Mirin: Adding Umami, Sweetness and Depth to Japanese Cuisine

  • 2 min read
Mirin: Adding Umami, Sweetness and Depth to Japanese Cuisine


Mirin is one of the key ingredients which brings to life Japanese dishes. Mirin is a semi-sweet, alcoholic cooking rice wine enhances umami, adding depth and richness to your cooking.

Mirin: Adding Umami, Sweetness and Depth to Japanese Cuisine

Kinds of Mirin

Generally speaking, there are three different types of mirin:

Hon-mirin: “true” mirin

Hon-mirin (本みりん) translates to “true” mirin. Coming in at 14% alcohol, this type of mirin has the highest alcohol content and is usually aged for at least six months. It tends to be the most expensive because of the labor involved in producing it, but also has the cleanest flavor.


Shin-mirin (新みりん), or new mirin (sometimes marketed as kotteri-mirin), has a much lower alcohol content, usually less than 1%, and contains more artificial sugars than hon-mirin. This is usually the cheapest mirin, and has the added benefit of not needing to cook the alcohol off, so it's perfect for cold dishes.

Manjo aji-mirin

Manjo aji-mirin (マンジョウ味みりにん) has a higher alcohol content (up to 14%) as well as a high salt content. It has a noticeably different flavor, so you’ll have to adjust the salt you add when cooking.

Mirin: Adding Umami, Sweetness and Depth to Japanese Cuisine

How to use mirin

Mirin has two main functions, mainly to create umami and add sweetness. Unlike adding sugar to a dish, mirin has a more subtle and mellow sweetness, which helps to highlight the other ingredients. The alcohol helps to cut down on the natural odors of food (such as fish), while marrying the different flavors of the dish.   The sugar content also provides a nice glaze to sauces.

A truly versatile ingredient found in every pantry in Japan, mirin will add a rich depth of flavor to your dishes.

Learn how to store mirin: How to Store Japanese Cooking Essentials

Recipes to try:
Nibitashi (Fried/Simmered Vegetables)
Yuzu Pickled Daikon (Japanese Radish)
Yakitori (Chicken Skewers) with Yuzu Miso Sauce
Niku (Beef) Udon


About the author: 

Michael Bugajski

Michael Bugajski
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen.  Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!

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