Shaoxing wine is a Chinese cooking wine that you have probably had in one of your favorite dishes before. However, it is a very unique wine, which can make it difficult to find at times.
If this is the case, you will then want to know what other ingredients can result in a similar taste.
What Is Shaoxing Wine?
This Chinese cooking wine is a rice wine made specifically for cooking only. It is an essential ingredient in Chinese cooking, and along with soy sauce, it makes part of traditional dishes.
Just as with other cooking wines, it is added in the cooking process to add depth, color, and flavor to sauces, soups, and noodles.
While it is still a cooking wine, it is different from other wines because it is more complex and deep. This wine is used in marinades, making dumplings, to deglaze sauces, and to add flavor to the meat.
What Can I Replace Shaoxing Wine With?
These are the best Shaoxing wine substitutes for your next stir-fry:
#1. Dry Sherry
This dry fortified wine is typically used in small amounts to cook things like stews, meats, and sauces. Because it is dry and pale, it is a good substitute for Shaoxing wine, but the flavor may be a bit sweeter. Consider using it in half the amount as Shaoxing, but you may need more, so taste as you cook.
Dry pale sherry can be bought in liquor stores and some grocery stores. This is a common cooking wine, so it won’t be too hard to find.
This is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, often used in the same way as Shaoxing, for seasoning and thickening. It is somewhat similar to sake, but it contains less alcohol and a softer body.
However, mirin is sweeter than Shaoxing, so when using it as a replacement, add the same amount called for in the recipe, but reduce other sugars.
You can find mirin in some grocery stores, but there are cases when you are better off in a liquor store or specialty store. Mirin is a good investment, as you’ll surely use it later if you ever make Japanese and other Asian foods.
This Japanese wine is a good alternative, especially if you can find a cooking sake, which is lower in alcohol. It is commonly used in fish and meat dishes, as a tenderizer, marinade, or to add umami.
If you use regular sake, make sure you only use about ½ cup for every one cup of Shaoxing, but for the cooking sake, you can use almost the same amount.
Cooking sake can be bought in grocery stores, but it may be harder to find, so consider buying regular sake in a liquor store, and simply reduce the amount or add more water.
Sake is a bit sweeter and thicker than Shaoxing, so take this into account before you start cooking.
#4. White Grape Juice + Rice Vinegar
While this isn’t an ideal option, when you are in a pinch, white grape juice, and rice vinegar together can achieve a similar flavor to Shaoxing wine.
Make sure you buy white grape juice, otherwise, the flavor will be completely different, and so the color. Some people regularly use white grape juice to replace cooking wine, so it can work, particularly when mixed with the acidity of rice vinegar.
To replace Shaoxing, add ½ cup white grape juice and one tablespoon rice vinegar for every one cup of Shaoxing wine. You can add more as you go, but make sure you taste, and always adjust for sugar.
#5. Dry White Wine
This is another choice that should only be used when there are no other options left. Using a dry white wine will add the aroma and sweetness to the dish, but be careful, as too much of it can completely change the flavor.
Dry white wines are commonly used in Italian and Spanish cuisines, but you can use them in this case as long as you add ⅓ of a cup for every one cup of Shaoxing.
Dry white wines are commonly found in liquor stores, though, some grocery stores may sell them as well. We recommend that you taste the wine, make sure it’s not overly sweet, and add as you go. Also, you can add ½ teaspoon lime juice for added acidity.
If you don’t have any other options, or you feel adventurous, then you can try to make rice wine yourself. Simply soak four cups of glutinous rice in hot water for about one hour, drain the rice, and steam it for about half an hour, then cool it down.
Add a teaspoon of Chinese yeast ball to the rice, and mix with a teaspoon of all-purpose flour. Store in an airtight container that has been sterilized.
After one month, the liquid can be separated from the rice, and this remaining liquid is your rice wine. Store in an airtight glass container and refrigerate.
While they sound similar, rice vinegar and Shaoxing wine aren’t interchangeable. It is better if you use mirin or a dry white wine for both flavor and consistency.
Some places carry Shaoxing wine in the local grocery stores, but your safest bet is a Chinese grocery or specialty store. If you have one, go to the local Chinatown neighborhood for various options.
Shaoxing is used in almost every dish in Chinese cuisine. It is essential in preparing meat, fish, stir-fry, and sauces. Sometimes, it is added to eliminate unpleasant fish smells and also used to add aroma to a dish.
While Shaoxing wine is part of Chinese culture and everyday dishes, it can be difficult to find one on certain occasions. That’s why you should be aware of what substitutes can work. These five options are good for specific situations and are easier to find.
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