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Balsamic vinegar substitutes: Four alternatives you mother hasn’t told you about

Balsamic vinegar substitutes: Four alternatives you mother hasn’t told you about

Balsamic vinegar is used in many recipes because of its unique taste. It isn’t used in cooking, but rather to drizzle over a dish to boost flavor. It’s also used for meat-based dishes, fruits, and vegetables. 

However, if you’re out of balsamic vinegar, there is no need to worry. Several different balsamic vinegar substitutes are readily available and can be used instead. 

Here’s what you need to know about this ingredient and what you can use instead of balsamic vinegar. 

Summary Table for Article Introduction:

SubstituteComponentsSuggested Ratio
Red Wine Vinegar and Brown SugarClosest in flavor1 tbsp red wine vinegar + ½ tsp brown sugar = 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar, Jelly, and Soy SauceComplex, umami, sweet1 tbsp red wine vinegar + ½ tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp grape jelly = ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
Balsamic VinaigretteSimilar to balsamic with olive oilSame amount as balsamic vinegar
Lemon or Lime Juice, Soy Sauce, and MolassesSour, sweet, umami blend1 tbsp each (lemon/lime juice, soy sauce, molasses) = 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A bottle of balsamic vinegar surrounded by various vegetables, including tomatoes, olives, and onions, on a wooden table.

Substitutes for balsamic vinegar

Here are some ingredients that you can use if you’re out of balsamic vinegar.

1. Red wine vinegar and brown sugar

This is the best substitute for balsamic vinegar. For every one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar that you need, use an equal amount of red wine vinegar. Mix it with half a teaspoon of brown sugar to get the closest taste to balsamic. 

You can also use white sugar or honey instead of brown sugar. Only add as much as is needed to replicate the same level of sweetness in balsamic. 

  • Closest in flavor to balsamic vinegar.
  • Suggested Ratio: For 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, use 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar mixed with ½ teaspoon of brown sugar.

2. Red wine vinegar, jelly, and soy sauce

Another interesting alternative to balsamic vinegar is a combination of red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and grape jelly. Use one tablespoon of red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon of soy sauce, and one teaspoon of grape jelly for every ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar that you need. The soy sauce brings an umami flavor, while the grape jelly brings the viscous sweetness and texture. When you whisk them, they create a very close replica of balsamic vinegar.

  • Complex flavor with umami and sweetness.
  • Suggested Ratio: For every ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar needed, use 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon of soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of grape jelly.

3. Balsamic vinaigrette

There isn’t much of a difference in taste between balsamic vinegar and vinaigrette. The major difference is that vinaigrette has olive oil, which brings a bit of a different taste. However, since the only other ingredient is balsamic vinegar, you can rest assured that it will hardly make a difference to your recipe in terms of flavor.Use the same amount of vinaigrette as balsamic vinegar for the best results. 

  • Very similar to balsamic vinegar but with added olive oil.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use the same amount of balsamic vinaigrette as balsamic vinegar.

4. Lemon or lime juice, soy sauce, and molasses

You may not have considered this option because of the difference in sweetness between lime or lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. However, the molasses brings a similar sweetness to the mix as that of balsamic. All you have to do is mix one tablespoon of all three ingredients for every two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar that you need to replace. If you feel that the mixture isn’t as sweet or has a sour taste, you can manipulate the amount of each until you are satisfied.If you don’t have molasses, you can also replace it with brown sugar syrup.

  • A complex blend of sour, sweet, and umami flavors.
  • Suggested Ratio: Mix 1 tablespoon each of lemon or lime juice, soy sauce, and molasses for every 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.
A bottle of balsamic vinegar on a wooden cutting board next to garlic cloves and tomatoes.

The bottom line

Finding a replica of balsamic vinegar is difficult because of the unique combinations of flavors that it is made of. It has a range of tastes, from sweet and sour, with a unique texture that brings just the right finishing touch to any dish you add it to.

However, the substitutes above are as close to balsamic as you can find.

To make sure you get a taste that you are happy with, add each ingredient a little at a time and make the mixture in a separate bowl until you’re satisfied with its taste. Then, you can include it in the dish that you’re making.

Some people prefer a sweeter tinge to balsamic, while some prefer the sourness with regular vinegar. 

Ultimately, the advantage of using a substitute is that you can make these changes of your own accord. You may even end up with a more fulfilling flavor than the original ingredient.