9 Brilliant Uses for Rice Wine Vinegar

First, let’s establish a few basics. Vinegar is a solution of a weak acid in water.

It’s made by taking the fermentation process that creates alcohol one step further through the addition of bacteria, which converts the alcohol into acid. In other words, any alcohol we drink probably has a vinegar equivalent.

Take vodka, made from grain alcohol, for example: its vinegar equivalent is regular distilled white vinegar, which lives in every kitchen in America. Red and white wine become red and white wine vinegars, respectively, and from malted barley we get beer and malt vinegar, possibly the greatest condiment on French fries besides mayonnaise in my opinion. (I’m a proud Texan, but those Europeans know a good thing when they see one.)

It follows then that rice wine vinegar, also called rice vinegar, is made from sake, or wine produced by fermenting rice. The difference between the names often causes confusion, but is purely semantic: rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same thing. It helps to understand that rice vinegar is made by further fermenting rice wine.

So, with all these vinegars to choose from, what makes rice wine vinegar unique, and how do you use it? Let’s start with what sets it apart from the other vinegars.

The most distinctive characteristic about rice wine vinegar is its subtle, delicate, slightly sweet flavor relative to other vinegars.

Where red wine vinegar, for example, has a bold acidic flavor that makes it an ideal candidate for certain jobs, like vinaigrettes, it also tends to overpower more nuanced ingredients. When just a touch of sweetness and acidity are what’s called for, rice wine vinegar is what you want.

Which brings us to what, specifically, rice wine vinegar is useful for. There are even some non-culinary uses that might surprise you!

1. Pickling

This recipe from the good folks at Serious Eats makes delicious quick-pickled cucumbers that are great on pulled pork sandwiches or as a snack.

2. Sushi Rice

Rice wine vinegar is an essential ingredient in the preparation of sushi rice that gives it its distinctive flavor.

Get the recipe here.

3. Marinades

You could theoretically substitute rice wine vinegar for any other vinegar in marinade recipes, but it compliments Asian flavor profiles the best.

Get the recipe for Asian Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin here.

4. Cocktails

Adding rice wine vinegar to cocktails is a great way to give them a lift of brightness. Rice wine vinegar and cucumbers play really well together, creating subtle, refreshing flavor infusions.

Try adding vodka to this recipe.

5. On French Fries

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Taking a cue from our British and Canadian friends who had the genius idea to flavor their fries (humor me, guys) with malt vinegar, if you want a less punchy flavor, or if you simply don’t have malt vinegar in the pantry, save a trip to the store and go with rice wine vinegar.

Try this recipe for Salt and Vinegar fries here.

6. Stir-fries

For a quick, healthy dinner with a lot of flavor, stir-fry some veggies and make a basic sauce with chicken broth, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and a little sugar. Salty, tangy, and a little sweet.

Get the recipe here.

7. Dipping sauces

Soy sauce and rice wine vinegar team up again with some help from their friend sesame oil to create a delicious dipping sauce for pot-stickers, sushi, chicken, egg rolls, really anything.

Get the recipe here.

8. Salad dressings

Remember when I said red wine vinegar is perfect for vinaigrettes? It is. But so is rice wine vinegar, if you want to tone down the acidity a bit.

Try this recipe for soy-ginger dressing.

9. Washing your whites

For a natural cleaner that makes your whites bright, clean, and soft, try adding five drops of lemon essential oil to two cups of rice wine vinegar and using that instead of laundry detergent or bleach.

Read More: 10 Fantastic Uses for White Vinegar