Money saving tips for those who cook with sake:
Though still alcoholic, mirin is a suitable substitute for sake in a recipe and will help to retain much of the intended flavor. Essentially a sweetened rice wine, mirin can be substituted equally in a recipe for sake, though it will impart a slight sweetness to the finished dish. If any added sugar is necessary in the recipe, skip it if you substitute mirin so that you do not over-sweeten the dish. This is the closest substitute for sake and if alcohol is not a problem, choose mirin for your dish. Find mirin in Asian markets or in the Asian section of major grocery stores.
Sweet Sherry or Chinese Shiaoxing Wine
These common cooking wines are both sweetened so you will want to omit additional added sugar when substituting with these. Cooking sherry is found in most grocery stores, while Chinese shiaoxing wine can be found at Asian markets and the Asian-food section of major grocery stores. Both types of cooking wine can be substituted in equal proportion to the amount of sake called for in a recipe to marinate your meat or vegetables.
White Grape Juice and Lemon Zest
White grape juice is another viable substitute for sake and is non-alcoholic. Add a pinch lemon zest to each tablespoon of white grape juice substituted to provide a little tang and better match the complexity of sake. Substitute white grape juice mixed with lemon zest in equal proportion for the sake called for in your recipe. This is the best substitute for sake in a marinade for those individuals that cannot have any alcohol in their diets.
Skip the Sake
If you must avoid alcohol for health or religious reasons, one easy solution is to just skip it altogether. To create a marinade that has a similar consistency, add the same amount of water in exchange for the sake called for in the recipe. While this does not add the same flavor, it does ensure that your meat or vegetables are well-coated with the marinade and able to absorb the other flavors that make it up.
However, if you find yourself wanting to make a recipe that calls for sake, but not wanting to run to the store to grab some (or have problems finding sake in your local grocery store or Asian market), a fortified white wine, like dry vermouth, will do the trick.
You can also use Chinese rice wine, or dry sherry if the recipe only calls for a small amount (1 to 2 tablespoons) of sake. Or if you want to leave booze out of the equation all together, you can substitute rice wine vinegar mixed with water or white grape juice for the sake at a 1 to 3 part ratio. For example if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup sake, I would substitute 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar mixed with 3 tablespoons water or juice.