Black vinegar, popular in Chinese cooking, is made from malt and rice, or malt and sorghum. This vinegar is aged and fermented in clay pots to achieve a smoky, umami flavor with a subtle hint of sweet-and-sour flavor.
Some fruit juices and other types of vinegar make good substitutes for black vinegar because these products hit similar flavor notes to black vinegar.
Best Substitute for Black Vinegar: Balsamic Vinegar
The best substitute for black vinegar is balsamic vinegar because balsamic also has a subtle, smokey flavor. Balsamic vinegar is made from unfermented grapes, making it sweeter than black vinegar.
Balsamic works well as a substitute for black vinegar in Asian fish dishes, sweet and sour chicken, stir-fries, and meat dishes. Use 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar in place of 2 tablespoons of black vinegar — a ratio of 1:2.
Other Black Vinegar Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are several kinds of vinegar and fruit juices that taste and/or look similar to black vinegar that you can use in place of black vinegar.
Kinds of Vinegar
The complex sugars of fruits or grains give some vinegar variations a tart and sweet flavor similar to black vinegar.
Malt vinegar and black vinegar are both made with malted barley grain, which gives the vinegar a deep, tart flavor. Malt vinegar isn’t as sweet as black vinegar, but malt makes a good substitute with a little sugar added.
Use malt vinegar as a 1:1 replacement for black vinegar in sauces and salad dressings, and add extra sugar to compensate for malt vinegar’s extra tart flavor.
Rice vinegar is a typical ingredient in Asian cuisine made by fermenting rice. Rice is also one of the main ingredients in black vinegar and gives both kinds of vinegar a similar flavor.
Replace black vinegar with the same amount of rice vinegar for sauces, salad dressings, and sweet-and-sour-cooked foods.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice. With a sweet and tangy flavor akin to that of black vinegar, apple cider vinegar makes a good substitute for black vinegar in vinaigrettes, salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.
Because apple cider vinegar is sweeter than black vinegar, use half the amount when substituting.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine is fermented with acetic bacteria mixed into a starter culture, to create vinegar. With its sweet-and-sour, fruity flavors that resemble black vinegar’s flavor, red wine vinegar can replace black vinegar in salads, soups, stews, and vegetable dishes.
Use red wine vinegar as a 1:1 substitute for black vinegar, and add a little olive oil to reduce the fruitiness of the red wine vinegar.
White Wine Vinegar
Made from fermented white wine, white wine vinegar has a lighter, more subtle flavor than black vinegar. Use white wine vinegar in place of black vinegar in Chinese fish and meat dishes, and in salad dressings and marinades.
Because white wine vinegar isn’t as strong as black vinegar, use 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in place of every 1 tablespoon of black vinegar.
White and Brown Vinegar With Added Sugars
Some kinds of vinegar have a higher acetic acid content than black vinegar, so while they make good substitutes for black vinegar, they taste too sour. Combine syrup, honey, or molasses with sour kinds of vinegar to better match black vinegar’s flavor.
White Vinegar and Honey, Maple Syrup, or Molasses
Regular white vinegar is made from water and 5% acetic acid, which gives the vinegar a strong sour taste. When using white vinegar as a substitute for black vinegar, add honey to increase the sweetness and dampen the sour taste.
A similar sweet-and-sour mix that has a thicker consistency is achieved by mixing white vinegar with maple syrup or molasses instead of honey. Maple syrup is made from the sap of the sugar maple tree and has a concentrated sweetness, and molasses is a sweet, brown, syrupy by-product of the sugarcane refining process.
Use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or molasses in place of 1 tablespoon of black vinegar in stir-fries, sauces, and soups.
Brown Vinegar and Honey, Maple Syrup, or Molasses
Brown vinegar is made from malted barley, giving the vinegar a strong tart flavor with a hint of sweetness. Brown vinegar is sourer than black vinegar but works as a substitute with additional sweetening to balance the sour flavor of the vinegar.
One tablespoon of brown vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey can replace 1 tablespoon of black vinegar in marinades, sauces, meat dishes, and soups. 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or molasses can also be used instead of honey in this substitute.
Fruit Juices With Added Sugars
Fresh apple juice and store-bought pasteurized apple juice both taste sweet and tangy. Apple juice can be used in place of black vinegar in recipes for cooked foods like stir-fries, soups, stews, and in marinades, salad dressings, and sauces. Use 2 tablespoons of apple juice in place of 1 tablespoon of black vinegar — half the amount because apple juice isn’t as concentrated as black vinegar.
Lemon Juice and Honey
Freshly squeezed lemon juice on its own tastes sourer than black vinegar, but lemon juice mixed with honey creates a balance of sweet and sour flavors that mimic those of black vinegar.
Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with the juice of one lemon, and use the entire mixture in place of 1 tablespoon of black vinegar in stir-fries, sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. Adjust the balance of sweet-and-sour by adding either more lemon juice or more honey.
Lemon Juice and Sugar
Sugar mixed with lemon juice has sweet and sour notes similar to black vinegar, making this mixture a good replacement. Brown sugar makes this substitute syrupy like black vinegar, and brown sugar, as opposed to white sugar, makes the mixture dark like black vinegar.
Mix 1 teaspoon of brown sugar with the juice of one lemon and substitute this entire mixture for every 1 tablespoon of black vinegar in your recipes for sauces, marinades, and meat dishes. If you use white sugar, use 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar to one lemon in stir-fries and salad dressings
Lemon Juice and Maple Syrup
Maple syrup mixed with lemon juice makes a good substitute for black vinegar in cooked foods and salad dressings because this mixture has a sweet-and-sour flavor and syrupy texture similar to black vinegar.
Mix 1 teaspoon of maple syrup with the juice of one lemon and use the entire mixture in place of 1 tablespoon of black vinegar.
Lemon Juice and Molasses
A blend of molasses and lemon juice works as a rich-flavored replacement for black vinegar in meat and fish dishes, and in sauces, marinades, and dressings.
Mix 1 teaspoon of molasses with the juice of one lemon and use the entire mixture as a substitute for 1 tablespoon of black vinegar.
Lime juice is similar in taste to lemon juice, although lime juice is more bitter. Black vinegar substitutes that use lemon juice can be made with limes instead of lemons, but the substitute quantities should be adjusted to compensate for the bitterness of the limes:
- Honey and lime juice — 2 teaspoons of honey and the juice of one small lime replaces 1 tablespoon of black vinegar
- Brown sugar and lime juice — 1 ½ teaspoons of brown sugar and the juice of one small lime replaces 1 tablespoon of black vinegar
- White sugar and lime juice — 2 teaspoons of white sugar and the juice of one small lime replaces 1 tablespoon of black vinegar
- Maple syrup and lime juice — 1 ½ teaspoons of maple syrup and the juice of one small lime replaces 1 tablespoon of black vinegar
- Molasses and lime juice — 1 ½ teaspoons of molasses and the juice of one small lime replaces 1 tablespoon of black vinegar