White, Brown, Black, Red, and Seasoned: All About Rice Vinegar

published Feb 15, 2013
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(Image credit: Emily Han)

Rice vinegar is one of our all-time essential vinegars. For Asian-style pickles, stir fries, salads, and dipping sauces, no other vinegar can compare. Less harsh than most Western vinegars, rice vinegar can also provide a mellow sweetness to salad dressings, vegetables, and other dishes. Learn more about the different kinds of rice vinegar and get some recipes after the jump.

Common to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines, rice vinegar is made from fermented rice or rice wine (thus it is sometimes referred to as rice wine vinegar). It’s generally less acidic than other vinegars and has a milder, sweeter flavor. However, there are several varieties:

White rice vinegar: Clear to yellow in color. When most recipes call for rice vinegar, this is the kind they’re referring to. Note that Japanese varieties tend to be more delicate and Chinese ones sharper.

Brown rice vinegar: Light to dark brown in color. Made from unpolished brown rice, this version of rice vinegar is reputedly richer in nutrients. It can often be used in place of white rice vinegar.

Black rice vinegar: Deeper in color and flavor, this somewhat smoky-tasting vinegar is made from black glutinous rice and other grains like wheat, millet, and sorghum. Often used in Chinese stir fries, dipping sauces, and as a condiment.

Red rice vinegar: Made from red yeast rice (a fermented rice) and sometimes barley and sorghum, this sweet, tart, and salty vinegar is often used in Chinese seafood dishes and dipping sauces.

Seasoned rice vinegar: White rice vinegar with added sugar, salt, and sometimes sake or MSG. Used to season rice for sushi and also good in salad dressings.

(Image: Emily Ho)