Rice Vinegar Vs. Mirin – What’s The Difference?

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Vinegar is a household product that we have been consuming for a long time now; Evidence suggests that the Babylonians used to make Vinegar from dates and use it in their cooking and for medical purposes too (This dates back as far as 3000 B.C). Furthermore, archeologists also found small amounts (Just traces) of Vinegar inside Egyptian urns, which the Egyptians used to store their food and other commodities. More recently, Vinegar underwent rapid changes, and we started producing it on a large scale.

Vinegar is used for various purposes, it has great culinary uses, and different scientific researchers have found that Vinegar has many health benefits that we didn’t know before. A study revealed that Vinegar is an effective agent in fighting infections, combating heart disease, and slowing down cancer growth. With so many benefits, the popularity of Vinegar was bound to grow. 

According to a survey, vinegar sales jumped from 1902 million to 2018 million liters in 2020. But the Vinegar used in most western countries has a high amount of acetic acid. But the kinds of Vinegar used in Asian countries, such as Rice vinegar and Mirin, contain far less acid. But what exactly are these kinds of vinegar, and do they differ from one another?

This article will talk about the differences between these two kinds of vinegar and what sets them apart from each other. So, please keep on reading to find out more. 


If you are familiar with sake (a type of wine), it’ll be easier for you to understand what Mirin is. Similar to sake, Mirin is also produced by fermenting Rice, but the difference between sake and Vinegar is the amount of alcohol each has. Mirin usually has less alcohol, which is lowered by heating the final fermented product to evaporate the alcohol.

Like most fermented products, Mirin is made with the help of a mold (In this case, it’s called Aspergillus Oryzae). This mold is responsible for giving the Vinegar an earthy, mushroom-like, and rich flavor. The process of making Mirin requires no added sugar; the mold ferments the carbohydrates already present in the Rice, which gives it a sweet taste even though there is no sugar added to it. 


The amount of alcohol can vary according to the type of Mirin you are using. The three basic types of different Mirin are Hon Mirin, Shio Mirin, and Shin Mirin. The factor separating these three types of Mirin is the amount of alcohol each has. Hon Mirin is the most popular amongst these.

Hon Mirin has the highest amount of alcohol (14%); This alcohol level is achieved by Mashing the Rice for 40 – 60 days. Then there is Shio Mirin which comes with 1.5% salt added to it; This prevents consumption, and the producers don’t have to pay taxes. Shin Mirin has the least alcohol (1% or less). In some cultures, such as Kanasi, the Mirin is boiled before using to evaporate the alcohol, this type of Mirin is usually known as Nikiri Mirin. 

Rice Vinegar

Rice Vinegar (as its name suggests) is a type of Vinegar produced from Rice. Rice Vinegar is also a fermented product like Mirin, but the difference is between the micro-organism used to ferment the Rice. Rice Vinegar uses Mycoderma Aceti, a type of bacterium, and as we have already mentioned, Mirin uses Aspergillus Oryzae, a type of mold. The fermentation process involves converting the sugars present in the Rice into alcohol, which is further fermented into acetic acid. 

With the amount of acetic acid being lower than other varieties of Vinegar such as white Vinegar, Rice Vinegar adopts a milder taste. Although most of us in the west prefer a harsher taste in our Vinegar, most people in Asian countries like China, Japan, and Korea prefer the milder variety of Vinegar. This mild flavor is slowly catching up with the rest of the world, with more and more chefs starting to incorporate this magical culinary tool in their recipes. 


One thing that helps chefs and home cooks use Rice vinegar is their choice when selecting which type of rice Vinegar to use. Rice vinegar is produced in Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam, and each country produces its type of Rice Vinegar so, the options are plenty if you are planning on using it in a recipe. The Chinese have three varieties of Rice vinegar which include White-Rice Vinegar (the most acidic one), Red Rice Vinegar (which has a red color and a unique flavor), and Black Rice Vinegar (the sweetest of these three). 

The Japanese make their Rice Vinegar similar to Chinese Rice Vinegar, but they have many more types. Two of the most popular types of Rice Vinegar from Japan are Japanese White Vinegar and Seasoned Rice Vinegar. The Former is used to reduce the smell that is usually present in seafood and fish, while the latter is used to increase the flavor in Rice.

So What’s the Difference Between Rice Vinegar and Mirin?

Mirin is frequently used as a condiment that can enhance the flavor of your sushi rolls and make them taste more palatable. Mirin has a sweet flavor that works really well with the salty flavor of seaweed nori. On the other hand, Rice Vinegar is not used as a condiment on its own. However, you can use it to make other dipping sauces as it has the ability to add a unique flavor to the sauce and, consequently, to your food. 

Another difference Between Mirin and White Vinegar is how each one is used. Mirin is usually preferred to season Meat and tenderize it. This is because Mirin has high levels of sugar (45%), which can be effective at tenderizing the meat. On the other hand, Rice Vinegar is more acidic and is usually preferred to cook food items like noodles, soup, and seafood.