Mirin: what is it and how is it used?

Mirin: what is it and how is it used?

Mirin is a widely used ingredient in Japanese cooking, a sweeter, thicker and less alcoholic sake: here’s how to use it in cooking.

Mirin : this name appears in many Japanese cuisine recipes . If you want to prepare salmon in teriyaki sauce  or Shabu Shabu fondue at home, for example , you will find yourself dealing with this ingredient.a special sake that is thicker, sweeter and less alcoholicIt is a special sake  (alcoholic drink born from the fermentation of rice), sweeter and thicker but also less alcoholic than normal sake. Its history is very ancient: it goes back to the Sengoku period, between about 1467 and 1603. Mirin was drunk at the time as a mildly alcoholic beverage; only later, around the Edo period (1603-1867), did the Japanese begin to use it in cooking, starting with the marinade for eel or the sauce used for soba. By the 1950s, taxes on mirin went down and the ingredient spread quickly, first in Japan and then abroad.



What is the secret of the success of this product over the centuries and around the world? What appeals to experts and cooking enthusiasts is its sweetness . Yes, it’s true, you could simply add sugar to marinades, but this Japanese ingredient has a more complex and aromatic flavor that is also transmitted to the dishes, making them more sophisticated. Another feature: it makes foods more brilliant and inviting , as if they were glazed. Particularly interesting if we think of a succulent barbecue.


There are three types of mirin on the market : what is considered the true mirin is called Hon Mirin  has an alcohol content of about 14%. Less alcoholic (1.5%) and with a more delicate flavor is Shio Mirin . Less decisive taste and very little alcohol (under 1%) instead are the characteristics of the third type, the Shin Mirin or seasonal mirin.

Buy the mirin


Where can you buy them? It’s not that hard to find a bottle of this particular sweet alcohol today. In fact, you can find mirin in shops specializing in oriental or organic products or online . If the task is more difficult than expected or at the last moment you realize you are left without, you can replace this ingredient with marsala or sherry or mix three tablespoons of sake (or Chardonnay) with a teaspoon of sugar.

How to use

As we said at the beginning, mirin is used for marinades and sauces . Surely this is the most widespread use but we do not underestimate the versatility of this product. So let’s find out more about this ingredient and its uses, because we could surprise you with some special effects.


  1. tsukuneCondiments : mirin is one of the basic raw materials for teriyaki sauce  , ideal for giving a unique flavor to our fish or our grilled meat. Try it, for example, with chicken skewers ( yakitori ) or roasted eel. With this ingredient you can prepare other preparations such as ponzu sauce  or the sauce that accompanies fried recipes such as Tendon , the bowl of rice and shrimp and vegetable tempura, the agedashi tofu or even the Korean-style fried chicken.
  2. miso soupBroths and soups : mirin gives a particular aroma to our hot and liquid recipes. With the heat the alcohol will evaporate leaving a particular flavor. Don’t believe it? Add sweet sake to miso soup , nimono (meat, legumes or vegetables stewed in dashi broth), even ramen with chicken.
  3. 181-yaki-udonNoodles and rice : with mirin you can prepare a delicious sauce with which to sauté our noodles, as in the case of  sukiyaki  with tofu, beef and vegetables. Add it in the preparation of classic yaki udon , Japanese noodles, soba dishes, buckwheat noodles, or fried noodles with garlic and ginger like they do in Singapore.
  4. Preparing rice for sushiRice for sushi : even in perhaps the most famous dish in the world of Japanese cuisine there is our special ingredient. To prepare the rice for sushi you can in fact simply use a dressing based on vinegar, sugar and salt or add two soup spoons of mirin. This solution was used above all in the past but nothing prevents us from proposing it again today.
  5. tamagoyakiEggs : It seems strange that such a sweet product can get along well with egg dishes, yet it does. Add a dash of mirin to your omelettes , both the classic French one and its Japanese interpretation, the  tamagoyaki  Just beat the eggs with a spoonful of sweet sake and then cook. Another recipe you can try is that of ajitsuke tamago , marinated eggs with mirin, soy sauce, sake and sugar.
  6. The babasDesserts : have you ever tried this ingredient in desserts? As a demonstration of the versatility of mirin, we advise you to use it to prepare poached pears or apricots instead of wine. Its sweetness is ideal for adding an extra touch to fruit cakes or matcha green tea cakes. After all, many sweet preparations use alcohol, such as rum or alchèrmes, right? At this point, who offers for a mirin fusion baba?

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