Every Vinegar Substitute You Need to Save Your Recipes

Consult this guide to substitute varieties of vinegar in your cooking, whether you’re pickling, fermenting, or simply making a salad dressing.

vinegar in various glass bottles

BHG/Niki Cutchall

There's a multitude of options for vinegar at the grocery store, from apple cider vinegar to herbal-infused specialty varieties. This versatile liquid is used in salad dressings, for pickling and fermenting foods, and even to clean your house. But if you've got (among others) white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar in the pantry, they aren't all interchangeable. Certain vinegar substitutes work better than others, depending on what you're cooking. Use this handy guide for when you're making your next recipe and need a vinegar replacement stat.

bottles of vinegar with lemon and sugar

BHG/BHG/Niki Cutchall

Vinegar Substitute Guide

When substituting different kinds of vinegar for one another, you can generally use a 1:1 ratio for the amount of vinegar 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 three years and some at least 25 years!). It has a distinctive brown color, syrupy body, and slight sweetness. It's often used sparingly to add mellow sweetness to Italian and Mediterranean foods. However, it's also growing in popularity for use in salads and even desserts. This specialty vinegar is 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.

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

  • Apple 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, infused with fresh herbs while the vinegar is still warm, are savory but subtle. Before making a substitution, consider the herb that flavors the vinegar. If you would use that particular herb in your recipe, herb vinegar is a great replacement.

  • 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 substitute. However, if you substitute malt vinegar for a more robust 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: Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice are your best options for malt vinegar substitutes.

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

  • Rice vinegar substitute: There isn't a great substitute for rice vinegar. Try replacing rice vinegar with white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar if you're in a pinch. Add ¼ tsp. sugar per tablespoon you're swapping out.

White balsamic vinegar is made differently than 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 with white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar to prevent color changes in your recipe.

White vinegar is made from distilled grain alcohol and has a sour, harsh flavor. As a result, 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. You could also swap in lemon or lime juice, depending on your recipe. When you're canning or pickling, there are no comparable substitutes.

Wine vinegar (available in both white and red) tastes rich and fruity. Either red or white makes a flavorful substitution in most dishes. However, don't 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.

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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