Asian cuisine, but don't always want to order take-out, chances are you have come across a stir-fry recipe --- or anything with teriyaki --- that requires mirin. At that point, you probably wondered to yourself "What in the world is mirin?"

From teriyaki chicken to ramen dishes, mirin adds a sweet, yet tangy rich flavor to a dish. And, if you love cooking, but don't have a bottle of mirin in your cupboard, then you are definitely failing to benefit from this must-have for homemade Japanese cuisine.

What Is Mirin?

Mirin and other Asian pantry mainstays

Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine that is similar to sake but has more sugar and less alcohol content. It is made from rice, koji, and distilled sake which is mixed together and held for sixty days. During that time, the koji converts the starch in the rice into sugar. Then, once the solids are strained, the left behind liquid is mirin.

It pairs extremely well with soy sauce and is a staple ingredient for a plethora of dipping sauces, marinades, glazes, and broths because it adds amazing flavor.

The steamed Mochi rice and malted rice fermented with alcohol makes mirin sweet because rice produces a lot of sugar and alcohol due to the fermentation process. Mirin will give your food sweetness, along with a nice aroma.

It can be difficult to find in American stores, but some do carry it in the Asian food section. Of course, you can always buy it online. Some of the bigger brands, like Kikkoman, label their mirin as "aji-mirin," which means "tastes like mirin." They most likely added sweeteners, like sugar or corn syrup, but it works perfectly in any recipe that calls for mirin.

Other brands available in the U.S. include Edin and Sushi Chef, and Edin appears to be the only brand of mirin in the States that doesn't have any added refined sugar. This makes it the best option for anyone who is diabetic or on a reduced-sugar diet.

How Do You Use Mirin?

sweet sake or mirin

Most people use mirin like cooking sake, but it will give your dish a much sweeter taste because of the higher amount of sugar (as much as 45 percent) and less alcohol content (only 12 to 14 percent). It is the key ingredient in a traditional teriyaki sauce recipe, and you can also use it as a finishing touch on a Japanese soup.

The sugar in mirin makes it work well in sauces, glazes, and marinades, and mirin is so versatile that you will never run out of ways to use it. Some ideas include --

  • Making a peanut butter glaze for meatballs by mixing together one cup of peanut butter, one-half cup of mirin, one tablespoon of soy sauce, and one teaspoon of garlic powder
  • Create the perfect sushi dunk by mixing mirin with soy sauce and wasabi
  • Add a sweet glaze to your baked ham by combining equal parts mirin and apple cider.
  • Top off your chicken or shrimp stir-fry with a splash of mirin and soy sauce, to get the mix of salty and sweet
  • Make your own barbecue sauce with a blend of mirin, cumin, five-spice, tomato paste, cinnamon, garlic, salt, and pepper
  • Add a bit of mirin, smoked paprika, and toasted sesame oil to hummus

Mirin Substitutes

rice wine vinegar

If you need mirin for a recipe and can't make it to the store, you can substitute with sweet marsala wine or dry sherry. Other options are rice vinegar or dry white wine, but because they are so sour, you will need to add one-half teaspoon of sugar to every tablespoon of rice vinegar or white wine that you use.

You can also make your own mirin substitute with just three ingredients

Ingredients:

  • One-quarter cup of granulated sugar
  • Three tablespoons of water
  • Three-quarter cup sake wine

Instructions:

  • Simply mix the sugar and water together in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.
  • Let it boil for about three minutes before removing it from the heat.
  • Then, dribble the sake in slowly until you get to the sweetness you are looking for.
  • Finally, mix it all together and let it cool before storing it in a mason jar.

If you don't have sake, you can use a dry white wine like vermouth.

Recipes Featuring Mirin

marinated chicken skewers

Salmon Teriyaki

This simple recipe will get you out of your salmon rut by using a delicious sweet and salty homemade teriyaki sauce. And, it only takes just a few minutes to have an amazing, healthy dish for dinner.

Korean Braised Short Ribs

Bon Appetit calls this recipe one of the greatest of all time, and in addition mirin, this Korean dish calls for ingredients like onion, kiwi, and an Asian pear. But that's not all. You will also need minced garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, carrots, and radishes, and you serve the finished dish with steamed rice.

Chicken Skewers with Soy-Mirin Marinade

This Japanese-style recipe for the grill is surprisingly easy to make, and it is also extremely versatile. The marinade is amazing with chicken, but it also goes well with salmon.

The chicken in this dish is full of flavor, but also light and filling. Serve it with rice and veggies, and you will have your family coming back for seconds.

Teriyaki Sauce and Marinade

We mentioned earlier that mirin is a key ingredient in homemade teriyaki sauce. And, some people call this authentic recipe the best teriyaki sauce they have ever tasted.

Restaurant-Style Japanese Sesame Chicken

This recipe features a simple five-ingredient sauce that is filled with flavor, and the perfect choice for when you want to bring a Japanese restaurant into your kitchen. The sesame seeds add a roasted nutty note to the dish, and you can complete the meal with brown rice, veggies, and quinoa.

Soy-Mirin Glazed Halibut with Asian Stir-Fry

This light, but sweet dish features a filet of fish served with low-calorie, high-fiber veggies. If you are looking for a delicious, yet healthy and balanced recipe to add to your diet, this one is perfect for your personal cookbook.

Now that we have got you craving Asian food go out and add mirin to your pantry. Once you start using it in your chicken, fish, and beef recipes, you won't be able to live without it.

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