Chinese and other Asian cuisines use Shaoxing wine in various types of recipes such as marinades, stir-fries, sauces, and dumpling filings. In many areas, it’s not an easy-to-come-by ingredient. As it happens, there are plenty of options for finding the best Shaoxing wine substitute to flavor your dish!
🍷What Is Shaoxing Wine?
Shaoxing wine is a type of rice wine originating from the same-named province in China. Glutinous rice, water, and a small amount of wheat are mixed and fermented to produce this wine.
This means that Shaoxing wine is not gluten-free. In some cases, wheat might not be listed as an ingredient. If you have a gluten intolerance, it’s best to use a gluten-free substitute.
The fermentation process gives Shaoxing wine a characteristic flavor. Sweet, and earthy, with nutty, caramel, and fruit undertones, this Chinese wine is a great way to create a more complex taste for your recipes.
How Siaoxing Wine Is Used For Cooking
Shaoxing wine has a dark amber color that will give a deeper hue to your dishes. The tangy, salty, and slightly sweet taste profile is excellent for enriching soups, broths, stir fries, marinades, glazes, braises, spring rolls, and many other types of recipes.
Braised dishes usually call for Siaoxing wine in larger quantities. For stir fries and marinades a few tablespoons are more than enough.
If you ever use it to recreate a traditional Chinese recipe you’ve had at a restaurant, you might be surprised to find out this wine was the missing ingredient needed to get the original flavor.
In fact, the difficult part would be finding a Chinese restaurant dish that doesn’t use Shaoxing wine. Popular recipes such as chicken stir fries such as Kung Pao chicken, Mongolian beef, Chow Mein, Wontons, braised tofu, fried rice, and stir-fried bok choy have it as an ingredient.
It’s a wonderful addition even in a low-carb recipe like this cauliflower fried rice. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
🍸Alcoholic Shaoxing Wine Substitutes
Since we’re trying to replace an alcoholic drink, it makes sense the closest alternatives also contain alcohol. Some are pretty easy to find and we totally recommend considering one of these options first as they are the closest match in terms of flavor.
Don’t have time to waste? Here’s a quick overview of the substitutes:
|Substitute||Substitution Ratio (Substitute: Shaoxing Wine)||Notes|
|Mirin||1:1||If the recipe includes sweetening ingredients you might need to reduce them.|
|Dry White Wine||1:3 ratio||You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the acidity of your recipe.|
|Gin||1:8-1:4||You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the acidity of your recipe.|
|Huangjiu||1:1||If the recipe includes sweetening ingredients you might need to reduce them.|
|Fujian Cooking Wine||1:1||–|
|White Grape Juice||1:2||–|
|White Grape Juice + Rice Vinegar||1/2 cup of white grape juice + 1 tablespoon rice vinegar = 1 cup Shaoxing wine||–|
|Apple Cider Vinegar||1:1||Add a small amount of sugar, honey, or another sweetener to compensate.|
|White Wine Vinegar||1:1||Add a small amount of sugar, honey, or another sweetener to compensate.|
|Champagne Vinegar||1:1||Add a small amount of sugar, honey, or another sweetener to compensate.|
|Stock||1:1||You can add some brown sugar and rice vinegar to replace lost flavors.|
|Light Soy Sauce||1:8-1:4||For a more complex taste, add a little brown sugar and something acidic like lemon juice or rice vinegar.|
|Apple Juice||1:2||To get back some of Shaoxing’s umami flavor add a drizzle of light soy sauce.|
|Non-alcoholic White Wine Or Beer||1:2||–|
If, for whatever reason, you can’t consume alcohol, check the non-alcoholic substitutions in the next section.
Dry sherry is a Spanish fortified wine that’s one of the best Shaoxing wine substitutes in terms of flavor and availability.
I recommend you opt for dry sherry as a replacement and even so, it will be sweeter than Shaoxing wine.
It works best for recipes that call for small amounts of Shaoxing wine such as sauces and marinades.
For this reason, start with a 1:2 ratio and add more if needed after a taste test.
While not as easy to find as dry sherry, this Japanese cooking rice wine has a similar flavor profile to Shaoxing wine and makes an excellent substitute.
The main difference is that Mirin is sweeter and has a lower alcohol content. For savory recipes, 3/4 cup of Mirin is enough to replace 1 cup of Shaoxing.
For recipes that have at least one sweetening ingredient such as sugar or honey, you can use a 1:1 substitution ratio and reduce the sweetener.
This is also a Japanese rice wine with subtle fruit and herbal flavors that usually match the dishes calling for Shaoxing. Sake is a drinking wine although it’s widely used for cooking in Japanese cuisine.
Sake is sweeter than Shaoxing wine (and even Mirin) so use a 1:2 ratio when substituting Shaoqing wine. You can always add more later if needed.
