If you’re into Asian cuisine cooking, you’re no stranger to one ingredient called rice wine vinegar. This tangy but sweet and mild vinegar is made from fermented rice and tastes quite different to its more acidic cousins used in Western dishes. And, it’s also known as rice vinegar.
Both professional and amateur chefs whipping up Asian dishes know that their kitchen should never be without a bottle of rice wine vinegar. Sushi rice simply wouldn’t taste right without rice vinegar nor would many of the typical Asian pickled vegetable recipes. Rice wine vinegar also adds a delectable flavor to salad dressings, marinades, fish, and stir-frys.
But, what do you do when you’re in the middle of preparing a dish that calls for rice wine vinegar only to discover your bottle in the kitchen cupboard is empty? Fortunately, there are other ingredients you can use as a rice vinegar substitute.
How to Use Rice Wine Vinegar Substitutes
When you add rice wine vinegar to a recipe you’re enhancing the flavors of the other ingredients. The secret to using a rice vinegar substitute is to ensure it doesn’t overpower the other flavors of the dish. It’s very tempting to use vinegar whenever you run out of the rice wine variety but you could end up with more acidic flavors and ruining the meal.
Our list of rice wine vinegar substitutes will prevent this from happening although you may need to add another ingredient to dilute or enhance the substitution. In some cases, adding more or less of the substitute in order to replicate the flavors of rice vinegar as closely as possible may be necessary.
Rice Wine Vinegar Substitutes
1. White Wine Vinegar
The first substitute that comes to every chef’s mind when looking to replace rice wine vinegar is white wine vinegar. While made from fermented grapes, white wine vinegar has a similar acidic content to its fermented rice counterpart. Its mild, tangy flavors resembles the taste profile of rice wine vinegar although it’s not as sweet.
How to Use White Wine Vinegar as a Substitute:
- Add ¼ teaspoon of sugar to every tablespoon of white wine vinegar used.
- Substitute rice wine vinegar with the same amount of white wine vinegar (with added sugar) in a 1:1 ratio.
- If not adding sugar, then add slightly less white wine vinegar to the recipe.
The benefit of using white wine vinegar as a substitute is that it’s easily found in local supermarkets.
2. Champagne Vinegar
Before you reject this substitution because it sounds expensive, champagne vinegar has nothing to do with it’s top-end bubbly French wine! Champagne vinegar is made from the same fermented grapes used to make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. This results in a sweeter, lighter, and mildly acidic flavors similar to rice wine vinegar.
How to Use Champagne Vinegar as a Substitute:
- Add more than less of champagne vinegar to the recipe as its flavors are milder than rice wine vinegar.
- Start with a 1:2 ratio (rice wine vinegar to champagne vinegar) and taste as you add to get the right balance.
- Use champagne vinegar as a substitute that calls for rice wine vinegar in recipes such as seafood recipes, marinades, salad dressings, and dipping sauces.
Champagne vinegar can normally be found in the Asian food section of any local supermarket.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
A staple ingredient found in most kitchen pantries, apple cider vinegar can also be used as a substitute for rice wine vinegar. It does have a bit more of a fruity flavor compared to rice vinegar and its acidity level is on par with its rice counterpart. You can safely use apple cider vinegar in most Asian dishes including sushi rice without overwhelming the dish’s flavors.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar as a Substitute:
- Add ¼ teaspoon of sugar to 15 ml of apple cider vinegar.
- Substitute rice wine vinegar with sweetened apple cider vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.
- Sample as you add to ensure you get the right combination.
The flavor of apples may become more noticeable in pickling dishes. Apple cider vinegar can be easily found in most local stores and supermarkets.
4. Sherry Vinegar
With its distinctive combination of sweet and nutty flavors, sherry vinegar have a more complex taste compared to rice wine vinegar. However, if used in the right dishes, it can work well as a substitute. This type of vinegar is made from sherry wine produced in Spain. Sherry vinegar has a similar acidic profile to rice wine vinegar.
How to Use Sherry Vinegar as a Substitute:
- Use in dishes such as pickled vegetables, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings that won’t be overpowered by its bolder flavors.
- Substitute rice wine vinegar with equal amounts of sherry vinegar.
- Use slightly less sherry vinegar in dishes using milder ingredients.
Sherry vinegar is often the cheaper alternative to balsamic vinegar while still giving you all the benefits of great flavors. It’s known to deepen the flavors of most dishes making it a popular ingredient for hearty bean soups. Most supermarkets will stock one or two brands of sherry vinegar.
