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Sake Substitute: 8 Creative Alternatives You’ll Never Think to Try

Sake Substitute: 8 Creative Alternatives You’ll Never Think to Try

Sake isn’t always readily available in American stores, so we’ve come up with this list of options to help you find the best sake substitute for your dishes!

Our top 8 substitutes for sake that that closely mimic its flavor and properties are: 

Apple Cider1:1 ratio
Dry Sherry1:1 ratio
Dry vermouth1:1 ratio
Dry White Wine1:1 ratio
Mirin1:1 ratio
Shaoxing Wine1:1 ratio
Water1:1 ratio
White Grape Juice1:1 ratio

In the U.S., as international dishes become more popular, so does the need for certain ingredients like sake, a Japanese rice wine. While used in many recipes for its umami, sake isn’t always easily available in American stores. Also, some people might want to avoid alcohol or find a more budget-friendly option. 

That’s why understanding sake substitutes in cooking is essential. Knowing these alternatives helps make global recipes more accessible and adaptable for everyone. But before exploring these alternatives, let’s first delve into the distinct flavor of sake.

The Flavor Of Sake

Sake has a flavor that blends gentle, sweet notes from residual sugars after fermentation with the savory depth of umami. Some sakes also reveal light fruit accents, like apple or pear, and others might have a touch of earthy or nutty flavors.

In cooking, when aiming to mimic sake’s flake, dry sherry, vermouth, or Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) serve as suitable substitutes. However, each alternative imparts unique aromatic nuances, which may subtly adjust a dish’s intended flavor.

Sake Substitutes

Here are a few substitute options you can consider if you’re looking for alternatives to sake in your cooking.

Dry Sherry

Using dry sherry as a substitute for sake in cooking can be an effective option, especially if you can’t find sake or if you have a bottle of sherry on hand that you want to use up. 

Remember, dry sherry is nuttier and has a slightly richer flavor than sake. Depending on the dish, this can either be a beneficial difference or something you’ll need to account for.

Use dry sherry instead of sake at a 1:1 ratio.

Shaoxing Wine

Shaoxing wine can be used as a substitute for sake in marinades, braises, and sauces. It has a deeper, more robust flavor with pronounced earthy notes compared to the lighter flavor of sake. 

If sake is a central component in a recipe, especially in Japanese dishes where its delicate flavor might be highlighted, the substitution will be more noticeable.

Replace sake with Shaoxing wine in a 1:1 ratio.

Dry White Wine

Using dry white wine as a substitute for sake in recipes is a common approach, especially when sake is unavailable or if you just don’t have it on hand. 

But it’s important to remember that sake has a sweet, fruity, and slightly yeasty flavor, while dry white wine can range from tart and mineral-forward to fruity, depending on the grape and region. So you might need to adjust your recipe accordingly.

Substitute dry white wine for sake on a 1:1 basis in most recipes.

White Grape Juice

White grape juice can be used as a non-alcoholic substitute for sake, especially since the primary purpose of the sake is to add sweet flavor to certain recipes. 

It’s more acidic than sake, though, which can change your dish’s flavor. To balance it, add a pinch of baking soda or modify other acidic ingredients.

Start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust if needed.

Apple Cider

Both sake and apple cider have inherent sweet flavor, although they come from different sources. This sweet taste can help balance flavors in dishes that require a mild sugary touch.

Much like sake, the acidity in apple cider can enhance dishes, including braised meats, stews, and autumn-inspired poultry dishes. It’s especially good for balancing rich and fatty ingredients, making it a useful sake alternative.

Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.


Just like sake, mirin has the ability to mask undesirable odors in dishes, particularly those from fish or gamey meats. This property is beneficial when preparing certain traditional Japanese dishes.

It’s naturally umami and sweet, but you can balance its sweet flavor in recipes by decreasing or skipping other sweet ingredients.

Use mirin in a 1:1 ratio and reduce other sweeteners as needed.

Dry vermouth

Using dry vermouth as a substitute for sake in a recipe is an interesting idea, but the former has a more aromatic and herbal flavor due to the botanicals used in its infusion.

It’s best to use dry vermouth as a substitute for sake in savory dishes and cocktails, but avoid it in sweet dishes and traditional Japanese recipes due to flavor differences.

Use dry vermouth in place of sake at a 1:1 ratio.


Using water as a substitute for sake is a last resort option and is generally considered when no other alternatives are available or if alcohol needs to be completely eliminated from a dish.

Since water doesn’t have the flavor of sake, you might need to adjust seasonings, like salt or soy sauce, to balance the dish.

Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.

The bottom line

While sake has a unique flavor that’s challenging to replicate perfectly, there are several substitutes available that can be used in cooking based on the desired outcome and the specific dish. 

The key is understanding the role sake plays in the recipe and choosing a substitute that fits that purpose, be it for sweet, acidic, or deep flavor profiles. By adjusting and tasting as you cook, you can get great results even without the original ingredient.

More About Sake

8 Best Sake Substitutes

8 Best Sake Substitutes

Sake isn't always readily available in American stores, so we've come up with this list of options to help you find the best sake substitute for your dishes!


  • Dry Sherry – 1:1 ratio
  • Shaoxing Wine – 1:1 ratio
  • Dry White Wine – 1:1 ratio
  • White Grape Juice – 1:1 ratio
  • Apple Cider – 1:1 ratio
  • Mirin – 1:1 ratio
  • Dry vermouth – 1:1 ratio
  • Water – 1:1 ratio


  1. Replace sake with one of our 8 recommended options. 
  2. Use one of the above ratios when substituting for sake in a recipe.

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