Cooking sake will add a touch of umami flavor to your dishes and pairs well with fish and meat.
Some of you will be pleased to hear cooking sake typically has less alcohol than regular sake. This won’t have a noticeable impact on your dishes, though.
Sweetness-wise, cooking sake is somewhere between regular sake and Shaoxing wine. For this reason, it’s more suitable as a 1:1 substitute compared to drinking sake.
Dry White Wine
This is definitely one of the easiest-to-find alternatives to Shaoxing wine! It’s best to choose an actual dry wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Even the dry varieties are sweeter than Shaoxing.
Shaoxing wine is more acidic than dry white wine. This problem can be easily fixed by adding a small amount of lemon juice.
In general, a 1:3 ratio works well when substituting Shaoxing wine with dry white wine. This means you’ll need 1/3 cup of white wine to replace 1 cup of Shaoxing wine. To increase the acidity, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice will do the trick!
Tip: Try these incredibly tender slow cooker turkey legs if you want to enjoy a dish flavored with white wine.
Dry vermouth is another type of alcoholic drink that makes an excellent substitute for Shaoxing wine. You won’t have any trouble finding dry vermouth in grocery stores and liquor stores.
It’s higher in alcohol than Shaoxing but the dryness is pretty close. For this reason, it works best for recipes that already have other fragrant ingredients.
Start with a 1:4 ratio to avoid overpowering your dish. This means you should use 1/4 cup of dry vermouth to replace 1 cup of Shaoxing wine. It’s easy to add more dry vermouth later if needed!
Gin is a strong alcoholic drink flavored by juniper berries and other botanicals. While very different from Shaoxing wine, it does complement dishes calling for it.
Because of the high alcohol content, this substitute should be paired with strong-flavored foods and used in low amounts.
A 1:8-1:4 ratio is an excellent place to start. Only add more after tasting. If you want to add more acidity to your recipe, a few drops of lemon juice are a quick fix.
Originating in Korea, this rice wine has a mild, sweet flavor that’s pretty close to Shaoxing. The major drawback is this substitute is not easy to find.
It’s sweeter and crispier than Shaoxing so use a 1:2 ratio to make sure you don’t overpower the other ingredients in your recipe.
Huangjiu is also a Chinese alcoholic drink made by fermenting glutinous rice. Interestingly, Shaoxing wine is a Huangjiu variety, which makes it one of the best substitutes.
Why is it so low on our list? It’s difficult to find!
Liangjiu is a type of Huangjiu made for cooking and you can definitely opt for this variety if you have it.
Availability issues aside, use it as a 1:1 substitute. Huangjiu is sweeter than Shaoxing wine. If your recipe has other sweetening ingredients it’s a good idea to adjust the quantity.
As you can see, there are so many types of rice wine! Mijiu is another Chinese variant that’s often used for cooking and can be used in place of Shaoxing.
Like Huangjiu and Cheongju, your best chance of finding these varieties is in specialty stores and online.
The latter goes through an aging process which gives it subtle hints of nuttiness and a a more complex bouquet. Mijiu has a lighter flavor but a similar sweetness.
In most cases, a 1:1 ratio will work perfectly when swapping Siaoxing wine for mijiu.
Fujian Cooking Wine
Subtle sweetness with a fruity and herbal flavor, Fujian cooking wine is another Chinese rice wine, with an alcohol content below 15%.
It has a unique flavor that’s very different from Shaoxing’s blend of sweet and sour with savory and bitter notes. Regardless, Fujian cooking wine is an excellent 1:1 substitute, that works for most recipes but especially for stir-fries.
🥤Non-alcoholic Shaoxing Wine Substitutes
These non-alcoholic alternatives to Shaoxing wine will get the job done as far as balancing the flavors in your dishes.
As a small compromise, none of them matches the bouquet of Shaoxing wine. For that, I recommend one of the rice wines mentioned above, dry sherry, dry white wine, or dry vermouth.
If you or a family member can’t consume alcohol for religious or medical reasons, you don’t like the taste, or you’re cooking for kids, most of these substitutes are widely available and I’m sure you already have some!
White Grape Juice
If you can’t use another wine or alcoholic drink to replace Shaoxing, grape juice is your best bet and the white kind is better in this case. This substitute works best in recipes that require a small amount of Shaoxing wine.
Grape juice is sweeter than Shaoxing wine and it’s best to start with a 1:2 ratio and add more if needed.
White Grape Juice + Rice Vinegar
White grape juice works as a standalone substitute although the extra acidity from the rice vinegar is a welcome addition when substituting Shaoxing wine.
White grape juice is very sweet and a small amount of rice vinegar will bring back some tartness.
