If a recipe calls for one kind of vinegar, can you use another kind? The answer: It depends. Here's the best way to substitute vinegars in your cooking, including a white vinegar substitute, a balsamic vinegar substitute, and information on substituting vinegars for each other. We've got the tips to help you make the best vinegar substitution.

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A quick walk through the oil and vinegar aisle of your grocery store will show a multitude of options to choose from. The versatile liquid is used in your salad dressings, to pickle and ferment foods, and even clean your house naturally. But if you've got white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar in the pantry, they aren't all interchangeable. Depending on what you're cooking, certain vinegar substitutes work better than others. Use this handy guide for when you're making your next recipe and need a vinegar replacement stat.

Bottles of different types of vinegars
Out of one of these types of vinegar? You can make a smart vinegar swap with our tips.
| Credit: Jason Donnelly

Vinegar Substitute Guide

When substituting different kinds of vinegar for one another, you can generally use a 1:1 ratio of the amount of vinegar called for in the recipe. Use this guide on types of vinegar to choose one most similar to the vinegar called for in your recipe.

Balsamic vinegar is made from white Trebbiano grape juice and barrel-aged for many years (as few as 3 years and some at least 25 years!). It has a distinctive brown color, syrupy body, and slight sweetness. It is often used sparingly to add mellow sweetness to Italian and Mediterranean foods, although it is also gaining more attention for its use in salads and even desserts. This is a specialty vinegar best used in dishes that call for it specifically (like this fan-favorite balsamic chicken recipe).

  • Balsamic vinegar substitute: For 1 tablespoon, substitute 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or red wine vinegar plus ½ teaspoon sugar.

Cider vinegar is made from fermented apple cider and is mild with a subtle hint of apple flavor. It is the most versatile of the kind vinegar and makes a good substitute for almost any other.

  • Cider vinegar substitute: Your best apple cider vinegar 1:1 substitutes are rice wine vinegar, distilled white vinegar, or white wine vinegar. If you only have red wine vinegar, use about 1 tsp. extra per tablespoon used since it's a bit lighter.

Fruit vinegars are usually mild in flavor and slightly sweet. They pair well as dressings for salad and in chicken recipes.

  • Fruit vinegar substitute: If you don't have a specific fruit vinegar for a recipe, apple cider vinegar or a wine vinegar should make a good replacement.

Herb vinegars, which are infused with fresh herbs while the vinegar is still warm, are savory but subtle. Consider the herb that flavors the vinegar. If you would use that particular herb in your recipe than herb vinegar is a great substitute.

  • Herb vinegar substitute: Herb vinegars aren't common ingredients in your everyday recipes, so you could substitute herb vinegar with cider, white, malt, or wine vinegar.

Malt vinegar is made from malted barley and is mild and sweet, making it a good option for substitutes. However, when substituting malt vinegar for a stronger variety such as white vinegar, you may wish to add a bit more than called for in the recipe (just a tablespoon or so should do the trick). The most common use of malt vinegar is served with fish and chips.

  • Malt vinegar substitute: Your best option for malt vinegar substitutes is cider vinegar or lemon juice.

Rice vinegar is the sweetest, most delicate vinegar and is made from rice wine or sake. It is best for only the most delicate dishes.

  • Rice vinegar substitute: There's not a great equal substitute for rice vinegar. If you're in a pinch, try replacing rice vinegar for white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, adding ¼ tsp. sugar per tablespoon you're swapping out.

White balsamic vinegar is made differently than balsamic vinegar. For white balsamic vinegar, the grapes are pressure cooked to prevent the caramelized color of balsamic vinegar and aged for a much shorter time (only 1 year) in uncharred barrels to keep the color light.

  • White balsamic vinegar substitute: Substitute white balsamic vinegar for white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar to keep prevent any color changes in your recipe.

White vinegar is made from distilled grain alcohol with a sour and harsh flavor. It may overpower more delicate flavors in your cooking.

  • White vinegar substitute: If you need a different vinegar to substitute for white vinegar, use apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar. Depending on your recipe, you could also swap in lemon or lime juice. When you're canning or pickling there are no comparable substitutes, you need to go get some white vinegar.

Wine vinegar (available in both white and red) taste rich and fruity. They make flavorful substitutions in most uses, but be careful not to use red wine vinegar in dishes that contain pale, light ingredients because it may discolor them. Wine vinegars are the most common choice for salad vinaigrettes.

  • Wine vinegar substitute: The best substitutes for wine vinegars are apple cider vinegar, white balsamic, or white vinegar.
Download Our Free Ingredient Substitutions Chart

Use your newfound vinegar replacement knowledge to make a new recipe. Combine balsamic vinegar with wine for a unique twist on jelly. Make your own gut-healthy fermented foods such as spicy kimchi or sauerkraut. You could also find a new vegetable or fruit to pickle beyond cucumbers.

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