Rice Wine Vs. Rice Vinegar – Is Rice Vinegar The Same As Rice Wine Vinegar

Rice wine and rice vinegar have been confused by many. They are common ingredients used in Asian cuisines.

What is more confusing is some brands label their rice vinegar as rice wine vinegar.

However, they are two different things used for different purposes. Rice wine vinegar is, in fact, vinegar, not a type of wine.

What is rice wine?

We have heard that wine is mainly made from fermented fruits like grapes. What makes rice wine special is that it uses fermented rice.

The yeast acts on the glutinous rice, alcoholization occurs, and alcohol is yielded from the starch and sugars present in the rice.

rice wine

Rice wine has existed in Asian culture for centuries. This is a must-have in Chinese cooking.

They use it in sauces and marinades to sweeten them. It also brings about a rich flavor in the sauces.

They come in different varieties. While some are used for cooking, others drink some as a beverage.

After all, it is wine. However much they come in different varieties, it is essential to note that all rice wines are sweet.

It is crucial to note that rice wine has quite a low alcohol content compared to American wines.

If you would want to try out rice wine in your cooking, you should  use try these common types:


This is the dry Japanese wine. You will find it in a sushi restaurant. It is usually served hot or cold in some attractive small cups.

Sake is a usual staple beverage in Japan. Sake has been made and consumed by the Japanese for many centuries.

Like all rice wines, it is made from fermented rice. The quality of rice used determines the quality of the sake yielded.

The brewer uses prime grade Sake Mai rice, mold (Aspergillus Oryzae), yeast, and water. To make it more refined, the brewer leaves it for more than a year to ferment well.

This results in rice wine that has an alcohol volume of at least 15%. However, Genshu has an alcohol content of more than 20% and is considered the most potent sake.

Finer sake is served cold while the low-quality ones are served hot or warm. The low-quality ones are a bit sweeter.

They are served warm since it makes the undesirable qualities mild. This means you will not feel the off-notes.

However, you can request to have yours served hot or cold if you prefer either.

However, do not heat it above temperatures of 105F or go below 40F.


This is the Chinese version of rice wine. It is also called the Chinese cooking wine, and you might also find others labeled as Shaoxing wine.

This wine is a must-have for any Chinese dish. Shaoxin wine has been used for cooking by the Chinese for over 20 centuries and can be listed among the oldest rice wine in China.

Shaoxin wine originates from Shaoxing city in Zhejiang Province in China. This city is known for the production of rice wine.

To create Shaoxing wine, the winemaker uses rice and wheat.

Shaoxing Wine

The rice is fermented and a little wheat added as well as water. This results in a clear, dark, ambered wine that has a pleasant aroma. The sweet taste is felt from afar.

Unlike sake that is drunk, Shaoxing is made solely for cooking. It has a rich flavor that is somewhat salty and a bit of harsh alcoholic taste.

Shaoxin adds a twist to sauces. Because of how strong it tastes, it is vital to use as minimal as possible (usually two tablespoons).

However, if you age your Shaoxing for long, you can drink it as a beverage. Remember to warm it first. Unlike the cooking Shaoxing, this has no added salts. In the US, all the Shaoxing has added salts.

This is because they want to evade the alcohol tax and to be allowed to sell rice wine in grocery stores. This means the Shaoxing meant for you can hardly find drinking here.

You can use your Shaoxing wine in meats. This gives them a complex flavor.  You can also add it in marinades if you want to marinate your meat.

It is also used in dumpling fillings and wonton, stir-fries, braises, and sauces. It is a necessity when making red-cooked Chinese dishes and appetizers.

Substitutes for Shaoxing wine.

If you find a recipe that requires you to use Shaoxing wine and yet you do not have it, or you prefer not using alcohol, these are great substitutes for the rice wine:

Alcoholic substitutes for Shaoxing
  • Mirin

This is Japanese rice wine. It is sweeter compared to Shaoxing wine.

  • Sake

As we have mentioned above, sake can also be used for cooking. It is a fantastic substitute for Shaoxing. However, you should know that sake has a less intense flavor.

  • Dry sherry

Yes, you can use regular dry sherry in your Chinese food. I guarantee you that you will achieve a delightful Chinese meal as if you had used Shaoxing.

Non- alcoholic substitutes for Shaoxing

You should not be afraid to use alcoholic substitutes. This is because the alcohol evaporates completely when your food is subjected to the cooking process. This is because of the heat and the long cooking time.

However, if for some reason, say religion, personal choice, or health reasons, you can not use an alcoholic ingredient at all, you can use the following:

  • Mushroom, chicken, or vegetable stock

This comes in handy when stir-frying or applying sauce.

  • Non-alcoholic beer or white wine

There are non-alcoholic beer and wines available today. These can also be used as they will bring about the same flavor. However, some might have hidden traces of alcohol.

  • Ignore it.

Some recipes just want you to use a little Shaoxing, say one tablespoon. In such cases, you can choose to omit it from your ingredients. You will still have a Chinese meal that tastes so good.


This is another Japanese rice wine, but it is sweet as opposed to dry. It is used in Japanese cuisine in sauces like teriyaki sauce and even soy sauce and Japanese dishes.

