Best rice vinegar substitutes | It’s easy, use these common pantry items

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 16, 2021

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Rice vinegar is a mild and very delicate vinegar. It tastes sweet and has a pleasant light flavor.

Japanese cuisine is best known for including rice vinegar in recipes such as sushi.

Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice, and the good news is, there are many substitutes with a similar flavor profile.

When added to ingredients, rice vinegar adds such a pleasantly sweet flavor; you’ll love using it in the kitchen. But, you might not have it in your pantry.

So, you’re wondering:

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What can I use if I don’t have rice vinegar?

Best rice vinegar substitutes | It's easy, use these common pantry items

When you run out of rice vinegar, the best substitutes are apple cider or white wine vinegar. These have a similar sweetness and acidity, so they only slightly alter the food’s taste. Use these substitutes in a 1:1 ratio in any recipe that requires rice vinegar.

Besides apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar, I’ve got more alternatives, so keep reading to find out.

Best rice vinegar substitute Image
Absolute best substitute: Apple cider vinegar Absolute best rice vinegar substitute apple cider vinegar organic raw

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Second best: White wine vinegar Second best rice wine substitute Colavita Aged White Wine Vinegar

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White vinegar Good substitute for rice wine vinegar Daily Chef Distilled White Vinegar gallon jugs

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Lemon and lime juice Good substitute for rice wine vinegar ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice

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Champagne vinegar Good substitute for rice vinegar Champagne Vinegar

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Sherry Vinegar Good substitute for rice vinegar Napa Valley Sherry Vinegar

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Seasoned Rice Vinegar Good substitute for rice vinegar Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar

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Mirin Good substitute for rice vinegar Kikkoman Kotterin Mirin - Sweet Cooking Seasoning

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Can I use any vinegar as a substitute for rice vinegar?

The answer is a firm no. The reason is that rice vinegar has a specific mild and sweet taste. Many other kinds of vinegar have a different flavor profile.

Just because they look similar or have a similar scent doesn’t mean that those kinds of vinegar can be substituted successfully.

In fact, the wrong kind can alter the food’s taste. That’s problematic if you are looking for a specific food flavor.

Best rice vinegar substitutes to use

But no worries, I’ve compiled a list of great rice vinegar substitutes. Many of these you’re likely to have in your pantry.

Absolute best rice vinegar substitute: Apple cider vinegar

Absolute best rice vinegar substitute apple cider vinegar organic raw

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It makes sense that the best substitute for rice vinegar is another type of mild vinegar: apple cider.

The one thing that makes apple cider a great substitute is that it’s mild and aromatic. It has a very faint apple flavor, and so it doesn’t overpower the food.

When using apple cider vinegar for pickling, the taste will differ from rice vinegar. You’ll taste a pronounced apple aroma in the pickled food and juice.

But, you can also use apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar in any recipe, including sushi rice, dressings, and marinades.

Apple cider vinegar is one of the healthiest types of vinegar. It is known to lower blood pressure and help fight migraines and nausea symptoms. This vinegar is made of fermented apple cider.

To use it as a substitute, I recommend a 1:1 ratio. Then, to make the apple cider vinegar as sweet as the rice vinegar, add ¼ teaspoon of sugar for each teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

Take a look at Dynamic Health Organic Apple Cider Vinegar and check the price on Amazon.

Second best rice vinegar substitute: White wine vinegar

Second best rice substitute Colavita Aged White Wine Vinegar

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White wine vinegar is fairly similar to rice vinegar. It is made by fermenting white wine until it turns into vinegar. Tastewise, it has a similar sweetness to rice vinegar, but it’s slightly more acidic.

This type of vinegar is best used for making salad dressing, but you can actually use it for any dish where you need to swap with rice vinegar. The problem is that white wine vinegar is not quite as sweet, so you have to add some sugar to sweeten it.

You can substitute the white wine vinegar with rice vinegar in a 1:1 ratio. But, I recommend you add ¼ teaspoon of sugar for each tablespoon of white wine vinegar to get that similar rice vinegar taste.

Check out the price of Colavita Aged White Vinegar with a fine, smooth taste on Amazon.

Other good substitutes for rice vinegar

Besides apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar, there are other options to use instead of rice vinegar. Perhaps less common in most pantries, but if you have them lying around, don’t be afraid to use them as a substitute!

White vinegar

Good substitute for rice vinegar Daily Chef Distilled White Vinegar gallon jugs

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Most households have a stock of white vinegar in the pantry. It’s the cheapest and most common vinegar variety in the West.

White vinegar has a very similar color to rice vinegar. It’s transparent and just as runny. The only problem is that white vinegar has a very different flavor profile compared to rice vinegar.

However, this shouldn’t put you off using it as a substitute if you really need to.

You should know that the flavor profiles are opposites. While rice vinegar is mild and sweet, white vinegar is sourer and has a harsh taste. It’s the strongest vinegar, and you only need to use a very small amount.

Check out Daily Chef Distilled White Vinegar in 2.5-gallon jugs on Amazon.

Lemon and lime juice

Good substitute for rice vinegar ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice

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Although not quite a close match, you can always use natural lemon and lime juice as a substitute for rice vinegar. It also has a sour flavor, but it’s much more acidic than rice vinegar.

Sure, rice vinegar is known to be quite acidic, but you can’t really taste it in the food. Lemon and lime juice mimic the acidity, but you can taste it more.

But most people like citrus fruit juices, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Adding lime or lemon juice adds lots of zing to any dish, especially salads, sauces, and coleslaw.

You can also use it in Asian-style recipes when you run out of rice vinegar. Just be sure you’re ready for some citrus flavors.

