White wine vinegar is versatile and popular because of its tangy fruity flavor and association with French cooking. It is also pale enough to not discolor light-colored dishes. While it is a valuable ingredient for serious home cooks, it is far from irreplaceable. Here are some of the best white wine vinegar substitutes:
Your best bet: Red wine vinegar
Because red wine vinegar is made from grape wine like white wine vinegar, it is a great substitute. The acidity levels can vary depending on the type of white wine vinegar you are replacing and the type of red wine vinegar you are using to replace it. In most cases, you can use red wine vinegar as a 1:1 substitute for white wine vinegar.
Red wine vinegar does have a cosmetic drawback when it comes to being a white wine vinegar substitute: it will discolor a pale dish, The discoloration might be especially important if you are cooking French food since the recipes often require white wine vinegar in dishes where a substitute might be especially obvious.
A decent second choice: Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made from acidified apple cider. Along with its acidic kick, it has a strong and distinctive fruity flavor. You can taste the apples used to make it in the same way that you may be able to taste the grapes and oak barrels used for certain white wine vinegars.
Apple cider vinegar works in most applications that traditionally require white wine vinegar. Use it in sauces, marinades and pickles. It works especially well when paired with pork. Apple cider vinegar has the added advantage of being easier to find than white wine vinegar in most places. It is usually more affordable as well.
Because its fruitiness is so strong and distinctive, you may want to opt for another substitute if your dish is mildly flavored. Apple cider vinegar can easily overpower subtler flavors. While its amber color won’t be as noticeable as the color of red wine vinegar, it could still give an unwanted hue to some preparations.
In a pinch: White distilled vinegar
Because it has the cleanest flavor profile of any vinegar, white distilled vinegar can work as a substitute for any of them. It has the most intense acidity of any vinegar, but there isn’t anything else there so it doesn’t interfere with flavor profiles or aromas.
White distilled vinegar is also completely colorless so it has no more of an effect on most dishes than plain water. It is a great option for pickling vegetables and for vinegar-braised dishes as well. White distilled vinegar is not just the easiest to find of the white wine vinegar substitutes, it is the cheapest in most places as well.
Best known for its role in Asian cooking, rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar offers a lot of what you want from white wine vinegar. Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice wine.
One possible downside to rice wine vinegar is its lack of acidity compared to white wine vinegar. Its overall flavor is milder and sweeter than that of white wine vinegar. That said, rice vinegar is acidic enough to work as a substitute in vinaigrettes and sauces.
Similar to rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar’s flavor is much milder than the white wine vinegar flavor. Even so, its acidity is balanced and it works in many of the same dishes. Keep in mind that sherry vinegar can darken as it ages, so an aged sherry vinegar may not be an ideal replacement for white wine vinegar in lighter colored dishes.