Mirin is sweet hence balances well with the salty taste of soy sauce. It is syrup-like in consistency hence perfect for glazing.

Mirin is has a lower alcohol volume compared to sake. Its alcohol percentage is 14%, whereas sake has between 15 to 20%.

The original mirin, called the hon-mirin, is made using glutinous rice steamed, koji(cultured rice), and rice liquor that has been distilled.

They are mixed and left to ferment for a couple of months. The longer it ages, the better it becomes. It becomes tastier with a richer flavor and darker; therefore, you can let it ferment for years.

If you want to get hon-mirin(the true mirin) in the united states, you should probably order online. The ones in the grocery stores and supermarkets are called aji-mirin or mirin-fu.

These aren’t the true mirin, but they imitate mirin. They are made from mixing and fermenting rice, corn syrup, and water. They have less than 1% alcohol. They are cheaper than the real mirin, with added salts, and, as expected, lack the rich, complex flavor of the real mirin.

Substitutes for mirin

Nothing can substitute mirin and bring out that naturally rich, complex flavor of hon-mirin. However, you might be forced to use substitutes since maybe you are in a hurry and can’t wait the days it takes for shipping to be done.

  • Honey and maple syrup mixture.

This is the best substitute. Mix your ingredients in a ratio of 5 to 1. Cook this mixture for a while until it reduces by 50%. If you lack maple syrup, you can use sugar.

  • Vermouth and dry sherry

This is the best substitute if you are looking for an alcoholic substitute. Take equal amounts of vermouth and dry sherry. If you do not own dry sherry, you can use marsala wine.

  • Rice wine vinegar

You should not use rice wine vinegar instead of mirin. This is because it is not sweet. If you want to use it, then you have to add sugar. For every one teaspoonful of vinegar, add two tablespoons of sugar.

What is rice vinegar?

Some brands refer to rice vinegar as rice wine vinegar. There are two processes involved in the creation of rice vinegar.

You first have to ferment the rice to form alcohol, and after that, you let it turn to acid. Rice vinegar has less acid compared to white distilled vinegar. It also has a sweet flavor that You can feel from afar.

Rice vinegar is used in salad dressing and to marinate meat.

rice vinegar

It comes in different shades. There is the clear one and ones that come in different shades of red-brown. Depending on the color, expect different tastes.

Types of rice vinegar:

There are two ways you can classify rice vinegar. You can classify based on strength and based on whether it is seasoned or not.

Based on strength

White rice vinegar

White rice vinegar

This is the standard type of rice vinegar that you will find in most supermarkets and grocery shops. It is clear, clean, and with a mild flavor.

Brown rice vinegar

Brown rice vinegar

As the name suggests, it is brown. It has more nutrients compared to white rice vinegar. However, its flavor is equally as mild as white rice vinegar.

This means, whenever a recipe asks for either white rice vinegar or brown rice vinegar, you can use them interchangeably.

Red rice vinegar

Red rice vinegar

Red rice vinegar has a sweet and sour taste.  You might find its smell a little unpleasant.

The rice used to make red wine vinegar is usually already fermented. They also add sorghum and barley to the fermented rice before the vinegar is made.

Similar t the other vinegar types, red rice vinegar has a lot of health benefits. It is an antioxidant, helps in weight loss, and stabilizes blood sugar.

Black rice vinegar

Black rice vinegar

LIke red rice vinegar, this is also made using fermented rice, barley, and sorghum. It has a rich flavor, and you will find it being used as a dipping sauce too.

Based on seasoning

Seasoned rice vinegar

Seasoned rice vinegar has more flavor compared to unseasoned vinegar. Seasoned rice vinegar is made from plain rice vinegar that has been flavored.

Seasoned rice vinegar has added salts and sugar; therefore, it is sweeter. Sometimes it has corn syrup too. It has more calories; therefore, you should be careful with it if you check your weight.

Seasoned rice vinegar makes nice sushi rice and salads. It makes sushi rice delightful.

Plain rice vinegar

This is rice vinegar that has no additives like sugar, salt, or corn syrup.

Substitutes for rice vinegar

RIce vinegar has a distinct flavor that can hardly be replaced by anything else. However, if you get a recipe that requires you to use rice wine vinegar but does not have it in your kitchen, these substitutes would work wonderfully.

Apple cider vinegar

As the name suggests, it is made from apple cider. Apply cider is fermented to create this vinegar.

It has a mild taste and a subtle smell of apples. You can use Apple cider vinegar in any recipe that requires vinegar rice.

However, if you want that sweetness in rice vinegar and absent in apple cider vinegar, add a quarter teaspoon of sugar to a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

White wine vinegar

White wine is fermented to make white wine vinegar. White wine vinegar has a mild flavor that is somewhat acidic, just like rice vinegar. However, it is less sweet. Therefore in recipes that require rice vinegar, you can add sugar in the ratio of 1:1.

 You will use it in sauces and salad dressings.

