White balsamic vinegar is the perfect ingredient for adding a new dimension of flavor to not just salads, but any recipe. But what if you don’t have it in stock?
What are the best white balsamic vinegar substitutes? The tangy and slightly sweet flavor of white balsamic vinegar can be substituted by using rice wine vinegar, Chinese black vinegar, cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, and even black balsamic vinegar.
Read below to learn more about white balsamic vinegar, its characteristics, how it is used, and some of its closest substitutes!
What Is White Balsamic Vinegar?
If you have ever had a classic salad topped with French dressing or a simple vinegar drizzle, then there is a good chance that you might have come across balsamic vinegar.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is made using a combination of crushed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes.
Before the grape must is put into barrels, it is first heated and reduced until the mixture caramelizes. This caramelization not only adds a layer of flavor but imparts a deep color too.
These grapes are pressed and used whole in the fermentation process. The resulting juice from these grapes is aged in several barrels over 12 to even 25 years.
The process of fermentation and even the quality and type of wood impart a very special aroma and flavor into the vinegar.
Did you know that a regular bottle of balsamic vinegar can be aged in up to six different barrels? Manufacturers age the grape juice in cherry, oak, chestnut, mulberry, juniper, and ash barrels until the vinegar is ready for bottling.
Once the vinegar is ready, it takes on a deliciously tangy and sweet flavor that is truly apart from the rest of the vinegar offerings in the market.
The original variety of balsamic vinegar has a slightly viscous and dark appearance — however, in the case of white balsamic vinegar, the manufacturing process is slightly different.
White balsamic vinegar is a flavorful vinegar that is made entirely or partially from “grape must” — this essentially refers to grape juice before or after fermentation.
In the case of white balsamic vinegar, the grape must is not deeply caramelized in copper kettles over an open fire pit, which gives it a lighter appearance.
In other words, the mixture is only heated at lower temperatures but at a higher pressure, which doesn’t allow the sugars in the grape must to caramelize.
To further stop the color from getting darker, manufacturers will ideally age white balsamic vinegar for less time too.
Before we move on to the substitutes, let’s first define the qualities and characteristics of white balsamic vinegar. This step is important because knowing its characteristics will help you pick the best substitute for your needs!
Characteristics Of White Balsamic Vinegar
White balsamic vinegar has a slightly golden-hued color that can take on lighter or darker shades, depending on the aging and manufacturing process.
In most cases, you will find a light-to-medium golden vinegar, but if you source it from artisan or traditional manufacturers, you may find a deep-golden white balsamic vinegar too!
White balsamic vinegar is preferred in recipes that don’t require any color change. This quality can come in handy when you want to use this vinegar in sauces and even as a condiment without affecting the natural color of the recipe.
Keep in mind that the color of white balsamic vinegar can also be influenced via the process of oxidization where the ingredients react with the surrounding air resulting in a chemical change that gradually changes the color of the vinegar.
Compared to dark balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar has a less syrupy texture. It has a velvety smooth mouthfeel that feels slightly more viscous than water. There are many sub-varieties of this type of vinegar in the market.
The most common (and more affordable) type of white balsamic vinegar uses a combination of wine vinegar and grape must, which produces a slightly less thick mixture compared to traditional dark balsamic vinegar.
You may even be able to find a slightly more viscous white balsamic vinegar depending on the quality and quantity of the grapes, the aging process, and the general manufacturing process.
However, its viscosity should rarely be a point of concern, especially when it is used as a condiment or as a garnish in recipes.
As mentioned, white balsamic vinegar is known for its unique tangy and slightly sweet flavor.
The balance of these two flavor notes is extremely important — professionals even use this balance metric to determine the overall quality of the vinegar!
White balsamic vinegar is comparably less nuanced than regular balsamic vinegar, but many people find the overall difference to be negligible, especially when you use vinegar as a flavoring ingredient in everyday cooking.
Dark balsamic vinegar has a slightly more pronounced and layered flavor because of the added caramelization of the grapes. Since white balsamic vinegar is heated at lower temperatures, you get more grape flavors with just the right tanginess.
White balsamic vinegar is an extremely versatile ingredient that you can use in just about any recipe that requires tanginess.
While many people prefer to use it with salads, it can virtually replace any type of vinegar in any recipe! Whether it’s soups, sauces, or marinades — white balsamic vinegar can add a whole lot of depth and flavor.
We recommend using white balsamic vinegar as an ingredient in meat marinades. Not only will it help tenderize the meat, but it will also inject a very interesting and subtly sweet flavor when the meat hits the grill!
If you are new to white balsamic vinegar, then we suggest that you try it as a dressing to get an idea of the possibilities of this delicious condiment.
Why Substitute White Balsamic Vinegar?
There are plenty of reasons to substitute balsamic vinegar.
One reason could be its rather strong flavor, which can be off-putting for people who are looking for a more tamed vinegar flavor.
The combination of sweet and tangy might not be everyone’s first choice in certain recipes, which is why knowing the substitutes of white balsamic vinegar can come in handy.
A lack of availability could also be a reason to substitute it!
Most traditional varieties of white balsamic vinegar come from Italy, but due to the popularity of this vinegar, it is usually sold all over the world.
Of course, there might be disruptions in the supply chain that could cause a supply problem in some regions.
On the flip side, another simpler reason would be that you have recently run out of your stock of white balsamic vinegar in the pantry and want to use a quick substitute.
Best White Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes
Here is a list of the best possible substitutes for white balsamic vinegar!
We have included a wide range of substitutes that can either nearly mimic the characteristics of white balsamic vinegar or provide just some of its winning qualities.
1. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
If you can’t find white balsamic vinegar and don’t mind a slight color change then we highly recommend going with traditional dark balsamic vinegar.