5. Balsamic Vinegar
Replacing rice wine vinegar with its balsamic counterpart is not recommended and yet it may be all you have in your kitchen at the time. If this is your case, then consider thinning down the balsamic vinegar to tame its intense and bolder flavors.
How to Use Balsamic Vinegar as a Substitute:
- Thin down the vinegar by heating it up and adding water until you reach a more fluid consistency.
- Add sugar or honey to sweeten the intensity of the balsamic flavors.
- Only use as a substitute for rice wine vinegar in recipes that don’t require any or minimal cooking. Think marinades, salad dressings, and stir-frys here.
- Add less than more when substituting rice wine vinegar. A splash is often all you need to replace rice wine vinegar.
In dire cases, use balsamic vinegar. Otherwise, avoid using it as a replacement for rice wine vinegar. While a delicious vinegar in many recipes, it simply doesn’t work well in enhancing many of the subtle flavors used in Asian cuisine.
6. White Vinegar
A harsh and more acidic profile makes up the common bottle of white vinegar. Its stronger flavor and bitter taste will outstrip the milder, sweeter rice wine vinegar. For these reasons, chefs highly recommend avoid using white vinegar as a substitute for rice wine vinegar. However, there are ways around using white vinegar as a replacement in desperate situations.
How to Use White Vinegar as a Substitute:
- Blend white vinegar with rice wine, sherry, or white wine in a 1:1 ratio before adding to a recipe calling for rice wine vinegar.
- Add chicken or vegetable broth in equal amounts to tone down the flavors and acidic profile of the white vinegar.
- Add sugar to white vinegar and taste as you go while adding in small quantities to the recipe.
Experiment with white vinegar when using it as a substitute for rice wine vinegar. Blend it with any of the abovementioned ingredients or sweeten it up with sugar and keep it small to get the right flavors from your dish.
7. White Wine
White wine makes a wonderful substitute for many ingredients including rice vinegar. However, go with a dry white wine and avoid those that have been through an aging process in oak barrels. The additional flavors produced by this aging process could completely alter the flavor of your dish. Sauvignon Blanc is a good option as a replacement for rice wine vinegar.
How to Use White Wine as a Substitute:
- Add some citric juice such as lemon or lime to increase the acidity level of the white wine.
- Substitute rice wine vinegar with white wine using a 1:1 ratio.
White wines come in a wide range of flavors and acidity which makes it difficult to find the best one to replace rice vinegar. Another possible substitute could be Pinot Grigio so try it out if Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t quite match your expectations as a replacement for rice wine vinegar.
8. Citric Juices
Both lemon and lime juices can be used instead of rice wine vinegar. They offer the kind of acidity that rice wine vinegar gives to many dishes. While completely different to the components of rice wine vinegar, these citric juices are master ingredients for enhancing flavors. A dash of lemon or lime juice is known to also add freshness and brightness to most dishes. The trick to using these juices as a substitute for rice vinegar lies in quantity.
How to Use Citric Juices as a Substitute:
- Add a little bit of lemon or lime juice at a time and taste as you go to ensure the citric juices don’t overpower the other ingredients of the recipe.
- Water can be added to lemon juice to soften its stronger flavors.
- If you don’t mind the distinctive flavors of these citric fruits and want to replicate the acidity of the rice wine vinegar then substitute in a 2:1 ratio.
The main reason we recommend substituting with lemon or lime juice is their ability to improve the acidity of many sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. If this is your desired effect from a dish that’s normally achieved with rice wine vinegar, then you can’t go wrong with using citric juices.
9. Rice Wine
Firstly, rice wine is not the same as rice wine vinegar. Secondly, you can use it to substitute rice vinegar as long as you consider some key factors. Rice wine is often used as a cooking ingredient and at times, it’s replaced with sake or even mirin which can also be used as a substitute for rice vinegar.
How to Use Rice Wine as a Substitute:
- Make a blend of rice wine and white vinegar using equal amounts. Use less than the quantity of rice wine vinegar required in a recipe.
- Only use a dry, transparent rice wine with a low alcohol volume to replace rice vinegar.
Rice wine is a popular alcoholic drink in China. It’s also often used in cooking and while, at a pinch, you can swap it out with rice wine vinegar, it’s better to use any of the other vinegar options above.
Rice wine vinegar can be swapped out with other vinegars and at a push, with citric juices and certain wines.
However, be selective with the type of substitutes you pick and always factor in ways of using these replacements so you can enhance the flavors of your dish.
By adding a dash of sugar, using water, or getting the right ratio, you can use these rice wine vinegar substitutes knowing your dish will still be delicious when served.