Sake is one of those foods that are both delicious in meals and as a drink. Using sake can be difficult, though, especially if you can’t afford it or don’t have a liquor store nearby. Instead, you can try using an equally tasty substitute.
What Is Sake?
This alcoholic drink is the product of fermenting polished rice. In this process, the starch turns into sugar, and then into alcohol. The alcoholic content of sake is usually between 14 to 16%, although the genshu variety has around 18 to 20% of alcohol.
There are various types of sake, which also affects whether they should be cold or hot. Sake is often present as an appetizer, and with light meals, like fish. However, sake can also be part of many dishes, so cooking with it is common in Japanese cuisine.
While cooking sake doesn’t have any alcoholic content, most recipes will call for the alcoholic kind. Traditional sake can be nutty or fruity, but it is delicate as well.
What Can I Replace Sake With?
If you can’t afford it, or it is hard to find, these sake substitutes may work for plenty of your dishes and recipes:
For Cooking, Marinades, and Teriyaki Sauce
#1. Dry Sherry
This fortified wine is a good replacement when it comes to cooking, as it is light in alcohol and has a nutty flavor. You can find dry sherry in most liquor stores, as this is considered an aperitif or dessert wine. Use the same amount that the recipe indicates, but consider that it may add sweetness to the dish.
Use dry sherry when cooking broth, soup, marinades, and in making sauces. You should go with the dry kind if possible, as the other choices are a bit too fruity. You may have to balance the flavor as well by adding more soy sauce or salt.
See More: Sherry Substitutes
#2. Shao Xing Cooking Wine
This Chinese cooking wine is a staple in plenty of Asian dishes, including stir-fry, fried rice, and soups. Shao Xing wine contains salt, so it is not meant to be an alcoholic beverage on its own. Use this option when cooking rice, soup, marinades, and making sauces.
You can use the same amount of Shao Xing that the recipe indicates. Keep in mind that this choice will make your dish salty, so you may want to reduce the salt you use. You can probably find this wine in some grocery stores, but surely an Asian food market will have it.
#3. Dry Vermouth
Dry vermouth is another fortified wine that is originally from Spain. This wine is often an aperitif or digestif, so you can find it in this section of liquor stores.
The flavor of dry vermouth is a bit aromatic but not too overpowering, so it is a great replacement when you need the dryness of sake.
Use the same amount as you would sake, but consider that this choice is less sweet, so you may need to add more sugar as you cook.
For Ramen, Soup, and Karaage
This Japanese cooking wine is similar to sake but it has a very low alcohol content and contains more sugar. Mirin is a great substitute to use in place of sake, as it is very similar in flavor but a bit less aromatic.
Add this alternative when you are cooking ramen, broth, Karaage, poke fish, or udon noodles.
You can probably find mirin at your local grocery store, usually by the Asian section. You can also try finding it at an Asian food market. Try using the same amount of mirin as you would sake, but taste as you go because this choice is sweeter.
See More: Mirin Alternatives
#5. Rice Wine Vinegar
Though not ideal for every recipe, when you don’t have any other choices, you can use rice wine vinegar in place of cooking sake. You can use rice wine vinegar when making sauces, marinades, and soups. This is an easy option to find anywhere, and surely your grocery store will have it.
When using rice wine vinegar, you may want to cut the amount in half, as it is a bit too acidic. To counterbalance the tartness, you can add a little sugar or other sweet ingredients. Sometimes, when used in excess, rice wine vinegar can leave a bitter aftertaste, so be mindful of this.
#6. White Grape Juice
While it may seem weird, using white grape juice can work well in place of sake for those that don’t want to use alcohol. This choice is good for cooking ramen, broth, Karaage, and some noodles.
You can find white grape juice in any grocery or convenience store, but make sure you pick the white kind only.
To substitute your sake with white grape juice, use about half of the amount indicated in the recipe. You may also need to reduce the amount of sugar, as white grape juice has a higher sugar content than the rest of the choices in this list.
Vodka and sake taste very differently, so it is not advisable to replace one with the other. Instead, you can use other dry wines, like sherry, vermouth, or dry white wine. If you need to replace vodka, use white wine or cooking wine.
Soju is a Korean alcoholic beverage that doesn’t taste as sweet as sake. Instead, you can use other wines, like dry sherry or dry vermouth. If you can’t find these, try mirin or Shao Xing cooking wine.
As with any other alcoholic beverage, moderation is key. However, sake is lower in sugar than other alcohols, so it is not a bad choice. You can consume sake with dinner or have a glass once in a while without much problem.
Not all of us have had the luxury to cook with sake, but once you do, it is a delicate and tasty ingredient. Still, this drink is expensive and sometimes hard to find, so trying any of these 6 substitutes can work well in plenty of dishes and recipes. Make sure you always measure and try your choice before adding it.
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