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Substitutes for Balsamic Vinegar – What can I use instead?

Substitutes for Balsamic Vinegar – What can I use instead?

Do you have any idea what is the most expensive vinegar in the world? Well, that is no other than the Balsamic vinegar in Italy! This dark, thick, concentrated, and intensely flavored vinegar takes up to 25 years to age to be at its best quality. Are you also aware that some producers age it up to a hundred years! Yes, it is true. That is some royal priced liquid they got!

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Traditional balsamic vinegar is solely produced in two areas in Italy – Modena and Reggio Emilia. These places hold a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) designated by the European Union, which includes strict rules for production and marketing. So no wonder that a liter of this old-aged vinegar costs thousands of Euros! Historically, balsamic vinegar of excellent quality was used to be given as a gift for the emperors.

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The best quality of traditional balsamic vinegar comes from carefully hand-picked grape fruits that have ripened to its highest sugar content. Although some farms harvest it using mechanical means, the premium Balsamic vinegar is done by hand to keenly select the best grape out there. After harvesting, these grapes are cold-pressed to extract the white sweet grape juice called “must.” At this point, this grape juice should not undergo fermentation. Next, the “must” is cooked below boiling temperatures with wine vinegar for long hours until it is reduced. Lastly, these are stored and further aged with great care in wooden barrels made from oak, chestnut, juniper, or more.

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A beautifully aged balsamic vinegar holds a perfect harmony of sweet and sour. These mainly rely on the right thickness, color, smell, and the balance between sugar and acidity. In the culinary world, this expensive vinegar is used for giving flavor to meat dishes, pasta, marinades, sauces, strawberries dips, and some sweet beverages and desserts.

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So, have you ever tried using balsamic vinegar in your recipes? Have you ever tasted some? It would indeed be worthwhile for your palate to taste this precious expensive condiment, right?

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The cheaper balsamic vinegar is the ones that are aged for only a short period, like for at least 2 months. And, some manufacturers add flavoring and color additives to imitate the feature of a traditional or authentic balsamic vinegar. Not all bottles of balsamic vinegar are produced the traditional way, though. Try to look for bottles that are labeled as “Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP” or “Balsamico Condimento.”

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You should know that balsamic vinegar possesses its own unique taste. There is no product that can serve as its real and equal substitute for it when it comes to its taste. Well, only a few are a little close to it, and that will require you to find or combine certain ingredients to make something that tastes similar.

Now, you have this dish that calls for balsamic vinegar. Since you find it not worth it to spend extra for a few amounts of this dark syrupy condiment, you would indeed consider finding another cheaper alternative. And that’s okay! Don’t get too sad, thinking you won’t get to make a delicious Italian cuisine just because you don’t have some balsamic vinegar. There are several alternatives you can try, and you will find the answers in this post. Search around your pantry, and you might be surprised that you might already have the combination of balsamic vinegar substitutes!

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Let’s go!

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1. Balsamic vinaigrette

How is this different from balsamic vinegar? In the beginning, we have already described the culinary features of balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinaigrette is another kind of balsamic vinegar product that has olive oil, sugar, and/or mustard, and seasonings like salt, garlic, and pepper. So, expect that balsamic vinegar is its main ingredient!

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Balsamic vinaigrette is usually best for making salad dressings. However, balsamic vinaigrette might not be ideal to use for dishes that have oils, sugars, herbs, and salt. Nevertheless,

If you have this in your home pantry or you just can’t find a bottle of balsamic vinegar at the grocery store, you can use balsamic vinegar. Again, note that balsamic vinaigrette is oiled and seasoned, but it won’t make a significant impact on the outcome of your meal using a 1:1 switch for unadulterated traditional balsamic vinegar. You may add some hefty amounts of squeezed lemon juice into your balsamic vinaigrette if you think you need to improve its tanginess or fruitiness.

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2. Red wine vinegar

Red wine vinegar is derived from fermented red wine that uses starter culture and acidic bacteria to convert red wine’s alcohol to acetic acid – a central component of the sour vinegar.

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If you have this at home, you can use red wine vinegar as a balsamic vinegar substitute if you are okay with some touch of bitter taste in your recipes. After all, both balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar come from wine grapes.

3. Reduced vinegar and sugar mixture

If you want to get the sweet and sour taste of balsamic vinegar, you can combine a 5:1 ratio of home vinegar to sugar. Place them all in a saucepan, then have it reduced under low heat. Then, keep on stirring it repeatedly until it becomes thick like balsamic vinegar.

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4. Apple cider or red wine vinegar and white sugar

If you are looking for a potent substitute for balsamic vinegar, a combination of Apple Cider vinegar and sugar will work. Preferably, use raw and organic apple cider vinegar that comes with the “mother.” Apple cider will give off some fruitiness that you would look for in a dash of balsamic vinegar while the sugar, on the other hand, adds sweetness to this do-it-yourself condiment.

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To achieve something that is almost distinctive to the taste of balsamic vinegar, apply a 2:1 of apple cider vinegar to sugar. For example, just mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. If you don’t have any granulated sugar or white sugar, you can substitute it with brown sugar or honey.

