Red wine vinegar is made by fermenting red wine, and it has a distinct tangy and sweet flavor that lends itself well to many dishes. Better yet, it contains health-promoting antioxidants.
Many people use it in Mediterranean-style dishes, gazpachos, pickling recipes, marinades, and vinaigrettes.
I often mix it with extra virgin olive oil and herbs to make an easy, homemade salad dressing. I love how simple it is to create and how much flavor it offers — even in small amounts.
If you’re following a recipe that calls for red wine vinegar, but you’ve run out, there is no need to worry. Here are eight red wine vinegar substitutes that work in a pinch.
1. Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is an everyday pantry staple in many households.
It’s made from fermented grape juice and features molasses, fig, and cherry undertones. Compared with red wine vinegar, it’s thicker, darker, and sweeter, so you may need to tone down the sweetness of the dish you’re cooking.
To use it in place of red wine vinegar in salad dressings, substitute it at a 1:1 ratio. For other recipes like marinades or dressings for pizza or crostini, you may prefer to first dilute it with white vinegar or red wine at a 1:1 ratio.
Balsamic vinegar is also delicious on fruit, roasted tomatoes, cubed avocado, and grilled sweet potatoes.
Summary: Use balsamic vinegar as a 1:1 substitute for red wine vinegar in most recipes. You can also dilute it with white vinegar or red wine. Because of its thicker, sweeter properties, you may need to reduce the sweetness in the recipe you’re following.
2. White vinegar mixed with red wine
You can make a copycat version of red wine vinegar by mixing white vinegar and red wine.
A good place to start is a 1:3 ratio of red wine to white vinegar. For example, mix one tablespoon of red wine and three tablespoons of white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for a few hours to meld together, then adjust it to taste.
Along the same lines, if you have a little red wine vinegar but not quite enough for a recipe, you can mix it with white vinegar to reach the total amount you need.
Try using this easy copycat mix anywhere that calls for red wine vinegar, such as salad dressings, sautéed mushrooms, or caramelized onions.
Summary: You can make a red wine vinegar copycat mix. Simply combine white vinegar and red wine at a 1:3 ratio. Let the mixture sit for a few hours, adjust it to taste, and use it anywhere you’d use red wine vinegar.
3. Sherry vinegar
Sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine and is commonly used in Spanish dishes.
It offers a sweeter flavor than red wine vinegar, so reduce any added sweetness in the original recipe you’re cooking.
You can generally use sherry vinegar at a 1:1 ratio instead of red wine vinegar. However, because of its milder taste, you may need to add a little more.
Sherry vinegar is excellent for brightening up roasted vegetables, meats, soups, marinades, and vinaigrettes.
Summary: Sherry vinegar is slightly sweeter than red wine vinegar, but it can generally be used as a 1:1 substitute.
4. White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar has an acidity similar to that of red wine vinegar, making it a great substitute.
You can swap it in at a 1:1 ratio, but be aware that the flavor is slightly less intense.
White wine vinegar generally works well for brining, béarnaise sauce, cucumber salad vinaigrette, or braising chicken.
Remember that white wine vinegar is not the same as distilled white vinegar. White vinegar has a higher acidity and is made with grain alcohol, whereas white wine vinegar is made by fermenting white wine.
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Summary: White wine vinegar has an acidity similar to that of red wine vinegar and can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio in just about any recipe.
5. Rice vinegar
Rice vinegar is milder than red wine vinegar but still sweet and tangy.
To best match the flavor, you’ll generally need to use a little more rice vinegar than red wine vinegar.
Use rice vinegar to make sushi rice, pickled vegetables, marinades, and even certain cocktails.
Summary: Rice wine vinegar can be used in place of red wine vinegar, though you may need to use a little more to match the intended taste of a recipe.
6. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples, and it’s a more potent option, boasting a stronger, fruitier flavor than that of red wine vinegar.
As such, consider reducing the vinegar amount in your recipe if you’re using the apple cider variety. You can mix it with a bit of red wine for similar color and flavor.
Some of the best uses for apple cider vinegar are salad dressings and vinaigrettes. It also works well in tomato-based dishes or in making pickled vegetables and marinades.
Summary: Apple cider vinegar has a more potent flavor than red wine vinegar, so consider adding a little less if you’re using it as a substitute. You can also mix it with a little red wine to color it similarly.
7. Tamarind paste
While not a type of vinegar, tamarind paste is made from sour tamarind fruit. Its flavor is similar to red wine vinegar and lends itself well to many Indian and Asian dishes that call for red wine vinegar.
However, it doesn’t work well in every recipe, as it’s best used as a meat tenderizer. It has a strong flavor, so start with a small amount — like a teaspoon or two — and increase the amount from there as needed.
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While red wine vinegar is widely available, tamarind paste may be more easily found in specialty stores, Asian or Indian markets, or online.
Summary: While not a type of vinegar, tamarind paste can work well in place of red wine vinegar, especially when used in small amounts as a meat tenderizer.
8. Raspberry vinegar
Raspberry vinegar has a similar color to that of red wine vinegar, though it’s slightly sweeter.
If you use this as a substitute, you may want to reduce the amount of sweetness called for in the recipe. Otherwise, it can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio.
Use raspberry vinegar to make salad dressings and meat and mushroom marinades. Alternatively, mix it with ginger ale and ice to make a raspberry cooler drink.
Summary: Raspberry vinegar can be used as a 1:1 substitute for red wine vinegar in most recipes. However, it has a slightly sweeter flavor, so you may need to reduce other sweeteners in the dish.
The bottom line
Red wine vinegar is a common ingredient in recipes like salad dressings and marinades, and its tangy, sweet flavor works well in many dishes.
If you run out of red wine vinegar, plenty of alternatives work well in its place. The best part is that you probably already have some of them in your pantry.
Depending on what you have on hand, you might be able to substitute with balsamic vinegar, white vinegar mixed with red wine, or even tamarind paste.
Try this today:
Look in your pantry and see which vinegars you already have but rarely use. Make a list of how they can be used — including as substitutes for red wine vinegar — and keep it on your fridge for easy reference when you’re in a pinch.