Sake or rice wine is a fermented rice liquor and is a key ingredient in many Japanese recipes. It is made from polished rice which means that the rice has had its bran removed, giving sake a water-like clarity.
There are two types of Sake:
- Cooking Sake – is used to tenderize meat, and also to remove unwanted smells and flavors. Cooking sake contains salt, unlike drinking sake, so it adds some flavor to the meat.
- Drinking Sake – is an alcoholic beverage that is similar to cooking sake except it does not contain salt.
Now if you need to use Sake for a recipe and you don’t have any, then you have come to the right place. In this article, I am gonna share with you a list of substitutes for Sake that you can use.
I will also give you the precise measurements for how each of these substitutes can be used to seamlessly recreate the flavor of sake for each of these dishes: Marinades, Teriyaki sauce, and Karaage.
Best Substitutes for Sake in Marinades are:
- Chinese Shiaoxing Wine (Chinese cooking wine)
- Dry sherry
- Water (non alcoholic)
- White Grape Juice and Lemon Zest (non alcoholic)
Best Substitutes for Sake in Teriyaki Sauce are:
- Dry White Wine
- Rice wine vinegar (non alcoholic)
- Chinese Shiaoxing Wine (Chinese Cooking Wine)
Best Substitutes for Sake in Karaage are:
- Chinese Shiaoxing Wine
- Chicken stock with a pinch of sugar (non alcoholic)
- Dashi with a small pinch of sugar (non alcoholic)
Best Substitutes for Sake in Marinades
Sake is important when used in marinades because it tenderizes the meat as well as enhances the other flavors. But if you don’t have sake these are your alternatives:
Mirin is similar to sake in terms of flavor, but it has more sugar and less alcohol. Mirin has 14% alcohol while sake has 20%.
An advantage of using Mirin is that it is readily available at any supermarket since it is a common ingredient used for glazing and seasoning.
It should be noted that there are different types of mirin. But we recommend using Hon-mirin as a substitute for Sake in marinades. Hon-mirin is also referred to as “real” mirin and contains around 14% alcohol. Other types of mirin don’t contain as much alcohol.
How to Use Mirin instead of Sake For Marinades
Depending on the recipe, the same amount of mirin can be used in a marinade instead of cooking sake.
However, when substituting Mirin for Sake in a recipe that has both Sake and sugar as ingredients you should minimize or eliminate the amount of sugar that the recipe calls for.
This is due to the difference in sweetness that mirin has compared to Sake.
- If the recipe has Sake, as an ingredient but no sugar you should be very cautious when using mirin instead of Sake.
- If the recipe requires a small amount of Sake then using the same amount of mirin will be fine.
- But if you need a lot of Sake, using the same amount of mirin, may cause the marinade to become too sweet. Instead you may need to dilute the mirin with some water to suit the flavor of the marinade.
2. Chinese Shiaoxing Wine (Chinese cooking wine)
Chinese Shaoxing wine commonly called Chinese cooking wine is an ideal substitute for Sake in marinades. Since both of these wines have many similarities including:
- A similar flavor palette,
- Both impart a rich complexity to marinades
- And they are both used primarily as a cooking wine and not for drinking.
However, it is important to note that the flavor of Chinese cooking wine is a bit heavier than sake. Another difference is the color of Chinese cooking wine and sake. Chinese cooking wine is made from rice that isn’t polished, so it’s a brownish yellow color, as opposed to Sake which is clear.
Chinese shiaoxing wine is a key ingredient in many Chinese dishes and can be found at Asian markets and the Asian-food section of major grocery stores.
How to use Chinese Shiaoxing Wine instead of Sake for Marinades
Chinese Shiaoxing Wine can be substituted in equal proportion to the amount of sake called for in a recipe to marinate your meat or vegetables.
3. Dry Sherry
Cooking sherry is another option you can use in marinades if you don’t have sake. Despite grapes being used to make sherry, it has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor which makes it a great Sake substitute.
However, Cooking sherry has an alcohol content of 10% which is less than sake. This may affect the taste of the marinade slightly.
How to Use Cooking Sherry Instead of Sake for Marinades
The flavor of sherry is a bit stronger than sake, but it’s close so you can use it as a 1:1 replacement.
You can also use sweet sherry if that’s all you have to hand. But the marinade will be distinctly different. So if the recipe already uses sugar or other sweetening ingredients, simply use less of it and make up the difference with your sweet sherry.
Water may seem surprising as a substitute for Sake since it’s obvious that water does not have a similar flavor to Sake.
But the reason why it’s on this list is that water can help with the consistency of a marinade and is a non-alcoholic solution in a pinch.
