Pantry Staples: 5 Essential Vinegars for Every Kitchen

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. Do you agree?

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.

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.

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.

Rice Wine 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. In a dire pinch, we've used red wine vinegar at times, but the flavor just isn't the same.

White Vinegar - The flavor of distilled white vinegar isn't usually one that you want as the main flavor in a dish. We use it for pickling and when making other condiments, and sometimes to add an acidic note to finish a dish, but never in salad dressings or marinades. Also, white vinegar and white wine vinegar are not the same thing - white wine vinegar can be used much like red wine vinegar.

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?

Related: How to Make Your Own Vinegar

(Image: Emma Christensen)