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What’s The Difference Between Rice Vinegar Vs. White Vinegar?

If you are looking to get more creative within the kitchen, you may have noticed that some recipes call for rice vinegar. Whilst available at the grocery store, you currently only have white vinegar in the cupboard. You can substitute it, right?

Well, perhaps not. The reason is because they do have a number of differences. For example, the overall flavor. Whilst they are both acidic, opaque liquids with a sour element, rice vinegar tends to be on the sweeter side.

White vinegar on the other hand tastes a lot like other types of vinegar which is flat and rather sour. Rice vinegar can range from a little sweet, to extra sweet, and it still has a sour undertone. 

What’s The Difference Between Rice Vinegar Vs. White Vinegar

If you have a taste of each, you will realize that one will be more palatable than the other. So with all this in mind, let’s take a look at the differences between rice vinegar and white vinegar. 

So What Is The Main Difference Between Both White Vinegar And Rice Vinegar?

Whilst the flavor profile of both white vinegar and rice vinegar are different, there are other differences too. For starters, their acidity levels which control the sourness are different. Rice vinegar has a milder sour level, whilst white vinegar is sharp.

So, whilst you would pull a face if you had a spoon of white vinegar, you might be interested in having another spoon of the rice vinegar due to the sweetness. 

Not only that, you may have noticed a difference within their names too which indicate that they are not made from the same ingredients. White vinegar has been created by using different grains, as well as derivatives from wheat focused alcohol. 

Rice vinegar on the other hand is created using rice that has been fermented. There are other ingredients too like grapes that are used in many different types of vinegars. 

One sets a lot of vinegars apart is their base ingredients, but they all share that acidity and sourness, no matter what level that is at. Because there are so many to choose from, and despite their different flavors, their purpose to be used in cooking is basically the same.

They add an acidic element to the dish, along with a tartness or sweetness. However, some can have an extra purpose, because whilst rice vinegar is for food use only, white vinegar can be used on food and to clean.

Many people use white vinegar to clean their home such as the kitchen and bathroom due to its natural antibacterial properties. So the next time you have some limescale buildup in your toilet, try using white vinegar to remove it. 

Spoiler alert: it works!

Where Does White Vinegar And Rice Vinegar Come From?

Both white vinegar and rice vinegar have different origins. Whilst white vinegar is a western creation that is a highly popular condiment, rice vinegar is used in Asian dishes.

It is used within the dishes of the Chineses, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean. These days the western world uses it too, especially when they are cooking up an Asian inspired recipe. 

Does The Majority Of Rice Vinegar Taste The Same?

Not all rice vinegar tastes the same because there are different varieties of it. Because of this, you might want to check that you are using the correct one before you start cooking!

For example, there are rice vinegars that use different types of rice. One that uses black colored rice has a smokier taste to it which wouldn’t suit every dish.

This means that you couldn’t substitute the black rice vinegar for another which needs a sweet taste due to having the opposite flavor profiles.

However, if it is a standard rice vinegar, then it is likely to taste the same as another. Always check the bottle to see if it says anything different, especially how sweet it is.

If you only want a subtle sweet flavor, then you won’t want to purchase an extra sweet version. 

Are You Able To Use Rice Vinegar Instead Of White Vinegar?

Are You Able To Use Rice Vinegar Instead Of White Vinegar

It is possible to use any kind of vinegar to substitute with another, however you need to be careful with doing so. That is because vinegars have different flavor profiles when it comes to its sourness, and even sweet levels.

So, if you do want to substitute rice vinegar for white vinegar, then do so sparingly. Start with only a small amount so as not to ruin the whole dish. White vinegar isn’t sweet, and rice vinegar is, so keep that in mind. 

When Is The Time To Use Either White Vinegar And Rice Vinegar?

When you use a regular vinegar like white vinegar, you know exactly what it is going to do to a dish. It has a flat flavor in both taste and its acidity profile, and adds flavor to a meal rather than changes it.

When it comes to rice vinegar, that all changes. That is because there are a number of different types of rice vinegar, and they vary from sweet to extra sweet. For this reason, you are likely to use it in a dish that needs a sweetener.

You wouldn’t use rice vinegar in a recipe that called for something acidic and sour, You would likely leave that to white vinegar. 

When you bake and need to add vinegar, then it is likely that you will use white vinegar. It can be added to dough in order to make sure it isn’t kneaded too much, and you can even add it to cupcakes to make sure they rise well. 

In cooking recipes, you might add white vinegar to something like pickles or a soup where it needs to have a sour element. Rice vinegar on the other hand is great for salads and marinating meat. It can also be used within Asian cuisine.

What Vinegars Can You Use To Substitute Other Vinegar? 

You can substitute most vinegars with each other because the majority have a sour undertone. However, sometimes a dish will use something like rice vinegar because it adds a level of sweetness too.

If you need to sweeten a dish with vinegar but do not have rice vinegar, then think about using something like apple cider vinegar instead. It has a milder flavor but is sweet due to it having apple within the ingredients.

People also swear by apple cider vinegar being good for the skin, but we don’t know how true that is!

If you don’t have much choice in the vinegar department, then there is no doubt that you have got some balsamic vinegar in your pantry. It has a tangy taste but is also quite sweet.

Because of this, it can be used to replace both rice vinegar and white vinegar. 

If you are cooking an Asian dish and do not have rice vinegar to hand, but do have mirin in your cupboard, then go with that instead.

Whilst it does have alcohol in the ingredients (not enough to get drunk) and is thicker in texture, it is also sweet but still mild.

It is a great vinegar to sweet and sour a meal without overpowering the whole thing. 

Is Chinese Cooking Wine A Substitute For Rice Vinegar?

If you have Chinese cooking wine in your pantry, then yes you can use it as a substitute for rice vinegar. Also known as Shaoxing wine, it is made from rice that has been fermented. Because of this, they have a similar flavor profile.

So, for this very reason, you can use either when you need a form of rice-based vinegar. 

Final Words

When it comes to vinegar, it can be difficult to know what is what when you haven’t tried it before. White vinegar is standard and is something that most people have grown up with using, mainly by adding to a meal for extra flavor.

Something like rice vinegar on the other hand, has come from Asian cuisine and is now more popular to use within the west. Whilst white vinegar is tangy and sour, rice vinegar is sweet with a sour undertone.

Knowing when to use each one, and whether you can substitute them, is really handy when you are cooking and realize you don’t have one or the other. Fortunately, both of these can be substituted, especially rice vinegar.

There are plenty of other choices out there when it comes to sweet vinegar, for example apple cider vinegar. However, the best thing you need to know when it comes to white and rice vinegar is how different they are. 

From their base ingredients and the color of the liquid, to how they taste, what they are used for, and where they come from, there are many differences between the two.

However, they are both used in a variety of dishes, with one being used to add an acidic sourness, whilst the other a sweet flavor.

You might be surprised to hear that white vinegar can be used to clean your home too!

Jess Smith