5 Essential Vinegars for Your Pantry

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It's easy to fall in love with those beautiful vinegars that have been made with exotic fruits, infused with herbs, aged in special barrels, or are otherwise irresistible. But we think that there are really only five vinegars that we would consider actually "essential" for a home cook's pantry. Here's our list — do you have all of these in your pantry too?

1. Red Wine Vinegar

This is a great all-purpose vinegar to have around. We use it in salad dressings, marinades, and to give soups a little twang! at the very end of cooking. It can be used as a substitute for cider vinegar in most recipes.

2. Balsamic Vinegar

We use balsamic almost exclusively in salad dressings and marinades, but we also sometimes simmer it into a thick syrup for desserts! Nothing quite matches the exact flavor of balsamic.

3. Cider Vinegar

We use cider vinegar when making barbecue sauce and other homemade condiments. It can also be used in some salad dressings or to finish a soup, and can usually work in place of red wine vinegar if you're out.

4. Rice Vinegar

As you might imagine, we keep rice wine vinegar in our pantry for when we're doing Asian cooking. It's essential for most dipping sauces and has a lighter, sweeter flavor than other vinegars.

5. White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar is different from harsh distilled white vinegar. While it isn't as flavorful as its red counterpart, it lightens and brightens rich sauces and vinaigrettes without overpowering the other flavors in the dish.

All these vinegars will keep in your pantry almost forever, so don't worry about needing to use them up very quickly. Invest in a bottle of each of these vinegars, and you'll be set for almost any recipe that comes along!

What other kinds of vinegar do you like to have on hand?

Updated from a post originally published in January 2010.

(Image credits: Christine Gallary; Faith Durand; Tara Mataraza Desmond; Emily Han; Nealey Dozier)