Here's what you should—and shouldn't—use in place of rice vinegar when you're making vinaigrettes, homemade pickles, slaws, and more. 

By Hannah Klinger
January 18, 2019
Photo: Victor Prostasio

Rice vinegar is the sweetest, most delicate vinegar you can use in cooking, adding just a little extra zing to homemade pickles, fresh slaws, and basic vinaigrettes. But what do you do if you’re following a recipe and you’re all out of it?

Best Substitute for Rice Vinegar

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Hands down, the best substitute for rice vinegar is apple cider vinegar: It’s mild, with a faint apple flavor that won’t overpower (though when used for pickling, the apple flavor will be much more pronounced). You can actually use it as a sub for most vinegars. ACV is also said to have many health benefits, helping to lower blood pressure and aid with nausea and migraines.

What Other Vinegars Can You Substitute?

From balsamic vinegar to red wine vinegar, there are plenty of other vinegars on grocery store shelves. But can you substitute those for rice vinegar as well? Not exactly. And while many of these may look similar to rice vinegar, their flavor profiles couldn't be more different. The first rule when substituting one vinegar for another: Color is not the best indicator.

Here’s a breakdown of each vinegar in terms of flavor and best uses. Remember to store all vinegars, tightly sealed, in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

White Vinegar

White vinegar and rice vinegar may be closer in color, but their flavors are completely opposite. Rice vinegar is incredibly sweet and delicate, while white vinegar is sour and harsh. In fact, it’s the most aggressive vinegar out there—and it’s more commonly used as a natural household cleaner.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is slightly tangy, with a mellow sweetness that becomes more defined with age. Drizzle over tortellini, caprese salads, baked chicken, or pizzas. White balsamic vinegar and regular are pretty much the same in terms of flavor.

White and Red Wine Vinegar

Red and white wine vinegars are rich, fruity, and tangy—a bit stronger than rice vinegar. Use them to round out rich, meaty dishes like stews and sauces, or to add punch to a vinaigrette.

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