All About Mirin, The Fermented Sweetener

Posted by Shima Shimizu on



If you are into fermented foods, I'm sure you have heard of this Japanese condiment at least once.   みりん(味醂 / Mirin) is one of the "must haves" for Japanese cooking and it is made out of Mochi rice (sticky rice), Koji (rice culture) and Shochu. 


This is a sweet condiment that’s used in many sauces.  One that is most known sauces outside of Japan would be Teriyaki sauce, but the usage of mirin is not limited to this!  In Japan you will see this ingredient used in almost all the dishes that has a slight sweetness. This can even include udon noodle broths!



Mirin isn’t just used in savory dishes but also in desserts and baked goods because of its mild sweet flavour that doesn’t overpower the dish.  As there are no added white sugar, it is one of the popular sweeteners used in Macrobiotic cooking!

Does Mirin have Alcohol? 


Yes it does! 

Before it was used for cooking, Mirin was made for drinking. Back in the Edo days, this was before Sake became a popular drink, Mirin was an expensive alcohol enjoyed by novelty women.   If you have a good bottle of Hon-Mirin, go ahead and serve it! It will taste like a sweet liqueur. 


What is the difference between Mirin type (みりん風調味料) and Hon-Mirin (本みりん)?

There is a HUGE difference. Not only the price but the content of the two condiments are very different. Hon-mirin is the real-deal, whereas the Mirin"type" will be the cheaper version of Hon-Mirin. 


Some Hon-Mirin will not have the mentioning of "Hon" on it but you can check if it is in the ingredients list.  Hon-Mirin should only have three ingredients: Sticky Rice, Koji and Alcohol (sho-chu or brewing alcohol)  Mirin will have more ingredients, which would most likely include white sugar or glucose. 


Hon-Mirin will have somewhere around 14% alcohol so this will be taxed in Japan and you will need to have an alcohol license to sell this.  On the other hand, Mirin has less than 1% alcohol so you do not need a license to sell this.


These are the biggest differences. 

It takes a longer time to ferment Hon-Mirin as the added alcohol has to suppress the Koji to breakdown the carbohydrates in the sticky rice and also the koji itself.  This slow fermentation process will not only create the sweetness, but also the Umami flavour.

Mirin type, on the other hand, is a shortcut as the sweetness comes from added sugar and has less umami... hence the price difference. 

How to Use This? 

Mirin is great for marinating!  Mirin helps the flavors to soak in, taking away the strong smell so it’s mostly used for cooking fish and adding glaze to your food.  This glaze helps make the food look more presentable as long cooking times can cause the food to fall apart.


Mirin pairs well with soy sauce (like Teriyaki sauce!) Teriyaki is a technique used in Japanese cooking and it is 照り (glaze) 焼き(cooked/grilled) basically a cooked dish with a glaze.  Mirin plays a very important role in the glaze part.

You can make your own Teriyaki sauce with mirin and soy sauce (plus some extra flavors to make it more sexy!) We will share our original Gluten-Free Teriyaki Sauce at the end of this article.


If you are going to make Japanese-style boiled fish, don't forget to add a dash of mirin! Not only for removing the fishy smell, but it will also hold the fish's shape.



You can use mirin as a sweetener.  It is not as sweet as white sugar so it will have a mild and pleasant sweetness. You an also make a mirin syrup!

Add a cup of mirin in a sauce pan and let it boil out until it becomes 50% of the initial amount. By this time the alcohol will be gone and it should become sticky. You can add this to your ice cream, yogurt or as a glaze on your cheese!


How to Store Mirin?

You can store Mirin in room temperature, even after opening the bottle. Avoid direct sunlight. You can also store it in the refrigerator but you may see some white particles at the bottom of the bottle, which are crystals of the sugar.  But don’t worry, this won’t affect the quality!

Is Mirin good for you?

Compare to white sugar, mirin does have health benefits. In this case we are talking about Hon-mirin, not the mirin type. 

Mirin contains some Vitamin B's (B1, B2, B6) and this will help you with metabolize carbohydrates and protein and also helps you to recover from fatigue.  It also contains amino acids and will not spike your blood sugar levels like white sugar does.

However, it does contain sugar so if you are on a low sugar diet, consume with moderation :)



Here is a sample of how to make a healthy Teriyaki sauce!


FoodCraft's Vegan & Gluten-free Teriyaki Sauce


  • 100ml, mirin
  • 50ml, tamari soy sauce 
  • 1 Tbsp., coconut flower sugar

How to Prepare:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring it to boil.
  2. Once it gets a sticky texture it is ready. You can use it strait away!

At Foodcraft we have 2 types of Mirin which The

Clearspring - Japanese Rice Mirin
Clearspring - Organic Japanese Mikawa Mirin


They are both hon-mirin. Rice mirin has a lighter flavor and the Mikawa Mirin (三河みりん) is a 3 year aged thicker and sweeter mirin. For stronger and deeper flavor, go for Mikawa Mirin!


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