13 Good Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes
If you’re preparing a salad and you realize you’re out of balsamic vinegar, don’t stress! You can replicate its taste and consistency by mixing a couple of ingredients you likely have in your kitchen. Discover how to make your substitutes for balsamic vinegar at home in a couple of minutes.
Is there anything better than a balsamic vinegar glaze on your steak? Or a drizzle of the tangy-sweet liquid on your fruit? Can anything be better than a splash of balsamic vinegar on your prosciutto and melon? Is there a better dressing for your salad? You’d think there’s no way you can find a suitable topping for any of the recipes requiring balsamic vinegar.
And yet, you can prepare a nice vinaigrette that mimics balsamic vinegar. At home. From some cheap and mundane ingredients. In a couple of minutes. Not too shabby! What can you replace balsamic vinegar with, you’re asking? Here we go!
The unique taste of balsamic vinegar: how to replicate it
Before we dive into the wonderful world of different tastes and funky combinations to create our own balsamic vinegar substitutes, let’s talk flavors! Balsamic vinegar is made from unfermented grape juice that is aged for at least three years. Sometimes this type of vinegar can be aged for 25 years even!
It has a distinctive flavor. It even has a color of its own. Not to mention its syrupy consistency and its sweet-sour-tangy and caramelized aromas.
The original balsamic vinegar of Modena has a certain flavor and dishes call for it specifically. But what do you do when you run out of it? Well, you get creative! You can find some other types of vinegar that can pass for balsamic. And if you’ve got them in your kitchen, great! Use them instead! However, if you don’t prepare your apron! It’s time to mix your own balsamic-like concoctions.
Alternatives for balsamic vinegar in your dishes
First of all, we’d like to sincerely apologize to any Italians reading this article. And to any person having Italian heritage, reading about how you can swap Modena’s finest balsamic vinegar with any other vinegar.
We’re merely suggesting these combos and other ingredients in case of emergency. In case you run out of balsamic or you can’t find it in your area. So, here’s how to substitute balsamic vinegar, or create your own replacement until you get your hands on Italy’s finest.
1. Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar will have a slight flavor of beer due to barley being used for fermentation. But it can be a good substitute for balsamic. You can add a dash of honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup in there to make the taste and appearance closer to balsamic.
2. Sherry Vinegar
Sherry vinegar is like balsamic vinegar’s Spanish cousin. They are so similar! Sherry vinegar is milder and has a sweet taste, just like balsamic.
If you have it at hand, you can swap it for balsamic in a 1:1 ratio. You don’t have to add any other ingredients to increase the flavor of this one!
What you’ll notice special about Sherry vinegar is that it has a sweet aroma, doubled by a nutty, deep flavor. It’s more acidic than balsamic, so make sure not to overuse it since it can overwhelm other aromas. Start with a 1:2 ratio and go from there, according to your preference.
3. Chinese Black Vinegar
Chinese black vinegar can pass for a balsamic vinegar replacement. Made from glutinous rice and malt, this type of vinegar comes quite close to balsamic. In flavor and color.
4. Elderberry Balsamic Vinegar
Chances are slim to have elderberry and not balsamic around. But if such is the case, elderberry balsamic vinegar is a fine choice to substitute Modena’s finest. It’s made from fermented fruit with sugar so the taste will do the trick.
5. Golden Balsamic Vinegar
Golden balsamic is one of the closest substitutes for balsamic vinegar. It’s made from grapes, just like balsamic vinegar. They have similar flavors so they can be swapped in any recipe.
6. Campagne Vinegar
Yes, you could have Champagne vinegar at hand and run out of balsamic! Odds are slim, but who knows? In case you’re looking at the empty balsamic bottle and wondering, yes, this is a good alternative.
It’s fermented from Champagne, and it has a light, mild, sweet, and tart flavor. It can do as a balsamic alternative, especially if you add some soy sauce and some molasses to it. But not necessarily.
7. Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranate molasses is very similar to balsamic in taste, aspect, and consistency. It can be more aromatic and a little on the tart side, but it can do if you’ve got it. This zingy, glossy glaze becomes even more similar to balsamic when completed with a touch of maple syrup add some drops of your vinegar of choice.
13 combos you can use as substitutes for balsamic vinegar
While the following combinations will not taste as good as the real deal, they will suffice. In most cases, you’ll be having most of these ingredients at hand. Here are some DIY recipes for balsamic vinegar substitutes.
1. Cider Vinegar + Brown Sugar
Most likely you have cider vinegar and brown sugar around. Honestly, any type of vinegar will do, but cider is milder. While you can use regular sugar too, brown sugar gives a certain caramel taste that will remind you more of balsamic vinegar. It will also darken the liquid, making it similar to balsamic.
Here is what you need: 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, whisked together until the sugar is melted, in a saucepan, on medium heat. This method ensures the sugar becomes more like molasses or caramel, balancing the sharpness of the vinegar.
2. Grape Jelly + Red Wine Vinegar + Soy Sauce
Here are the ingredients for this mixture: 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of grape jelly, and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. The red wine vinegar will add the tang, the grape jelly the sweetness, and the soy sauce will provide some depth and umami. Whisk these together and you have the amount to replace about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.
