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How to Cook With Sake

Wondering how to liven up your usual recipes? Consider working sake into your culinary rotation to enhance your dishes’ flavors. Below, you’ll discover all the basics of cooking with sake wine, along with some specific sake recipes that will help introduce this flavorful ingredient to your meals. Discover how to incorporate sake in your cooking and make a meal worthy of any professional chef.

Can Sake Be Used for Cooking?

Sake is a fermented beverage made from rice and water that is often used in Japanese cooking, just like you would use wine for cooking. Along with traditional Japanese dishes, sake (Junmai type sake like Takara’s Sho Chiku Bai Classic Junmai)  can be used in a wide variety of recipes and culinary styles. You can use sake to add a naturally subtly sweet, mellow flavor and umami — a distinctly savory taste — to nearly any dish.

Although sake is categorized as a type of rice wine, sake is produced through a brewing process similar to beer. During the process, the rice starch in sake gets converted into sugar, which then gets converted into alcohol by yeast. The alcohol in sake evaporates with the meat or fish scents in cooking to make a more delicious, well-rounded dish.

In addition to removing any fish or meat odor, here are some benefits of cooking with sake:

  • The alcohol from sake tenderizes the meat especially when marinaded.
  • Just like wine, sake can serve as a key flavoring to a dish.
  • The sake can enhance the flavors of other ingredients of a dish.
  • As a fermented product rich with amino acids, sake can bring some extra richness and mellowness to a meal.


What Is a Good Sake to Cook With?

Similar to wine, there are numerous types of sake available for cooking. These kinds of sake can be characterized from dry to sweet, as well as from robust to delicate. You can choose foods to go with sake just like you would pair a pinot gris, chardonnay or other wine with food. 

Either pair your sake with a food featuring similar or complementary flavors, or you can make a match that highlights the contrast between the two. In general, sake goes well with chicken, pork, fish and pasta. A sweeter sake pairs well with spicy foods as well as desserts, specifically those that contain chocolate or berries.

While you should reserve premium sake for drinking with the meal, the best type of sake for cooking is Junmai type sake with full body and rich with amino acids that produce a umami (savoriness). However, Ginjo type sake (made with highly polished rice), one of the premium sake types for drinking, is not usually ideal for cooking because of the lack of amino acids and a very light body.

If you don’t have proper sake for cooking in your cabinet, it is always handy to have seasoning sake like mirin. Mirin is a very traditional seasoning type of rice wine with a higher sugar content, a lower alcohol content and rich amino acids (umami). If you love cooking, both sake (Junmai type) and mirin are essential.

How to Cook With Sake

Using other alcoholic beverages in cooking might mask the taste of whatever dish you are cooking. Instead, sake can help fortify the flavors of the other ingredients. Sake should be added early in the cooking process so the alcohol can evaporate as the food cooks, leaving only the rich flavor of umami and a hint of sweetness.

Like any other culinary seasoning, sake requires extra care when it comes to how much is used. Going to either extreme does not yield quality results — too little sake makes no difference in the dish, while too much can overpower all the other flavors. A small quantity of sake is enough to elevate the taste of a dish.

Now that you know the secret to cooking with sake, here are ways you can start incorporating it into your regular recipes:

  • Incorporate sake in your marinade: Marinades that include sake both taste better and make meat or fish more tender. Because sake is so versatile, you can use it to complement nearly any marinade recipe. Mix together a simple marinade of sake, soy sauce and garlic, or create a more complex marinade featuring flavorful ingredients like ginger and miso.
  • Use sake in a brine: Similar to a sake marinade, a sake brine can add an intensely savory umami flavor to a dish while tenderizing the meat. You can make a sake brine for numerous types of foods, including chicken, pork, beef, salmon and other types of fish.
  • Mix some sake into your sauces: Whisking sake into your sauce can intensify the sauce’s other flavors. Experiment with sake in your sauces by making a complement for grilled fish and meats or a glaze for baked dishes.
  • Splash some sake into your soups and stews: You can add a touch of sake to a broth made with water, beef broth, chicken broth or fish broth. Pouring about a cup or so of sake into a few cups of soup or stew will give the recipe a rich, deep flavor without overpowering the broth’s taste. 
  • Steam foods with sake: Steaming foods with sake can give them a deeper savory umami flavor. You can steam anything from chicken and vegetables to fish and shellfish by using equal parts water and sake as your base.
  • Make rice with sake: Cooking rice with sake gives the rice a more distinctive, full flavor. Adding just a splash of sake to your water when making rice will enhance your rice sides and dishes.
  • Cook sake into your stir-fries: Next time you’re stir-frying vegetables and meats, mix in a bit of sake to give the dish a more vibrant and profound taste. Adding sake to your stir-fry will also help balance out bolder flavors like garlic and soy sauce.
  • Bake sake into bread and cakes: Sake can even enhance baked goods. You can find plenty of recipes that use sake to make bread and cakes both more moist and full of flavor.

Best Cooking With Sake Recipes

Check out these top five sake recipes to get your sake culinary adventure started:

  1. Salmon teriyaki: Infuse your pan-fried salmon with flavor by dousing it in a delicious soy sauce, sake and mirin sauce. The sauce will give the salmon a flavor boost while muting any fishy notes.
  2. Chicken ginger: Make your ginger chicken taste better than ever by using this recipe that balances the sharp taste of ginger with smooth sake.
  3. Chicken Karaage: This Japanese fried chicken recipe uses sake to create a flavor-packed marinade for the crunchy chicken.
  4. Teriyaki wings: If you love wings, this teriyaki wings recipe will quickly become your new favorite dish. Sake gives these teriyaki wings a pop of flavor you won’t find anywhere else.
  5. Garlic steamed mussels: This garlic steamed mussels recipe demonstrates how well seafood and sake pair together. Simmering the mussels in sake gives them an extra rich, savory flavor.

Purchase Your Sake From Takara Sake USA Inc.

If you’re ready to show off your new sake cooking skills, browse the wide variety of sake from Takara Sake USA. At Takara Sake USA, you’ll find top-quality sake in a range of styles suitable for cooking. From premium to flavored sake, Takara Sake USA has the perfect options for your next recipe.

Shop Takara Sake USA products to find the right sake for you today.

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