The complex sweet and sour flavor of black vinegar is what made it such a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. Whether you want to use it for a dipping sauce, marinade, stir-fry or something else, don’t worry if you ran out of it. These black vinegar substitutes will give you plenty of alternatives, some of which you might already have!
Black vinegar is a versatile condiment that can add more flavor to a variety of dishes and not just Chinese ones.
Technically, you can use it for any recipe that could benefit from a bit of sweetness and acidity, including soups, stews, gravies, sauces, and salad dressings.
So what can be done if black vinegar is not available in your area, or you simply ran out of it?
The good news is, there’s a diversity of options to replace it and we’ll discuss the best ones!
What Is Black Vinegar?
Before finding a replacement, let’s first see what the original mixture is all about.
We all know that vinegar, in general, is used to infuse acidity into a dish which will balance and enrich its flavors.
Black vinegar does the same thing, except that it has an unusual dark color and a rather complex taste compared to most kinds of vinegar.
Our star sauce is a solution of fermented grains—sticky or glutinous rice, sorghum, barley, or wheat.
In some instances, it’s made with a combination of different grains seasoned with spices for added flavor.
Traditionally, the solution of fermented grains is placed in a pot to age for at least six months.
This lengthy aging period not only heightens the rich, complex flavors of the ingredients but also causes the vinegar to have a dark color. It makes it worth the wait!
Black vinegar has a 5.5% acidity level and a slightly sweet taste accompanied by a smoky and earthy umami flavor.
These complementary flavors make an excellent addition to dipping mixtures, cold appetizers, noodles, braised meat, seafood soups, stir-fries, and an array of other recipes.
9 Best Substitutes for Black Vinegar
Now, back to the dilemma. What should you use instead of black vinegar?
If you have any of the following condiments, there’s still hope for those steamed dumplings and spring rolls!
|Substitute||Conversion (Substitute: Black Vinegar)||Notes|
|Balsamic Vinegar||1:2||If the flavor is too strong, dilute it with a little water.|
|Red Wine Vinegar||1:2||–|
|White Wine Vinegar||1:2||Use only when a dark color isn’t needed.|
|Rice Vinegar||1:1||Use only when a dark color isn’t needed.|
|Apple Cider Vinegar||1:1||Add more if needed.|
This healthy and versatile ingredient is frequently used for salad vinaigrettes, dressings, marinades, and sauces.
It will deepen the flavor of meat and vegetables, making them much more enjoyable. Try it in this honey balsamic sheet pan chicken and veggies for a super easy dinner idea!
It goes through a similar fermentation process, where a solution of the fermented base is aged in a container for several years.
The only difference is balsamic is made with fermented grape juice in a barrel instead of a blend of grains in a clay pot.
Also, they’re made with different bases, so they don’t have the same taste.
Balsamic is sweeter and thicker than black vinegar, so it’s advisable to go easy with your substitution.
A ratio of 1:2 might be more than enough. If you accidentally use too much balsamic, just add enough water to subdue its sweetness and density.
Lastly, balsamic vinegar is a great option if you’re looking for an alternative that can mimic the original black color since it’s typically dark brown.
If color is not an issue, you can also use a lighter variety, depending on your preference.
Sherry vinegar is closely related to balsamic vinegar.
This condiment is made with fermented sherry wine that’s aged for at least six months in a barrel, just like balsamic vinegar.
Leaving it for a longer aging period would make sherry vinegar darker and more complex in flavor.
This Spanish gourmet vinegar has a sharp 6-7% acidity level complemented by a rich nutty taste and a subtle caramel sweetness.
The complexity of sherry vinegar makes it relatively similar to black vinegar. Since it
has a higher acidity level, it’s best to go with a 1:2 substitution ratio.
Red Wine Vinegar
As its name suggests, red wine vinegar is fermented red wine. It has a mild, fruity sweetness and dark color that can match that of black vinegar.
Yes, it’s mildly sweet, but the tangy punch is what really sets this condiment apart.
Red wine vinegar is suitable for a wide range of dishes and is a top choice for pickling solutions as well.
One thing this type of vinegar is particularly good for is to flavor and tenderize meat. Try it with these easy and delicious Instant Pot ribs! or as a dressing for this nutritious vegetarian harvest wild rice.
As a substitute for black vinegar, red vinegar can be used in a 1:2 ratio.
