Brown Sugar is the Best Substitute for Mirin! Why?

  • To remove odor
  • To add flavor
  • To add sweetness
  • To add umami

These are the four main roles. And they can be categorized as “seasonings that add taste and flavor”.

After trying many things, I have come to the conclusion that mirin can be substituted with brown sugar. Not white sugar, not honey, and not raw sugar. It is brown sugar. Here is a detailed explanation of why.


Brown Sugar and Mirin are Friends

Mirin is a seasoning that adds taste and flavor. Brown sugar is also a seasoning that adds taste and flavor.

If you lick white sugar, you will feel a strong sweetness. But with brown sugar, you will feel a complex flavor and miscellaneous tastes in addition to the sweetness. This flavor and miscellaneous tastes are necessary to substitute mirin.

Why White Sugar Does NOT Suit for?

White sugar is seasoning that only add flavor. There are only three seasonings that add only flavor: white sugar, salt, and ajinomoto. These three are seasonings that are quite difficult to use because if you add too much of them, only their taste will come out strongly.
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What is seasoning? Why do we need seasoning? Seasoning makes food delicious. If you know more about seasoning, it helps your cooking a lot!

If you use white sugar instead of mirin, only the sweetness will stand out, without any miscellaneous taste or flavor. Even if you adjust the amount, it will still have the same lack of taste and flavor.

In my opinion, white sugar is not good substitutes for mirin.

Why Honey and Raw Sugar Does NOT Suit for?

Honey and raw sugar are also “seasonings that add flavor and aroma. They are classified same as Mirin and brown sugar, but they are not suitable as substitutes. Because their taste and flavor are too strong.

Honey and raw sugar have such a strong taste and flavor that even a small lick will tell you that it is honey or raw sugar. The reason why you see the words “honey” and “raw sugar” written in various snacks and recipes is because when you use it as a seasoning, you know exactly what it is.

But what about mirin? As you can see from the fact that you don’t see any products or recipes that say “mirin” is used, mirin is not very noticeable.

Honey and brown sugar are too strong, so I don’t think they are good substitutes for mirin.

How Much Should I Add?

What Kind of Brown Sugar Should I Use?

There are many kinds of brown sugar, such as beet sugar and millet sugar. It doesn’t matter which one you use. Choose the one with the flavor you like. If the taste or flavor is too strong, it is not suitable, but in most cases it will be fine.

Which ones Should I Buy in Finland?

There are several types of brown sugar available in Finland.
The one I use most often is RUOKOSOKERI, or cane sugar as it is called in Japan. I use it because it is easy to measure. But it is difficult to dissolve because of its large grains.
It has a different flavor depending on the manufacturer, and the difference is noticeable when baking bread, but hardly noticeable in everyday cooking.

In terms of ease of melting, I would recommend FARIINISOKERI. This one is quite moist, so it tends to take more time when measuring, but the taste of the food is almost the same.

I also tried KOOKOSOKERI, but it smelled more savory and was less sweet. The downside is that it is a bit expensive.

Brown Sugar as a Substitute for Mirin

With this in mind, I believe that brown sugar is the best substitute for mirin. In fact, not only can you substitute mirin, but you can also cook deliciously without cooking sake if you use brown sugar to add flavor.

Even men-tsuyu, which is often a problem for Japanese people living abroad, can be made easily and cheaply using brown sugar. You don’t even need white wine.
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This is a recipe for Mentsuyu and Tentsuyu, Soba, Udon and Tempura dipping soup without mirin or sake. You can use dashi soup and powder.

I recommend brown sugar as a substitute for mirin.
This article is part of the seasoning series. What is seasoning? How can I substitute mirin, cooking sake, etc.? You can read all articles about seasonings here.
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