Champagne vinegar

Champagne vinegar can also work as a substitute for rice wine vinegar. Like all vinegar, it is made from fermenting wine (champagne). It has a subtle and mild flavor, just like rice vinegar. You can use it in seafood, marinades, salad dressings, and sauces. Use it in the ratio 1:1.

Lemon juice

You can use lemon instead of rice vinegar in salads and sauces. You can use lime juice too. Lemons have high amounts of acid. This mimics the acidity found in vinegar.

It brings about some liveliness to salads. However, you should note that using lemon or lime will bring a citrus flavor to your salad.

To have the perfect substitute for your rice vinegar, the amount of lemon juice you use should be twice the amount of vinegar you would have used.

Seasoned vinegar

When sherry wine is fermented, we get sherry vinegar. It has a rich flavor that is somewhat nutty and sweet. It has equal acidity levels as rice vinegar, and you can use it in marinades and sauces. Use it in the ratio of 1:1.

However, there are things you should never use as a substitute for rice vinegar.

What not to substitute with rice vinegar

It is key to note that as much as some types of vinegar work as substitutes for rice vinegar, not all kinds of vinegar do.

Some kinds of vinegar are a bit too acidic for use, while some are too sweet. It would help to taste the vinegar first before adding it to your food. This will help you know the degree of sweetness and acidity.

Herb vinegar

Some kinds of vinegar are flavored with herbs. Most of them cannot work instead of rice vinegar. This is because herbs have a distinct herbal smell that might not work for some dishes.

Fruit flavored vinegar

Just like herbal vinegar, the fruit-flavored kinds of vinegar have a strong fruity flavor too. It would be strange to use raspberry vinegar in a slaw dressing.  If you want to use fruit-flavored vinegar, then try to use citrus vinegar options.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is dark and sweet, too sweet to be used as a rice wine vinegar substitute. It would not work for Asian dishes.

Differences between rice wine and rice vinegar

Although rice wine and rice vinegar are made from rice, it is wise to know that these two have several differences.


Rice wine is used for cooking and as a beverage. The beverage variety is called sake, which is a ja[anese rice wine.

It is dry and is sometimes served hot or chilled. Rice wine is added to food almost at the end of the cooking process.

Rice vinegar is solely used for cooking. It has a zesty taste, but it is still somehow sweet. The vinegar is added at the earlier periods in the cooking process.


Rice wine comes in many varieties. The three most common varieties are Huangjiu, sake,  and mirin. Rice wines are mostly sweet except for dry sake. Sake has an alcohol volume of between 15% to 20%, with some high-quality Sake has an alcohol volume of over 20%. Mirin is like sake but sweeter. It has less alcohol too of 14%.

Some rice wines have different flavors. This all depends on the fruits, herbs, and spices used during fermentation.

Rice vinegar has an acidic taste. It is also sweet. However, when using rice vinegar, use it in small quantities. Most recipes require just a few tablespoons. Rice wine is used in more quantities.

Since rice wine and rice vinegar have different flavors, you should never substitute one for another.

The processing process

The processing of rice wine and rice vinegar are different. When rice wine is made, the rice is fermented using yeast, lactic acid bacteria, fungi, and water.

The fermentation process takes a couple of months to even years. The longer the fermentation process, the better the wine yielded.

Rice vinegar is manufactured from fermented rice wine. The high-quality rice is fermented to create rice wine.

The rice wine is then fermented together with rice, acetic acid bacteria, sorghum, and barley to produce rice vinegar.

Nutritional value

The nutritional value provided by both rice wine and rice vinegar are a little. Considering we use them in different quantities, it will be hard to tell the nutritional levels provided in each.

However, judging by the usage per meal, 150ml of rice wine has about 202 calories, no sugars and salt, and 7.5 grams of starch.

A tablespoon of rice vinegar has no calories. The calorie content in seasoned rice vinegar is 30, 8g sugar, 8g  of carbs, and 710mg salt.

Similarities between rice wine and rice vinegar

Asian origin

Both rice wine and rice vinegar originated from Asia. They have been used in Asian cooking for many centuries.

It is made from rice.

As their names suggest, it is evident that they are both made from rice. The rice is fermented, albeit in different ways.


Rice wine and rice vinegar are essential in Asian cooking. Both rice wine and rice vinegar have been used for centuries in Asian cooking. However, you should know that they cannot be used interchangeably.

Rice wine used for cooking is sweeter than rice vinegar. Therefore, if you use rice wine instead of rice vinegar in your salad dressing, you will have a sweet-tasting salad that will not taste good.

If you used rice vinegar instead of rice wine in your food, you would have a sour-tasting dish, yet that was not what you were going for.

Instead of rice vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar. You can also either use lemon juice, champagne cider, and white wine vinegar.

There are non-alcoholic substitutes for rice wine. They include white grape juice, apple juice, and lemon juice. White grape juice or apple juice would work best since they act as tenderizers (similar to rice wine). However, they do not have the same flavor as rice wine.

If you want to recreate mirin or something with a similar flavor, you should mix white grape juice with lemon juice. You can also find products that mimic sour-tasting mirin in grocery shops.

To finish up, get that rice vinegar and rice wine and get cooking your favorite Asian dish!

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