The water in the marinade will ensure that your meat or vegetables are well-coated with the sauce and able to absorb the other flavors that make up the teriyaki.
How to use Water Instead of Sake Marinades
To create a marinade that has a similar consistency, add the same amount of water in exchange for the sake called for in the recipe.
5. White Grape Juice & Lemon Zest (non-alcoholic)
White grape juice is another substitute for Sake that is non-alcoholic. This juice is made from the green skin of grapes, it has a high level of Vitamin C. The grape juice helps to add a level of flavor like sake.
The lemon zest provides a little tang and cuts away the sweetness of the grape juice.
How to use White Grape Juice & Lemon Zest instead of Sake for Marinades
Substitute white grape juice mixed with lemon zest in equal proportion for the sake called for in your recipe. You can add a pinch of lemon zest to each tablespoon of white grape juice substituted for Sake.
Best Substitute for Sake in Teriyaki Sauce
Sake is one of the four key ingredients in Teriyaki sauce. Sake adds a layer of depth, flavor, and body to any teriyaki sauce.
But if you don’t have sake this flavor can be replicated by using the ingredients below in any teriyaki sauce with a few adjustments to the recipe.
Mirin is one of the four key ingredients in teriyaki sauce. The four ingredients in Teriyaki Sauce are sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. These four ingredients are used in a 1:1 ratio to create the sauce.
How to use Mirin instead of Sake in Teriyaki Sauce
Since the flavors of sake and mirin are so similar, you can use the mirin as an alternative for Sake in the same amounts as required by the teriyaki recipe.
However, it is important to note that mirin is sweeter than Sake so you have to scale down the amount of sugar in the recipe to match the desired flavor of the teriyaki sauce.
Grapes are used to producing sherry, but it has a flavor profile close to sake which makes it a great replacement. There are different types of sherry but I recommend that you use sweet sherry and dry sherry in place of sake in teriyaki sauce.
Sweet sherry has a sweeter flavor than sake but can still be substituted in equal proportion to the amount of sake called for in a teriyaki recipe. However, you may need to lessen any additional added sugar when substituting with sweet sherry.
Dry sherry can also be used as a substitute for Sake in teriyaki sauces. Dry sherry typically, has a sharp flavor, with a scent of apple cider and a very dry finish. The flavor is a bit stronger than sake, but it’s close. Use it as a 1:1 replacement.
3. Dry White Wine
Dry white wine has a very similar flavor profile to that of sake, though sake may be slightly stronger. Use a dry white wine as a 1:1 replacement for Sake in teriyaki sauce.
4. Rice Wine Vinegar
Rice wine vinegar is a non-alcoholic option for Sake. However, Sake and rice wine share a core flavor, but the flavor in the rice wine is massively intensified.
To create a proxy for Sake in a teriyaki sauce you’ll need to dilute 1 part rice wine to 3 parts water. You will also need to add extra sweetener to overcome any sour flavor that the extra vinegar may have. Doing this should get you close to the flavor of the sake.
5. Chinese Shiaoxing Wine (Chinese Cooking Wine)
Chinese Shiaoxing Wine can be substituted in equal proportion to the amount of sake called for in a teriyaki recipe.
Best Substitute for sake in Karaage
Karaage is a technique in which meat mostly chicken is deep-fried in oil. The food is marinated prior to frying in a mixture that includes sake.
The role of sake in Karaage is to; create the taste of umami, tenderize the meat, add flavor, and counteract any gamy quality.
Now if you don’t have sake some of the substitutes below also work well in any Karaage mixture.
1. Sherry is often recommended as an alternative for Sake in karaage. Dry sherry works best instead of sake for any karaage recipe and can be substituted in equal amounts as sake as well.
2. Mirin can also be used instead of sake in karaage though it may add a sweeter taste to the marinade mixture. So you may want to dilute it with a bit of water.
3. Chinese Shiaoxing Wine has a similar flavor to sake and may be used as a 1:1 ratio to sake in karaage.
4. Chicken Stock and a pinch of sugar can be used as a non-alcoholic alternative to sake in karaage. While the flavor profile will be different without the sake, the karaage will still be delicious.
5. Dashi is a family of stocks used in Japanese cuisine. Dashi plus a pinch of sugar can be used in karaage as a proxy for Sake.
Dashi stocks will not replicate the flavors of sake but will add to the overall flavor profile and the addition of sugar will compensate for the sweetness that the sake would have added.
Recommendations for Substitutes for Sake
Chinese Shiaoxing Cooking Wine is the best Chinese wine that can be used as an alternative to Sake. You can click here to see the price for a bottle on Amazon.