I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of rice 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 substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Seasoned rice vinegar is the best substitute for rice vinegar. Can’t find it? Use apple cider vinegar instead. White wine vinegar also works, but you’ll need to mix it with sugar to make it slightly sweeter. Or you can mix mirin and white vinegar to achieve the same subtle sweet-sour notes.
Ready? Lets jump right in.
I made a batch of sushi rice to test different rice vinegar substitutes.
There are different kinds of rice vinegar, but the most common is white rice vinegar. It boasts a lightly sweet-tangy flavor that isn’t overpowering.
It’s typically used for making sushi rice, but its delicate flavor makes it just as versatile as any vinegar. I also see it a lot in dip and marinade recipes.
I was looking for a substitute that could match rice vinegar’s subtle flavors and mild acidity.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Seasoned Rice Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adding no extra salt or sugar||9/10|
|Apple Cider Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|White Wine Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio + sugar to taste||8/10|
|Lemon Juice||Replace with twice amount of lemon juice||7/10|
|Champagne Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Sherry Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Mirin + White Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
Common uses of rice vinegar
Here are some popular ways to use rice vinegar and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For sushi rice: Try using seasoned rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar mixed with a bit of sugar. Champagne vinegar also works but it’s expensive You can also try mixing mirin with white vinegar.
- For dressings: Try using seasoned rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar. Lemon juice is a great non-vinegar alternative.
- For marinades and sauces: Try using apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, or champagne vinegar. You can also use seasoned rice vinegar, but be mindful of the salt content in your recipe.
- For pickling: Try using white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, or champagne vinegar.
Seasoned rice vinegar
Seasoned rice vinegar is a no-brainer substitute for regular rice vinegar.
It’s the same base vinegar but is enhanced with a touch of salt and a dash of sugar.
It works best as a substitute in recipes where you can dial back on adding extra salt and sugar. Or where you don’t mind introducing a sweet-savory twist, such as in dipping sauces.
Psst… seasoned rice vinegar has slightly more calories because of the added ingredients.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with seasoned rice vinegar, reducing the amount of salt of sugar you add to your recipe.
Apple cider vinegar
Pantry staple apple cider vinegar can save the day if you’re after an instant substitute for rice vinegar.
Its mild tang and subtle sweetness align closely with the flavor profile of rice vinegar, and it has a similar acidity.
The apple base gives it a fruity note, but this will only really be noticeable when you’re using the vinegar in a neutral dish like rice or for pickling.
I personally loved the flavor in my sushi rice. But if you’re not a fan, simply dilute the vinegar with some water to mellow it out.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with apple cider vinegar.
White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar is another excellent substitute for rice vinegar you might already have in your pantry.
It has a light flavor that won’t overpower your dish.
But one caveat with this alternative is that it’s slightly less sweet than rice vinegar.
No worries, though! Mixing a quarter teaspoon of sugar with every tablespoon of white wine vinegar will fix this.
Quick tip: you will need to heat the mixture gently if you want the sugar to dissolve.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with white wine vinegar, add ¼ tsp of sugar if desired.
Lemon juice isn’t a perfect alternative for rice vinegar, but it gets the job done if all you want is a bit of tartness.
Lemon juice is just as acidic as vinegar, but it has a distinct citrus flavor that you’ll need to make sure works with your dish!
I wasn’t a massive fan of the flavor in my sushi rice, because I think it was too strong. But I think lemon juice would work great to replace rice vinegar in a salad dressing.
To mimic the sweet notes of rice vinegar, I’d add some honey. Honey and lemon is a delicious flavor combination.
Psst… if you’re feeling adventurous, you could also try lime juice for an added floral note.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar with double the amount of lemon juice.
Champagne vinegar is a solid choice if you’re willing to spend a few extra bucks.
It shares the same delicate flavor profile as rice vinegar, making it an ideal flavor match.
And its subtle floral notes pair wonderfully with delicate greens, seafood, and lighter proteins. I had my sushi rice with some fresh salmon and it was super tasty.
You won’t always find Champagne vinegar in supermarkets though. You might have to go to a more specialised retailer.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with champagne vinegar.
Sherry vinegar is another vinegar with a subtly sweet-tangy flavor like rice vinegar.
But what sets it apart is an added layer of nuttiness, which gives it more depth and complexity than rice vinegar.
My sushi rice was definitely different. I probably wouldn’t use Sherry vinegar to make sushi rice again, but I can see it being great in sauces or for pickling.
There are lots of brands of sherry vinegar on the market, and most of them are labeled based on how long they’ve aged.
The rule is the longer the aging process, the more complex the flavor is.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with sherry vinegar.
Mirin + white vinegar
Mirin in its own won’t quite do the trick when you’re looking for a rice vinegar substitute. It’s too sweet.
But mix it with a bit of white vinegar to add the acidity that’s missing, and you have a decent rice vinegar dupe.
It will add trace amounts of alcohol to your dish, but it won’t be enough to get anyone drunk.
Pssst… can’t find mirin? Dissolve a pinch of sugar into your white vinegar instead and dilute it with a splash of water.
How to substitute: replace rice vinegar in your recipe with an equal mix of mirin and white vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for rice vinegar substitutes. But the list doesn’t end there!
Here are more options you can try using if you have them on hand:
- Malt vinegar – this vinegar is very popular in the UK to have with fish and chips. But it’s sweet, mild, and slightly nutty. It is great for replacing rice vinegar in Asian-style dips.
- White balsamic vinegar – this has the same flavor profile as regular balsamic vinegar, so it’s sweeter and fruitier than rice vinegar. Use less of it than you would rice vinegar, and consider diluting it with water so the flavor isn’t overpowering.
Substitutes to avoid
I came across loads of suggestions for rice vinegar substitutes while I was researching, but not all of them worked in my experiment.
You can use white distilled vinegar, but only when paired with mirin or sugar – on its own, it’ll be too acidic and won’t add too much flavor to your dish.
Chicken broth was another alternative I saw mentioned, but it tastes savory and has none of the acidity or sweetness that defines rice vinegar. You could mix it with lemon juice, but this is an entirely different ingredient – not a substitute!
White wine was also suggested. It is acidic, but it doesn’t match rice vinegar’s light flavor and subtle sweetness. I don’t recommend using it when you have other options available.
Best Rice Vinegar Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp mirin + white vinegar
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen rice vinegar substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.