The Difference Between Apple Cider Vinegar and White Vinegar – Explained

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When first entering the world of cooking, you may be blissfully unaware of just how many types of vinegar there are. When the word vinegar comes to mind, you probably think of malt or balsamic vinegar. While both are great, it can be incredibly humbling when you learn that there are more types of vinegar in existence than you could ever imagine.

Most types of vinegar will have a word in the title of them that gives you an idea as to what they taste like and can be used for; however, ‘apple cider vinegar’ and ‘white vinegar’ are exceptions as they do not give too much away. Read on for the explanation and differences between the two.

Table of Contents

What Is Vinegar?

Vinegar is a multi-purpose ingredient that is most commonly used in a lot of recipes. Alongside having various health benefits, vinegar also has a sour taste that is loved and used to flavor food during a fermentation process. Pickling vegetables is also commonly done as it flavors the food after the vinegar while also preserving the shelf life of the food by a lot.

The main active ingredient is acetic acid which gives it a bitter and tart flavor while also making it an acidic and reactive substance, proven by mixing vinegar with baking soda. Alongside the acid, vinegar is also made out of a lot of flavorings that can change depending on the type of vinegar someone is wanting to make.

Making apple cider vinegar may seem unorthodox to someone who is unknowing, but alcoholic drinks have been used to make vinegar for ages, as proven by red wine vinegar, a heavily loved ingredient. White wine vinegar is also a similar ingredient that people love a lot and is used in a lot of complex yet delicious recipes. It is called vinegar from a french translation of the words ‘sour wine’ and can be fruitfully used as a salad dressing or as a deeper ingredient in a lot of sauces and condiments such as mustard, BBQ sauce, and ketchup.

The Difference Between Apple Cider Vinegar And White Vinegar

How Is Vinegar Made?

Vinegar is made from a fermented liquid where a naturally-occurring bacteria known as acetobacter combines with oxygen in the fermented liquid. This combination turns into acetic acid, which is what vinegar is essentially known as. The different types of vinegar all come from the different fermented liquids they are made within. It is mostly suspected that vinegar was discovered and created by accident when a barrel of wine was left for too long and soured, creating vinegar at the end.

The alcohol contents of a fermented liquid are removed for the most part, as barely any of the alcohol will remain at the end. This is because the ethanol is removed during the process of the bacteria and oxygen combination. The vinegar is barely alcoholic and is not labeled as such as you cannot get drunk from it.

Apple Cider Vinegar Vs White Vinegar

As mentioned, the two types of vinegar are quite different and will have different uses in the kitchen. With that being said, sometimes the two can be interchangeable, although this is rare and is very dependent on what you are cooking. If you are cooking something that requires delicate flavors where the vinegar is at the forefront of the dish, then it will be best not to interchange the two. However, if you are using vinegar as a base or a slight flavoring, then you may be able to get away with it.

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a vinegar derived and made from apple juice and its bacterial fermentation. There is a slightly acidic taste from the acetic acid, and there is also a noticeable hint of sweetness from the cooked fruits that are used in the recipe.

The uses for ACV are more diverse than some would naturally guess. You can use it in soups, stews, broths, salad dressings, and as a braising liquid. Another use for ACV is for it to be used as a pickling agent. It is commonly used for this as it gives the pickled item a much sweeter taste than red wine or white vinegar would. Only a tablespoon is needed in a lot of the recipes, although a lot is needed when it is being used as a pickling agent. There will also be a dramatic change of color when you use it to pickle food.

The Difference Between Apple Cider Vinegar And White Vinegar

What Is White Vinegar

White vinegar is a common household ingredient that almost any home has. It can be found in any grocers and can also be called distilled vinegar or spirit vinegar. White vinegar is the product of fermenting grain alcohol until it turns into acetic acid.

This is very commonly diluted with water until the liquid is only around 5%-10% acetic acid. This leaves the vinegar being mostly water, with around 90%-95% of it being water. This liquid has the end result of having a sharp taste and a clear look. There is mostly a neutral flavor, but there is still a sour taste from the acetic acid that is the vinegar.

