The original form of sushi, called Narezushi, was designed for food preservation, and the rice vinegar mixed with fish was intended to promote fermentation. This tradition has since been passed down to current-day sushi, where rice vinegar is still added for flavoring. However, there are still many options for making sushi without rice vinegar or substituting it with a different flavoring agent.
Here are 7 substitutes for rice vinegar:
- Apple cider vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Sherry vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- White wine
- Lemon juice
Below I will discuss each of these options in a bit more detail as well as how to prepare sushi rice without any rice vinegar substitutes.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is created by adding yeast to apple juice, which promotes fermentation. Due to this, apple cider vinegar has a unique fermented flavor profile with a hint of apple.
The apple adds a slight sweetness and acidity level very similar to rice vinegar, making apple cider vinegar a great 1:1 substitute in sushi. Many options exist for apple cider vinegar, including the popular Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, available on Amazon.com.
2. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is made utilizing grapes, which also gives it a fruity flavoring. It possesses a more robust flavor than rice vinegar but creates a similar flavoring in sushi rice. White wine vinegar can also be diluted a bit with ¼ teaspoon (5 mL) of sugar to every one tablespoon (14.8 mL) of vinegar for a sweeter, less intense flavor.
White wine vinegar is readily available in grocery stores or online, like this Colavita Aged White Wine Vinegar from Amazon.com, made in Italy specifically for creating enhanced food flavor profiles.
3. Champagne Vinegar
Like white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar also originates from grapes and offers a hint of sweetness when added to sushi rice. It has a strong flavor profile as well but is uniquely lighter.
Utilize champagne vinegar for an added elegance, with options available straight from California wine country like this Napa Valley Naturals Champagne Vinegar, available through Amazon.com.
4. Sherry Vinegar
Sherry vinegar is yet another option created from wine grapes but is unique in its origination in the Spanish area known as the “sherry triangle.” Sherry vinegar often exists as a gourmet alternative to balsamic vinegar.
Since it also originates from a fruit, sherry vinegar lends a sweet but acidic profile and is more rich and nutty flavored than other options. Despite its Spanish home, many sherry vinegar options are available worldwide, like this Columela 30 Year Sherry Vinegar, imported from Spain but readily available through Amazon.com.
5. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is made utilizing grape must, including both the juice and the solid portions of the fruit. This type of vinegar originates in Italy and is known for its dark color, concentrated form, and intense, rich flavor.
While balsamic vinegar also offers some fruity flavoring, it is much less subtle than rice vinegar, so care should be taken to avoid overpowering your dish. Many imported balsamic vinegar options also exist through grocery stores and online offerings, like this Colavita Balsamic Vinegar of Modena on Amazon.com.
6. White Wine
If a vinegar-based option is not available, white wine offers another excellent alternative to rice vinegar. By utilizing white wine, you can also create a wonderfully sweet, highly flavorful profile within your dish, which can vary based on the variety you choose.
While this option won’t offer the same fermented undertones, its alcoholic base does submit another form of bacteria and mold prevention for leftovers.
7. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is another popular substitute for rice vinegar as a flavoring agent. Though also not fermented, lemon juice does offer a highly acidic kick that adds a bold, delicious taste to sushi rice.
You can easily add this to your dish using fresh lemons from your fruit bowl or via preserved lemon juice concentrates available in stores or online like Lucy’s Family Owned Lemon Juice on Amazon.com.
Make Your Own Rice Vinegar
If you don’t have prepared rice vinegar available or you would rather create it from scratch, you can also craft a homemade version at home. All that is required is white sugar, yeast, egg whites, and white or brown rice. If you have all of these basic ingredients available, the process is easy.
The twelve simple steps to create your homemade rice vinegar are:
- Soak rice in a bowl for four hours.
- Strain rice from water using fabric or cloth.
- Separate the rice water portion for use .
- Add ¾ cup (177mL) white sugar for every cup (236mL) of rice water.
- Cook the sugar and rice water mixture for 20 minutes.
- Place in a glass bowl to cool.
- Add ¼ tablespoon (4mL) of yeast for every 4 cups (946mL) of rice water mixture.
- Let mixture ferment until bubbles disappear, about five days.
- Move mixture to a clean glass bowl.
- Ferment for another four to five weeks.
- Filter the mixture and boil again.
- Incorporate two egg whites for every forty cups of rice vinegar, if desired.
Can You Make Sushi Without Rice Vinegar?
You can make sushi without rice vinegar or any substitute. While it adds an enhanced flavor profile and improved preservation characteristics, it is not required to create your dish successfully.
To prepare sushi rice without rice vinegar or a substitute, follow these easy steps:
- Combine sugar, water, and vegetable oil in a pot.
- Boil the ingredients until they are sufficiently mixed.
- Add rice and water to another pot, cover with a lid.
- Boil per packaging instructions until water is fully absorbed.
- Combine the ingredients from the first pot into the rice.
- Stir until thoroughly mixed, and rice is sticky.
- Roll rice into sheets of even thickness.
As I’ve discussed above, there are many different options for rice vinegar substitution. Most options include other kinds of vinegar or fruit-based products like white wine or lemon juice, and you can even create your rice vinegar at home. Test out different combinations in your next dish to find your favorite!
- CNN Travel: Narezushi: A Taste of Ancient Sushi in Japan
- Eat-Japan: Sushi History
- Nourish by WebMD: Apple Cider Vinegar
- PureWow: What’s the Best Substitute for Rice Vinegar? We Have 6 Great Ideas
- Masterclass: What Is Champagne Vinegar? Plus Easy Champagne Vinaigrette
- Wikipedia: Sherry vinegar
- Wikipedia: Sherry Triangle
- Tsubugai: This is How To Make Sushi Rice Without Rice Vinegar
- Wikipedia: Must
- Easy Homemade Sushi: Can you make Sushi without Rice Vinegar?