Does Sushi Have Alcohol?

The question “does sushi have alcohol” seems redundant, but it’s actually great. The dish can deceive with only a few ingredients, but some that are used for seasoning could be considered haram or allergenic. Here’s the scoop on whether sushi contains alcohol or not.

Not all sushi contains alcohol, but chefs often use an ingredient called mirin to season it. Mirin is a rice wine used to season cooked rice. A mixture for seasoning sushi rice contains mirin and sugar and gives the entire dish a slightly sweet flavor. Fortunately, mirin can be replaced with white vinegar, making sushi completely alcohol-free.

A sushi chef making a delicious sushi roll
If chefs use mirin to season the rice, then your sushi will contain alcohol

Learn here how to find alcohol-free sushi and make the most out of your experience with this Japanese delicacy.

Does Sushi Have Alcohol, and Is It Safe to Eat?

Sushi occasionally contains alcohol, depending on where you go to eat it. What does location have to do with it? Japanese chefs typically use mirin because it’s a traditional seasoning, so you’re more likely to see alcoholic sushi vinaigrette in Japan and authentic restaurants.

An authentic Japanese restaurant may not offer alternatives like white vinegar in their sushi su (the name for sushi rice vinaigrette,) but you can always call them beforehand and check.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia is a primarily Islamic country with numerous sushi restaurants, so you’ll never see chefs using mirin to season rice there. They’ll use white vinegar instead since Islam forbids its believers from consuming alcohol. This is what we know as haram.

What Is Mirin, the Only Alcoholic Ingredient In Sushi?

Mirin is a rice wine that contains more sugar than sake but has a similar alcohol percentage – around 14%, just like any other wine.

There are three kinds of mirinhon mirin (also known as true mirin) contains the most sugar and 14% alcohol; shio mirin (or salt mirin) has 1,5% salt in it. It was created with salt to prevent direct consumption; shin mirin (or new mirin) contains the same flavor as true mirin but only has 1% of alcohol.

Japanese dishes heavily rely on mirin to provide flavor and seasoning, from dumplings and noodles to sushi rice. Some Japanese chefs opt for using rice wine vinegar which is entirely alcohol-free, but it tastes more bitter and doesn’t always give sushi its signature flavor.

Some sushi and sauce in bowls, placed next to each other
Mirin is a type of rice wine used to make the seasoning for numerous Japanese dishes

Can People Who Don’t Drink Alcohol Eat Sushi?

Yes, people who don’t drink alcohol can enjoy sushi without fear. You can find restaurants where chefs use rice wine vinegar to season the rice and enjoy the meal there. It’s good to ask the restaurant you wish to visit before going there.

While mirin is available in stores and supermarkets, rice wine vinegar may be slightly easier to find. This is why many people (and restaurants) opt for vinegar-based seasoning, thus creating perfectly safe, non-alcoholic meals.

Sushi That Doesn’t Have Mirin Is Completely Halal

The Islamic law forbids believers from eating certain foods, which we call haram. Alcohol is considered haram, and if someone of Islamic faith wishes to visit a sushi restaurant, they may get disappointed if the sushi seasoning contains mirin.

Still, if we exclude mirin from the equation, which is entirely possible, all other ingredients in classic and traditional sushi are halal or allowed for consumption by Islamic law. It’s essential that everyone can enjoy certain delicacies without feeling guilty or like they’re not included.

This may not be why Japanese chefs introduced the vinegar alternative, but they found a way to make sushi accessible to various nationalities and people of all backgrounds. It’s not one of the world’s most loved foods for nothing.

Neatly plated sushi rolls with chopsticks right next to them
You can find alcohol-free sushi in most restaurants that serve it

The Common Sushi Ingredients Are Completely Safe and Healthy for Most People

If you didn’t know sushi contained traces of alcohol, you might wonder – what else is in sushi? The good news is that you can see the ingredients while eating the rolls, so there’s not much hiding in there. What could there be but fish, rice, seaweed, and some veggies?

Well, sushi rice isn’t plated cleanly cooked – there’s sugar, rice wine or vinegar, and some salt added to it. If you’re looking to reduce your sugar intake, don’t consume alcohol even in traces, or avoid salt because of high blood pressure, you may not feel as happy with sushi as others would.

Potentially Unsafe Ingredients In Sushi (Allergenic Foods)

Soy sauce, or sushi sauce, is a common ingredient that accompanies sushi, but it contains soy and gluten, two prevalent allergens. Gluten sensitivity has become increasingly common nowadays, and soy sauce is not the best thing to consume if this is the case for you.

Some restaurants use surimi crab sticks instead of real crab meat in their rolls. However, surimi sticks aren’t crab – they’re white fish mixed with crab flavoring and red dye. The additives in the imitation crab contain gluten, so if you flare up after a small meal, think back on the ingredients and if one of them was surimi.

Some other allergenic foods can be:

  • Cream cheese (dairy),
  • Tuna (shellfish/fish),
  • Salmon (shellfish/fish),
  • Crab (shellfish),
  • Tofu (soy),
  • Tempura shrimp (gluten/shellfish/soy),
  • Edamame (soy).

You Can Find Alcohol-Free Sushi Variations Anywhere

The good news is that sushi without mirin is widely available, and you don’t have to dismiss the idea of trying this signature Japanese dish. If you’re unable to consume alcohol, it’s OK. Many chefs are aware of certain dietary restrictions and do their best to make their meals accessible to everyone. Go ahead, order some sushi and enjoy yourself.