Rice wine originated in Southeast Asia, where it is available in different types that vary in color and flavor. While Sake is a Japanese rice wine, Huangjiu and Choujiu are produced in China. Kulapo is a reddish rice wine from the Philippines, whereas Makgeolli from Korea has a milky consistency. If a recipe calls for rice wine, which is not easily available in your area, go for its substitutes.
Rice wine is very widely used in Southeast Asian cuisines. Apple juice or grape juice mixed with a small amount of rice vinegar may work as a substitute, especially in stir-fry marinades.
What to Use Instead of Rice Wine?
When it comes to food substitutes, flavor and texture/consistency are the two factors that play a major role. Even the color may matter in some recipes. So the substitute must have a flavor that is similar to rice wine. Firstly, you must know which type of wine is mentioned in the recipe. Some recipes require specific types, like the Shaoxing rice wine.
Use Pale Dry Sherry in Place of Shaoxing Rice Wine
If your recipe calls for Shaoxing rice wine, which is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, you may use an equal amount of pale dry sherry. This type of rice wine is reddish-brown, and originated from Shaoxing in China. Cooking sherry or cream sherry should not be used in place of Chinese rice wine. The ideal Shaoxing wine substitute is pale dry sherry, which can also be used in place of other amber-colored rice wines. Try to find sherry bottles with ‘dry’ or ‘pale dry’ labels.
Try Gin or White Wine as a White Rice Wine Alternative
In case you need white rice wine for preparing a recipe, you may use a slightly less amount of gin or white wine as a replacement. When compared to white wine, gin has a flavor that is more similar to white rice wine. If gin is not available, you may go for white wine. In that case, ensure that you use dry white wine. Even dry white vermouth can be used, if its herbal flavor goes well with the dish. This substitute is good for marinades and dipping sauces.
Replace Japanese Sake with Dry Sherry or White Wine
Sake is one of the well-known dry rice wines from Japan. It is used as a beverage and also for culinary purposes. This wine comes in different flavors and colors that range from clear to light golden. It can be replaced with an equal amount of dry sherry or white wine. Even dry vermouth or Shaoxing rice wine may work in some recipes.
Use Dry Sherry and Sugar Instead of Japanese Mirin
Mirin is a Japanese rice wine with a sweet flavor, and is used for cooking. It can be replaced with an equal amount of dry sherry mixed with some sugar. For a tablespoon of dry sherry, use less than half a teaspoon of sugar. Otherwise, use sweet sherry as a substitute. You may also use an equal amount of sake mixed with sugar. In that case, use one part of sugar for two parts of sake. Even white wine can be used, if mixed with some sugar.
Avoid using cooking wine and rice wine vinegars as replacements for rice wine, as they have entirely different flavors. Even Chinese and Japanese rice wines differ in flavor. So they may not work as substitutes for each other, in all recipes.
How to Make Rice Wine
- Soak four cups of glutinous rice in hot water for an hour.
- Drain the rice and steam it for about 30 minutes and then cool.
- Grind one-fourth of a Chinese yeast ball, and mix it with a teaspoon of all-purpose flour and add to the rice.
- Transfer the rice to sterilized containers, and secure the lids.
- Place the containers in a warm, dry place for the rice to get fermented.
- After one month, separate the liquid part from the rice mixture.
- This liquid is called rice wine, that has to be refrigerated in air-tight glass containers.