Finally, if you want to make it even more acidic, you can always double the ratio to 2:1 lemon juice to rice vinegar.

Check out ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice on Amazon to find out the price.

For a great lime juice, check out ReaLime 100% Lime juice, also available on Amazon.

Champagne vinegar

Good substitute for rice vinegar Champagne Vinegar

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Champagne vinegar is more expensive than other types, as it’s a premium product. I’m sure if you tell someone that you’re using champagne vinegar, they’ll say you’re probably making some fancy recipe.

But, the truth is that this type of vinegar is quite similar to rice vinegar in many ways.

To make this vinegar, champagne is fermented, and it takes on a very subtle, light, and mild flavor. Its mildness makes it very suitable as a rice vinegar substitute.

It also has a sweetness to it that mimics rice vinegar. But best of all, this type of vinegar doesn’t tend to overpower your dishes.

I recommend substituting it at a 1:1 ratio. It goes well with seafood, salad dressing, marinades, and dipping sauces.

Check out Sparrow Lane Champagne Vinegar on Amazon to find out the price.

Sherry vinegar

Good substitute for rice vinegar Napa Valley Sherry Vinegar

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There are many alcohol-based kinds of vinegar, and sherry is also one of the best. Sherry vinegar has a unique flavor profile, and it’s different from rice vinegar.

The flavor is nutty, rich, and only a bit sweet. So, since it’s not as sweet as rice vinegar, you have to balance it out by adding more sugar.

You can use it in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute and then add one or two teaspoons of sugar if your recipe calls for a very sweet vinegar.

Sherry vinegar tastes amazing in dressings and marinades, especially for dishes like Yakitori chicken. It will add a pop of subtle yet acidic flavors to any meal.

Check the price of Napa Valley Sherry Vinegar on Amazon.

Seasoned rice vinegar

Good substitute for rice vinegar Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar

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Many people confuse seasoned and regular rice vinegar. Although the name is similar, these kinds of vinegar have different flavors.

To make it seasoned, they add sugar and salt to rice vinegar. Because of the sweet and salty taste, using seasoned rice vinegar can alter the food’s flavor.

When substituting, you can use the regular 1:1 ratio. However, you will need to reduce the salt and sugar quantities in the recipe you’re making.

In some cases, you might remove all of the sugar and half of the salt. It really depends on what you’re cooking.

With many Japanese recipes, the seasoned rice vinegar is enough seasoning so that you can skip salt and sugar.

You can find Japan’s favorite Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar on Amazon and check the latest price there.

Mirin

Good substitute for rice vinegar Kikkoman Kotterin Mirin - Sweet Cooking Seasoning

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Mirin is not vinegar – it’s actually a popular Japanese rice wine. It has some similarities to sake, but it’s very sweet, making it a possible rice vinegar substitute.

Usually, mirin is used when cooking foods like Teriyaki because it adds a rich umami flavor, which is a combination of sweetness and saltiness.

Compared to sake, mirin has less alcohol and more sugar. Therefore, since it has a low alcohol content, you can use it for cooking in recipes where you’re supposed to add rice vinegar.

Mirin is very sweet, so if the rice calls for more sugar, just skip it because you’ll end up oversweetening your food. Substitute mirin with rice vinegar at a 1:1 ratio but keep in mind that you won’t taste any tanginess.

Check out Kikkoman Kotterin Mirin and see the price on Amazon.

Can I substitute balsamic vinegar for rice vinegar?

Generally, not really. Balsamic vinegar has a very potent and strong flavor. It has way more acidity. Thus, the flavor is very rich and pronounced, so it overpowers the food.

On the other hand, rice vinegar doesn’t overpower your food but instead takes a backseat and brings out a mild and mellow sweetness.

White balsamic vinegar may be an OK option as it has a cleaner taste. However, it’s only good as a substitute in salad dressings because in sushi, for example, the flavor profile is just too different.

You CAN substitute balsamic vinegar for brown rice vinegar, though.

That’s because brown rice vinegar is made of unpolished and fermented brown rice. It has a dark color and a very deep, rich flavor, similar to balsamic vinegar.

Can you use rice vinegar for cleaning?

I talked about rice vinegar for cooking, but I know many of you use vinegar to clean your homes. Usually, white vinegar is used for cleaning and not rice vinegar.

That’s because white vinegar is more acidic and has a lower sugar content than rice vinegar. Therefore, it’s better at removing dirt, grime, bacteria, and viruses.

So, technically, yes, you can use rice vinegar for cleaning, but it leaves behind some residue, whereas white vinegar doesn’t.

Is rice wine the same as rice vinegar?

Not, rice vinegar and rice wine are two different things. Although they are sometimes used interchangeably, you’ll notice they are made differently.

Rice vinegar is fermented and turned into alcohol before it becomes vinegar. It is sweet but acidic and a bit tangy.

It is usually used in smaller quantities. This vinegar is used for cooking and not drinking because it’s not an alcoholic beverage.

Rice wine usually has a low alcohol content. It has a mild and sweet flavor that comes through as subtle in food. You can use rice wine in larger quantities compared to rice vinegar as it has a milder taste.

Rice wine is considered an alcoholic beverage. But, there is cooking rice wine, and then there’s drinking rice wine.

For more on this, read Drinkable vs cooking sake vs mirin: how to know which to use

Takeaway

When you’re cooking and realize you’re out of rice vinegar, you no longer have to panic and run to the store. As I’ve listed, there are so many suitable substitutes for rice vinegar. Most of them are other types of vinegar.

If you’re out of those, too, then the best simple trick is to use lemon or lime juice to get that sweet and sour flavor your recipe requires.

The bottom line is that you can use any of the substitutes listed here in marinades, dressings, slaws, pickles, sauces, and more.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.