I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of cane 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 substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Coconut vinegar is the best substitute for cane vinegar. Pantry staples like apple cider, white wine, or white vinegar also work, but you’ll need to add an extra pinch of sugar to bring them closer to cane vinegar’s flavor. Rice vinegar is good for replicating the sweetness.
I made small batches of chicken adobo to put different cane vinegar substitutes to the test.
As the name suggests, cane vinegar comes from the juice of sugar cane. It has a mildly acidic flavor, with a prominent sweet twist. This vinegar is a staple in the Philippines and the most popular Filipino vinegar you can find overseas. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Coconut Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Apple Cider Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio + 1 tsp sugar||8/10|
|White Wine Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio + 1 tsp sugar||7/10|
|White Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio + 1 tbsp sugar||7/10|
|Rice Vinegar||Replace with 1 ½ the amount of rice vinegar, reduce sugar||8/10|
|Balsamic Vinegar||Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio, reduce sugar||7/10|
|Lemon Juice||Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio + 1 tbsp sugar||7/10|
Related: Adobo Seasoning Substitutes
If you want to stick with the realm of Filipino vinegar, you can’t go wrong with coconut vinegar. Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t carry that characteristic coconut flavor. Instead, it’s tangy with a hint of sweetness and overall I found it slightly milder than cane vinegar.
But a benefit of this delicate flavor profile is that it’s super versatile – you can use it in dressings, marinades, or any dish where you want a mild tang to brighten things up.
And if you’re all about making your meals nourishing, you’ll be glad to know that coconut vinegar has lots of health benefits.
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with coconut vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar
No time for an emergency grocery run? Then you’ll be pleased to know that apple cider vinegar is a solid alternative for cane vinegar.
Made from fermented apple juice, it has that familiar tang of cane vinegar but with a gentle apple undertone. It’s definitely less sweet than cane vinegar, but this was an easy fix. I simply added more sugar to round out the flavor, and my chicken adobo turned out perfect.
Psst… don’t be afraid of the stringy sediments in your apple cider vinegar. That’s what they call the vinegar mother and it’s completely harmless.
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with apple cider vinegar + 1 tsp sugar.
White wine vinegar
Another alternative for cane vinegar that you might already have in your cupboard is good old white wine vinegar.
It’s not an exact match because this vinegar has bright, crisp undertones rather than a subtle sweetness like cane vinegar. However, both have similar tartness levels, so will both add the same amount of tang.
Psst… just like with apple cider vinegar, you can easily fix the missing sweetness with a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey.
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with white wine vinegar + 1 tsp sugar.
You might have only been using that bottle of white vinegar for cleaning and sanitizing, but it’s a decent substitute for cane vinegar in a pinch. In fact, some adobo recipes actually call for this vinegar in the recipe!
It has a sharper acidic bite than cane vinegar and the other alternatives on the list, so I recommend using less than the amount of cane vinegar called for to prevent overpowering the other flavors in your dish.
Pro tip: You can mix this with other kinds of vinegar like apple cider vinegar to mellow it out slightly.
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with white vinegar + 1 tbsp sugar.
Rice vinegar is a staple in many Asian dishes, and it’s primarily used for making sushi rice. Given its delicate flavor, I was skeptical about its suitability as a substitute, but it worked fine.
It matches cane vinegar’s sweetness to a tee, but it’s less acidic so my final adobo wasn’t as sharp. If you want a really sharp finish, add a splash of white vinegar for some extra oomph.
Pro tip: make sure to get unseasoned rice vinegar. Most stores also sell a version seasoned with salt. And if you do end up buying the seasoned version, simply adjust the amount of salt in your recipe.
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar with 1 ½ the amount of rice vinegar + reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.
Balsamic vinegar may seem like an odd option, but trust me – it worked wonders as a cane vinegar substitute for my adobo.
It’s made of grape must that has been cooked down, which gives it a richer, sweeter flavor than cane vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is also a bit less tangy than cane vinegar, so like with the previous substitute, you can mix it with a bit of white vinegar if you have it.
Psst… you can also use white balsamic vinegar (although this is pretty rare).
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with balsamic vinegar.
Finally, if you’re looking for a non-vinegar alternative, try lemon juice. It’s got a tang similar to cane vinegar, although it lacks that sweet hit. Instead, it’s got a fresh, citrusy kick.
Adding a touch of sugar helps soften the citrusy notes, but I could still taste them in my adobo. The end flavor was pretty different from what you’d get with cane vinegar, but still equally delicious. I can also see lemon juice working really well in dressings and marinades.
How to Substitute: Replace cane vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with lemon juice + 1 tbsp sugar.
Other substitute options
The list above are my top substitute options, but here are more options that are worth exploring:
- Sherry Vinegar: Derived from aged sherry wine from Spain, sherry vinegar boasts a deep, complex flavor that can fill the sweet-tangy void of cane vinegar.
- Champagne Vinegar: Light and delicate, champagne vinegar has a mild acidity coupled with subtle fruity undertones that’ll remind you of cane vinegar’s sweetness. Although it’s pretty expensive.
- Palm Vinegar: Originating from the fermented sap of various palm trees, palm vinegar offers a unique taste that’s both tangy and slightly sweet.
- Malt Vinegar: This boasts a combination of tang and slight sweetness that mirrors aspects of cane vinegar, making it an effective replacement.
Substitute to avoid
I frequently saw herb vinegar recommended as a cane vinegar substitute, but I’m afraid I would have to disagree. Yes, it’s got a tangy kick like most kinds of vinegar, but the infusion of herbs adds a layer of flavor that makes this substitute less versatile.
You can use this if you’re only making a vinaigrette, but for specific dishes like adobo, you’re better off trying the other substitutes on this list.
Read Next: What To Serve With Pork Adobo
Best Cane Vinegar Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1/2 cup coconut vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar + 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar + 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup white vinegar + 1 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 cup rice vinegar, reduce sugar
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, reduce sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice + 1 tbsp sugar
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen cane vinegar substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.