What is Mirin?

teriyaki chicken rice bowl with mirin and veggies

Slightly sweet with a touch of tang. If you’re wondering where that hard-to-place umami flavor came from, chances are it's mirin, a delicate traditional Japanese rice wine packed with flavor. Mirin is a staple in Japanese pantries and a crucial ingredient in dishes like authentic teriyaki, sukiyaki, yakitori, sushi rice and dipping sauces.

What is Mirin Used For?

In days past, mirin was sipped like sake. But you won’t find sushi lovers sipping mirin in a restaurant today. In modern times, mirin is used exclusively for cooking. Its sweet and savory combo enhances marinades, broths, glazes and more. Add a few dashes of mirin to Japanese soups to boost the flavor, and if you’re looking to create authentic sushi rice at home, mirin is a must. Mirin is also a lovely complement to soy sauce and can be added to stir-fry to help marry all of the flavors together.

Simply put, mirin is the secret ingredient you didn’t know you were missing.

Unless your recipe calls for it, mirin should be considered more of a flavor enhancer rather than a primary ingredient. A few dashes of this seemingly magical umami liquid is all it takes to elevate the flavor profile of a dish.

What Does Mirin Taste Like?

Mirin is sweet, but not overwhelming, with a slight, pleasant tanginess. Emperor’s Kitchen Organic Mikawa Mirin doesn’t take shortcuts to achieve its authentic taste, but rather is fermented, allowing the flavors to develop naturally over time. Our mirin contains four simple ingredients: organic sweet rice, water, organic rice, and koji (aspergillus oryzae), a common culinary fungus used in the fermentation process. It’s the work of the koji to naturally break down the starchy rice into sugar and provides Japanese ingredients like mirin and miso with their distinct umami flavor.

You may encounter mirin-like products that are not fermented, but rather made by combining alcohol, sugar, and seasonings in an attempt to mimic the flavors natural fermentation provides. These mirin-like products often contain additives like corn syrup.

How to Use Mirin

It’s easy to incorporate mirin into your dishes. If you’re trying it for the first time, add a few drops to any dish containing soy sauce (mirin both complements and enhances the flavor of soy sauce). If you’re a stir-fry fan, just a couple of dashes of mirin will revolutionize the experience and help to marry competing flavors. And of course, don’t forget to experiment with combining mirin and miso for an added umami punch!

Check out the recipes below for ideas on how you can incorporate this flavor-enhancing Japanese staple into your culinary creations.

Tempura Dipping Sauce with Mirin



  1. Bring water to a boil and remove from heat.
  2. Stir in mirin and tamari.
  3. Serve with tempura shrimp or vegetables.

Check out our recipe for Teriyaki Sauce with Mirin for more inspiration!

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