Mirin vs rice vinegar: what is the difference?

In this short article, we will answer the question “Mirin vs rice vinegar: what is the difference?” and show you contextual information about these two Japanese ingredients.

Mirin vs rice vinegar: what is the difference?

Even though they are occasionally used in the same recipes, rice vinegar and mirin are not the exact same thing. Both mirin and rice vinegar are excellent in enhancing the flavour of food, and they have many things in common. 

They are not the same, though, and in most cases, you cannot (or shouldn’t) substitute one for the other because doing so can alter the entire flavour profile of your cuisine. 

Although they are similar, mirin can be eaten on its own whereas rice vinegar is usually used in sauces and other meals. While having both in your kitchen is an excellent idea, you shouldn’t use them interchangeably.

Rice vinegar has a sour sharpness that mirin lacks, and mirin is notably sweeter. Given that mirin doesn’t contain added sugar and that rice vinegar does, yet mirin tastes sweeter than rice vinegar, it’s simple to become perplexed in this situation.

Let’s look at rice vinegar and mirin separately to better understand the distinctions between the two and why it can occasionally be a mistake to swap one for the other.

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar, which is made from fermented rice, is one of the most well-known and widely used varieties of vinegar in the world, although it is most typically used in Asian cuisine.

It is used frequently in sauces, salad dressings, and meat marinades since it is gentler than other types of vinegar. 

Although it is frequently used as an ingredient in recipes, rice vinegar is rarely utilised as, for instance, a salad dressing. It is frequently used as a foundation for sushi vinegar.

There are times when you can use rice vinegar by itself, but most often it is combined with other ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and the like.

Interestingly, despite having more sugar than mirin, it doesn’t taste as sweet. This and the fact that it is rarely used alone, unlike many other varieties of vinegar, may be due to its strong flavour. Different varieties of rice vinegar exist. 

  • black rice vinegar
  • red rice vinegar
  • white rice vinegar

Black rice vinegar has a gentler, smokier flavour than white and red rice vinegar and a slightly different flavour profile from both.

It is important to determine if you are gluten sensitive because rice vinegar often does not contain gluten, although this is not always the case.


Mirin naturally contains about 45% sugar, which gives it its sweetness through fermentation. unlike rice vinegar, which does not have added sugar.

It can be used on its own, straight in a dish, and has some similarities to rice wine and sake. Instead of taking over, the intention is to highlight the inherent flavours of the cuisine.

Here, rice vinegar and mirin vary from one another because rice vinegar is typically used in cooking while mirin can be used as a condiment.

When mirin is added to sushi, the dish comes to life. Sushi has an even deeper flavour profile than you’re used to thanks to the sweetness of mirin, which helps to highlight all the savoury flavours of fish, rice, and seaweed.

You should be warned that it contains a significant amount of salt (far more salt than rice vinegar).

Although mirin and rice vinegar are typically gluten-free, it is possible that wheat or malt have been added, which would make it contain gluten. The several varieties of mirin include:

  • Shin Mirin
  • Shio Mirin
  • hon mirin

There are some distinctions among these three, and hon mirin, which contains 14% alcohol, would be the most “genuine” mirin. Shio mirin is less alcoholic for those who desire it, but it is also very accurate to what mirin is.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are many items sold as mirin (commonly referred to as aji mirin), so make sure you purchase the real deal to avoid compromising on the taste or the advantages of adding mirin to your food.

Mirin is frequently used as a sauce, a condiment, or even directly on the meat. It’s funny because you can even drink it, whereas with rice vinegar you probably wouldn’t want to. Additionally, it is a little bit thicker than rice vinegar and has a viscosity more akin to syrup.


In this short article, we answered the question “Mirin vs rice vinegar: what is the difference?” and showed you contextual information about these two Japanese ingredients.