When you think of Japanese rice wine, you probably think of sake. Mirin is pretty close, but there are some important distinctions.

 In its truest form (called "hon mirin" ), mirin is the product of fermenting a mixture of steamed glutinous rice and cultured rice called koji in a bit of shochu, which is a distilled rice liquor.After sitting for a period ranging from two months to a few years, the complex umami-rich, yet mildy sweet, flavor emerges to liven up all sorts of dishes. 

Mirin has a high concentration of sugar, thanks to the formation of unique complex carbohydrates during the fermentation process. This makes the average mirin sweeter without any added sugars. 
Because of its high sugar content, it's the perfect balance to the salty flavor of soy sauce or tamari, for use in marinades, glazes, and broths. Mirin tenderizes the ingredients you cook with and adds a mild sweetness.

Hon mirin (translation: true mirin), which registers at 14 percent alcohol by volume, has a complex and rich flavor with loads of umami.

When you're wandering the aisles of our supermarket, you may find a product called mirin-fu or honteri. These are mirin-style condiments. While they aren't exactly true mirin, these products are made by mixing water, corn syrup, and rice. They contain less than 1 percent of alcohol and the taste resembles that of mirin. 

What can you substitute for mirin?
While nothing will really replace the flavor of mirin,  if you're a person who happens to have rice wine vinegar on hand, add some sugar (about 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to 1 tablespoon sugar), and then replace one for one in a recipe.

Once you start using mirin, it will quickly become a cooking staple in your household to round off a dish and give it a boost of complexity. So what are you waiting for? Grab a bottle and start cooking up some delicious food.

Beyond marinades, mirin has many other great uses. We’ve listed a few of them here:

Steam foods with mirin, finish steaks with sake-mirin butter, make sukiyaki, a simmered stew, stir fry up some udon


True mirin will keep well at room temperature thanks to its alcohol content for up to three months. Aji-mirin, once opened, will keep for three months and should be refrigerated.