what’s in your cheap mirin?

I was at the grocery store looking for mirin, which is a common, rice wine used in Asian cooking. It’s similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content.

In authentic mirin, the sugar content is not added sugar, but natural sugar that occurs from the fermentation process of rice, a process that requires 5 months to complete. Yet, in many less expensive, commercialized mirin products, it’s completely different. Often made with molasses, glucose, and genetically engineered enzymes to speed up the fermentation process, you’ll most always get a product that is cheaper, and lower in quality and flavor.

Back to last week. I found myself at the grocery store, scanning the shelves, looking at multiple brands of mirin. Crap, there are 3 different brands, what’s the difference?

I’m sure you can relate to this.

Whenever there are multiple brands of one product (which is often), I look for the ingredient list. This invariably will determine which brand I will purchase.

I compared a few different bottles of mirin and was shocked when I read the ingredients. If you want to see my highest recommendation, just scroll down to #3.

Now, let’s review.

Mirin #1: Kikkoman Aji- Mirin

The ingredients in descending order (largest to smallest): glucose syrup, water, alcohol, rice, corn syrup, and water. This product is mostly filled with sugar (13g per serving!), which is certainly not helpful for your waistline. Say no to plastic. Not recommended.

Mirin #2: Mitsukan Mirin

The ingredients in descending order (largest to smallest): corn syrup, fermented rice extract, water, and salt. With corn syrup as the first ingredient, this product is mostly sugar.

The “fermented rice extract” is listed as the second ingredient, which in authentic mirin products, a fungus is commonly used for fermentation, not “extracts.” Furthermore, this product used a quicker method to speed up the fermentation process, which inevitably effects quality and flavor. Not recommended.


This product was most impressive. No added sugar. Koji (also known as aspergillus oryzae) is listed as an ingredient, which is the fungus commonly used for rice fermentation. This product was also fermented for 5 months, which results in higher quality and flavor!

It’s also important to support companies that are environmentally friendly (ie glass bottle). Highly recommended!

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