The 11 Best Red Wine Vinegar Substitutes

Anyone who enjoys a very tangy salad dressing or meat sauce is no stranger to red wine vinegar. Despite the name, red wine vinegar doesn’t have a distinctive wine taste. In fact, it actually tastes more like apple cider vinegar with a hint of vibrant grapes.

So how does this fit into your salad dressing? As many chefs and home cooks will tell you, red wine vinegar is primarily used in salad dressings, reductions and marinades. Red wine vinegar makes the perfect sauce addition for hearty foods like beef, pork and vegetables.

But let’s say you’re in the mood for a robust tenderloin with a side of vegetables only to realize that you’re out of red wine vinegar. Is there a way to substitute the red wine vinegar without sacrificing the hearty robust flavor you’re looking for?

Do You Really Need Red Wine Vinegar?

Many people prefer using red wine vinegar because of its tangy, robust flavor. It also has considerable health benefits such as anti-glycemic effects which aid in digestion and also help to maintain blood sugar.

Do You Really Need Red Wine Vinegar
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Many recipes call on the addition of red wine vinegar for the acidity it provides to dishes such as pickled foods, marinated dishes and salads. Red wine vinegar adds an earthy, robust flavor to meats and vegetables and makes a delicious reduction that can be used as a sauce. It’s no wonder people want to have alternatives on hand just in case!

Best Red Wine Vinegar Substitutes

The good news is red wine vinegar can easily be substituted with ingredients you already have in your pantry. Some, like apple cider vinegar are more popular than malt vinegar, but equally effective. Read on for a list of tasty substitutes to keep your favorite taste on the plate!

Non-Vinegar Substitutes

Fortunately, swapping vinegar out with a citric or spicy alternative won’t alter the taste too much if the recipe calls for a small amount of vinegar.

You might find that some of the substitutes actually impart a more unique and flavorful taste to your dish. Read on to see some of the more common non-vinegar substitutes you can try.

Lime or Lemon Juice

Since there’s a huge difference in the acidic taste of a citrus juice versus the acetic base of a vinegar, you can expect a completely different flavor to your dish. The trick with the lemon swap is moderation. Too much sourness can ruin the dish.

That means the lemon n lime swap is actually a last resort in case of emergency option. If you have both, a small spritz of each will provide a unique and surprisingly delightful flavor to your salad. If you only have one or the other, either will work just as well!

Tamarind Paste

With its high protein properties, Tamarind paste is an excellent alternative to red wine vinegar if you’re in a pinch. As a common ingredient in Asian and Indian dishes, Tamarind paste adds the tangy, robust flavor you’d hope to get from a red wine vinegar addition.

With Tamarind paste, it’s important to remember that it isn’t for every dish. With high acidity and sometimes sour taste, it can make the dish slightly overpowering if too much is added. It’s best to start with a small amount and add as needed.

Vinegar Substitutes

The most obvious substitute for red wine vinegar is another type of vinegar. Any type from white wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar and even apple cider vinegar are great substitutes in different quantities. The most common vinegar substitutes are listed below.

White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar is the most common go-to substitute for red wine vinegar. It’s brighter in color, less astringent and not as robust in flavor as the red version. However, it has a similar fruity palate and shares the same acidity levels.

If the recipe in question doesn’t require a salad dressing or reduction in a darker hue, and you have a bottle of white wine vinegar on hand, rest assured, it makes a perfect substitute. Most of your guests won’t even be able to tell the difference either!

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar
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With its multiple uses, apple cider vinegar is the one type of vinegar that most kitchens have a small quantity of. With its fruitier flavor, some people prefer to use it rather than red wine vinegar.

The added bonus is, it adds a hint of apple to your dish, which is perfect if it’s a salad you’re making!

Rice Wine Vinegar

Anyone who loves a good Asian dish will easily tell you that rice wine vinegar is also a perfect substitute for red wine vinegar. Since it’s less acidic and slightly milder it’s one of the more popular substitutes for your red wine vinegar requirement.

Related Read: 9 Rice Wine Vinegar Substitutes

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar has a slightly milder, sweeter taste than the average red wine vinegar. The only real similarity is the sharp taste, common with most vinegars. When you’re swapping red wine vinegar with Balsamic vinegar, it’s often a good idea to start with half of the required quantity to test the sweetness.

Salad aficionados often make a dressing with a combination of balsamic vinegar and lemon juice to give the dish a tangier, more flavorful boost.

