Ingredient Intelligence

The 3 Best Substitutes for Balsamic Vinegar

published Apr 21, 2022
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Balsamic vinegar has a distinctive, fruity flavor that’s wonderful whisked into a vinaigrette, used to season vegetables like Brussels sprouts, or drizzled over dessert. Whether your bottle has run dry, or you simply don’t want to bring another condiment into a crowded pantry, it’s easy to create balsamic vinegar substitutes at home.

Balsamic vinegar is made from the juice of Italian wine grapes, which is pressed, reduced, and then aged in wooden casks. Over time, whatever liquid doesn’t evaporate becomes a vibrant, viscous condiment.

So, what can you use if you don’t have balsamic vinegar on hand? While there’s no singular, 1:1 ingredient swap, you can mimic its tangy, fruity flavors by artfully combining other ingredients in your kitchen.

Substitutes for Balsamic Vinegar

How to Substitute Red Wine Vinegar for Balsamic Vinegar

To transform

red wine vinegar

Proportions are important here. Opt for a 3:1 ratio of red wine vinegar to maple syrup or honey, plus a dash of soy sauce. Translation? For each tablespoon of red wine vinegar, add one teaspoon of maple syrup or honey, followed by one quick shake from your bottle of soy sauce, and whisk to combine. Try it in this balsamic-glazed steak tips and mushrooms recipe.

How to Substitute Apple Cider Vinegar for Balsamic Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is less acidic than red wine vinegar but tangier than balsamic, so you’ll need just a small amount of something sweet for balance. Honey and brown sugar have warm, toasty notes similar to the flavors balsamic vinegar picks up as it ages in barrels. 

Add one half-teaspoon of brown sugar or honey to every tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and stir until the sugar dissolves or the honey is uniformly incorporated. This will soften apple cider vinegar’s harsh edges and thicken its texture to better resemble balsamic’s viscosity. Try it in this quinoa salad recipe.

How to Substitute Lemon Juice for Balsamic Vinegar

The key to swapping lemon juice for balsamic is to start with fresh lemons, not the packaged juice that comes in a yellow squeeze bottle. (The best way to juice lemons depends on your purpose, but, for smaller quantities, a handheld citrus juicer is usually up for the task.)

To create a condiment akin to balsamic vinegar, mix equal parts lemon juice, soy sauce, and molasses. Whisk vigorously so the molasses is fully incorporated, and voilà! You’ve got a bright, tangy swap for balsamic vinegar. Try it in this strawberry, basil, and arugula salad.