Sushi Vinegar vs Rice Vinegar | What’s the Difference? Let’s Have a Look

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  December 12, 2020

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Vinegar is a popular cooking ingredient that is often used in Japanese cuisine.

The type of vinegar used can alter the taste of the food in a subtle way that gives meals a unique and unmistakable character.

Two popular types of vinegar used in Japanese cooking are sushi vinegar and rice vinegar.

Sushi vinegar vs rice vinegar

What’s the difference between sushi vinegar and rice vinegar?

Favorite Asian Recipes video

Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and it might surprise you that Sushi vinegar is actually the same rice vinegar, only it uses the rice vinegar as a base with added sugar and salt and often other seasonings to give it a stronger, sweeter flavor. That way it’s ready to be used in sushi rice.

This article will take a look at sushi vinegar and rice vinegar so you can decide which is right for your dishes.

What is Rice Vinegar?

Japanese rice vinegar with bowl of rice

While rice ferments naturally, vinegar is not the end product.

Rather you have to go through a specific process to make rice vinegar.

These are the steps you will need to take:

  1. Cook rice, then submerge it in water and let it sit, covered, for about four hours.
  2. Strain the mixture so only the water is left. Put water in a bowl and let it refrigerate overnight.
  3. Add ¾ cup of sugar for every cup of rice water. Allow granules to dissolve.
  4. Cook rice water for 20 minutes and leave to cool.
  5. Add yeast at ¼ tbsp. for every cup of the mixture. Mix well.
  6. Allow to ferment in a sealed container for up to a week.

In Japan, you’ll often see these large fermenting rice fields:

Fermenting rice in large Japanese fields

As opposed to regular vinegar, rice vinegar has a more delicate and mild flavor that can even be described as sweet.

Fermented rice on a wooden spoon

It is used in many Asian dishes including salad dressings, dips, pickled vegetables, and, of course, sushi rice!

Rice Vinegar is a key ingredient in Tare Sauce. Read all about Tare Sauce and All the Wonderful Things You Can Do With it.

What is Sushi Vinegar?

Japanese sushi vinegar on a table with pieces of sushi

Sushi vinegar is made of one or more rice-based liquids.

Typically, rice vinegar (or a substitute like these) is the base.

Cider vinegar can also be used but rice vinegar has a more subtle taste that allows for more seasoning flavor to come through.

Salt is always added to rice vinegar. Sometimes sugar is added as well but more often a sweet rice wine like mirin will be used instead.

Sake, another type of rice wine, can be added as well. Kelp is another optional ingredient.

The mixture of ingredients is heated and allowed to simmer but must not boil. In the simmering process, the liquid is stirred often and is reduced so that the alcohol dissipates.

Once done simmering, the vinegar is removed from heat and left to cool.

It’s best if it’s left to sit for a couple of days before use.

Adding sushi vinegar to the sushi rice

Like rice vinegar, sushi vinegar also has a mild flavor but the sugar content gives it a sweeter taste.

It is commonly used in sushi and as a dressing for sushi rice but it can work as a substitute for rice vinegar in a variety of dishes.

Read more on Sushi Vinegar, including a home made recipe + 3 best store bought vinegars.

Rice Vinegar Brands

While you can make rice vinegar at home, it’s a lot simpler to buy it from a store.

Here are some brands that are recommended:

Sushi Vinegar Brands

Then some of our favorite Sushi Vinegar brands:

Sushi Rice vs. Rice Vinegar: Nutrition

Vinegar is very healthy to eat. It is fat and calorie-free, and, because it is a fermented food, it is excellent for digestion and immunity.

White rice is a food that is high in carbs and has had most of its fiber stripped away. Therefore, it does not have much nutritional value.

If you are going to eat rice, it is best to opt for black or brown varieties as these are higher in nutritional content.

How to Make Brown Rice Sushi: Try this great & healthy recipe!

Rice vinegar and sushi vinegar rice are two very different foods with similar origins.

Now that you better understand them and their culinary uses, how will you be incorporating them into your meals?

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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.