The first rule when substituting one vinegar for another: Color is not the best indicator. While rice vinegar and white vinegar may be closer in color, rice vinegar is incredibly sweet and delicate, while white vinegar is sour and harsh. White wine and white balsamic vinegars are rich, fruity, and tangy—still a bit stronger than rice vinegar. The best substitute is cider vinegar: It’s mild, with a faint apple flavor that won’t overpower (though when used for pickling, the apple flavor will be much more pronounced). Below, your quick guide to the vinegar aisle, plus key tips for storing.
Rice vinegar is the sweetest, most delicate vinegar, adding just a little extra zing to homemade pickles, fresh slaws, and basic vinaigrettes.
Cider vinegar is mild, with the slightest apple flavor. Use as a sub for most vinegars. It’s also said to have many health properties, helping to lower blood pressure and aid with nausea and migraines.
Balsamic vinegar is slightly tangy, with a mellow sweetness that becomes more defined with age. Drizzle over tortellini, caprese salads, baked chicken, or pizzas. White and regular are pretty much the same in terms of flavor.
White and red wine vinegars are rich and fruity. Use to round out rich, meaty dishes like stews and sauces, or to add punch to a vinaigrette.
Store vinegars, tightly sealed, in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.