If a recipe calls for one kind of vinegar, can I use another kind? Let us answer that question! Learn 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.

By BH&G Food Editors
Out of one of these types of vinegar? You can make a smart vinegar swap with our tips.

Vinegar Substitute Guide

When substituting vinegars for one another, use the same amount as the amount of vinegar called for in the recipe. But use this primer on types of vinegar to choose one most similar to the vinegar called for in your recipe. For some types of vinegar we have specific substitution ideas.

  • 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 vinegars and makes a good substitute for almost any other. 
  • White vinegar is made from distilled grain alcohol with a sour and harsh flavor -- it may overpower more delicate flavors in your cooking.
  • Fruit vinegars are usually mild in flavor and slightly sweet. They pair well as dressings for salad and in chicken recipes.
  • 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 -- would you use that particular herb in your recipe? If so, herb vinegar is a great substitute.
  • 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, you may wish to add a bit more than called for in the recipe. The most common use of malt vinegar is served with fish and chips.
  • 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.
  • Wine vinegars -- 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.
  • 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 recipes that call for it specifically.
    • Balsamic vinegar substitute: For 1 tablespoon, substitute 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or red wine vinegar plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
  • 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.

More ingredient substitutions

Healthy ingredient substitutions

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