Carbohydrates: old friend or lifelong nemesis? While plenty of delicious things contain carbohydrates, there are those who avoid them for dietary reasons. Those on low-carb diets, such as the keto diet, may be concerned about going out for a drink or two. We’re going to look at sake carbs and hopefully get some clarity on whether our keto friends can join us in a kampai. Right off the bat, it might be easy to look at the ingredients of sake and assume that there are going to be tons of carbs due to the rice, but that’s actually not the case. So let’s jump into it!
How many carbs are in sake?
According to the USDA’s nutritional database, 100 milliliters (or a little over 3 ounces) of sake has just under 5 grams of carbs on average. For context, it’s recommended that the average American consume around 2,000 calories per day, of which 45%-65% are typically carbs. That’s 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day, to save you a calculator trip. If we push our sake measurement up to the standard serving size of 4 ounces, that’s about 5.7 grams of carbs, or 2.5% to 1.7% of the average American’s allotted carb intake. Now that’s what I call low carb, but let’s also look at some other delicious foods for context.
First up, Dill Pickle Chips from UTZ come in at 15 grams per recommended serving. A bowl (100 grams) of white rice, no salt, comes in at 28.2 grams. Even raw romaine lettuce has around 5 grams of carbs per 100 grams. Clearly, sake carbs hold their own in the lightweight category.
Sake carbs by sake types
It gets pretty challenging to ascertain if the different types of sake have different levels of carbohydrates. Obviously, the carbs will vary from type to type and brand to brand, but we can make some educated guesses as to which are going to be in that average of 5 grams per 100 milliliters range and which may sit higher than that.
Clear sake such as junmai, honjozo, ginjo and daiginjo are more likely to fall on the lower end, whereas a lush nigori is more likely to have a few more carbs involved due to the inclusion of sake lees. Those seeking low-carb options may also want to look for dry styles instead of sweet ones, as drinks with more sugar have more carbs. Check out the sake meter value or SMV on the back of the bottle. (You can also find it on all Tippsy product pages!) Sake in the negative SMV range has a measurable amount more sugar than sake in the positive range.
Carbs in sake vs wine, beer, vodka and whiskey
Let’s run the numbers! The tables below compare the carb content of sake, beer, wine and whiskey.
Data for these tables was sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Research Institute of Brewing in Japan.
As we can see, sake is comparable to wine (red wine sits at 2.6 grams per 100 milliliters as well) in carb levels, but beer is by far the most carb heavy. Vodka isn’t included on that table, but like whiskey and other distilled alcohol, it contains zero carbs. However, most people tend to mix spirits such as vodka and whiskey with some kind of mixer, like juice or soda, which will have additional carbs due to sugar or other naturally occurring carbs.
Is sake keto friendly?
To answer the question “Is sake keto?”, we need to discuss what the keto diet is. The ketogenic or keto diet centers around the idea of structuring your nutritional intake in such a way that your body enters a state called ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of sugar. The easiest way to trigger ketosis is to deprive your body of the glucose (sugar) that it would typically burn while supplying fats and oils. There’s more to it, but for our purposes this is the key part. Someone looking to do a keto diet has a maximum allotted carb intake of 50 grams per day. Remember, the standard American consumes between 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day. That’s why our friends on the keto diet are so carefully cutting out things like bread, sweets, and tragically, rice.
Normally, one would want to steer clear of rice on a keto diet, however we’ve seen that sake is naturally low in carbs and sugars. So when we ask ourselves if sake is keto friendly, we can pretty confidently say “hai!” (yes, in Japanese), so long as you plan your carb intake accordingly for the day. We might even go so far as to say it might be a great way to round out your 50-gram allotment.
3 sake bottles with low carbs
As a disclaimer, we have no way of knowing for sure how many carbs are in any given bottle of sake. That’s because alcohol companies aren’t required to put nutritional labels on their products in the same way food companies are. But what we can do is use what we learned above to make some educated guesses. We want something clear, light and dry, avoiding nigori or a negative SMV. A great way to look for that would be to check out the Light & Dry collection, or let us do the work and check out these three bottles.
Michinoku Onikoroshi “Honjozo”
If carbs are a demon to be slain, then this Michinoku Onikoroshi is a great choice. This honjozo has an SMV of +10, which means there are fewer residual sugars left after the brewing process is done. With a light, dry and delicious taste and a high SMV, it’s exactly what we’re looking for.
Suigei “Tokubetsu Junmai”
This delicious bottle hails from the south corner of Japan, Kochi prefecture. This tokubetsu junmai also has a high SMV at +7, but it plays with more floral, herbaceous notes. If you’re on a keto diet, you probably enjoy some grilled meat, and from experience we can tell you that a nice char and this bottle are a knockout combination.
Let’s all raise a glass, keto or not, to sake! While it is made from rice, sake is a low-carbohydrate alcohol that can work well with the keto diet, so long as moderation is applied. Hopefully, now we can all drink easy while enjoying a traditional dance and marching to the beat of our own drums. Kampai!
RD Davidson, K. PhD Tinsley, G. “What Is Ketosis, and Is It Healthy?” Healthline, 2021.
Gunnars, K. RD Seitz, A. “5 Most Common Low Carb Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them).” Healthline, 2022.
Mawer, R. RD Richter, A. “The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto.” Healthline, 2020.
“Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet.” MayoClinic, 2022.
Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. “A Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Sake.” National Research Institute of Brewing, 2011.
“Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.” US Department of Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 9th Edition. December 2020.
“Rice, white, long-grain, regular, unenriched, cooked without salt.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019.
“Lettuce, romaine, green, raw.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2022.
“Alcoholic beverage, rice (sake).” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019.
“Alcoholic beverage, wine, table, red.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019.
“Fried Dill Pickle Flavored Potato Chips, Fried Dill Pickle.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2021.
“Alcoholic beverage, distilled, vodka, 80 proof.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019.