Sherry Vinegar

If the only vinegar you have is sherry vinegar, you can rest assured that it’s just as good a replacement for your red wine vinegar. Once again, it’s not an even swap.

Sherry vinegar isn’t as strong so, you’ll have to increase it in your recipe. For the most part, it depends on what you’re cooking and how much of the red wine flavor you’d like to imitate. A more robust flavor will require slightly more to be added to the dish.

White Vinegar and Red Wine

Red wine vinegar isn’t something you can whisk up in few minutes. It takes a few weeks to ferment to the right flavor. So, if your homebrew is fermenting in the pantry and your guests are already seated, waiting for their dinner, there is an old trick you can use.

  • You’ll need an equal amount of regular white vinegar and red wine
  • Mix the two together and taste test
  • As a general rule of thumb, this 50/50 mix is a good substitute as a salad dressing as well as a marinade or reduction

Malt Vinegar

Commonly used as a garnish for fish and chips, malt vinegar provides a tangy addition to everything from chutney to sweet and sour marinades.

The trick to getting the best flavor for your salad or reduction is to mix 1 tablespoon of malt vinegar with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. You can expect a crisp burst of flavor from any dish you add this to!

Herb Vinegar

Herb vinegar is a popular alternative to red wine vinegar that also calls for herbs such as thyme, rosemary and tarragon. Its versatility makes it an exceptionally wonderful addition to any type of salad.

It’s as simple as adding 1 tablespoon of herb vinegar to 1 tablespoon of another vinegar such as apple cider. This can be rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even white wine vinegar. Complete by adding a few spoons of your preferred herb for added flavor.

Champagne Vinegar

While not a substitute commonly found in many pantries, Champagne vinegar is an ideal red wine substitute. While it’s made the same way as other types of vinegars, Champagne is used instead of wine.

With its zesty flavor, it’s an ideal swap for red wine vinegar in summer salads, dressings and even meat sauces. It’s hint of vanilla is a bonus! As the most expensive type of vinegar, it’s only really a suitable substitute if you already have it in your pantry.

Remember to add a splash of lemon juice or white vinegar to avoid losing the tangy vinegar taste you might be after in your salad.

Can You Make Red Wine Vinegar from Scratch?

Most chefs prefer making their own red wine vinegar because it’s very simple to make, even in the smallest of kitchens! Making your own red wine vinegar ensures that you will always have some on hand when you need it. So, what exactly is needed to make your own red wine vinegar?

Two simple ingredients make up this popular vinegar. It’s as simple as mixing red wine with a vinegar mother. What exactly is a vinegar mother? In short, it’s a gelatinous substance made of acetic acid and cellulose. This substance usually feeds on the chosen type of alcohol and develops into different types of vinegars.

Finding a live vinegar mother isn’t as difficult as you might think. The most common source is a live, raw vinegar that’s both unfiltered and unpasteurized. Many home cooks prefer using apple cider vinegar since some brands feature the vinegar mother.

Making your own Red Wine Vinegar – Step by Step

Follow these few simple steps to make your own red wine vinegar to ensure you always have some around!

  • Step 1: You’ll need x1 cup of mother vinegar and x1 bottle of your favorite red wine.
  • Step 2: Add both ingredients to a large glass container.
  • Step 3: Make sure the container is tightly covered and placed in a cool area. (Such as your pantry)
  • Step 4: Leave the mixture to ferment for the next three weeks.
  • Step 5: A “skin” will start forming on the top of the mixture. Once the skin falls to the bottom of the mixture, you’ll have a red wine vinegar perfect for your preferred salads, marinades or reductions.
  • Step 6: Remember to check the taste. Once you’re happy that it has the robust flavor you’re looking for, strain the mixture into a corked glass bottle.
  • Step 7: Store in a cool, dry place.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a quick solution as the mixture will have to ferment. A good idea is to make a batch in advance to have a continuous supply in your kitchen!

Final Thought

With the many substitutes available, not having red wine vinegar shouldn’t be the reason your meal lacks flavor. While each type of substitute adds its own unique flavor to the dish, the general tangy, robust flavor expected from red wine vinegar addition will still be there.

Whether you’re out of red wine vinegar, or purposefully want a substitute for a different taste and color, the good news is, our list will provide you with enough options. Use one of our red wine substitutes to turn a boring dish into something spectacular!

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