6 Best Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Balsamic vinegar substitutes are needed in the kitchen when this beloved ingredient is nowhere to be found.

What is Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar is a very flavorful, concentrated form of vinegar that is often made from grape must, and is a popular ingredient in salad dressings and marinades, among many others recipes. To produce balsamic vinegar, the juice from freshly harvested white grapes must be reduced down and fermented, resulting in the tangy, unmistakable flavor of balsamic vinegar. However, when you don’t have balsamic vinegar on hand, there are a number of great substitutes to use.

Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes

The best balsamic vinegar substitutes include red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and Chinese black vinegar, among others. However, to capture the unique flavor of balsamic vinegar, sometimes the substitutes are combinations of multiple ingredients.

Red wine vinegar in a bowl, next to a wine bottle, grapes, and basil

Red wine vinegar is the product of oxidized red wine. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Red Wine Vinegar

This type of vinegar, as the name implies, is made from fermented red wine, and it tends to have a more astringent bite to it than balsamic vinegar, but can deliver the same type of flavor to your meal.

Molasses and Soy Sauce

The unique aspect of balsamic vinegar is how perfectly it blends sweet and savory. When finding a good substitute, it is important to mix those two elements, and this combination is ideal, particularly in marinades.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Unlike pure balsamic vinegar, the vinaigrette is made by adding sugar, salt, mustard, pepper or other spices to the vinegar, which will generate a more complex taste but may also lack the bite of balsamic vinegar you are looking for.

Chinese Black Vinegar

Made from fermented rice and malt, this vinegar is not gluten-free and is also darker and milder in flavor than balsamic vinegar. If you are trying to use balsamic vinegar in a stir-fry, this may be your best option to replace the consistency and flavor notes in that vegetable-heavy dish.

Three bottles of balsamic vinegar substitutes lying in between grapes to the right and an apple to the left

Some people suggest the use of red wine as a substitute for balsamic vinegar in recipes. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Apple Cider Vinegar and Sugar

Again, you want to combine an astringent bite with a sweet effect to mimic balsamic vinegar, and while this combination substitute won’t cut through a heavy meal as obviously, it can still work as a replacement.

Beef Stock and White Vinegar

One of the more unusual substitutes for balsamic vinegar, if you mix these two ingredients, you can get a slightly thicker and more flavorful form of vinegar. It is slightly less potent than balsamic but adds an umami splash to any dish.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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