Substitutes for Chinese Black Vinegar

Chinese black vinegar is a staple ingredient in many Asian recipes, providing a complex mix of sweet, sour, and umami flavors. Also known as Chinkiang vinegar, this dark, aged vinegar is made from fermented rice, wheat, barley, and other grains.

Its versatile flavor profile lends itself to various dishes, from dipping sauces and marinades to braises, stir-fries, and even desserts. However, if you find yourself without any Chinese black vinegar in your pantry, worry not – there are several substitutes you can use to replicate its unique taste.

When selecting an alternative for Chinese black vinegar, the key is to look for an ingredient that balances both the acidity and the sweetness found in the original vinegar. Some suggested substitutes include balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar with brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce combined with white vinegar. Each of these options will provide a distinct flavor reminiscent of Chinese black vinegar, while also adding their own unique characteristics to your dish.

Experimenting with these substitutes can help you find the best fit for your recipe while still maintaining the authentic flavors of Chinese cuisine. Always remember to adjust the quantities and combinations of ingredients to suit your personal taste and preference. With a little creativity and culinary know-how, you can easily create an enjoyable dish even when Chinese black vinegar is not available.

What is Chinese Black Vinegar

What is Black Chinese Vinegar(s), and how's it different from Balsamic?

Chinese black vinegar, also known as Chinkiang vinegar or Zhenjiang vinegar, is a popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine. It is made through a process of fermenting various grains, such as wheat, barley, millet, glutinous rice, sorghum, and sometimes rice. This fermentation process helps create the unique flavor profile of black vinegar and gives it its distinct characteristics.

The dark color of this vinegar is due to the long fermentation period which typically lasts for several months to years. Its strong, sour, and umami flavor adds a tangy depth to a variety of dishes. The taste can be described as a combination of sweet and sour, with a hint of sweetness coming through to balance the bold umami notes.

Some key aspects of Chinese black vinegar include:

  • Origin: Chinkiang or Zhenjiang, a city in China
  • Grains used: Wheat, barley, millet, glutinous rice, sorghum, rice
  • Fermentation time: Months to years
  • Color: Dark brown to black
  • Flavor profile: Sour, umami, tangy, with a hint of sweetness

Though Chinese black vinegar has a unique taste, there are a few alternatives available if you need a substitute. Rice vinegar, for instance, is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine and can be used in place of black vinegar in certain dishes. However, it is important to keep in mind that the flavor profile may be somewhat different and lack the depth and complexity of black vinegar.

In summary, Chinese black vinegar is a fermented, dark-colored vinegar that originates from Chinkiang or Zhenjiang, China. Its unique flavor is derived from a combination of sour, umami, and tangy elements, along with a hint of sweetness.

Commonly Used Substitutes for Chinese Black Vinegar

Looking for the best Chinese black vinegar substitute? Discover the diverse substitut...

When you’re unable to find Chinese black vinegar at your local Asian grocery store or simply want to experiment with different flavors, there are several substitutions that you can turn to. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most commonly used alternatives.

Balsamic Vinegar and Sherry Vinegar

A popular substitute for Chinese black vinegar is a combination of balsamic vinegar and sherry vinegar. Balsamic vinegar, originating from Italy, has a deep rich flavor and a considerable sweetness that can mimic the taste of Chinese black vinegar. Sherry vinegar, a vinegar made from sherry wine, contributes a tangy and mildly sweet flavor to the mix. When combined in equal parts, these two vinegars can effectively mimic the desired taste.

VinegarCharacteristicsRatio in Substitution
BalsamicDeep rich flavor, considerable sweetness1:1
SherryTangy, mildly sweet1:1

Rice Vinegars

Red rice vinegar and white rice vinegar are also suitable substitutes for Chinese black vinegar, as they share a similar acidity level. Red rice vinegar, made from fermented red yeast rice, has a slightly sweet and tart flavor profile. White rice vinegar, on the other hand, is milder in taste and has a main ingredient of sugar.

To replace Chinese black vinegar with rice vinegars, use the following proportions:

  • 2 parts red rice vinegar
  • 1 part white rice vinegar

For an added umami flavor, you can also include a splash of soy sauce to the mixture.

Other Alternatives

Here is a list of other alternatives you can consider for substituting Chinese black vinegar:

  1. Rice wine vinegar: A milder option with a slightly sweet touch.
  2. Apple cider vinegar: Provides a tangy and fruity profile, but lacks the sweetness of Chinese black vinegar.
  3. Lemon juice: Offers acidity and tanginess.
  4. Malt vinegar: Has a rich, malty flavor and contains acetic acid, but may not work well in all dishes due to its distinct taste.
  5. Date vinegar: Sweet and tangy, though slightly harder to find.
  6. Worcestershire sauce: Can add umami and tanginess, but use sparingly as it has a strong flavor.