3. Red Wine Vinegar + Maple Syrup (Honey)
What to use instead of balsamic vinegar when you run out of it? How about this simple mix? This recipe is here just in case you don’t have that grape jelly at hand. You can approximate balsamic vinegar’s taste with this combo. Maple syrup will add the complexity of sweetness and a touch of salty, while the red wine vinegar will provide the sour flavor.
While red wine is more acidic than balsamic, adding a sweet ingredient will help. The ratio you’ll be needing: 1 part maple syrup + 4 parts red wine. You can add more of the sweet and sticky (honey or maple syrup) if you feel like a thicker consistency. You’ll be covered in both taste and color with this blend!
4. Balsamic Vinaigrette
Have you got some balsamic vinaigrette leftover in your fridge? It’s alright to use it instead of balsamic vinegar. After all balsamic vinaigrette is a blend of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This dressing is ideal for salads, but it will not derail your recipe if you’re preparing anything else. A ratio of 1:1 will do.
5. Rice Vinegar + Brown Sugar
Whisk together 2 parts of rice vinegar and 1 part of brown sugar. Add them in a saucepan, over medium fire, for a couple of minutes, so that the sugar can dissolve. This is one of the simplest, most effective substitutes for balsamic vinegar. Try it on!
6. White Vinegar + Sugar + Honey
Can you use regular vinegar instead of balsamic vinegar? Sure, you can in some recipes. But if you have some sugar or honey at hand, it’s even better. Any type of vinegar will do in such situations, to be fair, so keep that in mind. White vinegar is a neutral option. Not too sweet, not too strong. Adding sugar or honey will create that mixture of sweet and tangy that balsamic is known for. Choose brown sugar to get a darker shade. You need 1 part of sugar for every 4 parts of vinegar. It’s better to dissolve the sugar in a saucepan, over medium heat. In a couple of minutes, you’ll have your replacement.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar + Maple Syrup
Apple cider vinegar is rather fruity, but still quite tart. Its tangy, acidic aroma can be helped with some maple syrup, to create a balsamic substitution. 1 part maple syrup and 4 parts apple cider vinegar will do.
8. Soy Sauce + Lemon Juice + Molasses
Some salty, some tangy, acidic, and sour, and some sweet and sticky. This combo will replicate balsamic vinegar quite well. You need equal parts of the same ingredient to create a balanced alternative. Another great thing about this mix: it will resemble balsamic vinegar in terms of color and consistency as well as flavor.
9. Lemon Juice + Lime Juice + Orange Juice + Brown Sugar
If you’re looking for a more flavorful and exotic DIY balsamic vinegar replacement, this is the one. The lemon will give that acidic kick. The lime will add some sweetness and tanginess. The orange will bring some sweetness and a touch of floral and fruity. And the brown sugar will balance tastes, providing something sweet.
You can use molasses, maple syrup, or honey instead of sugar. If you use sugar, whisk everything together over the fire for a couple of minutes, to make sure it dissolves. Equal parts of each ingredient will do.
10. Caramelized Red Wine Vinegar + Honey
If you cook often you know that vinegar produced outside of Modena can’t be named balsamic. They are usually called “caramelized” instead. So, it’s quite intuitive, right? If you have caramelized red wine vinegar at hand it will do to swap balsamic. Adding a dash of honey will only make it similar, but it’s not mandatory.
11. Beef Stock + White Vinegar + Sugar
OK, so maybe you’ll find this one surprising. Hear us out, though! The flavor of the beef stock is similar to balsamic, especially when mixed with a splash of vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar. Depending on how concentrated you prepare your beef stock, you will have to taste and adjust the acidic and sweet ingredients.
12. Any Fruity Vinegar + Honey
You’ve probably noticed the pattern: something sour + something sweet and there you have it. Any type of fruity vinegar will do just fine. It will be tart, tangy, and sour, nonetheless. Sometimes it will give some of the aromas of the fruit used for fermentation (plum, strawberry, raspberry, etc.).
But not enough to alter the taste of the recipe. So, for this alternative, any type of fruit vinegar will do. Mixing in 2 tablespoons of your vinegar of choice with 1 tablespoon of honey will make your concoction similar to balsamic. A dark shade of honey will make the aspect similar as well.
13. Any Non-fruity Vinegar + Molasses
Just like any fruity vinegar does it, so do non-fruity vinegar! Do you have Chinese rice vinegar at hand? Use it! Mix 1 part of molasses with 5 parts of your vinegar of choice. You can splash some brown rice vinegar or soy sauce to make your liquid darker, more similar to balsamic. Ta-da!
Our conclusion is simple. If you don’t have balsamic at hand it’s time to get creative in the kitchen. But, if we’re honest, all of these substitutes for balsamic vinegar come down to something acidic and something sweet. Mixing any acidic ingredient and any sweet ingredient will do. Adding other ingredients such as soy sauce or maple syrup will only enhance the flavors.