Rice Wine vs. Rice Vinegar

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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There always seems to be confusion about rice wine vs. rice vinegar, but the difference between these two is actually quite simple. While both are delicious and useful, it is important to know what makes them unique before using them in the kitchen!

Difference between Rice Wine vs. Rice Vinegar

By definition, rice wine is a type of wine that is made from fermented glutinous rice, unlike other wines, which are normally made from fermented fruit. Rice wine is popular in many Asian cuisines, both as a beverage and as an ingredient in cooking. Regardless of how you choose to use rice wine, it tends to impart a sweet flavor. The most popular types of rice wine include sake (Japan) and Shaoxing (China). Remember that rice wine is made only by allowing the rice to ferment into alcohol, resulting in a relatively low-alcohol content beverage or cooking ingredient.

Rice vinegar, on the other hand, is made through a very similar process – the fermentation of glutinous rice. However, while rice wine producers stop the process when alcohol has been produced, rice vinegar is produced when the alcohol is allowed to further ferment into acetic acid. This gives rice vinegar its highly acidic bite, which is why it is often used in different culinary applications. The most common form of vinegar is common white vinegar, which has a highly astringent taste and is rarely used in cooking. Rice vinegar is not consumed as a beverage, but it does have a rather mild, delicate flavor that borders on the edge between sweet and sour. Rice vinegar is commonly used in sushi rice, marinades, and salad dressings.

Comparison pic where one side shows a light liquid poured into a bowl from a bottle and the other shows a yellow-colored liquid being poured into another bowl.

Spot the difference! Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How to Make Rice Wine vs. Rice Vinegar?

Rice Wine

Clear liquid being poured into a small cup from a white bottle

Rice Wine Recipe

Rice wine is a clear wine with a strong taste. It can be enjoyed by itself or used for cooking Asian dishes. 
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Course: Alcoholic drink
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Rice Wine
Appliance: oven, Strainer
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 days
Fermentation Time: 3 days
Total Time: 3 days 15 minutes
Servings: 1 Bottle


  • 2 cups sticky rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 yeast ball (known as jiuqu)


  • Rinse the rice with water and then cook in the water.
  • Spread the cooked rice to cool on a baking sheet.
  • Crumble the yeast ball and sprinkle on the warm rice.
  • Add the rice and yeast to an airtight container and place in the oven on low (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • After 2-3 days, the wine will begin to gather at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Allow fermentation to continue for another 2-3 days, then strain out the wine and store for use.
  • You can let the rice ferment for a month. The liquid will get clearer and less clouded with time. 

Rice Vinegar

Rice wine vinegar pouring out of a white bottle into a glass bowl

Rice Wine Vinegar

Used in many Asian dishes, Chinese rice wine is easy to make at home. 
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Course: Dip/ Salad Dressing/ Sauce
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Rice Wine Vinegar
Appliance: Strainer
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Fermentation Time: 28 days
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 17 oz
Author: Paromita Datta


  • 2 cups cooked sticky rice with cooking water
  • 1 litre filtered water
  • 2 oz rice wine


  • Place the rice in an airtight container along with its cooking water. Opt for stoneware or dark-colored glass jar as it aids fermentation. 
  • Add the rice wine vinegar to the rice and water. 
  • Add the water. Make sure it's filtered and not tap water. You don't want any added impurities and bacteria. 
  • Cover the jar with a cheesecloth. It will allow air circulation while keeping out the flies. You can put a couple of layers and fasten them with a rubber band. 
  • Place the container in a cool and dark place and allow it to ferment for 4 weeks.
  • Keep checking on the fermentation process from the 3rd week onwards. You are looking for a sharp, acidic smell. Once you get that, taste it. It should taste tart like a vinegar. 
  • The taste the vinegar will keep changing the longer you ferment. The tart taste will also mellow with time. 
  • Once you have the right flavor, strain out the rice vinegar and store for use. Fresh vinegar should be stored in a fridge. For keeping it at room temperature, you need to pasteurize it.
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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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