Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.
When most people think of vinegar, they assume all varieties are alike. Yet once you start comparing rice vinegar vs white vinegar, you’ll quickly find there are many differences between the two, some of which are subtle and others not so subtle. If you’re wanting to cook up a variety of dishes but aren’t sure about which of these vinegars is best, here are some key differences, similarities, and other fascinating facts you’ll want to keep in mind.
Table of Contents
- Is Rice Vinegar the Same as White Vinegar?
- What’s the Difference between Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar?
- Is It Possible to Substitute Rice Vinegar for White Vinegar?
- What Else Can I Substitute for White Vinegar When Cooking?
- Are Rice Vinegar and Chinese Cooking Wine One and the Same?
- Does All Rice Vinegar Taste the Same?
- When Do You Use Rice Vinegar vs White Vinegar in Recipes?
- What Foods are Great for Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar?
- Can I Clean with Either Rice Vinegar or White Vinegar?
- Are Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar Easy to Find?
- Rice Vinegar vs White Vinegar, Which is Healthier?
- Do These Vinegars Ever Go Bad?
Is Rice Vinegar the Same as White Vinegar?
Though they are primarily the same type of vinegar in many ways, rice vinegar is not the same as white vinegar. As an example, both have the same acetic acid as their base compound, and are transparent liquids that are quite sour.
However, their primary difference is in their taste. When you taste white vinegar, you will notice it is sour yet also very flat, meaning it won’t affect the taste of whatever dish in which it is being used. But with rice vinegar, while it will also be sour, you will immediately notice it also tastes sweet, or in some instances extremely sweet. Thus, it tends to be used more in dishes that require a distinctive sweet taste.
What’s the Difference between Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar?
Now that you know there is a difference between these two types of vinegars in that rice vinegar is much sweeter, you should know of the other differences between the two.
To begin with, while both are indeed sour, white vinegar is extremely sour and will have your taste buds sitting up and taking notice. But with rice vinegar, its sourness is very mild at best.
Next, they vary in terms of color. While both are transparent, white vinegar will be either very clear, as with distilled white vinegar, or display a whitish tinge as in the case of regular white vinegar. But with rice vinegar, you’ll notice it to be a very pale yellow.
They differ in their ingredients as well. Whereas rice vinegar is created from fermented rice, white vinegar is derived from grains such as corn and various wheat-based alcohol derivatives. Perhaps more than anything, this is what sets these two types of vinegar apart the most.
Another difference is the uses of rice vinegar vs white vinegar. When you use rice vinegar, you are doing so exclusively for culinary purposes only. But when it comes to white vinegar, it is a multi-purpose vinegar that be used for both cooking and cleaning purposes. In fact, white vinegar has long been viewed as being one of the best disinfecting and cleaning agents that can be used around the home.
Last but not least, these two vinegars differ in where they originated. Rice vinegar originated in Asia, and is a very common ingredient in many Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese dishes. Actually, rice vinegar is used in so many types of Asian cuisine that it is often referred to as Asian vinegar. As for white vinegar, it is a Western condiment that is also used in preparing many different types of food.
Is It Possible to Substitute Rice Vinegar for White Vinegar?
Since they are different in so many ways, you may be thinking it is impossible to substitute rice vinegar for white vinegar when cooking a culinary creation. However, that’s not true at all. Due to both of these vinegars being used to cook many different types of food, you can easily substitute rice vinegar for white vinegar if you get in a pinch while in the kitchen.
However, when you do make this substitution, remember to do it only if you need a very small amount of vinegar in your food. Otherwise, this could impact the specific taste you are seeking with your dish.
If there is one other great thing about vinegar in general, it’s that numerous types can be used as substitutes in various situations. For example, if you desire a substitute for rice vinegar, you can choose apple cider vinegar. A sweet vinegar that has a mild apple flavor, it is favored by many cooks today. If you need a substitute for either rice or white vinegar, try balsamic vinegar. Seen as a versatile vinegar substitute due to it being both tangy and sweet, balsamic vinegar can be used for almost any type of cooking situation.
Should you cook quite a bit of Asian cuisine and desire a substitute vinegar, consider using the Japanese rice wine vinegar known as Mirin. A thicker vinegar that is much sweeter than traditional rice vinegar, it is still mild enough that it won’t become the primary flavor of your dish.
What Else Can I Substitute for White Vinegar When Cooking?
If you find yourself running low on white vinegar and perhaps rice vinegar as well when you are cooking dinner, chances are you can take a quick look in the fridge and find some suitable substitutes. Two of the most common of these are lemon and lime juice, since both of these offer sweetness, sourness, and are still mild enough so that a few drops won’t hamper the taste of the food.
As to when substituting lime or lemon juice works best, look to occasions where you are making coleslaw or perhaps marinating different types of fish.
Are Rice Vinegar and Chinese Cooking Wine One and the Same?
Both are made from fermented rice but here the similarities end as they are using different processing and bacteria. Chinese Cooking Wine (a.k.a. Shaoxing wine) and rice vinegar are very different.
Chinese cooking wine has a sweet and mild flavor and lower alcohol content. Whereas rice vinegar has a sweet taste with an acidic pinch in it. Due to their very different flavors, we do not recommend you substitute the two ingredients. But if you decide to do so quantities would need to be adjusted and flavor of dish will be affected.
