Rice vinegar is a hidden gem of a kitchen ingredient. It’s a very common ingredient in most professional kitchens. It’s versatile and has a mild flavor compared to other vinegars.
It’s not just great for Asian cuisine. It’s perfect for salad dressings, pickling, marinades, and sauces. It will add the right amount of acidity to any dish you’re creating. It’s a kitchen staple that you should strive to have in the pantry. Sometimes we run out and sometimes these ingredients are hard to find. Then what do you do?
While they are many high-quality brands out there (like Marukan), some of them can only be found in Asian markets. What if you can’t get to an Asian market? Or what if you simply run out of your favorite sweet vinegar?
Here are some great rice vinegar substitutes. Most of them can be found at regular supermarkets or they might already be in your pantry.
What are the best substitutes for rice vinegar?
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
The best option for a rice vinegar substitute is going to be apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is made from fruit; therefore, it also has a natural sweetness to it.
The vinegar has a very mild flavor similar to rice vinegar. In most cases, the apple flavor will not be too strong. Although if you opt to pickle with it, it will carry some of that apple flavor.
Apple cider vinegar also has many health benefits. It should be in your pantry regardless. It has many natural probiotics and is known to aid in digestion, lower blood pressure, and helps with migraine pain relief. Braggs is popular brand to buy and can be found in most supermarkets.
You could also try to make your own. It’s one of the simplest kitchen condiments to make yourself.
2. Champagne Vinegar
Another great substitute option is champagne vinegar. This vinegar is made with chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. It’s mild in flavor and has a slightly floral taste compared to other vinegars. It’s best used as a substitute when making dressings, marinades, or sauces.
The champagne vinegar will be slightly drier than rice vinegar. You can add a little agave or honey to your recipe you would like additional sweetness that the rice vinegar would add.
3. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is another comparable substitute for rice vinegar. It’s going to have similar qualities to champagne vinegar. White wine vinegar is going to be more pungent than champagne vinegar. The flavor will be robust. It’s recommended to use less when substituting for rice vinegar because of its stronger flavor.
4. Sherry Vinegar
Don’t let the dark red color scare you. Sherry vinegar is a great substitute for rice vinegar. It’s not quite as powerful as red wine vinegar. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. Keep in mind that it does have a darker color than rice vinegar. If you try to pickle with it, it will turn your pickling ingredients a darker color. Sherry vinegar is the best substitute when used to make dressings or marinades.
5. Lemon or Lime Juice
Citrus juice will work fine if you’re really in a pinch and you don’t have any other vinegar around. There will be no sweetness when you add a bit of lemon or lime juice. You will want to add another element of sweetness if you are looking for that flavor profile. A good idea would be to add a drizzle of maple syrup, agave, or honey to the food. You could also simply mix a small amount of granulated sugar with the citrus juice.
This substitute is best when you are trying to add a little “kick” to your food. Often times rice vinegar is added at the end of the dish for a tangy finish. Instead, you can squirt some lemon or lime juice on your dish. 100% orange juice (not from a bottle) could also work if you’re out of limes and lemons. Just keep in mind that it’s going to be a much sweeter flavor.
What Not To Use as a Rice Vinegar Substitute
Not all vinegars are going to work as a rice vinegar substitute. Some might be too strong or too sweet. It’s always a safe bet to taste a small amount of the vinegar before adding it to your recipe. This is the best way to determine if it’s a good fit for your recipe.
Here are some that are not recommended to replace the flavor of rice vinegar.
1. Balsamic Vinegar
While balsamic vinegar is sweet, it’s not the best substitute for rice wine vinegar. This is especially true when you are trying to substitute rice vinegar in Asian dishes. The balsamic vinegar is too sweet and very dark.
2. Herb Vinegar
Some herb-flavored vinegars will not work as a rice vinegar substitute. It will all depend on which herbs are being used to flavor the vinegar. In most cases, they are savory herbs that won’t work well in dishes that are calling for rice vinegar. For example, you won’t want to add a rosemary vinegar to a Thai stir fry dish.
3. Fruit-flavored Vinegar
Again, you’ll have to use your discretion here. Fruit vinegars tend to have a very strong flavor to the fruit that is being used. For example, a raspberry vinegar would likely not work very well in an Asian slaw dressing. However, a citrus vinegar might be a comparable substitute.
Cooking with vinegar brings a whole different dimension to your food. The acidity can balance out elements of fat and sweetness to create the perfect dish. Rice vinegar’s mild, sweet nature is why it’s a popular condiment in most professional kitchens.
When using and storing any vinegar, make sure that you are keeping it in a dark, cool place. Most vinegars will stay fresh for a long time. It’s best to use them within six months though.
Remember what you are using rice vinegar for when you reach for a substitute. If you’re looking for the sweet flavor, you might need to add more sugar. If you are looking for the strong acidity, you can use get away with using a more versatile product like white wine vinegar or citrus juice.