I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of coconut vinegar substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking 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.
Here’s a quick answer.
The best substitutes for coconut vinegar are apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is slightly more acidic but has similar health benefits because it’s fermented. Champagne vinegar has a similar neutral, slightly sweet taste and the same mild acidity.
I made different batches of chicken adobo to test several coconut vinegar substitutes.
Coconut vinegar is made from the fermented sap of the flowers on a coconut tree. It’s a little milder than apple cider vinegar and has a well-rounded, smooth flavor with a lightly sweet note. There’s not really any coconut taste!
It’s more commonly seen in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, but its naturally mild flavor makes it a superb addition to any salad dressing, sauce, marinade, or soup. And it’s becoming a lot more popular in the West.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||Note of the substitute||Verdict|
|Apple cider vinegar||Slightly more acidic||8/10|
|Champagne vinegar||Similar mild acidity||8/10|
|Rice vinegar||Similar sweetness||8/10|
|Cane vinegar||A touch sweeter||6/10|
|White wine vinegar||Very accessible||6/10|
|Lemon juice||Use 1/2 the amount||5/10|
|Homemade coconut vinegar||Made with coconut water||10/10|
Apple cider vinegar
The pantry staple apple cider vinegar is an affordable and accessible alternative to coconut vinegar. It’s more acidic than coconut vinegar, so expect a sharper finish. And it replaces the sweet finish of coconut vinegar with a bright, fruity flavor.
If you find it too acidic, you can always add a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey to your recipe to offset the tanginess.
Psst… if you’re clued up on coconut vinegar’s health benefits, you’ll be glad to know apple cider vinegar’s loaded with health benefits too! Get a brand that includes the “mother” (like Bragg’s) for an extra dose of probiotics.
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with apple cider vinegar.
If you’re looking for a vinegar that matches the delicacy of coconut vinegar, champagne vinegar is your answer. It’s got a gentle tartness with added floral notes and works especially well with dishes that include seafood, vegetables, and lean proteins like chicken.
But it does come with a catch – champagne vinegar is pricier than other kinds of vinegar, and you might not find it in your standard grocery store.
Psst… this swap also works really well the other way around (learn more in my article on the best substitutes for champagne vinegar).
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with champagne vinegar.
Rice vinegar is another decent coconut vinegar substitute because it matches coconut vinegar’s mild acidity and gentle sweetness.
Just remember to stick with regular rice vinegar. The seasoned variety, commonly used for sushi rice, has added salt that lends it a savory edge.
If you’ve already got a bottle of the seasoned version and want to use it, I recommend cutting back on any salt you use in your recipe. You can taste your dish after adding the vinegar, then add extra salt if needed.
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with rice vinegar.
Like the tropical coconut vinegar, cane vinegar comes from a sweet source – sugarcane. This means it isn’t too sharp or acidic, making it a good alternative to coconut vinegar.
It is slightly sweeter than coconut vinegar, but this wasn’t really noticeable once I mixed it into my chicken adobo. It might be more noticeable in a salad dressing or a simple sauce, but who doesn’t have a bit of a sweet tooth?
Fun fact: this vinegar is a staple in the Philippines, but you can easily find it in well-stocked grocery stores.
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with cane vinegar.
White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar isn’t an exact flavor match for coconut vinegar, but it makes a good substitute if you prefer something less sweet.
It’s pretty neutral tasting, but the wine gives it a light, crisp flavor with a hint of fruitiness. There’s not as much sweetness compared to coconut vinegar, but like with apple cider vinegar, you can always add a small amount of sweetener to your recipe.
The best thing about this substitute is that you might already have some on hand because it’s such a common variety.
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with white wine vinegar.
Lemon juice is a different but vibrant substitute for coconut vinegar.
It’s more sour than coconut vinegar, and it will add a fresh, citrusy twist to your dish, making it a solid alternative if you want to brighten up your food.
I usually start with half the amount of what the recipe calls for and add more if needed. And if you find it too sour, add a teaspoon of sugar to round up the flavor.
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar with half the amount of lemon juice, then add more to taste.
Homemade coconut vinegar
The video below demonstrates how to make traditional coconut vinegar using coconut toddy, which can be challenging to find.
But the version I tried is slightly different because it’s made from coconut water instead of fermented sap. Coconut water is much easier to find and still makes delicious vinegar.
The process is also relatively simple, but the only catch? It requires tons of patience because you’ll need to wait as it undergoes a two-week fermentation period.
How to substitute: Replace coconut vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with homemade coconut vinegar.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top coconut vinegar substitutes, but the list doesn’t end there! Here are some other alternatives you can try:
- Malt vinegar – this shares coconut vinegar’s mild tangy flavor and comes with a hint of nuttiness to jazz up your dish. It’s a must-have for fish and chips, but you can also use it with any protein.
- Sherry vinegar – Want to switch things up? Try sherry vinegar! It has rich, nutty notes and hints of caramel, providing a deeper, more layered taste than coconut vinegar.
- Tamarind paste – this is another non-vinegar option. It’s far tangier than coconut vinegar and with a prominent fruity note. A small amount goes a long way, so start with a pinch, taste, and add more if needed.
- Palm vinegar – Palm vinegar is another alternative that comes from the Philippines. It’s sweeter than coconut vinegar when it’s fresh, but as time passes, it ferments further and becomes more acidic than coconut vinegar
Avoid using these substitutes
White distilled vinegar should be a last-resort alternative to coconut vinegar. It’s much more acidic and one-dimensional in flavor. If you do need to use it, dilute it with water first and add some sugar to offset its harsh tang.
Balsamic vinegar is another bad swap. It’s far richer and fruitier than coconut vinegar. And its dark color will alter the look of your dish.
Best Coconut Vinegar Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- cheese cloth
- large jar
- 1 quart coconut water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp vinegar mother
- Add the coconut water in a medium-sized saucepan. Heat it until begins to steam. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the sugar.
- Continue mixing until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the coconut water and sugar mixture into a glass container. Cover lightly and store in cool, dark place.
- Let it sit until the liquid turns into alcohol. This will take about a week. Then, add a tablespoon of the vinegar mother and leave to ferment in a cool, dark place for 1-3 months.