Types of Vinegar
Vinegar is one of the most diverse tools in your kitchen, and it can be used for anything from marinades and dressings to household cleaning. But did you know there are numerous different types of vinegar on the market today? While it’s a safe bet that you have a few of these in your kitchen right now, we’re breaking down 15 of the most common and uncommon types of vinegar – from white wine to Chinkiang.
How Is Vinegar Made?
Vinegar is made by fermenting alcoholic liquids, which results in a sour- or bitter-tasting product packed with acetic acid. As can be seen by the wide variety of vinegar shown below, it’s the alcoholic base that gives each kind its distinct color and taste.
Does Vinegar Go Bad?
Just because your vinegar has turned cloudy or the color appears to change doesn’t mean it has gone bad. Thanks to the acidic nature of vinegar, it can be kept on your shelf indefinitely. Store it in a cool, dry place away from heat and light, and always keep a tight lid on the bottle.
Over time, the appearance of your vinegar may change, including a shift in color or the development of sediment towards the bottom of the bottle. This can occur naturally in vinegar over time, but should not affect the taste. Vinegars with a higher acidity level, including distilled white or apple cider vinegar, are more likely to experience these changes. If you prefer, you can simply filter out the sediment using a paper coffee filter.
What Is the Mother of Vinegar?
Mother of vinegar, or Mycoderma aceti, is a mix of cellulose and the bacteria from acetic acid that can be found in fermented alcohols or, more commonly, unpasteurized vinegar. It is most often found in apple cider vinegar and creates a cloudy appearance. It is harmless to consume and will not affect the taste of the vinegar surrounding it. In fact, mother of vinegar is said to contain healthy prebiotics, B vitamins, and iron – making it a desirable substance for many health-conscious consumers.
Health Benefits of Vinegar
The health benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar have been discussed by doctors and self-healers for hundreds of years. Apple cider vinegar is high in acetic acid, which many believe helps to improve blood sugar and insulin levels. In fact, vinegar gets its name from the Old French phrase vin aigre, or “sour wine,” due to the sourness of the acetic acid.
Additionally, apple cider vinegar is claimed to increase satiety levels, meaning people who consume it will feel fuller for longer than those who do not. Because of this, it’s often used as a tool for those looking to lose weight.
Other claimed health benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar include:
- Fights diabetes
- Reduce belly fat
- Lower cholesterol
- Improve dandruff
Common Types of Vinegar
Below are a few different types of vinegar you may recognize from your own kitchen cupboards.
1. Distilled White Vinegar
White vinegar is the most common type of vinegar used in America, and there’s a good chance it’s sitting in your kitchen right now. It offers a sharp taste and harsh smell, making it one of the most distinct vinegar types on this list. That’s because white vinegar is distilled from grain, which results in a crisp and clear product.
While white vinegar may be too pungent for most recipes, it’s a common pickling agent and can be used in zesty barbecue sauces, salad dressings, and ketchup. When used in a recipe, its strong flavor offers an ideal balance for exceptionally sweet ingredients.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
One of the most common types of vinegar, apple cider vinegar is used to both flavor and preserve food. It’s made by adding bacteria and yeast to the liquid of crushed and strained apples to create a fermentation process. Sugar is then added to the mixture, making the liquid alcoholic. It is this alcoholic juice that is fermented once more and converted into vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar has a golden hue and can be used to add a tart and subtle fruity flavor to marinades, salad dressings, tea, coleslaw, and chutneys.
3. Balsamic Vinegar
This Italy native is the only type of vinegar that is not produced by fermenting alcohol. Like a fine wine, balsamic vinegar is made by aging pressed grapes in oak barrels. And just like wine, the older the balsamic, the higher the price tag.
Balsamic vinegar has a distinct sweet and zesty flavor that can be drizzled over both savory and sweet dishes. Or, mix it with olive oil for a classic balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
4. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar offers a milder taste than the similarly named distilled white variety. That’s because this type of vinegar originates from white wine and is considerably less acidic than both white and apple cider vinegar.
The light, balanced sweetness of white wine vinegar makes it a refreshing addition to salad dressings and soups. In addition, this vinegar is an excellent alternative to use for pickling vegetables.
5. Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar is similar to its white wine counterpart. It’s derived from a red wine base, and offers a sweet, less acidic taste as well. This Mediterranean staple offers a mellow flavor profile that is perfect for use in vinaigrettes and reductions.
6. Rice Vinegar
A familiar ingredient in Asian cuisine, rice vinegar is derived from fermented rice wine. Offering a sweeter flavor than white wine or red wine vinegar, this ingredient can add an Asian twist to barbecue sauces, marinades, or pickled vegetables.
7. Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar is best known for being the preferred condiment for fish and chips. It’s derived from barley-based beer and offers a fairly mild, yet complex flavor.
Uncommon Types of Vinegar
While you’re likely to have heard of the types above, below are a few lesser-known vinegars you may want to incorporate into your pantry.
8. Red Rice Vinegar
While red wine vinegar comes from red wine, red vinegar is derived from fermented red rice. It offers a much milder flavor than red wine vinegar, which means the two cannot be substituted for one another.
9. Champagne Vinegar
Champagne vinegar offers a similar taste to white wine vinegar. Since it’s produced from champagne, it offers a light, refreshing crispness that is perfect for producing delicate dressings.
10. Sherry Vinegar
The more exotic cousin of balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar is an ingredient that can pack a big punch into your favorite recipes. Its nutty, rich flavor offers less sweetness than balsamic vinegar. It’s also potent, which means that it should be used sparingly – especially as a substitution.
Sherry vinegar was actually made by accident. This Spanish native vinegar is said to be the result of a few barrels of sherry that were found to contain too much acidity. While this ruined the drink, it produced a new favorite product for chefs.
11. Black (Chinkiang) Vinegar
Black vinegar, also known as Chinkiang vinegar, hails from the eastern China city Zhenjiang. It offers an earthy and smoky umami flavor thanks to a combination of fermented glutinous rice, wheat, and millet. This pantry-staple for Chinese cuisine can be used to pair with dumplings, duck, and various Asian dipping sauces.
12. Cane Vinegar
This vinegar is produced by fermenting the syrup extracted from crushed sugar cane. While cane vinegar is derived from sugar cane, it offers a surprisingly un-sweet flavor profile often compared to malt vinegar.
13. Beer Vinegar
Just as it sounds, beer vinegar is made by fermenting any type of finished beer. It offers a very similar flavor profile to barley-based malt vinegar, which makes it an ideal alternative to use with classic fish and chips. Beer vinegar offers a wide variety of flavors, since any beer can be used to produce it. From stouts to pale ales, each type will create a unique blend of flavors.
14. Raisin Vinegar
Popular in Middle Eastern cooking, raisin vinegar offers a soft, mild taste and signature cloudy brown color. It can be used to create traditional agrodolce sauce and Turkish dishes.
15. Apricot Vinegar
Apricot vinegar is derived from dried apricots, making it a fruit vinegar that can easily be made and stored in your kitchen. Use this vinegar to add a sweet, complex flavor to salad dressings and marinades.
Whether you’re looking to add a healthy habit to your daily routine or infuse new flavors into your cooking, there’s a wide variety of vinegar to use along the way. And if you’re used to a few favorites, try switching it up with different fruity, tangy, or exotic flavor profiles.