Red Wine Vinegar Substitute – 8 Easy Options!

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by Sil Pancho

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11.28.2021


There are several red wine vinegar substitutes for recipes. Learn more about healthy alternative ingredients to find your favorite red wine vinegar substitute.

5 glass bottles of various vinegars in a white kitchen. Text overlay reads "Red Wine Vinegar substitutes."

With its rich and tangy flavor, red wine vinegar is a culinary staple—especially in the pantries of those who do a lot of Mediterranean cooking. Of course, it may never have occurred to you to have a red wine vinegar substitute readily available when cooking. 

A time will inevitably come when you run out of your supply in the middle of preparing a meal and need a quick red wine vinegar replacement. Or, you may be planning a dinner party with certain guests who simply can’t have any due to certain health conditions or medications.

Regardless of your reason for needing a backup option, you’ll want to keep this list of red wine vinegar alternatives handy. 

Why Would You Need a Red Wine Vinegar Substitute?

Red wine vinegar is a fundamental ingredient used in salad dressings, marinades, reductions, pickling, and more. It’s also associated with several health benefits, including the regulation of blood sugar levels, antioxidant protection, weight loss support, and it can give your heart health a nice boost.

Some people even take a daily diluted spoonful of it for the above benefits. Despite its numerous and well-researched health benefits, too much red wine vinegar can bring on adverse health effects like digestive issues, acid reflux, and more. It can also interact poorly with certain blood pressure medications.

Additionally, red wine vinegar tends to lose its quality after two to three months of being opened and used. You’ll know it’s “gone bad” once the color has darkened and turned cloudy. Of course, it’ll still be safe enough to use, but it’ll likely taste and smell a bit off and won’t elevate the flavor of your dish the way it’s supposed to. 

Now, let’s talk about your red wine vinegar alternatives.

An overhead photo of a bowl of lentil soup.

Greek Lentil Soup is finished with red wine vinegar.

The Best Substitutes For Red Wine Vinegar

Keep in mind that the best red wine vinegar substitute for certain recipes will provide a similar acidic tanginess that won’t change the intended flavor of the dish. In other words, what may work for a salad dressing may not necessarily work for a reduction.

As long as you keep the flavor profiles of whatever you’re cooking in mind, it shouldn’t be difficult to come up with the right red wine vinegar substitute in a pinch.

Having said that, the starting substitution level for most red wine vinegar alternatives is a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and another liquid ingredient. However, your red wine vinegar recipe will depend entirely on the alternative ingredients you’re using and whatever the general recipe calls for.

Let’s take a look at the best substitutes for red wine vinegar and how they’ll fit into your recipes:

A small bowl of white wine vinegar on a cutting board next to fresh herbs. This is a good red wine vinegar substitute.

1. White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar should be the first red wine vinegar substitute on your list for when you need a straightforward alternative. 

Generally speaking, the acidity levels between the two are the same while white wine vinegar is slightly less sharp compared to red wine vinegar. Despite having a more mellow flavor, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference among marinades and salad dressings. The same goes for pickling your veggies.

It can also be used as a direct replacement in terms of measurements, so you won’t have to worry about diluting it.

Of course, reductions are a different story as white wine vinegar is clear. Also, due to having a more delicate palate, it doesn’t pair well with red meats.

Sherry vinegar is poured into a small glass bowl.

2. Sherry Vinegar

In their more native forms, sherry is sweeter than dry red wine. As a vinegar, however, sherry steps up as a more subtle red wine vinegar substitute. 

In other words, sherry vinegar can be used as a direct substitute for red wine. The only thing to remember is that sherry vinegar has a more refined flavor profile than red wine vinegar. That means you’ll be starting out with the exact measurements that the recipes call for, but you’ll likely need to add more for a bolder flavor.

Lastly, thanks to its flavor profile and coloring—which is more on the brown side—it can be used as a replacement in all red wine vinegar recipes. A drizzle is great on our Pan con Tomate

A small glass dressing bottle filled with dark balsamic vinegar on a cutting board next to toasted bread and tomatoes.

3. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is one of Italy’s many gifts to us. It’s just the right combination of rich and acidic with a full body of sweetness resembling notes of molasses, cherries, dark chocolate, figs, and even prunes. If you’ve got a traditional balsamic product, then it’ll have the additional woody notes from the barrels it matured in as well as a slight smokiness.

Due to its sweeter profile, balsamic gives off more of a mellow tartiness than a sharp acidic bite. This means the only thing it shares with its red wine counterpart is the basic acidic quality that all kinds of vinegar have. However, it still makes an excellent alternative for red wine for a variety of dishes from salads to reductions.

