Red wine vinegar is an essential vinegar if you regularly cook French food but it is versatile enough to be used in other cuisines as well. If you run out, there are a number of other vinegars that can play the same role just as well and that you may also have in your kitchen. Here is a look at some of the best red wine vinegar substitutes.
Your best bet: Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is primarily associated with Italian cooking and has a sweet, fruity flavor along with mild acidity. Balsamic vinegar works in everything from grilled meats to salad dressings and poached fruit. In short, it can be used for many of the same jobs as It is great for deglazing pans.
The finest balsamic vinegars are made from grape juice that is boiled and reduced before being aged for upwards of 12 years. The cheaper versions are made by mixing balsamic vinegar with wine vinegar and food coloring.
Balsamic vinegar is sweeter than red wine vinegar and is not as aggressively acidic. The sweetness will be complementary to the flavor profiles of some dishes, less so in others. For example, it may not be as good an option in marinades because it lacks the strong astringency of red wine vinegar though it may make a good finishing sauce in the same dish.
A decent second choice: Red wine
Because red wine vinegar is made from red wine, you can use red wine on its own as a substitute in many recipes. It works well in most recipes for vinaigrettes and marinades where it will provide the color and much of the flavor. You can make it even more like red wine vinegar by combining it with white distilled vinegar.
White distilled vinegar on its own is relatively flavorless aside from its acidity so it won’t be a good substitute without help. It is also astringent and harsh, which can be tempered with the addition of red wine. The blend can keep emulsified salad dressings from breaking, which they might if they are made with red wine alone.
Red wine alone won’t work in dishes where you need the acidity of vinegar to tenderize meat. Red wine is not as acidic as red wine vinegar since it has not been acidified by bacteria. The acidity of white distilled vinegar can change that. You can start by mixing two parts red wine to one part white distilled vinegar and adjust the ratio to taste from there.
In a pinch: Sour citrus juice
The main reason to use red wine vinegar or any other kind of vinegar is to add acidity to food. You can get that same acidity from lemon or lime juice as well as several other citrus fruits that can provide intensely tart flavors. Lemon or lime juice can work well in vinaigrettes and other salad dressings as well as in some sauces.
Lemon and lime juices both have strong and distinctive flavors and aromas to go with their acidity. Some dishes might benefit from these, but not all.
White wine vinegar is a decent substitute for red wine vinegar though it might not always have as intense a flavor as red wine vinegar. Also, it lacks the color. That said, it can play the same role in most recipes.
Apple cider vinegar can provide you with the same fruity notes that make red wine vinegar such an important tool. The fruitiness is especially useful in vinaigrettes that are to be used on fresh green salads.