Coconut vinegar is made of the fermented sap of coconut blossoms and is cloudy white with a round, mild, and subtle nutty taste.
Thanks to its unique flavor, coconut vinegar can be used in multiple recipes, from salad dressings to marinades, sauces, soups, warm dishes, as well as mocktails.
If you’re not familiar with coconut vinegar and are preparing a recipe that calls for it, you’ve come to the right place. There are several alternatives that you can try, and using the right coconut vinegar substitute guarantees that your dishes will always taste divine.
The best substitutes for coconut vinegar
Coconut vinegar is mainly used in Asian dishes as it adds the desirable tart flavor combined with some subtle sweetness that makes the other ingredients pop. It’s a great addition to spicy dishes as it adds the needed balance.
Preparing a dip, dressing, or marinade using coconut vinegar gives them a unique taste. You can also add it to sauces to deepen the flavors or use it to pickle vegetables as it adds a sweet taste.
Since it’s less acidic than other types of vinegar, you can use coconut vinegar to prepare refreshing drinks and mocktails.
Coconut vinegar is a great addition to chicken, lamb, and pork dishes and is a common ingredient in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. You can incorporate it into several dishes if you want to experiment with new flavors and tastes.
Moreover, coconut vinegar is a good choice if your kids or other members of your family find other types of vinegar too overwhelming. It has a smoother taste and is more palatable.
If you can’t find coconut vinegar, suddenly ran out of it, or are not a big fan of its taste, there are various types of food that you can use instead.
1. Homemade Coconut Vinegar
You can make coconut vinegar at home using a few simple ingredients, as long you have patience and understanding of the process.
The first step is to make alcohol, then add the vinegar mother to turn it into vinegar. You can buy vinegar mother at a wine or health food store.
Vinegar mother is a slimy mixture of acetic acid bacteria and cellulose. You can make it by mixing unpasteurized and unfiltered vinegar with alcohol and putting it in a sunny spot for 2 weeks. However, it will be easier if you can buy it from a well-supplied store.
- 3 liters of coconut water
- 2 ¼ cups of white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon of yeast
- 1 liter of vinegar mother
- Strain the coconut water and mix the sugar.
- Heat the mixture and stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Allow it to cool, then add the yeast, pour it into a bottle, and cover it while providing some access to air.
- Let it sit in a dark, cool place for a week until liquid alcohol is formed.
- Add the vinegar mother and let the acid sit between 4 to 12 weeks.
The more you let the vinegar sit, the stronger the taste will be. If you see mold growing or the vinegar smells bad, discard it immediately and repeat the process. You can remove the mother vinegar and keep it in a jar filled with vinegar to use later.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made of fermented apples and is quite affordable. It also provides the closest taste to coconut vinegar in different recipes and cooking techniques.
Apple cider vinegar is brownish-gold and has a tart and tangy taste with some apple sweetness, and ends up with a slightly dry and woody taste.
You can use apple cider vinegar for any recipe that calls for coconut vinegar, especially stir-fries, stews, marinades, dressings, chutneys, and even drinks. It tastes amazing when mixed with pungent spices like ginger.
At the same time, you can use it to pickle vegetables, although it slightly darkens their color. You can even sprinkle it on chicken and veggies before roasting them after mixing it with mustard or fenugreek seeds for a tasty glaze.
3. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is another staple in Asian cuisine and is used as a substitute for coconut vinegar because it has a mild, slightly sweet, and crisp flavor.
Rice vinegar is made of fermented rice and is less tangy and sour than other vinegar types, making it an excellent coconut vinegar substitute in several recipes, even in drinks.
There are several varieties of rice vinegar:
- Black rice vinegar: made of sweet rice, it’s dark in color with a deep and smoky flavor. It’s sweeter than the others, so you can use it in sweet and sour dishes, stir-fries, stews, soups, sushi rice, salads, vegetable seasoning, dressings, and slaws.
