I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of red wine 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 substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for red wine vinegar is to mix equal parts white vinegar and red wine. You can also use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. If you want a sweeter option, go for balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar. Lemon juice will work in a pinch to brighten the dish.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of a basic vinaigrette recipe to test out several different red wine vinegar substitutes.
Red wine vinegar is produced through the fermentation of (you guessed it) red wine. It’s tangy and moderately acidic, with subtle fruity notes that make it a favorite base for salad dressings and marinades.
You’ll see it a lot in Mediterranean style cooking. I was looking for a substitute that could deliver a similar level of depth, sweetness, and sharpness.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Apple cider vinegar||Replace with 1 ½ the amount||8/10|
|Red wine + white vinegar||Mix in equal parts||9/10|
|White wine vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Balsamic vinegar||Start with 3/4 the amount||9/10|
|Lemon juice||Replace with ½ the amount||7/10|
|Sherry vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adding slowly||7/10|
|Champagne vinegar||Replace with 1 ½ the amount||7/10|
|Homemade red wine vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Common uses of red wine vinegar
Here are some common ways to use red wine vinegar and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For vinaigrettes: Try using apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice. You can also use an equal mixture of red wine and white vinegar.
- For deglazing: Try using apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine + white wine vinegar, or raspberry vinegar. But pretty much any vinegar will work if you like the taste!
- For sauces and marinade: Try using apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine + white vinegar or lemon juice. You can also use balsamic vinegar, especially for beefy dishes.
- For pickling: Try using apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine + white vinegar or raspberry vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar
First up, we have apple cider vinegar – a simple swap for red wine vinegar you might already have in your pantry.
Apple cider vinegar has less acidity than red wine vinegar, but it’s just as fruity (maybe even more so!).
If you don’t mind a strong apple flavor, you can use a bit more vinegar in your dish to make up for the lack of sharpness.
Or you can substitute the vinegars in a 1:1 ratio and cut back on any sugar in your recipe.
Apple cider vinegar works great in salad dressing and marinades. It’s also delicious in tomato-based dishes.
How to substitute: replace red wine vinegar with 1 ½ the amount of apple cider vinegar.
Red wine + white vinegar
This combo might seem like a no-brainer, but it wasn’t something I’d ever thought of trying!
The tart edge of plain old white vinegar worked like a charm to temper the sweetness of the red wine, giving you a flavor strikingly similar to red wine vinegar.
I recommend starting with equal parts of red wine and white vinegar and adjusting to taste.
Pssst… wondering what red wine to use? A robust Merlot is perfect for beefy dishes, while a Pinot Noir provides a delicate balance for seafood and poultry.
But anything will do as long as it’s decent quality!
How to substitute: replace 1 cup red wine vinegar with 1/2 cup red wine and 1/2 cup white vinegar.
White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar is another obvious alternative, but expect similar flavor differences to red and white wine.
White wine vinegar is bright and crisp, with less fruity undertones and a more delicate flavor.
The milder flavor means the substitute works best with things like seafood, poultry, and vegetables rather than bold red meats.
Although my taste testers said they couldn’t really tell the difference between the two vinaigrettes I made! So for most palates, this is great swap.
How to substitute: replace red wine vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with white wine vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar is another pantry staple you can use in place of red wine vinegar.
This option is fruitier and sweeter than red wine vinegar, with a touch less acidity.
It’s also made from grapes, but the aging process balsamic goes through deepens the flavor and adds woody, caramel-like undertones.
This is especially true if you’re using traditional balsamic vinegar that’s been aged for many years!
Because of the bolder flavor, you might want to use less of it or dilute it with a splash of white vinegar before adding it to your dish.
How to substitute: replace red wine vinegar with 3/4 the amount of balsamic vinegar and add more to taste.
Lemon juice isn’t a perfect substitute for red wine vinegar (they taste completely different), but it works in a pinch if you just need to add some acidity to your dish.
It’s notably more acidic than red wine vinegar, but it doesn’t have the same sharp bite as regular vinegar.
Instead it has a fresh, citrus kick that’ll brighten your dish in a different, but delightful way. It’s great in salad dressings, for deglazing pans, or for drizzling over a finished dish.
Remember, always use fresh lemon juice!
Pro-tip: give your lemons a quick 20-second whirl in the microwave on high to ensure you get all the juices.
How to substitute: replace red wine vinegar with ½ the amount of lemon juice.
This is another wine-based alternative, and it has a pretty distinct flavor. It’s a good option to try if you’re not a fan of the harshness of red wine vinegar.
Sherry vinegar is on the sweeter side (although not as sweet as balsamic), with a nutty twist that helps soften the acidity.
Quick tip:add the sherry vinegar slowly, tasting as you go to make sure you like what’s going on.
How to substitute: replace red wine vinegar in 1:1 ratio with sherry vinegar, but slowly.
Champagne vinegar is another solid substitute if the fruity tones of red wine vinegar aren’t your cup of tea.
Champagne vinegar carries more of a subtle floral note and it’s nowhere near as robust as red wine vinegar.
Its subtlety is what gives it the charm and makes it a perfect match for delicate food profiles.
The only downside with this substitute? It’s not cheap (you might have guessed that from the name!) or that easy to find.
How to substitute: substitute red wine vinegar with 1 ½ the amount of champagne vinegar.
Homemade red wine vinegar
While this might not be the quickest solution, making your own red wine vinegar is a fun and easy DIY project you can try.
My go-to recipe comes from The Spruce Eats, because it only calls for two ingredients: a bottle of your favorite red wine and apple cider vinegar, preferably one that includes ‘the mother’.
The process is a piece of cake. Simply combine both liquids in a jar and let time do the rest.
The only issue is the waiting period. You need to leave the vinegar for at least two weeks, or even longer if you want a stronger flavor.
How to substitute: replace red wine vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade version.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for red wine vinegar substitutes. But the list doesn’t end there!
Here are more options you can try using if you have them on hand:
- Rice vinegar – this is a good option if you want something milder and less sweet than red wine vinegar. Make sure to skip the seasoned version, it’s salted and has more sugar.
- Tamarind paste – this is another non-vinegar alternative. It’s packs a more tangy punch than red wine vinegar, and it won’t work for every application. But it’s great for tenderizing meat or in Indian recipes.
- Malt vinegar – this lacks the fruity notes of red wine vinegar, but it’s a solid alternative if you want another moderately acidic option. It still has a hint of sweetness, with a prominent nutty twist.
- Raspberry vinegar – this is vinegar infused with fresh raspberries. It’s fruitier and sweeter than red wine vinegar, but absolutely delicious! I love it with duck.
Substitute to avoid – distilled white vinegar
White vinegar is cheap and readily available, but don’t use it instead of red wine vinegar alone! It has no distinct flavor notes, just acidity.
It’s far sharper and tangier than red wine vinegar, and will quickly overpower your dish.
Only use this as a substitute if you have some red wine to mix it with. Or white wine!
12 BEST Red Wine Vinegar Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1 bottle red wine (750ml)
- 1 cup raw apple cider vinegar, preferably with the mother
- In a large glass jar with a wide mouth, combine the red wine and vinegar together. Stir until well combined.
- Cover the container with a cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band to keep out insects. Place it in a warm place but away from direct sunlight.
- Let it ferment for about two weeks. By that time, the "mother" should be at the bottom and a new one may have formed near the surface.
- You can strain the mother out of the vinegar and transfer it in a clean bottle. Or you can continue to let it ferment for a stronger flavor.