In cooking, there are few more elegant ingredients than champagne vinegar. This luxurious ingredient is made with Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, giving it a lightly floral, fruity flavor. Once it has been combined with a bacteria base, similar to apple cider vinegar or kombucha, and allowed to ferment.
It is a delicate, light vinegar, meaning that if you’re out of it, you cannot substitute it for just anything. Ideally, you should aim to replace it with something that matches it in levity.
The best substitutes for champagne vinegar are rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or white wine vinegar. You can use red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar if you don’t mind a change in fruitiness and color. If you’re really in a pinch, lemon or lime juice can step in for the tang of acidity.
Substitutes For Champagne Vinegar
All kinds of vinegar are known for their sharp, punchy, acidic flavors. Champagne vinegar, in particular, acts as a supporting player in recipes like vinaigrettes or marinades, meaning that the final taste profile isn’t as important as achieving the same level of acidity.
Vinegars are divided into categories depending on what they’re made of. There are palm, fruit, balsamic, cane, grain, and spirit vinegars. Champagne vinegar is considered a spirit vinegar, so ones that are made with alcohol as well would serve as the best replacement.
1. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is one of the most popular of the spirit vinegars, and is easily found in most store cooking sections. It is sweeter and lighter than plain white, distilled vinegar, and has a very mild taste overall.
It’s true that white wine vinegar doesn’t have the floral, sweet notes that champagne vinegar is bringing to the table. It is, however, similarly fruity and perfectly light. It makes for an apt substitute for champagne vinegar in something simple like a salad dressing.
2. Sherry Vinegar
Similar to white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar is a gourmet wine vinegar. It hails from the Spanish province of Cádiz, where production quality is carefully monitored. Sherry vinegar is aged, with different nomenclature denoting how long it has been left to age in wood.
It is used in French and Spanish cuisine, and is an excellent substitute for champagne vinegar. The color will be darker than the pale tones of champagne, and it may be more acidic, or drier. When using it as an alternative to champagne vinegar, use a bit less than the recipe calls for to balance the flavors.
3. Rice Wine Vinegar
Rice wine vinegar is pale in color and mild in taste, meaning it can be a great replacement for champagne vinegar. The flavor is pleasingly acidic, giving you the tartness you’d want.
Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are two different things. Rice vinegar is made by fermenting sugar into alcohol, but then to an acidic state to remove the alcohol. It’s diluted and cooked, which brings down the acidity even further.
Rice wine vinegar, originating fom Japan, sees the sugar in rice fermented down and then turned into alcohol. It’s sweeter and less acidic than rice vinegar, and is, of course, alcoholic. The alcohol by volume is 18-25%.
If you’re using champagne vinegar in a soup, rice wine vinegar is a perfect substitution. It will give you the same sweetness and acidity you’d like in the final product.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Like white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar is easy to find in most grocery stores. It is made with distilled apples, and has a harsh flavor that is still fruity and sweet. In fact, apple cider vinegar is even sweeter than champagne vinegar; this is apparent even when giving it a sniff.
In a final dish where it’s combined with other ingredients, you’re not likely to notice the difference if you’ve used apple cider vinegar instead of champagne vinegar. However, for things like vinagrettes and soups, you might want to taste it first to see if the sweet, cider-like taste of apple cider vinegar will fit the bill.
5. Persimmon Vinegar
With a fruity aroma, slight peppery flavor, and intense acidic bite, persimmon vinegar is a solid substitute for champagne vinegar when you want to lean into that fruit taste. Because it is almost wine-like in fragrance, it stands to hold a spot where champagne vinegar would be used.
Persimmon vinegar is popular in South Korea, where it is called gam sikcho. It’s often used in egg dishes or over beans; that means that similar applications that would usually use champagne vinegar are ideal for persimmon vinegar.