- Shanxi vinegar: it’s aged rice vinegar and is made from different kinds of grains like rice, bran, barley, and sorghum mixed with peas. It’s dark-reddish with a mellow, sour, slightly sweet, and rich umami taste and is usually used to flavor noodles.
- Red rice vinegar: a bit tangier, so you can use it in dipping sauces or to flavor noodles, soups, and seafood recipes.
- White rice vinegar: is more acidic than coconut vinegar and is commonly used for pickling vegetables and fruits. You can also add a small amount into stir-fries.
Adding rice vinegar to a brining liquid is a great cooking option because it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. The best way to cook using rice vinegar is to combine it with other Asian flavors like tamari, sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger.
4. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is an aged vinegar made of grapes. The aging process makes the vinegar looks darker and thickens its consistency until it’s brown and rich.
Balsamic is a popular coconut vinegar substitute because it’s slightly sweet with a subtle tart flavor. However, it’s not as strong as white vinegar and has deep caramel and molasses-like notes with a vaguely fruity aftertaste that other types of vinegar lack.
You can use balsamic vinegar to prepare salad dressings and marinades for meat, tofu, and braised dishes. You can also add a few drops to finish a soup or mix it with your cocktails.
Mixing balsamic vinegar with garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, ginger, oregano, and lemon zest brings out its sweetness. You might need to add a little bit more balsamic vinegar to achieve the same effect as coconut vinegar in your dishes.
5. Rice Wine
Rice wine is a good alternative to use if you run out of coconut vinegar. It’s made of fermented rice, where the yeast transforms the sugar into alcohol, unlike rice vinegar, where the alcohol is later changed into acid.
The most common types of rice wine are:
- Shaoxing rice wine, which has a vinegary, spicy, and caramel-like flavor.
- Mirin, which has a tangy, sweet, and umami flavor. Its rich consistency makes it work as a sauce base, or you can use it to marinate chicken wings.
- Sake, which has a mildly sweet and umami taste with a subtle fruity aroma. It’s usually added in chicken marinades or used in seafood dishes, but can also be drunk on its own.
All types of rice wine add a depth of flavor. Rice wine is usually used in soups, stews, sauces, dips, and dressings. Adding rice wine to stir-fries and sweet and sour dishes makes them richer and tastier. You can also use it as a glaze for chicken, meat, and fish dishes.
6. Sushi Vinegar
Sushi vinegar is seasoned rice vinegar with spicy and savory elements and subtle sweetness. It’s the right option to consider if you’re looking for a spiced coconut vinegar substitute.
Just like regular rice vinegar, sushi vinegar is made of fermented rice and actually uses it as a base. But it contains salt, sugar, and other spices and seasonings to give it a different and richer taste.
It tastes slightly sweet with a little bit of sourness, so it will work for you if you find that coconut vinegar tastes too strong.
It’s mainly used during the process of preparing sushi rice because it preserves the fresh fillings from becoming spoiled. It also balances the seafood flavors in sushi.
7. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is made of white wine and has a light and delicate flavor. It has a relatively neutral acidic taste with a subtle fruity flavor. It’s a mellow substitute for coconut vinegar when the other alternatives seem too overpowering.
White wine vinegar elevates the taste of hollandaise and béarnaise sauces. It also adds more depth to poultry, pork, and seafood dishes, especially when you add sweet or fruity ingredients, as it doesn’t mask the other flavors.
8. Champagne Vinegar
Champagne vinegar is made of fermented champagne and has a sharp tang with a mildly sweet flavor. Compared to other types of vinegar, it has a more delicate taste with floral and fruity flavor and hints of vanilla.
When used to substitute coconut vinegar, champagne vinegar adds a slightly acidic taste with the needed sweetness that balances the other ingredients in your recipe. As a result, it’s best used for unheated applications like preparing salad dressings and drizzling them over vegetables.
You can also mix champagne vinegar with olive oil to prepare a dipping sauce or use it to make a confit that has a delicious taste.
