Is Balsamic Vinegar Vegan? Plus Other Types Explained
Balsamic vinegar is one of the most popular kinds of vinegar. It is widely used not only for culinary purposes but also for skin care and alternative medicine.
Thankfully, balsamic vinegar is vegan. Therefore, it can be a delicious and healthy addition to vegan salads, marinades, and all types of sauces and dressings.
Yes, it is vegan, but there is a critical disclaimer concerning this subject.
There are two types of balsamic vinegar—traditional and modern. Unfortunately, this also means the first one is hard to find and expensive, while the latter is available and affordable.
The traditional one is 100% vegan since it contains only one ingredient—grapes (which are, of course, vegan).
On the other hand, modern balsamic vinegar consists of other ingredients. Therefore, they can also be vegan, but not necessarily.
In short, traditional balsamic vinegar is vegan, but the modern version may or may not be vegan (although it most likely is).
In the next section, we will thoroughly explain the differences between these types and discover which ingredients in the modern product might not be plant-based.
Is Balsamic Vinegar Vegan
Balsamic vinegar originates from Northern Italy, more precisely from the regions Modena and Reggio Emilia.
The main types include Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP, and Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP.
As can be seen, the names include the regions from which they originated. The word ‘tradizionale’ (traditional) helps us easily detect the traditional from non-traditional vinegar.
Traditionally, balsamic is made exclusively from grapes, and the process of their aging lasts for years (from 10 to even 150 years).
The grapes are placed in wooden barrels and left to mature for a long period.
This natural course of vinegar-making requires a lot of time, and no additives are necessary.
Unfortunately, this healthy and natural way of producing costs quite a bit.
That is why a quicker and more affordable way of making balsamic vinegar was invented. It requires only a couple of months.
Modern vinegar is the one we see in supermarkets and use to enrich our dishes.
Apart from grapes, it contains ingredients such as coloring, caramel, and thickeners. Not all of them are always vegan.
These three ingredients are also the thing that easily distinguishes modern balsamic vinegar (apart from the price) from traditional ones.
If you see any of them on the declaration, the vinegar is not the traditional kind. Let’s see which of these are vegan.
The color usually originates from the grapes, but sometimes other coloring products are added. Artificial food coloring usually does not contain animal products.
Caramel might contain animal products such as dairy milk or cream.
It can also be made vegan, but the main problem is that the label usually says only ‘caramel’ without thoroughly listing the ingredients with which it was produced.
Caramel is not the same as caramel color. The second one is always vegan since it contains only sugar or another sweetener (not honey).
If the balsamic vinegar ingredients contain caramel color, it is safe to use for vegans.
Thickeners are almost always plant-based, but then again, gelatin and butter can be used as a thickener. So, just like caramel, this ingredient also can be vegan but isn’t necessarily so.
Balsamic glaze and vinaigrette both contain balsamic vinegar but are not the same thing. Let’s find out more about these products.
Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar has a wide variety of health benefits. It lowers the levels of LDL (also known as bad) cholesterol and keeps your arteries safe and clean.
It also has a good type of bacteria that helps heal our gut and digestive health.
Vinegar is anti-glycemic, which means people suffering from diabetes can safely consume it.
It can also help with blood pressure and cardiovascular health, as well as aid someone’s weight loss journey and help keep our skin healthy.
Some store-bought balsamic glazes are not vegan since honey is the sweetener they contain.
But balsamic glaze can easily be made without any sweetener and still have a sweeter taste than balsamic vinegar.
The only required ingredient is balsamic vinegar, sweeteners are optional. Of course, you can always use a vegan one instead of honey.
It is also referred to as balsamic reduction since the process of making it involves cooking the vinegar while it gradually thickens and reduces in amount.
It has a syrupy texture and is sweeter than vinegar.
Balsamic vinaigrette contains vinegar but also other ingredients such as olive oil, sweeteners (optional), mustard (for example, Jimmy Mustard), spices, etc.
The additional ingredients make it higher in calories and fat than regular balsamic vinegar.
Vinegar usually has 0 fat and protein, but the calories, carbs, and sugars vary depending on the manufacturer.
Just like vinegar and glaze, vinaigrette is vegan if it doesn’t contain some additional non-vegan ingredients and additives, such as honey, in place of a sweetener (sugar is the usual choice).
And, of course, its main element has to be vegan Balsamic vinegar for the vinaigrette to be plant-based as well.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Vegan?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is another popular type of vinegar that is both tasty and healthy. It can be used in a wide variety of recipes.
It is produced from fermented apple cider. Except for apples, bacteria and yeast are also used to aid the fermentation process.
But animal products are seldom used, which makes apple cider vinegar vegan.
Some of the health benefits of ACV include managing diabetes, as well as skin and digestive health, and it can also help in weight loss.
Thanks to its nice apple flavor, it can be used in a lot of recipes. Combined with baking soda, it makes an amazing egg substitute that imitates the egg’s function to leaven and bind the rest of the ingredients.
Other Types of Vinegar
Just like balsamic vinegar, the same goes for other types of vinegar like red wine vinegar—they are probably vegan, but some might not be (depending on the manufacturer and ingredients used).
We will list a couple of interesting types of vinegar that are not only a good addition to your everyday diet but have a variety of health benefits.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar is an outcome of red wine oxidation. If you are avoiding alcohol, it is best not to use this type of vinegar (or the next one).
Just like any other vinegar, it has numerous health benefits like lowering blood sugar levels and aiding cardiovascular and skin health.
It also contains crucial antioxidants, although in a much smaller amount than red wine alone, due to the process of fermentation.
White Wine Vinegar
Just like the vinegar type above, white wine vinegar is also an outcome of wine oxidation—white wine, to be specific.
It is not as popular as the one above, but it is quite a useful tool in your kitchen with its mildly fruity taste.
Since it has no color, unlike the light pink shade of red wine vinegar, it is a good option for some culinary processes, such as braising.
If you wish to avoid the acidic flavor of most kinds of vinegar, this one is the right choice for you.
Produced from fermented rice, this vinegar is often used in Asia. The sweet flavor makes it an exotic addition to your dishes.
There are a lot of subtypes of rice vinegar, depending on the rice that was used for its production and other variables such as the function for which it will be used.
Those are white, black, red, brown rice vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar (an enriching addition to sushi rice).
The main ingredients of malt vinegar are malted grains of barley. It is often used in the UK as an addition to fish and chips (luckily, vegans can still use it to garnish their potatoes).
If you do not like the taste of beer, it is best to substitute this vinegar with some of those mentioned above.
It has a similar taste to beer since they are both produced from the same grains. Although, if you do like the flavor, it will be an amazing addition to your recipes—it can be a topping, salad dressing, or used for pickling vegetables.
In conclusion, yes, balsamic vinegar is mostly vegan. Traditional and natural vinegar is made from grapes alone, which means it is plant-based.
Some modern, affordable, and easily available bottles of vinegar might not be vegan because of the additives the manufacturers use.
Those are coloring, caramel, and thickeners. They are all mostly vegan but can also be made non-vegan (especially caramel).
Balsamic glaze and vinaigrette are not the same as Balsamic vinegar, but both contain it as their main ingredient.
Balsamic vinegar has a lot of health benefits, like lowering LDL cholesterol and aiding your cardiovascular, skin, and digestive health.
It is diabetes-friendly and can help in weight loss.
If you are not fond of the Balsamic vinegar taste, don’t worry.
There are so many vegan options as alternatives to this type of vinegar that will still make your dish delicious.
Those types include apple cider vinegar, red and white wine vinegar, rice, and malt vinegar.
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