What’s the Difference Between Rice Wine and Rice Vinegar?

updated Sep 13, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Both rice wine and rice vinegar are widely used in Asian cooking, but they’re two very distinct products. Do you know what sets them apart, and when to use each one?

The Difference Between Rice Wine and Rice Vinegar

While both products are made from fermented rice, the difference is in the manner in which each one is produced, as well as how they’re used. These two can easily be confused, since rice vinegar is sometimes also labeled as rice wine vinegar (which is a vinegar, and not wine).

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

More About Rice Wine

Unlike most varieties of wine, which are made from fermented fruit, rice wine is made from fermented glutinous rice with a process in which yeast transforms the sugars into alcohol. It’s used in a variety of Asian cuisines, particularly Chinese cooking, and often incorporated into marinades and sauces to add sweetness and depth of flavor. Some varieties are also consumed as a beverage. While the distinct flavor of rice wine varies from one to another, they are all generally sweet.

Common varieties of rice wine include Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine), mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine), and sake (dry Japanese rice wine), and most have a relatively low alcohol content compared to Western wines and beers.

Recipes Using Rice Wine

(Image credit: Emily Han)

More About Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar, also referred to rice wine vinegar, is made by fermenting the sugars in rice first into alcohol, and then into acid. Compared to white distilled vinegar, rice vinegar is less acidic with a delicate, mild, and somewhat sweet flavor. It’s commonly used in marinades and salad dressings, and for pickling vegetables.

Rice vinegar can range in color from clear to different shades of red and brown; each variety has a slightly different taste. Rice vinegar is also different from seasoned rice vinegar and their differences boiled down to sweetness and acidity.

Recipes Using Rice Vinegar

Can They Be Used Interchangeably?

While both are made from rice, rice wine and rice vinegar are very different products and should not be used interchangeably.

Pale dry sherry or dry white wine make good substitutes for rice wine, while apple cider vinegar makes a nice replacement for rice vinegar.