This type of vinegar is the closest substitute to its lighter counterpart. Balsamic vinegar shares a slightly more pronounced flavor and texture but will hit all the required notes that you expect from white balsamic vinegar.
If you are planning to use the vinegar to flavor sauces or as a simple condiment then you don’t even have to worry about its darker color — it will likely become diluted with the rest of the recipe!
Dark balsamic vinegar has the same uses as white balsamic vinegar, which means that you can add it in the same proportion to virtually any recipe too!
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an excellent substitute for white balsamic vinegar because it has an adequately tangy flavor with subtle notes of apples which impart a fruity and woody aftertaste.
This type of vinegar is best used in recipes that call for a complex vinegar flavor without the added sweetness. While plain vinegar may prove to be harsh, apple cider vinegar can easily fit the bill as a replacement for white balsamic vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar can be used in the same proportion as white balsamic vinegar and you can even add sugar to give it an even closer flavor profile.
Please also keep in mind that this type of vinegar is usually sold with the “mother” — this is a stringy substance that contains yeast and healthy bacteria. If you don’t want floating pieces then we recommend filtering the cider for clarity.
3. White Wine Vinegar
Looking for a substitute that is closer in appearance and flavor to white balsamic vinegar? Try out white wine vinegar!
Made from fermented white wine, white wine vinegar provides a light fruity flavor that is mellower and more manageable while still providing the perfect balance between sweet and tangy.
The beauty of white wine vinegar is that it can be used in the same way as white balsamic vinegar and since it has a clear and neutral color, you can use it freely in any recipe without worrying about changing colors.
You can use white wine vinegar in the same proportion as white balsamic vinegar.
4. Red Wine Vinegar
Similar to white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar is made more or less the same way! It adds a complex tangy and grape-like flavor that can mimic the flavor notes in white balsamic vinegar.
This wine vinegar can impart a pinkish-hue to any food it is added to, but luckily you can control the outlook of the recipe by diluting it in water-based recipes.
Red wine vinegar can easily substitute white balsamic vinegar in marinade recipes that revolve around beef and chicken. You can also use it as a delicious condiment for dressings and garnishes too.
Use red wine vinegar in the same ratio as white balsamic vinegar — however, we do recommend that you adjust the quantity, considering its capacity to add color in certain recipes.
5. Chinese Black Vinegar
Chinese black vinegar comes close to mimicking the unique flavor of white balsamic vinegar, but it comes at a price — this type of vinegar offers the same tanginess, but with a slightly less sweet flavor and a darker color.
If you don’t mind the color and the slightly less sweet (albeit fruity) flavor of Chinese black vinegar, then we think that it could easily substitute it in any recipe!
Chinese black vinegar offers subtle umami notes, too, which is why you can also use it in marinades and even boring salad recipes that need a layer of interesting flavors!
6. Sherry Vinegar
We think this amber-colored vinegar is one of the best substitutes for people who want a condiment that tastes like white balsamic vinegar — but with its overall flavor profile turned down a notch!
Sherry vinegar can be best described as vinegar that tastes something between red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
This is the type of vinegar you should use when you want a less intense version of white balsamic vinegar. It can be used as a direct substitute in any recipe and can also be used in the same ratio as white balsamic vinegar.
7. Brown Rice Vinegar
Brown rice vinegar can add a layer of sweetness and tanginess without compromising on versatility. This is perhaps one of the tastiest grain vinegars that offer rich, sweet, and nutty notes!
The color of brown rice vinegar ranges from a light hue to a dark color which means that you may have to adjust its quantity when using it as a condiment.
Its taste and acidic content are usually compared to apple cider vinegar. Since brown rice vinegar is widely used in pickling and as a flavoring and aromatic ingredient, you can easily use it as a substitute for white balsamic vinegar.
Start by using half the quantity of brown rice vinegar in recipes that call for white balsamic vinegar and adjust the flavor accordingly.
8. Champagne Vinegar
Champagne vinegar provides a mellower flavor compared to other acidic types of vinegar on our list.
This is one of the best substitutes for white balsamic vinegar due to its fruity, floral flavors and subtle vanilla notes.
That’s right — not only do you get tanginess, but you also get a combination of very interesting sweeter notes that can easily rival balsamic vinegar!
Champagne vinegar has a pale golden color and can be used in the same ratio as white balsamic vinegar.
9. Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar comes extremely close to the sweet and tangy notes offered in white balsamic vinegar.
Although it has a darker color thanks to the fermented barley, malt vinegar is less intense than white vinegar and can be sweeter too.
We recommend using this vinegar in the same proportion as white balsamic vinegar in all recipes!
White balsamic vinegar is an excellent flavoring ingredient that can be substituted using many delicious vinegar products.
Now that you know the best substitutes for it, here are some related questions we thought you might have.
Can you use lemon juice instead of white balsamic vinegar?
Lemon juice alone might not be enough to substitute the flavor and texture of white balsamic vinegar.
We recommend going with a mixture of soy sauce, lemon juice, and molasses to get a close enough contender. You can adjust the ratio of each ingredient to change the overall flavor and texture of the substitute too.
Do white balsamic vinegar substitutes have the same shelf life?
If left unopened, white balsamic vinegar has a shelf life of around 2-3 years — however, an opened bottle will gradually oxidize and may only last about a year.
Please check the back of the bottle for storage and expiration date.
Can Worcestershire sauce be used as a substitute for white balsamic vinegar?
Yes. Although it shouldn’t be your first choice, if you don’t have white balsamic vinegar in the pantry, you can use Worcestershire sauce as a “close enough” substitute.
This ingredient will add a savory, tangy, and sweet flavor to any recipe. You can even add a bit of plain white vinegar to intensify its tangy notes in certain recipes too!