What’s A Good Apple Cider Vinegar Substitute?

Apple cider vinegar is regarded as a superfood by some and simply as a brightly flavored condiment by others. It’s a great option for adding flavor to everything from pickles to pork dishes and is both affordable and easy to find. If you need some in a hurry and can’t get to a grocery store, try one of the following apple cider vinegar substitutes:

Your best bet: Rice vinegar

Made from acetified rice wine, rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar) is less acidic than other vinegars. The low acidity is one of the factors that makes it an excellent apple cider vinegar substitute. Another is its sweetness — it is sweeter than most other vinegars.

Rice vinegar is best known for its use in many Asian dishes, but it also works well in Western ones. Of the three types of rice wine vinegar, any will do as a substitute for apple cider vinegar but the red variety is best. Red rice vinegar has a sweet and slightly umami flavor profile that will do a great job of standing in for apple cider vinegar in most applications. 

The downside of rice vinegar is that you will be missing the apple flavor but that might not be much of an issue in dishes that have other strong flavors. 

A decent second choice: Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is made from grapes, which is why it can provide some of the fruity flavors that you expect from apple cider vinegar. It is sweeter than other vinegars and less acidic. It will work in vinaigrettes and as a braising liquid. 

Downsides of balsamic vinegar as an apple cider vinegar substitute include the fact that it has a thicker texture, which may affect its ability to replace apple cider vinegar in some applications. For example, it is not as good for pickling or for making herb-infused vinegars.

Another drawback is the flavor of balsamic vinegar, which is strong and distinctive. It will be noticeable in a dish in a way that apple cider vinegar would not be. Balsamic vinegar is also darker than apple cider vinegar, which means that a dish made with balsamic vinegar can have a dramatically different appearance from one made with apple cider vinegar. 

In a pinch: Lemon juice

Apple cider vinegar is used because of its moderate acidity and fruity flavor. Lemon juice will provide the same tartness, fruitiness and acidity that you want from apple cider vinegar. It is easy to find and its flavor profile will work in many of the recipes that require apple cider vinegar. 

Lemon juice has the tartness and some of the fruity qualities that make apple cider vinegar an enjoyable addition to foods. You can use lemon juice as a vinegar substitute in many salad dressings, marinades and drinks. Lemon juice even works as an apple cider vinegar alternative in canned foods such as canned tomatoes. 

Keep in mind that lemon juice will lose much of its vitamin C content when exposed to heat, so it might not be the ideal apple cider vinegar substitute in cooked dishes. 

While it is highly acidic, lemon juice is still somewhat less acidic than apple cider vinegar. The lower acidity means that you will need to use more of it to achieve the same degree of tartness. Another downside of lemon juice is that it has a distinctive flavor that may not pair well with all of the ingredients in some dishes that use apple cider vinegar. 

Other alternatives

White wine vinegar can provide some of the fruitiness of apple cider vinegar and can work as a replacement in virtually every recipe. It is not quite as sweet as apple cider vinegar but you can fix that easily by adding a little sugar.