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Apple Cider Vinegar Vs White Vinegar – What’s The Difference?

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Has it ever happened to you that you’re standing in the vinegar aisle in the supermarket and can’t decide which one to choose?

With over 15 types of vinegar available in the market, some of the most common types include white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, and malt vinegar.

Out of these, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are two of the most widely used in America. However, despite both products being called vinegar, they are not the same and have a lot of differences other than just their taste and color.

So, what is the difference between apple cider vinegar and white vinegar? Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are made by fermenting alcohol, but their sources are very different. In apple cider vinegar, the alcohol is made from apple juice, while white vinegar is made using a variety of sources such as molasses, corn, wheat, or even potatoes.

Other than that, they are used differently in cooking and baking and have a different nutritional profile with apple cider vinegar being the healthier choice.

Read on to find out how apple cider vinegar is different from white vinegar, and whether they are interchangeable or not:

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is sweet and tangy with a brown and often murky appearance. It contains 5% to 6% acetic acid and 94% to 95% water and is a favorite among home cooks for a variety of reasons. 

It is made from apples, sugar, and yeast, and is fermented in two stages: alcoholic fermentation and acidic fermentation.

The alcoholic fermentation starts when the apples are crushed and mixed with sugar and yeast to turn them into alcohol.

After that, the acidic fermentation takes place where the bacteria are added to the alcohol to feed on the remaining sugars and convert them into vinegar.

The ‘mother’ of the vinegar, which is a membrane-like material consisting of strands of proteins, enzymes, and good bacteria, is an important part of the fermentation process for apple cider vinegar.

It not only has added health benefits but can also be used to make new batches of the vinegar.

At times, to make the apple cider vinegar more appealing, many brands filter out the mother before bottling the final product, which results in many important health benefits being lost.

Therefore, when buying apple cider vinegar, make sure you opt for a raw, unfiltered, and organic one that hasn’t gone through any unnecessary processing.

What Is White Vinegar?

White vinegar is also known by a few other names such as ‘distilled white vinegar’ and ‘spirit vinegar’ and is a staple in most households.

It is the most acidic and aggressive vinegar and contains anywhere between 5% to 10% acetic acid for pickling and cooking, and to be used as a cleaning agent respectively.

Some types of white vinegar may also contain up to 20% acetic acid, but these are not intended for human consumption and are used strictly for agricultural or cleaning purposes.

White vinegar has a clear appearance and tastes extremely sour. It is made through the natural process of fermentation using molasses, whey, sugar beets, potatoes, or any other sweet or starchy food.

Nowadays, it is mostly made from grains where the sugar and yeast are added to the grains which trigger the process of alcoholic fermentation and produces grain alcohol, also known as ethanol.

Ethanol does not contain many nutrients, which is why other ingredients such as yeast and phosphates are added to it to kickstart the bacterial fermentation process.

Differences Between Apple Cider Vinegar And White Vinegar

While both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are made through natural fermentation, they differ in terms of their appearance, taste, smell, uses, and nutritional value.

Appearance, Taste, And Smell

Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are easily distinguishable from one another.

ACV (short for apple cider vinegar) is usually a shade of brown that can range from pale amber to a slightly darker tea color and can either be clear or cloudy.

White vinegar, on the other hand, is completely clear and resembles water.

Their flavor profiles are also very distinct, with apple cider vinegar having a robust flavor and smell of ripe apples.

While the intensity of the flavor may vary from one brand to another, they will all have a distinctive apple smell and flavor.

White vinegar, on the other hand, offers a cleaner flavor profile and is extremely tart when it comes to both the taste and smell.

Uses In Cooking And Baking

Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are useful in cooking and baking.

However, due to their different taste, smell, and color, they are each best suited for particular recipes.

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a salad dressing, for seasoning vegetables, and also as a cooking vinegar for most recipes.

It is also very popularly used as a tonic drink made by mixing 1 to 2 teaspoons with water and drinking it on an empty stomach. You can also add it to your morning smoothie.

Adding a dash of apple cider vinegar when making poached eggs helps make the process easier and less messy for novice cooks. The acidity from the vinegar reacts with the egg whites to make them firmer and less runny.

White vinegar is also a popular choice in cooking, especially for creating salad dressings and marinades. It is also used to prepare brine for pickles due to its high acidity.

For baking purposes, white vinegar pairs well with baking soda and makes a great leavening agent. The acid reacts with the baking soda and produces carbon dioxide that creates air in baked goods and makes them softer and lighter.

When added to milk for cheesemaking, white vinegar is usually the vinegar of choice since its acidity allows the curd and whey to separate, resulting in a mild-flavored and soft cheese.

Nutrition And pH

Vinegar has been used medicinally for thousands of years due to its acidic component. Its health benefits are not limited to one type of vinegar since many of them contain acetic acid.

They help control blood sugar levels, manage weight, reduce cholesterol, and act as an antimicrobial agent for treating various ailments.

White vinegar is more acidic than apple cider vinegar with a pH of 2.5 to 2.7 on average for 5% acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar, on the other hand, typically has a pH of 3.3 to 3.5 at 5% acidity.

Although both have great nutritional benefits, apple cider vinegar is considered the healthier option due to the added bonus of fruit in it.