6. Red Wine Vinegar
It isn’t the ideal substitute, as red wine vinegar is just that; a red wine. It has a richer, heavier flavor than champagne vinegar, but it is similarly made. It is made from fermenting and straining red wine, and contains virtually no alcohol. Despite this, it still carries the taste of red wine.
This is best used as an alternative to champagne vinegar when you need any that vinegar acidity and have no other options.
7. Coconut Vinegar
Coconut vinegar is categorized into the ‘palm’ family of vinegars, and is used commonly in Southeast Asian cuisine. This cloudy, pale vinegar is particularly popular in the Philipines, where it is called sukang tuba. Tuba refers to the fact that it is a byproduct of palm wine production.
Coconut vinegar is sharp and acidic, while being faintly fruity. In marinades or sauces, it will be an appropriate substitute for champagne vinegar. It can carry in the same fragrant tang that will give soups a bit of bite.
8. Chardonnay Champagne
Grapes from the Champagne region of France are where Chardonnay gets its name. It is also one of the grape varieties used to make champagne vinegar. If what you’re missing is just the taste of that boozy, bubbly staple, you can use a splash of champagne.
Granted, it doesn’t need to be the Chardonnay brand of champagne, it can be any similarly flavored bottle. You will only miss the acidity and mildness of champagne vinegar if you choose to swap it with straight champagne. If you’re missing the sourness, you can also add a squeeze of lemon.
9. Make Your Own Champagne Vinegar
Champagne vinegar can be made in the comfort of your own home, without the need for complicated, expensive distillation equipment. To make it, you’ll need:
- Apple cider or a similar fruity, non-alcoholic vinegar.
- A wide-mouthed glass jar or ceramic container.
Step One: Let Your Champagne Get Flat
To get started, let your champagne go flat. This step is crucial, as you don’t want to introduce excess gasses into the sealed container.
Step Two: Combine
Mix all of your ingredients together. You will want a ratio of 750 ml of champagne for every one cup of water.
Step Three: Seal and Ferment
Cover the mouth of your jar or ceramic container with cheesecloth and secure it tightly with rubber bands. Place it somewhere cool and let it sit for 1-3 months.
Step Four: Taste
You can start sampling your champagne vinegar after one month of fermenting. If it already tastes the way you expect champagne vinegar to, then you’re ready to move on. If it doesn’t taste quite ready, cover it again with your cheesecloth and let it continue to sit.
Step Five: Strain
Once it has set to your liking, strain your champagne vinegar into bottles for use. Straining it will separate it from the ‘mother’; a clump of bacteria that forms in the fermentation process.
If you want to keep the mother for future use in making more champagne vinegar, you can remove the vinegar with a turkey baster. If you’re not concerned about it, however, simply pour it straight from your jar into the bottles.
Keep your champagne vinegar at room temperature. You will likely end up with a lot of it, but that makes it perfect for giving as a gift. This of course works best as a substitute for champagne vinegar if you know you’ll be using a lot of it, but don’t want to have to splurge for it so often.
10. Lemon Or Lime Juice
What if you don’t have any vinegars at all nearby, and you don’t have several months to wait for a batch of champagne vinegar to brew? The best option here is to use a squeeze of lemon or lime juice in your recipe where it calls for champagne vinegar.
Of course, it will not have the same floral, delicate, complex flavors of champagne vinegar. It works in a pinch because it is fruity and sour, much the way a vinegar would be. Citrus is already a common ingredient in marinades, sauces, and salad dressings, meaning it will be right at home all the same.
Champagne vinegar is an amazing, luxurious ingredient that will give any recipe a floral, fruity hint of acidity. It can be used in vinaigrettes, salad dressings, marinades, and many other applications. When you can’t afford or don’t have any champagne vinegar to spare, you can use white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or sherry vinegar in its place.
Other additions, like coconut, persimmon, or red wine vinegar may also serve as a decent substitute for champagne vinegar. You could also use straight champange, or simply use a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. If time isn’t an object, brewing your own champagne vinegar is deceptively easy.