9. Malt Vinegar
If you’re not that fond of the sweetness of coconut vinegar, malt vinegar will work for you. It’s made of the malted grains of barley, which are used to make beer.
Malt vinegar has a lemony, toasty, and nutty flavor with caramel hints that balance the tartness. There are different types of malt vinegar: dark, light, and distilled. The dark one has added barley or caramel, while the distilled one is almost colorless and has a sharper taste.
You can choose light or distilled malt vinegar because they provide a closer taste to coconut vinegar. Malt vinegar works as a condiment for fish and chips because it goes well with potatoes. It’s also used in salad dressings, marinades, pickles, and chutneys.
10. Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar is made of red wine and has a sharp, tangy flavor that makes it a great choice for vinaigrettes and marinades. It has some subtle smoky notes that highlight the other ingredients in your recipes and adds a pinkish hue to your vegetables when it’s used in pickling.
In most cases, red wine vinegar is used to add a complex flavor to dips and sauces. It can be used to marinade red meat or to pickle fruits. It’s also added to barbecue and marinara sauces to make them richer.
11. Distilled White Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar is one of the cheapest and easiest options to find if you want a coconut vinegar substitute. It can be used in cooking, meat preservation, baking, and pickling because it’s incredibly versatile.
On its own, white vinegar is neutral and highly acidic with a clean taste, but it adds the sourness and tanginess that intensifies other flavors in your recipe.
Compared to coconut vinegar, white vinegar has a harsher taste, so you might want to add a small amount and mix it with a tablespoon of honey if you want to achieve a closer taste profile to that of coconut vinegar.
12. Lemon Juice
If you’re not fond of coconut vinegar or your body doesn’t react well to fermented food, you can swap it for lemon juice. Lemon juice has a strong citrus aroma with hints of rose, lavender, and pine.
Replacing coconut vinegar with lemon juice will add tanginess to your recipes without the sweetness. You can use lemon juice in dressings, dips, and sauces or prepare a marinade.
However, you need to add a smaller amount of lemon juice to replace coconut vinegar because it tastes sourer.
13. Tamarind Paste
Tamarind paste is another alternative to consider if you don’t like the flavor of coconut vinegar. It tastes sour with a slightly citrusy taste and hints of smoke and caramel for subtle sweetness.
This paste has a molasses-like texture and is made of the dark fruit found in the pod of the tamarind tree. It works best for sauces and cooked dishes because its consistency is too thick for salad dressings.
With tamarind paste, less is more as just a tiny amount of tamarind paste will add the needed depth to your seafood dishes. It’s also a crucial component of Thai sauces. It can be mixed with coconut milk to decrease its sourness when you’re preparing a marinade.
It can also be used to make a sweet and spicy dessert when mixed with ginger, added to curries, or stirred into a chutney.
How to choose a coconut vinegar substitute
All the choices we mentioned can replace coconut vinegar in various recipes. All you have to do is think about the exact flavor that you want to add to your dish and pick the most appropriate alternative.
- Closest flavor: homemade coconut vinegar will provide the closest flavor to the store-bought one. You can also use apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or rice wine because they’re subtly sweet.
- Softer flavor: white wine vinegar and champagne vinegar are mellower than coconut vinegar and work in fancy recipes as they add the needed richness to sauces, dips, vinaigrettes, and marinades.
- Spicy flavor: if you want to add some hotness to your recipe, you can use sushi vinegar.
- Bolder flavor: malt vinegar and red wine vinegar work for people who think that coconut vinegar tastes too weak. Malt vinegar has a roasty and nutty flavor, while red wine vinegar has a vibrant fruity aroma. Pick distilled or light malt vinegar for a milder taste.
- Neutral flavor: if you don’t like the sweetness of coconut vinegar, you can replace it with distilled white vinegar because it provides a neutrally acidic taste.
- Non-vinegar options: lemon juice and tamarind paste can be used in recipes that call for coconut vinegar if you don’t like the vinegary taste. Lemon juice adds the needed tanginess, while tamarind paste combines the sourness with a subtle sweetness.