When searching for a suitable substitute for Chinese black vinegar, the key is to experiment with different combinations and quantities to achieve the desired balance of sweetness, sourness, and umami.

Chinese Black Vinegar in Cooking

Substitutes for #Black #Vinegar

Chinese black vinegar is a crucial ingredient in an array of Chinese recipes for its characteristic tangy and slightly sweet taste. This versatile staple is commonly used in cooking as a dipping sauce, marinade, and to enhance the flavors of various dishes.

When creating a dipping sauce, Chinese black vinegar pairs well with dumplings, particularly those with pork or shrimp fillings. For a basic dipping sauce, combine black vinegar with soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil. You can also use it as a dressing for cold noodle dishes or salads to add an authentic Chinese tang.

As a marinade, Chinese black vinegar tenderizes and enhances the flavor of meats, especially when paired with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. This marinade works well in braised dishes, such as Chinese braised fish, beef or pork. Mix equal parts of black vinegar with soy sauce, add garlic and ginger, and marinate your protein of choice for at least 30 minutes.

Using Chinese black vinegar in stir-fry dishes adds depth and richness to the flavors. Add a couple of tablespoons to your sauce mix when preparing dishes with meats and vegetables. It not only tenderizes the meat but also adds a delicious tanginess to the vegetables.

When grilling or roasting, Chinese black vinegar can enhance the taste of grilled vegetables and meats. Brush a mix of black vinegar, soy sauce, and oil on vegetables or meats during the grilling process. This will add a unique, slightly sweet, and tangy flavor to your dish.

Now that you’re familiar with some ways to use Chinese black vinegar in cooking, don’t hesitate to experiment with this versatile ingredient. Add it to your dishes and elevate the flavors, giving an authentic touch to your Chinese recipes.

Homemade Chinese Black Vinegar

Here's a simple homemade Chinese Black Vinegar recipe:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
21 days
Total Time 21 days 15 minutes
Course Seasoning, Substitute
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4
Calories 89 kcal


  • 4 cups of rice vinegar
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 piece of old bread optional


  • In a large pot, heat the rice vinegar over medium heat.
  • Add the brown sugar to the vinegar and stir until it dissolves completely.
  • If you want to speed up the fermentation process, you can add a piece of old bread to the mixture. This will help introduce the necessary bacteria for fermentation.
  • Allow the mixture to simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the mixture has thickened and darkened in color, remove it from the heat and let it cool.
  • Strain the vinegar to remove any solid particles and transfer it to a clean glass container for storage.
  • Seal the container and store it in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.


After 3 weeks, your homemade Chinese Black Vinegar will be ready to use in your favorite recipes!


Calories: 89kcal
Keyword homemade chinese black vinegar
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions

Black Vinegar is AMAZING

What can I use as a substitute for Chinese black vinegar?

If you don’t have Chinese black vinegar, you can try using a mix of balsamic vinegar and rice vinegar with a 2:1 ratio. Alternatively, you can use red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or Worcestershire sauce as substitutions, but keep in mind that these options may not achieve the exact same flavor profile as authentic Chinese black vinegar.

Is balsamic vinegar a good replacement for black vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar can be a decent substitute for Chinese black vinegar, especially when combined with rice vinegar. However, balsamic vinegar has a slightly sweeter taste, which may not be ideal for all recipes. To achieve a closer match, consider mixing balsamic and rice vinegar at a ratio of 2:1.

Can I use rice vinegar instead of Chinese black vinegar?

While rice vinegar is a common ingredient in Chinese cooking, it has a different flavor profile than Chinese black vinegar. Using rice vinegar as a direct substitute may result in a less complex and tangy flavor. However, you can still use it in combination with other vinegars, such as balsamic or red wine vinegar, to create a closer approximation.

What are the differences between black and white vinegar?

Black vinegar, specifically Chinese black vinegar, is made from fermented rice, wheat, millet, or sorghum and has a dark color, deep flavor, and slightly sweet taste. White vinegar, also known as distilled vinegar, is made from fermented grains and has a clear appearance with a neutral flavor and a stronger acidity. While both can be used for cooking, they have distinct flavor profiles that may not be interchangeable in all recipes.

Where can I buy Chinese black vinegar?

You can find Chinese black vinegar at most Asian grocery stores or online retailers. Some larger supermarkets may also carry it in their international food sections. Be sure to look for labels that list “black vinegar” or “Chinkiang vinegar” as these are the most common names for Chinese black vinegar.

Which vinegar is recommended for Chinese cooking?

In Chinese cuisine, a variety of vinegars are used, each with its unique flavor and characteristics. Common vinegars include Chinese black vinegar, rice vinegar, and white vinegar. The best vinegar to use depends on the specific recipe you are following. Chinese black vinegar is often used in dipping sauces, marinades, and braised dishes, while rice vinegar is popular in stir-fries, pickles, and salads. White vinegar is often used when a light, neutral flavor is desired.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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