In this article, we are going to talk about substitutes for balsamic vinegar. You might not like the taste, you might love the taste, you might not have it in your pantry, or you might want to try something new. Whatever the case, you may reach a point where you are in need of a substitute for balsamic vinegar. We will be discussing 10 substitutes as well as how to make your own.
Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes Are:
- Red wine vinegar with sugar or maple syrup
- Elderberry balsamic vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Fruity vinegar and sugar (or honey)
- Non-fruity vinegar and sugar
- Rice vinegar
- Malt vinegar
- Balsamic vinaigrette
Balsamic vinegar, or aceto balsamico, is a very concentrated, dark and intensively flavored type of vinegar originating from Italy; it is often referred to by its shortened name – balsamic. Interestingly enough, despite its name, it contains absolutely no balsam, as the word is actually derived from the Greek and Latin word meaning “restorative” and “curative.”
What Is The Difference Between Balsamic And Regular Vinegar?
Regular vinegar and balsamic vinegar can be substituted in cooking, but there are some essential differences between them. Regular vinegar is made from alcohol that has been inoculated with very specific bacteria that eat the alcohol away and thus produce acetic acid.
Based on the alcohol you use, there are several types of “regular” vinegar you can produce and we shall soon see how they “react” with balsamic vinegar.
On the other hand, balsamic vinegar is produced from grapes, not alcohol, and has a specific production method. The grape is freshly squeezed into grape juice with all the skins, seeds and stems and is then stored in special wooden caskets for years.
The period can last anywhere from 12 to more than a hundred years, during which the vinegar becomes more concentrated and the flavor more intense.
As we said, they are interchangeable in recipes and we are now going to see how specific types of vinegar relate to balsamic vinegar.
The Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes:
In this section of the article, we are going to give you some recipes you can use to make substitutes for balsamic vinegar if you don’t have it on hand or you don’t like it that much. So, here we go:
1) Red Wine Vinegar With Something Sweet (Sugar, Maple Syrup, Etc.)
The key thing to note is that you can substitute most types of vinegar with balsamic vinegar. What you need to watch out for are the amounts, so we’ll be presenting you a table for comparison at the end of this section. Now, let us see how the substitution actually works.
To make red wine vinegar with sugar you need a tablespoon of the vinegar produced from red wine with half a teaspoon of sugar. Now just mix it well and you’ve gotten yourself a substitute of a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
2) Elderberry Balsamic Vinegar
This one is called balsamic vinegar because of the method through which it is produced, which resembles that of producing balsamic vinegar. But – instead of grapes, you’ll use elderberries. This is also a good substitution for traditional balsamic vinegar and is very similar in texture and flavor. This is how you can make it yourself:
You need about 18 oz (500 g) of elderberries which you should put in a suitable container and add vinegar to it until it covers the berries. Let it stand for 5 days and stir a couple of times a day. After that, remove the elderberries, and add 25 oz (700 g) of sugar for every 500 ml of drained liquid. Then you need to boil it on light heat for about 10 minutes. When complete, bottle it into sterilized jars or bottles.
3) Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a very useful and healthy type of vinegar that can easily be a substitute for balsamic vinegar. It is well known for its health properties and is generally on par with balsamic vinegar. Cider vinegar has fewer calories, but balsamic vinegar has more minerals, so you can pick which one you prefer (the difference, though, is not that big).
To substitute, take a tablespoon of apple cider and half a tablespoon of sugar or honey, depending on what you prefer.
Then, mix the vinegar and sugar (or honey) together so they combine. To get a balsamic flavor, it is best to use brown sugar as opposed to granulated sugar. If you add apple cider in your substitute, it will give it some of the fruitiness and tanginess that you recognize in balsamic vinegar.
You can then use this substitute in place of a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. This sub is easy to scale to your needs, so if your recipe requires, double or triple the amount.
4) Fruity Vinegar And Sugar (Or Honey)
This is also a very practical replacement for balsamic vinegar because it is very easy to make and prepare, but it also has a very similar taste to traditional balsamic vinegar. You can easily make it at home and this is how you can do it:
You should mix a tablespoon of a fruity vinegar with half a tablespoon of brown sugar. This then becomes a substitute for a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
5) Non-Fruity Vinegar And Sugar
This one is not that simple and it takes a while to make, but it’s worth your while because it’s a good replacement for traditional balsamic vinegar. You’ll need to add sugar for sweetness, but the procedure is not that difficult.
For this substitute, you need 5 cups of non-fruity vinegar, a cup of sugar, and brown rice or Chinese black vinegar.
Mix sugar and vinegar in a pot, then cook it on low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Then, you add brown rice or Chinese black vinegar to get the dark color of the balsamic vinegar. After that, just let it cool down and use it as you would normally use balsamic vinegar.