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5. Sherry vinegar

Sherry vinegar is considered as one of the possible closest substitutes to balsamic vinegar in terms of taste. In Spanish, it is called Vinagre de Jerez. It is one of Spain’s gourmet vinegar that is made from Sherry that comes with a sweet and mild taste.

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So, you can use this alone, and there will be no need to trouble yourself by mixing it with other ingredients. And all that just to achieve a similar taste. For any recipe or dish that calls for balsamic vinegar, try using sherry vinegar.

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6. Beef stock + white vinegar + sugar

You might find it strange, but your beef stock can help you make up for your missing balsamic vinegar! We all know that balsamic vinegar has a strong taste. And with beef stock, it can also take that part with the addition of white vinegar.

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First, reduce your beef stock before you could add your white vinegar. Reduce it further after adding your vinegar. Well, any kind of vinegar will do. Just try whatever you have in your kitchen. When the mixture is reduced, add sugar to add some kick of sweetness to it. Taste your mixture from time to time until you have something akin to balsamic vinegar.

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7. Chinese black vinegar

What’s in a bottle of Chinese black vinegar? It is made of glutinous rice and malt, which gives this vinegar a taste and dark color that is akin to balsamic vinegar. Aside from sharing the same feature with balsamic vinegar, Chinese black vinegar is the cheaper option! Using this malty-flavored Chinese black vinegar alone for your stir fry dishes, dipping sauces, soups, and braises that need that costly balsamic vinegar will do.

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8. Molasses + lemon juice + soy sauce

Make your own balsamic vinegar from scratch! Well, if you happen to have these ingredients in your kitchen, then you’re saved! A combination of molasses, lemon juice, and soy sauce can work as a balsamic vinegar substitute. If your recipe needs balsamic vinegar, just prepare a mix of equal parts of molasses, lemon juice, and soy sauce. This mixture will give you a sweet, salty, and bitter acidity to your dish.

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If you don’t have molasses, you can use either dark corn syrup or honey.

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9. Elderberry balsamic vinegar

Here is another do-it-yourself balsamic vinegar that you can prepare at home. You can start making it with elderberries if you have them growing in your area. Elderberries are tiny blue-black fruit that comes from a group of shrubs belonging to the Sambucus genus. They’re actually relatives of the honeysuckle plant. Some varieties of it are produced as jams, jellies, wines, and juices.

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When it comes to preparing it as a balsamic vinegar substitute, use a 4:2:3 ratio with ripe elderberries, organic red wine vinegar, and organic cane sugar.

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Here’s how to make elderberry balsamic vinegar:

First, place your ripe elderberries in a bowl and crush them using a fork or the back of the spoon. Or, you can even use the end of the rolling pin to do this. Your aim is to break this black berry’s skin to expose its flesh and juice.

  

Second, pour the red wine vinegar over the crushed elderberries, then cover it.

  

Third, leave it covered for five days in a cool place. You may put elderberry balsamic vinegar in the refrigerator if the room or storage area is warm.

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Fourth, after five days, prepare a saucepan and pour the mixture through a sieve. Make sure you get more of the liquid out by mashing the berries against the sieve. When you think you have pressed all the juice out, you may throw away the berries.

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Fifth, put your mixture under medium heat and then add the sugar. Keep on stirring the elderberry mixture until the sugar is dissolved.

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Sixth, bring your mixture to a boil. Once your mixture reaches the boiling point, you will need to reduce the heat, then let it simmer for 10 minutes. You will still need to keep on stirring to prevent your sugar from caramelizing and scorching.

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Seventh, transfer the mixture into a dark-colored bottle. It would be better to use a funnel when moving the liquid into the bottle to avoid spills. Use a cork or a plastic cap to close the bottle. Make sure to close it tightly.

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Lastly, store your elderberry balsamic vinegar in a cool, dry place.

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10. Brown rice vinegar

There are lots of kinds of rice vinegar. You can substitute balsamic vinegar with brown rice vinegar particularly. This is an Asian rice vinegar staple that has a light to dark brown color, similar to balsamic vinegar. It is basically produced from unpolished brown rice, which is known to be more nutritious, and koji. Brown rice vinegar is typically used for salad dressings, vegetable dishes, and dipping sauces.

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11. Grape jelly + red wine vinegar + soy sauce

Grape jelly has a sweet and tarty flavor. Red wine vinegar for the sourness. Soy sauce for a touch of savory taste!

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For example, if your recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, measure the following:

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2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar + 2 teaspoons of grape jelly + 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.

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Combine everything and whisk it until you achieve a uniform mixture.

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12. Red wine vinegar + maple syrup or honey

If you don’t have some grape jelly, you can skip it and use these formulas according to use:

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For salad dressing and general use, apply a 1:4 ratio of sweet and sticky maple syrup or honey to red wine vinegar.

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If you need balsamic vinegar to drizzle on your dish, you will need a thicker consistency. Use a 1:2 ratio with maple syrup or honey to red wine vinegar.

Take away

Balsamic vinegar is widely used as a condiment for many dishes like salads, marinades, sauces, meat dishes, and desserts.

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Bear in mind that it is essential to identify which of the substitutes, as mentioned earlier, will best suit the recipes you will prepare as each of them varies in taste and flavor. It’s all in your hands. Just choose the alternative that appeals to you the most.

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