What Should I Do If I’m Out of the Vinegar My Recipe Calls For?

vinegar bottles

We’ve all been there—you reach for balsamic vinegar to add a few dashes to your salad dressing, only to find that your bottle is completely empty. Don’t panic: It’s easy to find a substitute in your kitchen for most vinegars a recipe might call for—if you know where to look.

The two things you want to keep in mind when trying to come up with a vinegar substitution for a recipe are viscosity and flavor profile. All vinegar adds acidity to balance out flavors, so you can often substitute one for another, but there is a reason why swapping plain white vinegar in for a heavier sherry variety will completely change the taste of the marinade you’re making.

Easy never tasted so awesome.

WATCH: 5 Uses for Vinegar In Your Kitchen

So think critically when you’re trying to make a swap. For instance, if you’re trying to fix a balsamic-salad-dressing-minus-balsamic disaster, remember that balsamic vinegar is slightly heavier and sweeter than most other vinegars. Taste what other vinegar you have with abandon, and then adjust as needed—red wine vinegar may get you part of the way there on its own, but a pinch or two of brown sugar dissolved into it will add the caramelized complexity that balsamic usually brings. For the light, bright taste of rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar on its own should do the job well enough. 

RELATED: How to Make Next-Level Salad Dressing Without a Recipe

And think beyond the bottle: The tartness of apple cider vinegar, for instance, is well matched by a few squeezes of fresh lemon or lime juice. Taste everything as you go and adjust accordingly—you might just find a fix borne of necessity creates something entirely new and delicious on its own.

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