6) Rice Vinegar
This type of vinegar is mostly used in Asian cuisine as a replacement for balsamic vinegar. It is very similar in taste and works well with a variety of dishes and salads, so you’ll be able to enjoy it to its full content. This is how to substitute:
Pour a tablespoon of rice vinegar, then mix with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, then add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. And that’s it for this substitute – very easy and tasteful.
7) Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar is an excellent replacement for balsamic vinegar because it has a very intensive taste. This may be all that is needed to do the trick and imitate your traditional aceto balsamico. You’ll need to add sugar to better imitate the taste (according to your liking), and the only thing you have to make sure of is that the sugar dissolves completely.
8) Balsamic Vinaigrette – Mixing Balsamic Vinegar With Olive Oil
This recipe is technically still balsamic vinegar, but with the addition of olive oil. Namely, if you’re low on balsamic vinegar, but still have some left, you can add olive oil to create a very similar dressing that you can use. The process is very simple, you have to mix it in a ratio of 3-to-1 (3 parts oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar).
Balsamic Vinegar Substitution Table With Ratios:
|Replacement Ingredient||Ratio (Compared To Balsamic Vinegar)||Additional Ingredients|
|Red wine vinegar||1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar||½ tablespoon of sugar|
|Elderberry vinegar||18 oz of elderberries||25 oz of sugar for every 500 ml of elderberry juice|
|Apple cider vinegar||1 tablespoon of cider vinegar||½ tablespoon of sugar or honey|
|Fruity vinegar||1 tablespoon of fruity vinegar||1 tablespoon of brown sugar|
|Non-fruity vinegar||5 cups of of non-fruity vinegar||cup of sugar brown rice, or Chinese black vinegar|
|Rice vinegar||1 tablespoon of rice vinegar||¼ tablespoon of sugar|
|Malt vinegar||same ratio||sugar|
|Balsamic vinaigrette||leftover balsamic vinegar (1:3)||olive oil (3:1)|
What Are Some Non-Vinegar Substitutes For Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is unique in that it can not only be substituted using just other types of vinegar, but also by using some completely different base ingredients. These ingredients do of course need to be correctly combined in order to get a good surrogate for balsamic vinegar. In this section, we are going to see some of these alternatives and show you how they’re made.
1) Soy Sauce
You wouldn’t think of soy sauce as a good surrogate for balsamic vinegar, but it is in fact a very good substitution and is not that difficult to make. You’ll need some extra ingredients, but it is nothing out of the ordinary and you’ll probably have everything you need at home already. The recipe for substituting balsamic vinegar with soy sauce is as follows:
For this substitute to work, you need to equally combine parts of soy sauce, lemon juice, and molasses syrup. To substitute two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, use a tablespoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of syrup and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.
2) Lemon And Lime
Lemon juice can be used in relation to the above-mentioned recipe, i.e., with soy sauce. The only relevant question here is whether you can substitute lime with lemon juice in this recipe and the answer is – yes. You can substitute lime with lemon juice, which means that you can also use lime juice as a substitution for balsamic vinegar.
Limes and lemons are closely related with slight differences in the flavor of the sour taste they both have. You will not need to alter the dosage much, as they are so similar that you will hardly be able to tell the difference. This is how to approach this substitution:
Combine equal parts of lemon juice and molasses. If you can’t find any molasses, you can use brown rice syrup instead.
For example, if your recipe needs two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, you should use a teaspoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of molasses.
How To Make Balsamic Vinegar From Scratch:
You don’t have any balsamic vinegar at home, nor are you in Modena (Italy), and you don’t want to use any substitutes. Can you make balsamic vinegar on your own? We have some bad news for you – sadly, you cannot make balsamic vinegar on your own, at home, unless you have a wine cellar or something similar, where you have conditions to produce it.
Real balsamic vinegar would be quite unlikely to be made outside of cellar-like conditions and with the right grapes and amount of time. You ideally need Italian grapes along with years for it to reach any kind of useable texture and flavor. So, that means that you cannot just run to the store and prepare some balsamic vinegar of your own.
Luckily, this is why we have so many substitutes. They’re never going to taste completely the same, but some variants – depending on your taste – can come pretty close and you can easily make them and use them in case you don’t have actual balsamic vinegar.
So, if you’re a real fan of balsamic vinegar, do remember to stock up regularly so you don’t accidentally run out of your favorite ingredient.
Real balsamic vinegar is a very specific ingredient that takes time to prepare, so it’s not one of the things you can easily make at home. Luckily enough, for those of you who like to cook for yourselves, there are many available substitutions that you can make at home and that taste practically the same.
These substitutions are easy to prepare and require only readily-available ingredients you probably already have at home, but even if you don’t – you can get them in the nearest store.
The important thing to know is that – if you want real balsamic vinegar and nothing else, then stock up regularly so that you don’t run out. If you’re open to experimenting – there are many available substitutions you can easily make at home. If you can think of any additional substitutes not listed above, let us know!