You can replace 1 cup of Shaoxing wine with 1/2 cup of white grape juice mixed with 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
The addition of rice vinegar is a good idea for recipes like this citrus vinaigrette and marinades as they usually require a higher level of acidity.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The crisp and tart flavor of apple cider vinegar is one of the main reasons this pantry staple is so widely used for cooking. It can make a simple tomato cucumber and onion salad so much more exciting, or add some fruity notes to steak sauces like this creamy horseradish sauce.
This substitution won’t give you the exact aroma of Shaoxing wine but it does complete the flavor in many recipes.
In general, all types of vinegar will be more acidic and less sweet than Shaoxing wine. You can use apple cider vinegar as a 1:1 substitute. Add a small amount of sugar, honey, or another sweetener to compensate.
White Wine Vinegar
Another mild vinegar, white wine vinegar is affordable and very easy to find.
Start with a 1:1 ratio when substituting Shaoxing wine and add more if needed. The fruity flavor of white wine vinegar works well for sauces, marinades, stir-fries, and other dishes.
The vinegar made from fermented champagne has a subtle flavor (milder than white wine vinegar) which is why it’s excellent as a Shaoxing wine substitute.
You can substitute an equal amount of champagne vinegar to replace Shaoxing wine but keep in mind this vinegar is still not as sweet compared to Shaoxing.
If needed, you can always add some sugar, honey, or another type of sweetener to balance the flavors.
The rich and syrupy balsamic vinegar packs a lot of flavor and can enrich a variety of recipes. Try it in a simple sheet pan chicken and veggies dinner, or on roasted beets and carrots for a burst of flavor.
It’s definitely not a close match to Shaoxing wine but it is an easy-to-find substitute and its unique bouquet works for many dishes.
Use the 1:1 substitution ratio as a general guideline. Depending on your recipe you might need to add more or less.
Whether it’s made with meat such as beef or chicken or just with veggies, the nutritious stock pairs well with most foods.
Keep in mind the flavor of stock is very different than that of Shaoxing wine so this substitution is suitable for recipes that call for small amounts.
This is a 1:1 substitution although you may need to add some brown sugar and rice vinegar to replace some of the flavors you’d get from Shaoxing.
Light Soy Sauce
If you’re okay with giving up the sweetness and earthiness of Shaoxing, light soy sauce has the savory part covered. I always add it to stir-fries and sauteed dishes like this easy vegetable lo mein as it encourages caramelization and deepens the flavors.
It will also give a darker hue to your dishes, just as Shaoxing wine does. Soy sauce is salty, and the safest option is to start with a small amount.
For a more complex taste, add a little brown sugar and something acidic like lemon juice or rice vinegar.
Use this substitute as you would white grape juice. The acidity and sweetness of apple juice make it a suitable alternative to Shaoxing wine.
Use 1/2 tablespoons of apple juice to replace 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and adjust if needed. To get back some of Shaoxing’s umami flavor add a drizzle of light soy sauce.
Chances are, you already have some lemons in the fridge, or lemon juice in your pantry. As a standalone substitute, lemon juice is not ideal but will add some tartness to your dish.
It works best when combined with a mild substitute like white grape juice or stock.
Lemon juice is very tart and a 1:8 ratio makes a good place to start when replacing Shaoxing wine.
Non-alcoholic White Wine Or Beer
There’s no shortage of alcohol-free wine and beer in stores and there are lots of flavors to choose from.
Most of these drinks are rather sweet which is why you should start by adding half the amount you would Shaoxing wine. Give the dish a quick taste test and adjust as needed.
💡Tips For Using Shaoxing Wine
If you managed to get your hands on a bottle of Shaoxing wine, follow these tips for perfect results every time!
- Don’t add the Shaoxing wine at the start of the cooking process. If it’s cooked for too long, some of the flavor will be lost.
- If you’re substituting the wine with a non-alcoholic ingredient, you might need to increase the salt and other seasonings.
- Follow the recipe, and don’t use more Shaoxing wine than the quantity called for. Too much of it can overpower the rest of the ingredients.
- Marinades made with this wine need a longer time to infuse the meat with flavor.
- Once opened, Shaoxing wine will last for years if stored in a cool, dark place such as the pantry or a cupboard. There’s no need to keep it in the fridge!
Shaoxing wine has an alcohol content of 15-20% which may not evaporate completely for fast recipes like stir fries. However, it’s used in small quantities, typically a few tablespoons for a 4-serving dish.
This means one serving would have a minuscule amount of alcohol (1-2 ml) which would have no impact on children’s health.
Yes! Rice wine has a milder flavor and it may not add color to your dishes but it works as a substitute for most recipes.
Yes, various types of vinegar such as red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and champagne vinegar can be used as Shaoxing wine substitutes.
Keep in mind that vinegars are more tart and less sweet than Shaoxing so you might need to add a small amount of sugar, honey, or another sweetener to replace lost flavors.
White grape juice, apple juice, stock, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, light soy sauce, and lemon juice are some of the best and readily available non-alcoholic alternatives.