Rice wine vinegar is a staple condiment in Asian cuisine. It adds a tangy taste to marinades, sauces, fried rice, and sushi. The Japanese, Korean, and Chinese are the most popular rice wine vinegar varieties for their mild flavor and pale-yellow color.
If you want the authentic variety and couldn’t find one, we have listed the best rice wine vinegar substitutes that do magic to whatever recipe or dish you’re creating.
The Difference Between Rice Wine Vinegar and Rice Wine
Before we go to the list of rice wine vinegar substitutes, let us clarify a common mix-up between rice wine vinegar and rice wine. Although both are produced from rice and are used in many Asian recipes, they are not the same.
Rice wine is a popular Asian alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting rice starch that has been converted to sugar. The entire process then produces a sweet, savory alcoholic beverage. Rice wine's overall taste varies depending on its origin.
For example, China's Shaoxing is characteristically dry and has sharp vinegar flavor notes. Japanese rice wine is sweeter with a subtle tang. Korea's Makgeolli has milky or cloudy color and is fruity, a little sour, and sweet.
You can also find a few substitutes for rice wine in cooking, just like rice wine vinegar.
On the other hand, rice wine vinegar (also known as rice vinegar) is a condiment made by fermenting rice sugars into alcohol and then converted into acetic acid. Rice wine vinegar is milder, less acidic, and sweeter than white vinegar.
Rice wine is typically consumed for its natural flavor and affordability. It can be used in cooking, drinking, or enhancing various dishes such as teriyaki sauce!
Rice wine vinegar isn’t only a perfect condiment for sushi. It is also used in pickling vegetables and recipes like marinades, salad dressings, sauces, and many more.
Best Rice Wine Substitutes
1. White Wine Vinegar
Like rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar is mild, tangy, slightly acidic, and subtly sweet. These characteristics make white wine vinegar one of the best rice wine vinegar alternatives.
A little note, though, is that rice wine vinegar is sweeter—so if you use white wine vinegar in salad dressings and marinades in place of rice vinegar, you may want to add a little sugar or any sweetener choice to help bring the flavor closer.
2. Champagne Vinegar
Champagne vinegar's mild, sweet, delicate tastes and its subtle acidity taste make it an excellent replacement for rice vinegar. Additionally, it is not as strong as other wine-based vinegar like white wine and red wine vinegar, so you don't have to worry about it overpowering your dishes.
Champagne vinegar is also a great addition to dipping sauces, dressing, seafood dishes, and marinades. Because of its light characteristic, you may want to start with a 1:1 ratio and then liberally add until you find the perfect amount to add to your recipe.
3. Sherry Vinegar
Unlike champagne vinegar which is not made from champagne, Sherry vinegar is not a pseudonym because it is really made from Sherry wine produced in Spain. This vinegar has the same acidity profile as rice wine vinegar, making it on our list.
Sherry vinegar has distinct nutty and sweet flavors and is more complex when compared to rice wine vinegar. It makes a suitable replacement for rice vinegar in vinaigrettes, vegetable pickling, and marinades. Start with a 1:1 ratio and make some adjustments based on your preference.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a type of vinegary liquid that you can find at your grocery store. It's made from fermented apples and has just enough hint of apple flavor to make it enjoyable without being too overwhelming!
Plus, ACV also boasts stronger acids than other types of rice wine vinegar, so its pH levels are higher—which means this stuff will give off cleaner fumes when you use them for cooking.
The sweet and fruity flavor of apple cider complements many recipes, such as sushi rice and marinades. However, its subtle apple flavor may become more pronounced when pickling.
Apple cider vinegar has become a household staple for its versatility in usage. It is used for cooking, as a deodorizer, as a gargle to relieve sore throats, added in facial toner recipes, fruits, vegetable wash, and even used for dandruff treatment.
5. White Balsamic Vinegar
White balsamic vinegar, which has a transparent color and has a lighter flavor than the dark type, regular balsamic vinegar, makes an awesome replacement for rice wine vinegar. In fact, it makes an even better replacement in vinaigrettes, marinades, and roasted vegetable dressing, thanks to its fruity, sweet, and subtle floral taste.
Like rice wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar has slight acidity. However, it is not an ideal replacement for rice vinegar in cooked dishes. You can water it down a little bit and see if it works for you. In the end, it's about the taste preference that would matter a lot.
6. Lemon or Lime Juice
Lemon or Lime juice improves the acidity in recipes such as salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. They add a pleasant zing and bright citrus flavors to many dishes.
So if you are looking for something to use in place of rice wine vinegar primarily for these types of recipes, then lemon or lime juice is your easiest and best option.
While these citric juices are completely different from rice wine vinegar, they make convenient flavor enhancers. Additionally, even a dash of either lemon or lime juice brightens up and adds freshness to many dishes.
7. Red Wine Vinegar
Like white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar is a terrific substitute for rice wine vinegar for its similarities in acidity level and sweetness. However, red wine vinegar has a reddish hue that can affect light-colored ingredients, unless you don't mind it.
This vinegar is often used in Mediterranean cuisine with its distinctive, delicious, fruity, tangy flavor that levels-up vinaigrettes.
Red wine vinegar can replace rice vinegar for making sushi rice, marinades, dipping sauces, and condiments. You can also use it in pickled vegetables, although it may slightly discolor them.
Rice Wine Vinegar Substitutes FAQ
1. What is the difference between rice vinegar and white vinegar?
Although rice vinegar and white vinegar have the same color, they are totally different. Rice vinegar is sweet, delicate, and has very subtle acidity, while white vinegar is pungent and harsh.
2. What can I use if I don't have rice vinegar for sushi rice?
You can use either apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. White wine vinegar works, too, although it's a little mellow.
3. Is mirin the same as rice wine vinegar?
No. Though Mirin is sometimes confused with rice wine vinegar because both are produced from rice, they are not the same.
Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine, and it is not a type of vinegar. It has low alcohol content and is sweet, so it is used in many Japanese recipes. Rice wine vinegar has very little and almost non-existing alcohol content.
There are almost equal substitutes for whatever dish or recipe you are working on that calls for rice wine vinegar. However, it is essential to remember that each type of vinegar has different underlying tones and tastes as well as different strengths in terms of acidity.
You may want to start with a lesser quantity when you first replace rice vinegar with one of these substitutes and gradually add more to your liking.
If you have most of these kinds of vinegar lying around your cupboard, you can also do a taste test first to see which one works better for you. Who knows, you may find that one of these actually works better than what you’ll substitute.
What's your favorite recipe that uses rice wine vinegar as an ingredient? Share it down below!