The Main Differences

Both of these kinds of vinegar can be used interchangeably in a few recipes and will have basic household uses. Despite this, they both have very different uses, flavors, colors, and more. They are quite different, and chefs and home cooks alike should know how and when to use each one and what the main differences are between them.

  1. Fermentation – the fermentation process for both of these types of vinegar is quite different. Spirit vinegar is fermented ethanol that is mixed with the acetobacter to leave a watered-down acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar is made from fermenting apple juice or a similar product that has a lot of fruitiness in it. This is diluted less than the distilled white vinegar as it is not as strong. Organic apple cider vinegar may be stronger as it goes through a shorter processing period.
  2. Household uses – When being used outside of the kitchen, these two ingredients are oddly popular. White vinegar has noticeable antimicrobial properties that make it a great disinfectant and cleaning item. Apple cider vinegar is used in a more odd way as it has found its use in being a DIY dandruff remover. Although, this is not heavily suggested by skin experts and is more of a last resort.
  3. Taste – The flavors are quite obviously different, considering one product is made from apples, and the other is made from ethanol. ACV has a very sweet and fruity taste with a hint of sourness. Whereas white vinegar is very tart and sour but is otherwise neutral in flavor.
  4. Cooking uses – both ingredients find a lot of use in salad dressings, vinaigrettes, veggie seasonings, and marinades. Besides this, white vinegar is a popular choice as a pickling agent due to its strength. It can also find use when mixed with baking soda as a leavening agent for baked goods. ACV and baking soda are not recommended as they can lead to bloating.
  5. Acid concentrations – When it comes to the concentration of acid, white vinegar is almost always stronger than the apple cider alternative. Distilled vinegar can come in a concentration of 5-10% acetic acid, whereas ACV is typically in a concentration of 5-6%.
  6. Color – ACV has a golden brown or amber color depending on its strength. White vinegar is completely transparent and colorless as it is made from water and ethanol, which are both absent of color.

Can You Substitute Apple Cider Vinegar And White Wine Vinegar?

While the two can be used as a substitute for one another rather easily in a lot of situations, the white vinegar is a lot more tart, so it is harder to use in other recipes where it is not called for. These two options can be used as a substitute for other types of vinegar, though. Apple cider vinegar can be used easily in place of malt vinegar, and white vinegar can swap out flawlessly with white wine vinegar.

Other than this, you have to be careful when swapping vinegar for a different type, as it can ruin the end result of the dish. If you are wanting a tart dish with a quite strong flavor, it would be bad to use apple cider vinegar as it is sweet and does not have the same tartness that white vinegar does. This works the other way around as if a recipe calls for the sweet sourness of apple cider vinegar, it would be too much to use something as strong as white vinegar.

The Difference Between Apple Cider Vinegar and White Vinegar – Explained

Should you Always Be Stocked Up On The Two?

While they are both quite different, these two ingredients can prove to be valuable to always have on hand as they can be used so diversely in many recipes. They have individual uses but can also be used for a lot of different sauces and flavorings. Where they really shine is being used as an ingredient with other items to make a sauce and help flavor something rather than being used as the primary ingredient.

White vinegar is easy to buy in bulk as it can also be a cleaning product, so you can buy large bottles of it and store them easily. Buying apple cider vinegar is not hard but can be a bit more challenging as it depends on what type you want. A lot of shops will have good brands of it, but you can also easily find organic or homemade versions of it, which are tastier or cheaper.

FAQs On White Vinegar And Apple Cider Vinegar

Can you substitute white vinegar for apple cider vinegar?

The two can be used interchangeably within reason. White vinegar is a lot stronger than ACV and can overpower a dish easily if used in substitution without care or moderation.

Which is better apple cider vinegar or white vinegar?

One is not better than the other as they both have a lot of individual and unique uses. White vinegar is arguably more useful as it has a lot more diversity in the kitchen and home in general, whereas apple cider vinegar is more specific and does not have as many uses.