Balsamic vinegar is one of those ingredients people either love to use or rarely have it available. Even if you do like using it, buying it can be difficult because it is expensive.
If your recipe calls for balsamic vinegar, you may want to know what other ingredients to use instead, to create a similar aroma and flavor.
What Is Balsamic Vinegar?
If you are wondering what to use instead of this ingredient, it is important that you first know what balsamic vinegar is.
This very dark colored vinegar comes from grape must, also known as the freshly crushed fruit juice. Balsamic vinegar is originally from Modena, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Unlike red wine vinegar, balsamic is darker, sweeter, and thicker.
There are three types of balsamic vinegar, including Aceto balsamico, Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP, which is a geographic certification, and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, which carries the protected appellation of origin (DOP) certification.
Balsamic vinegar is a common ingredient in Italian dishes, including salads, pizza, and cheese dishes. It is notably sweet and becomes a bit thicker if you caramelize it, making it even sweeter.
What Can I Replace Balsamic Vinegar With?
If you are about to cook your favorite Italian meal and notice you don’t have any, or it is too pricey for your budget, these balsamic vinegar substitutes will do the trick every time:
Best For Cooking Pasta Sauce, Tomato Sauce, and Bolognese
#1. Red Wine Vinegar + Honey or Sugar
Since it is similar in preparation, red wine vinegar can be a great replacement for balsamic vinegar. However, red wine vinegar is not sweet, and it has a bit more acidity to it.
You can make the flavor closer to balsamic vinegar by adding one tablespoon of honey or brown sugar for every two tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
This option is not just easy to find in any grocery store, but it is also much more affordable. Use it when you cook pasta sauce, tomato sauce, or bolognese, and when you want to drizzle balsamic over pizza.
See More: Red Wine Vinegar Substitutes
#2. Apple Cider + Sugar
The apple cider that you drink is a great choice when it comes to giving dishes a dash of acidity and sweetness. Still, balsamic vinegar is sweeter, so adding a bit of sugar to your apple cider will create a similar flavor. In this case, use one tablespoon of sugar for every two tablespoons of apple cider.
You can find apple cider in any grocery store as well as organic markets. You can use this mix in making sauces, like bolognese or pasta, and in sweetening dishes.
#3. Reduced Red Wine Vinegar
Technically, this is the same as balsamic vinegar, but since it is not made in Italy, people call it caramelized red wine vinegar. This choice is not as concentrated as balsamic vinegar, but it works well in making dishes like pasta sauce, bolognese, and tomato sauce.
You can probably find this choice in any grocery store, and it is much cheaper than balsamic vinegar in most cases.
To replace balsamic vinegar, use the same amount of reduced red wine vinegar, but consider adding cornstarch or flour to the cooking process for more thickness. You may also want to add a dash of sugar, but make sure you try it first.
Best For Salads, Chili, and Soup
#4. Balsamic Vinaigrette
This option is a little unconventional, but it does contain balsamic vinegar among other ingredients. The resulting flavor is sweet and sour, but it works well in dishes like salads, fresh vegetables, and even chili. This vinaigrette usually contains olive oil, so the flavor is mild and the texture is thick.
You can find balsamic vinaigrette in any grocery store, or you can make your own by using whatever leftover balsamic vinegar you have with olive oil and spices. To use this option, start with half the amount that the recipe calls for.
#5. Lime Juice
While it may seem weird to simply use lime juice, this citrus juice works well in many dishes. Try adding it to soups, chili, salads, and fresh vegetable dishes. You probably already have limes, but you can use lemon juice too.
To replace balsamic vinegar, use one teaspoon of lime juice for every one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. You may want to balance the other ingredients as well, to include more sweetness.
See More: Do Limes Go Bad?
#6. Soy Sauce + Molasses + Lime Juice
These ingredients may not sound like they go together, but when you mix them, the flavors are all similar to balsamic vinegar. You can use one tablespoon of soy sauce and one tablespoon of molasses with a dash of lime juice for every one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
This is a perfect combination when you make soup or chili, as the flavors give your dish a dash of umami and sweetness.
While molasses works better, you can also use brown sugar or honey. Finding these ingredients isn’t hard at all, and you probably already have most of them, but you can always try the local grocery store.
See More: Soy Sauce Alternatives
You may instead use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar, as these are all darker and sweeter in flavor. Add half the amount of sugar or honey, as balsamic adds sweetness to dishes.
Yes, malt vinegar is a great substitute for balsamic, as it is tangy, sweet, and dark in color. However, you will still want to add sugar or honey to the vinegar and mix well, as this gives your dish a similar aroma and flavor to balsamic vinegar.
While drinking balsamic vinegar on its own can be hard for your GI tract and could result in acid reflux, using it in your meals is absolutely a good thing. You can add it to any of your meals for an extra boost in nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds. Some studies show that balsamic vinegar lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, too.
Some people love balsamic vinegar, while others rarely use it. If your recipe includes this ingredient, though, you better know what other foods to use in its place. These 6 alternatives all work well in many dishes, so try them next time!
Up Next: How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?
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