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Cooking With Vinegar: The Complete Guide

There is more to cooking with vinegar than apple cider vinegar and white vinegar salad dressings.
Esther Bumpus, Health Writer

Written by Esther Bumpus, Health Writer. Updated on December 28, 2022.

Vinegar is the powerhouse of the home. We all know the many diverse uses of white vinegar.

If you spend any time on the cooking side of the internet, then you know all about apple cider vinegar and its many uses and benefits.

But, there is more to cooking with vinegar than apple cider vinegar and white vinegar salad dressings.

What Is Vinegar?

To know how to cook with vinegar, you need to go back to the basics. Vinegar derives from a form of sour wine.

Vinegar has been used for generations to preserve, pickle, and flavor different meals due to its highly acidic nature.

Vinegar is tangy or sour tasting, resulting from a high concentration of acetic acid. This kitchen staple is made from grapes, grains, spirits, or sugars.

The Basics of Cooking With Vinegar

Cooking with vinegar is an easy task but can overwhelm beginners. Here are the basics you need to know when cooking with vinegar.

Know The Types

Vinegar comes in many varieties, all with their own unique flavor profile. You can try them plain or as a base for flavored vinegar to dress up all sorts of foods.

Here are common vinegar varieties:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • White vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar

There are more vinegar types than the ones listed above. By tasting each type for yourself, you can begin to learn how to cook with them.

Buy High-Quality Vinegar

You want to look for vinegar made correctly. The cheaper the vinegar, the higher the likelihood it won’t taste right and miss key nutrients.

Double-fermented vinegar is the best, but these are pricey. Ensure the vinegar you buy is authentic and not a substitute by checking the bottle, especially for white and wine vinegar.

Use It Modestly

Vinegar is very acidic. The unique flavor profiles of each kind of vinegar are overwhelming when overused. A little vinegar goes a long way, especially when you are learning how to cook with vinegar.

If you use too much, the food gets painfully acidic. Small amounts of vinegar will give you delicious results. It is always better to add more vinegar later than to try and balance too much vinegar with fat and sugar.

Out With the Old

We often forget that vinegar, like any other ingredient in our kitchen, has an expiration date. While it is aged and fermented, it still goes off. Vinegar loses its flavor profile and scent if left out for too long.

Try and use your vinegar within six to nine months of opening it. You can also try different recipes as the vinegar begins to ages.

For example, use white vinegar to clean windows, tiles, and machines around the home.

Think Beyond a Salad

Yes, vinegar is an essential ingredient in most salad dressings. However, it does not stop there. There are many other ways of cooking with vinegar.

You can make sauces, dips, cakes, and much more.

Search for different recipes and try them out. Learn the art of balancing vinegar with other ingredients to create different flavors.

Substitute Within Reason

As you get confident cooking with vinegar, you’ll get tempted to over-substitute. Do not fall into this temptation. Most of the time, you can use whatever vinegar you have sparingly in a dish and get similar results.

However, different kinds of vinegar have distinct flavor profiles. Choose the exact vinegar needed for the best taste, feel, and smell of your particular dish.

Choosing the Right Cooking Vinegar

To help you get started on your journey to cooking with vinegar comfortably, here are a few uses and tips to remember:


Chefs recommend white vinegar for pickling. You can never go wrong with using white vinegar for pickling your cucumbers, onions, or other vegetables.

Interestingly, pickled green walnuts, sometimes called ‘King of Pickles’, are popular in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

Use hot water, white vinegar, black pepper, salt, and garlic for tasty pickling juice in under five minutes. You can also use apple cider vinegar to pickle veggies. It will give you a more acidic pickling liquid.

Salad Dressings

Apple cider vinegar is the perfect vinegar for salad dressings. It is slightly sweet and sour. It also blends well with olive oil, avocados, and any sweeteners.

Rice wine vinegar is also a good option for those who find apple cider vinegar overwhelming and hard to balance. It is not as tart, and you can simply pour it over your salad without anything else.


Balsamic vinegar is the king of glazes. It is sweet with a slight smokiness that works for a sweet, sour coating. You can cook it at higher temperatures for the perfect brown glaze. Add balsamic glazes to Brussels sprouts, salads, asparagus, and more.

Pan Sauces

If you want to start making sauces with vinegar, try sherry vinegar. Sherry vinegar deglazes the pan you cooked in and creates the perfect sauce for your meal. It is quick, flavorful, and easy to do.

As you get confident cooking with vinegar, using red and white wine vinegar to build a sauce will also come naturally.

Dipping Sauces

Soy sauce is not the only liquid you can use to create a delicious dipping sauce. Rice wine vinegar offers a light and slightly sweet dipping sauce option.

You can also use balsamic vinegar with a few additions, such as garlic and chili, for a delicious dipping sauce.

Cake Batter

Did you know you can use vinegar in cake butter? Vinegar with baking soda creates the same effect as baking powder does.

The acidic vinegar helps balance the basic baking soda for the perfect leavening agent.

Vinegar can also balance too much baking soda. Try using apple cider vinegar or white vinegar when baking.

Mixing apple cider vinegar with plant milk can also create vegan buttermilk that is perfect for cooking pancakes and other sweet treats.

Final Word

Vinegar is a multipurpose cooking liquid that can elevate any meal.

Cooking with vinegar is not complicated and requires only a willingness to experiment and attention to flavor profiles.

Try cooking with vinegar using these simple tips today.

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