Replacing every two tablespoons of black vinegar in a recipe with a single tablespoon
of red wine vinegar should do the trick.
White Wine Vinegar
Another wine-based option, white wine vinegar, can also work as a replacement for black vinegar.
It pretty much gives off the same fruity sweetness and tangy flavor as its red counterpart, only milder.
This is why they’re often used interchangeably. In general, white and red options have similar acidity levels to balance the flavors of your dish.
Consequently, the ratio of 1:2 also applies to white wine vinegar.
I recommend this substitute for dishes that don’t necessarily need a dark
If black vinegar is highly associated with Chinese cuisine, then malt vinegar is commonly linked to British dishes.
After all, the classic fish and chips meal is best served with this condiment
drizzled on top.
Now, why should you consider it as a valid substitute? Some variations of black vinegar are made with barley; malt vinegar is just the same!
It’s produced with malted grains of barley that underwent a double fermentation process. In addition, it comes with a rich and complex set of flavors.
Tanginess aside, you’ll also taste some sweet, nutty, lemony, and of course, malty hints.
One more benefit here is that malt vinegar is usually dark brown, so it’s a close color match.
Of course, you can opt for the distilled variation, which is clear if you prefer not to alter the color of your dish.
Because both black and malt vinegar have similar effects, you can freely substitute them in a 1:1 ratio.
This can make following recipes to a tee much easier!
Rice is another grain commonly used to make black vinegar.
So, it’s not really a surprise that rice vinegar made my top-nine list of black vinegar substitutes. Even more, both are quite common in Asian cuisines.
The beauty of rice vinegar is that the fermented rice produces a mild balance of sweet and sour flavors that works well with sauteed vegetables and salad dressings.
Moreover, it has an acidity level of 4%, which is lower than many other types.
You can use it in place of black vinegar to marinate meat, pickle vegetables, as a part of your dipping sauce mixture, or even as a vinaigrette for roasted or air fried veggies like we did for our Air Fryer broccolini.
A 1:1 substitution ratio will work for most recipes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has simple flavors. It brings together the sweetness of the apple and the sourness from the fermentation process.
The fruity and balanced flavor of ACV is why it’s often used for salad dressings.
This combination can compensate for the sweetness and acidity you’re supposed to get from black vinegar.
Overall, apple cider vinegar has a milder flavor compared to our star liquid, so there’s no harm in using it in equal amounts as an alternative. You can always add more as you go if it turns out to be too weak.
Since it’s made with fermented dates, this vinegar offers a rich, fruity flavor that comes with a syrupy texture and a dark color.
The fruit of the date palm is said to be one of the oldest components of vinegar.
Yet, it was only common in the Middle East and not easily found anywhere else.
With a dense and highly concentrated consistency, this substitute is definitely worth a shot.
However, you want to stick to a ratio of 1:2 or lower if you’re still testing the water with the new flavor profile.
The exact ingredients used in Worcestershire sauce depend on the particular manufacturer, but it’s usually a combination of soy, garlic, vinegar, and other flavorful spices.
Although vinegar is one of the ingredients, acidity isn’t the highlight of Worcestershire’s flavors.
This condiment is mainly used as a seasoning to boost a dish’s savory and sweet tones and cater to a little tangy flavor on the side.
This means Worcestershire sauce will make a great substitute if you’re looking to replace the black vinegar’s slightly sweet umami goodness.
And, if you ever run out of it, we have a list of Worcestershire sauce substitutes as well.
Worcestershire sauce may be overpowering when used excessively, so I suggest you
stick with the 1:1 ratio initially.
Combinations Of Condiments As Substitutes For Black Vinegar
The alternatives we suggested won’t exactly replicate the taste of black vinegar.
In that case, you can always mix and match different condiments to get that sweet, sour, and savory flavor on the plate.
However, you might need to change the ratios according to the meal’s needs.
Here are a few examples of easy mixes you can try if you have some time on your hands:
- Soy sauce + rice vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce + rice vinegar
- Rice vinegar + balsamic vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar + Worcestershire sauce
- Lemon or lime juice + honey (alternative to sweetened black vinegar)
If you’re looking for a black vinegar substitute, balsamic vinegar is a close match and easy to find.
However, malt vinegar works best to replicate the complex flavors of black vinegar.
Worcestershire sauce, is the best at bringing savory umami, similar to that of black vinegar.
If that doesn’t work, you can always mix condiments and adjust flavors to your liking.