Does All Rice Vinegar Taste the Same?
While white vinegar is flat, sour, and has only one type of taste, the same cannot be said for rice vinegar. Due to rice vinegar being made from many different types of rice, its varieties will possess varying degrees of taste. For example, the variation known as black rice vinegar will have a very smoky taste, making it a perfect choice for dishes where you want that taste to shine through with each bite.
When Do You Use Rice Vinegar vs White Vinegar in Recipes?
When it comes down to rice vinegar vs white vinegar in a recipe, the factors you’ll take into consideration include how sweet or sour you want your dish to taste, how the vinegar will interact with other ingredients being used, and individual preferences.
When you use white vinegar, you know it is a flat vinegar, meaning it won’t change the basic taste of the food, except for perhaps making it taste a bit more tart on the taste buds.
However, should you want your food to have much more sweetness or even sourness, rice vinegar will be your best bet.
What Foods are Great for Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar?
On occasions where you will be using rice vinegar, this will work best in such foods as Asian barbecue or sushi, and is also very popular for meat marinades and many types of salads.
Meanwhile, white vinegar is best when preparing all types of pickles and sour soups. If you are baking cupcakes, bread, or anything else, white vinegar is excellent because it allows dough to easily rise, while also preventing it from being over-kneaded. Also, if you love making buttermilk, white vinegar is always recommended as a primary ingredient.
Can I Clean with Either Rice Vinegar or White Vinegar?
Yes, you can use either rice vinegar or white vinegar when cleaning. However, if you opt for rice vinegar, there are some things you should remember.
First, you’ll need to use a rice vinegar that is as light-colored as possible. If you don’t and instead decide to use balsamic or red wine vinegar, your cleaning efforts will be rewarded with stained wood surfaces and a sticky residue.
Also, rice vinegar tends to leave behind a smell on furniture and other items that can be very sweet or even sour. Because of this, if a sticky residue lingers, the combination of these can attract ants, which is something you definitely don’t want to see happen.
Overall, white vinegar is far better to use for cleaning. Along with being a flat vinegar, it also has much higher acidity than rice vinegar, making it better able to cut through grime and dirt without leaving any residue whatsoever.
Are Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar Easy to Find?
Generally, it is not hard to find either rice vinegar or white vinegar in most stores. However, when you are looking at the store shelves, you’re likely to see more white vinegar than rice vinegar, since it is used for both cooking and cleaning.
Depending on the type of rice vinegar you desire, you may have to visit a specialty shop for Asian cuisine, or perhaps find an online store from which you can order. Also, it’s probable that white vinegar may cost less than rice vinegar, especially if you are searching for a lesser-known variety of rice vinegar.
Rice Vinegar vs White Vinegar, Which is Healthier?
If there is one primary advantage rice vinegar has over white vinegar, it is the numerous health benefits that have been associated with it over the years. One of the most common is improving digestive health, which occurs due to the levels of acetic acid contained in rice vinegar. By eating foods that rely heavily on rice vinegar as an ingredient, your body may be able to better absorb vitamins and minerals such as calcium and potassium.
Containing numerous amino acids, rice vinegar is also recommended for better heart health, lessening fatigue, and to improve one’s liver health and immune system.
But before you go discounting white vinegar from the health benefits conversation, keep in mind that it has also been found to help with a variety of health issues, including reduction of cholesterol, better control of blood sugar levels, weight management, and aiding in the prevention of infections.
Do These Vinegars Ever Go Bad?
Like most everything else you have in your refrigerator, you can’t help but look at your bottles of rice and white vinegar and wonder if they ever go bad. Fortunately, the answer is no, these and virtually all types of vinegar rarely if ever spoil.
If you’re curious as to how this can be, it is the result of their high acidity levels. Thus, whether you’ve got an opened or unopened bottle of rice vinegar or white vinegar, its shelf life will be virtually unlimited. If you stumble upon an unopened bottle that hasn’t been refrigerated, there’s no need to worry, since vinegar is self-preserving.
Now that you know just about everything there is to know about rice vinegar and white vinegar, you can get back to your cooking or cleaning and be assured your task will turn out just fine.
Can I Substitute Rice Vinegar for White Vinegar?
Absolutely. If you are in a pinch in the kitchen and don’t have time to go to the store for a bottle of white vinegar, you can get bailed out by your bottle of rice vinegar. If you do, you can either do it straight up, or instead add one-quarter teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon for which you’re substituting. Either way, the difference in taste will be negligible.
What’s the Difference Between Rice Vinegar and White Wine Vinegar?
The major difference between rice vinegar and white wine vinegar is their origin. Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice, while white wine vinegar comes from white wine that was created with grapes. Also, white wine vinegar will always have a light but noticeable fruity flavor to it, while rice vinegar will stand out more for its sweetness and sourness. Yet despite their differences, each can be substituted for the other with little variance in flavor.
Is Rice Vinegar Milder than Regular Vinegar?
Undoubtedly, the answer to this question is a firm yes. Due to being made from fermented rice, rice vinegar is much less acidic and quite a bit milder than distilled white vinegar and other vinegars that are wine or malt-based. Because of this, it can be an excellent vinegar to use if you want a subtle addition to the taste of salad dressings, pickles, marinades, stir-fry, or even on vegetables that have been ever so slightly cooked.