White vinegar is also devoid of the ‘mother’ enzyme found in raw and organic apple cider vinegar that contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.

Are Apple Cider Vinegar And White Vinegar Interchangeable?

As discussed above, though both are vinegars, they have a very different appearance and flavor profile which is why you have to be very careful when substituting one for the other in a recipe.

However, if you are primarily interested in the acidity and the taste, smell, and appearance don’t bother you, they can very easily be interchanged.

Although, you will have to keep in mind that white vinegar is more acidic than apple cider vinegar and use them accordingly.

When used for pickling, white vinegar is mostly the vinegar of choice because of its clear color and neutral flavor, and substituting it with apple cider vinegar might not be a good idea.

For pickled vegetables, the cleaner the taste of the vinegar, the more the flavors of the vegetables and spices will shine through, which is why the fruity flavor of apple cider vinegar may not be a good option.

The brown color and cloudiness of the apple cider vinegar are also two other reasons why it is not the best option when it comes to pickling, especially when using light-colored vegetables such as onions and cauliflower.

While apple cider vinegar and white vinegar can be substituted with each other in some instances, if the apple flavor and aroma are important to you, you will have to go with the former. 

Also, you need to keep in mind the color difference, in addition to the taste and smell, when using the two interchangeably.

When To Use Apple Cider Vinegar Or White Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a great choice for bringing a fruity element to vinaigrettes and other salad dressings and is also useful in marinades.

The apple flavor goes really well with pork, making apple cider vinegar an excellent choice as a braising liquid for pork dishes.

Alternatively, white vinegar is great for pickling since it adds tartness without adding any extra flavors. Its clear color will also not affect the color of the vegetables as apple cider vinegar would. 

You can also use white vinegar to make mayonnaise, or basically any dish where you do not require anything from the vinegar except for its acidity.

Related Questions

Now that we have discussed the differences between apple cider vinegar and white vinegar, and whether they are interchangeable or not, let’s look at the best ways to store them and find out their other important uses.

How Do You Store Vinegar?

While it is true that many foods are stored in vinegar to preserve them for a long time, vinegar itself needs to be stored properly as well.

The first step is to use the right container to keep the vinegar in.

By nature, all kinds of vinegar are acidic, some more than the others, and must not be kept in containers made from brass, copper, or iron. This is because the acidity will cause the materials to corrode and damage the contents.

Therefore, the safest containers for storing vinegar are made of glass, plastic, or stainless steel.

Next, store the vinegar in a cool, dark place, away from any heat sources. The kitchen pantry is a good place for an unopened bottle while a dark cupboard is a great spot for an opened one.

Vinegar is a shelf-stable food item and doesn’t require refrigeration, regardless of whether the container is open or not, though you can keep it in the fridge if you wish to.

Another tip to properly store vinegar is to keep the lid closed tightly in between uses to avoid contact with air.

Does Vinegar Go Bad?

Vinegar is what keeps food from going bad. But what about vinegar itself? Does it go bad?

Well, vinegar has a really long shelf life, and if stored properly, it can last for an indefinite time without going bad.

This takes a lot of factors into account, such as the type of vinegar, how well it is stored, how often it is opened, if it is kept out in the sun for a prolonged period, and so on.

The bottom line is that, if taken good care of, vinegar can pretty much last forever. The acid in it prevents any bacterial growth, except for the bacteria naturally present in the vinegar, and stops it from going bad.

However, with time, it may lose some of its flavor and smell, especially in the case of a fruit vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar.

Because of that, the quality of the vinegar is the one thing you need to worry about since some vinegars retain their quality better than others. 

Therefore, if your dish relies heavily on that vinegary taste, make sure to check the vinegar’s quality before using it. Either give it a whiff or taste to assess it if it tastes and smells as it should, and use it only if you are happy with it.

What Are The Best Substitutes For Vinegar?

Since there are so many types of vinegar, all with different flavors and smells, many recipes specify which type of vinegar is required.

For this article, we will discuss the best substitutes for 2 of the most common vinegar types in the US: apple cider vinegar and white vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar: in addition to its distinct flavor and smell, apple cider vinegar is known for its health benefits and is used in a variety of recipes.

To replace 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a recipe, simply use 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice or 2 tablespoons of white wine.

White vinegar: a great addition to a number of recipes such as salads, sauces, pickled vegetables, and more, white vinegar brings a bright and clean flavor to these foods.

To replace 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a recipe, simply use 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice or 1 tablespoon of cider or malt vinegar.

However, if it is a recipe where the acidity of the white vinegar plays an important role, we suggest making a trip to the supermarket and getting some white vinegar.

Additionally, keep in mind that substituting vinegar with something else will lower the acidity of a dish.

This is especially important if you don’t plan to eat the dish right away after preparation, as vinegar can affect how long the dish will be fresh and safe to eat.

Can You Use Vinegar For Cleaning?

You might have heard vinegar being used in a lot of cleaning hacks and it’s true!

In addition to being a great ingredient in cooking and baking, it can also be used for cleaning stovetops, cutting boards, clothes, toilet bowls, mirrors, tiles, and much more.

Out of the two, white vinegar is the preferred choice over apple cider vinegar for cleaning.

This is because it has a whitening effect and is inexpensive, whereas the ACV tends to stain surfaces with its reddish-brown color.

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