Although thanks to its complex sweetness, it does have the power to change the overall flavor of your dish. 

Fortunately, there’s room to play around. Tablespoon for tablespoon, balsamic can be swapped perfectly for salad dressings. However, for other recipes calling for red wine vinegar, you’ll want to start with half the amount of balsamic and cut the sweetness with something more acidic, like a dash of lemon juice.

A bottle of Bragg apple cider vinegar sits on a wooden cutting board next to apples.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Coming from fermented apples, apple cider vinegar packs a bit more of a punch. It’s also much fruitier, but still a worthy red wine vinegar substitute for marinades, dressings, and pickling.

Because of its potency, it’s recommended to stick to a 3:1 ratio for every four tablespoons of red wine vinegar in a recipe. That means you’ll want to dilute three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one tablespoon of either regular red wine or fruit juice, depending on what you’re making.

Of course, if a brighter and fruitier finish is what you’re going for, then you can just add the apple cider vinegar undiluted, tasting as you go until you’ve achieved your desired flavor. 

ACV is also often used as a health elixir when mixed with other ingredients, such as in our Apple Cider Vinegar Drink Recipe. 

Ingredients for sushi rice on a marble counter: rice, rice vinegar, salt and sugar.

5. Rice Vinegar

You can find rice vinegar among the Asian ingredients and products at most grocery stores. Rice vinegar is remarkably versatile, and while it’s very mild flavor-wise, it’s got the right amount of tang for an acceptable red wine vinegar substitute.

While rice vinegar can be used in virtually any dish as red wine vinegar at a standard ratio, you’ll likely need to mix it with other ingredients to elevate its mild flavor. 

A bottle of red wine on an outdoor table.

6. Red Wine

When you’re making a marinade or a reduction and need an alternative for red wine vinegar, why not go straight to the source? After all, it’s not unheard of to cook with certain wines.

Red wine makes for the perfect red wine vinegar substitute—but only when you need it for flavor purposes. Red wine alone won’t give you the same acidity as red wine vinegar, which means it won’t work for dressings or pickling or anything else that calls for a certain level of tartness. 

Additionally, the flavor of your dish will ultimately reflect the type of wine you’re using as a substitute. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a wine that complements the main ingredient that you’re marinating or creating a reduction for.  

I always use dry wines from my organic Dry Farm Wines subscription. 

7. White Vinegar + Red Wine

When you have two substitutes for red wine vinegar that just won’t work on their own, you can mix them together to create a make-shift red wine vinegar that’s pretty spot-on.

We’re talking about white distilled vinegar and fresh red wine. 

If you’ve got both ingredients handy, all you have to do is mix equal parts red wine (preferably a dry one) and white distilled vinegar. The red wine will provide the necessary flavors while the white distilled vinegar will require the precise acidity.

You can go ahead and use this 50/50 blend as a direct substitute in any red wine vinegar recipes, including marinades and salad dressings.   

A child juices a lemon on a pink citrus juicer.

8. Lemon or Lime Juice

When all else fails, reach for some lemons or limes (or the bottles of lemon or lime juice if you have them). 

Since all kinds of vinegar have an acetic acid-base, the citric acid in these citrus fruit juices will supply the proper acidity. However, using lemons or limes instead of actual vinegar will change the flavor profile of your dish entirely. 

It’s best to use lemon and lime juice for marinades and salad dressings since they’re so zesty and tart. Either way, it’ll bring your dish to life with a delightful freshness that’ll make you forget about red wine vinegar.

The Best Red Wine Vinegar Substitute

So, what’s the best substitute for red wine vinegar?

For me, it all depends on what I’m cooking. While I’d prefer to get as close as possible to what the recipe calls for, I often find that balsamic vinegar can bring on a whole new depth to the intended flavor of most dishes. Alternatively, if the dish is centered around red meat, using a nice dry red wine can really add another level of tenderness and complexity to its flavors.

If you’re not comfortable experimenting on the fly, keeping either white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar around is a good idea.

5 glass bottles filled with vinegars in a white kitchen.

Ingredients

  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Red Wine
  • White Vinegar + Red Wine
  • Lemon Juice

Instructions

  1. Depending on your recipe, choose one of the ingredient substitution options listed above. Consider flavor as well as color. For example, balsamic will make your dish darker.
  2. You should be able to substitute another one of the acids listed above for red wine vinegar in the same amount, but be sure to go slowly and taste.

Nutrition Information:

Yield: 1

Serving Size: 1 tablespoon

Amount Per Serving:

Calories: 14



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