I personally taste-tested a variety of apple cider vinegar substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Mixing white vinegar with apple cider makes a great substitute for apple cider vinegar. You can also use white wine vinegar or rice vinegar mixed with a little fruit juice to mimic the fruity undertones of apple cider vinegar. In a pinch, use lemon or lime juice.
I made small batches of this delicious salad dressing to test different apple cider vinegar substitutes.
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most common types of vinegar. It has a tart, tangy flavor that’s balanced out with the subtle sweetness of apples. This flavor profile makes apple cider vinegar super versatile and you’ll find it in salad dressings, sauces (like this barbecue sauce), drinks, and even baked goods.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|White wine vinegar||Replace with 3/4 the amount||8/10|
|Apple cider + white vinegar||Start with a 1:1 mix||9/10|
|Rice vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Lemon or lime juice||Replace with 1/2 the amount||6/10|
|Red wine vinegar||Replace with 1/2 the amount||6/10|
|Malt vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Raspberry vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar is a common vinegar that makes a great substitute for apple cider vinegar because it has a similar level of acidity, although some brands can be more harsh. The flavor is more subtle than with apple cider vinegar, and although you might see it described as ‘fruity’, it’s not as fruity as cider vinegar. But this is an easy fix.
I added a splash (1/4 of a tsp) of apple juice to my vinegar (1 tbsp) to mimic the fruitiness. And if you don’t have any fruit juice, a small amount of honey can work too.
White wine vinegar is just as versatile as apple cider vinegar, but its crisp flavor really shines when you pair it with light proteins like chicken or seafood.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar with 3/4 the amount of white wine vinegar, then add more to taste.
Apple cider + white vinegar
Apple cider alone won’t cut it as a substitute for apple cider vinegar because it’s not acidic enough (despite what you will read on other blogs). And I wouldn’t recommend using straight white vinegar as a substitute either because it’s too harsh.
But once you mix the two ingredients together, you have a great substitute.
Start with a 1:1 mixture and then slowly add more vinegar until you have the flavor you want. You can also use apple juice instead of apple cider, but since this is sweeter you will likely need more vinegar.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of apple cider and distilled white vinegar.
Rice vinegar is another vinegar you can use in place of apple cider vinegar. It’s on the milder side for vinegar because of its slightly sweet undertone, so this helps compensate for the lack of fruitiness. But if you want to, you can mix in 1/4 of a tsp of fruit juice for each tablespoon of vinegar.
Despite its Asian roots, it will fit seamlessly into any recipe that calls for apple cider vinegar. But one word of caution – make sure you use unseasoned rice vinegar, not the seasoned stuff. The latter has added salt and sugar, which will throw the taste of your recipe off balance.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with unseasoned rice vinegar.
Lemon or lime juice
Lemon and lime juice have a different flavor profile to vinegar because their tartness comes from citric acid rather than acetic acid, but they can definitely rescue your dish in a pinch.
Limes are more sour and bitter than lemons, which have some sweetness to them. Both fruits are bright and zesty, while apple cider vinegar is more tangy. But they will all lift your dish in a similar way and give it some fruity freshness.
Always go for freshly squeezed juice if you can, it has a much better flavor.
Tip: If you want something sweeter, consider using freshly squeezed orange juice.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar with ½ the amount of lemon or lime juice, adding more to taste.
Red wine vinegar
Red wine vinegar is a harsh vinegar with a bold flavor, but it’s a cheap and common pantry staple that you might already have. It has a subtle fruitiness to it but is more full-bodied than apple cider vinegar.
Because of the stronger flavor, I would start with half the amount of red wine vinegar, and then add more if you think the dish needs it. Another thing to consider is its color. Red wine vinegar has a dark color that will alter the final look of your dish, especially if you’re using a lot of it.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar with 1/2 the amount of red wine vinegar.
Just like apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar offers a lightly tangy-sweet flavor. It has a similar acidity level to our star ingredient and adds just as much depth, but it has a nutty, yeasty flavor rather than a fruity one.
It’s a classic pairing with fish and chips, but it does an impressive job in dressings and marinades too. It’s actually one of my favorite vinegars, but sadly it’s not that common, which is why it’s not higher up on the list.
And a quick heads up, malt vinegar is NOT gluten-free like most vinegars.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with malt vinegar.
Raspberry vinegar is another less common vinegar, but if you happen to have some on hand it’s an excellent choice for replacing apple cider vinegar because of its fruitiness. The balance between the sweet, tart raspberry flavors and the acidity of the vinegar is pretty much perfect.
I wouldn’t recommend using it for pickling (it’s too expensive for that), but it’s a great option as a base for your vinaigrette or to use in a pan sauce. It works best with simpler dishes where its flavor can become center stage.
Raspberry vinegar also has a vibrant red color that will look amazing drizzled over a salad or some chicken.
How to substitute: replace apple cider vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with raspberry vinegar.
Other alternatives to consider
The substitutes mentioned above are my top picks for apple cider vinegar replacements, but there are more alternatives to consider!
- Champagne vinegar: If you prefer a mellower tang, champagne vinegar is a solid choice. It has delicate floral notes that would pair nicely with seafood, but it can be pretty pricey and hard to find.
- Homemade apple cider vinegar: This is not an instant solution, but I included it just in case you want to give it a shot. Gourmet Vegetarian (video below) has a recipe that uses fresh apples, which you’ll first turn into cider, and then ferment into vinegar. The whole process takes 2 months… I told you it wasn’t instant.
- Sherry vinegar: Sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine. It undergoes an aging process, which gives it a complex, deep flavor. It’s delicious but be prepared for a different flavor compared to apple cider vinegar.
Substitute to avoid
Here are a couple of substitute suggestions I came across while researching that I don’t think are good ideas:
- Beer: Nothing beats ice-cold beer after a long day, but it’s not a good alternative to apple cider vinegar. It’s not acidic like vinegar and has a very different flavor. The two just aren’t comparable.
- Balsamic vinegar: Balsamic vinegar makes a tasty dressing, but it’s much sweeter than apple cider vinegar and has a very strong flavor that can overpower other flavors very easily.
12 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 6 medium-sized apples
- ¼ cup sugar
- filtered water
- Wash the apples well, core and cut them into chunks. Put them in a sterilized jar then add in the sugar and water to the shoulder.
- Cover the jar with a breathable cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Put the jar in a cool, dry place and leave to ferment for a month.
- Everyday, use a stick to push and rotate the apples. Remember to put the cover back. This will prevent growth of mold.
- After a month, the first fermentation is done. Strain it with a non-metallic strainer and transfer the liquid into a glass container.
- Lightly close the lid and leave it to ferment again for another 3-4 weeks. After that, you'll have your own homemade apple cider vinegar.