What are the Best Chinese Black Vinegar Substitutes?

Maybe it’s the first time you hear about Chinese black vinegar, maybe you use it every day. So, what is Chinese black vinegar? Let’s get the answer to this question as well as discuss some possible chinese black vinegar substitutes in this post. 

What is Chinese black vinegar?

Chinese black vinegar, known as Chinkiang or Zhenjiang vinegar, is made of fermented black sticky rice, regular glutinous rice or with a combination of rice, sorghum and/or wheat. 

It has a rich umami taste and dark red color. It’s one of the basic ingredients in many Chinese dishes, cold appetizers, braised fish and meats and is widely used with noodles, dumplings, seafood and serves as a dipping. 

Since black vinegar is not easily found in common markets, we offer substitutes for Chinese black vinegar that you can easily find and use in dishes calling for this special ingredient. 

The best substitutes for Chinese black vinegar are balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar with soy sauce, malt vinegar, date vinegar, worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and honey as well as white wine vinegar.  

Best Substitutes for Chinese Black Vinegar

1. Balsamic Vinegar

An easy and very suitable alternative to Chinese black vinegar is balsamic vinegar. Compared to black vinegar, balsamic vinegar is stronger in flavor but you can dilute it with some water and then use in place of black vinegar in soups, salads or in any other dish calling for the black one. 

Balsamic vinegar comes from the Italian cousin and it’s widely used with Italian dishes. So, you can pair it not only with Chinese but with Italian and other dishes including noodles, pastas and roasted dishes. Thanks to its slight sweetness it pairs well with fruits and desserts too. 

2. Rice Vinegar + Soy Sauce

Rice vinegar is another type of vinegar used in Asian recipes. Compared to Chinese black vinegar, it’s lighter and is considered as the essence of black vinegar. 

All you need is just adding a kind of umami and savory flavor to it. So, add soy sauce and you will get not only the desired taste but also a similar dark color. 

On the other hand, both rice vinegar and soy sauce work well with Asian dishes, noodles, pastas, salads, sauces, seafood and meats. So, they will create a perfect match for any dish calling for black vinegar. 

You can also use rice vinegar alone. The ratio is 1:1.

3. Malt Vinegar

Malt winger, in its turn, is made of malted grains of barley. It’s dark in color and tastes sweeter and milder. It’s one of the ingredients in black vinegar, which means it carries a similar flavor. It’s used in pickles, marinades, sauces as well as with fish, cooked dishes and salads. 

You can use malt vinegar to replace Chinese black vinegar in savory dishes as it tastes complex and carries both sweet and spicy undertones. If you decide to use it in desserts then you can add a little bit of honey or any other sweetener matching your recipe. 

4. Date Vinegar

Date vinegar is made of the syrup of pressed or processed dates and it’s considered as one of the healthiest vinegars you can use in cooking. It can be used to substitute black vinegar especially in sweet dishes and desserts. 

It is complex in taste and reminds of a mixture of balsamic and malt vinegars with fruity and sweet undertones. 

Date vinegar is popular in Saudi Arabia, Iranian and Iraqian dishes and compared to other varieties of vinegar it may be hard to find. 

However, if you have it in hand, you can use it instead of Chinese black vinegar in pickles, salads and some desserts. It’s usually more acidic than other vinegars and comes with a dark color. 

5. Worcestershire Sauce

As for worcestershire sauce, it’s a fermented condiment made in England. The base of this sauce is vinegar which is flavored with anchovies, tamarind, molasses, onion, garlic and other seasonings that make it taste spicy, savory and sour at the same time. 

This sauce is basically used with seafood and you can consider it as another easy alternative to Chinese black vinegar for seafood, dumplings and savory dishes that call for the bunch of flavors it offers. It’s great to add into dips too. 

6. Red Wine Vinegar

Red wine vinegar is a popular ingredient in American and European dishes. So, you may be familiar with its taste, color and flavor. Overall, it comes in a dark pink color and compared to Chinese black vinegar it’s lighter both in color and texture. 

This vinegar has a robust taste and hot flavor that goes well with salads, marinades and pickles. It also makes a good match with pork, beef and vegetables. Use red wine vinegar to replace Chinese black vinegar in stir-fries and salads. 

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another popular vinegar in American and European cuisines. It’s a common condiment in our pantry and we often use apple cider vinegar in baking, cooking and in desserts. It tastes tart, slightly sweet and has a woody flavor. 

You can use apple cider vinegar in salads, vinegrates, pickles, braised dishes, meats and desserts. This is a great option for those who prefer fruit-based vinegars over grain-based ones. 

8. Lemon Juice + Honey

If you have none of the above mentioned substitutes in hand, then use a mixture of lemon juice and honey. This works especially in marinades, salads, desserts and with dips. 

In case your recipe calls for more sweetness, you can add more honey, and the same way you can add lemon juice if it needs to be acidic. This is a good way to balance the flavors according to your taste. 

9. White Wine Vinegar

And your final choice can be white wine vinegar. It is light in color and tastes mellow, sweet, mild and fruity. It’s another good type of fruit-based vinegar to use in place of grain-based vinegars. 

Use white wine vinegar to replace black vinegar in salads, marinades, sauces or flavor meats and fish. It works well in stews, soups and stir-fries. If it feels too acidic, you can add a sweetener. 

FAQs on Chinese Black Vinegar

Is Chinese black vinegar gluten-free? 

You may find some gluten-free varieties of black vinegar but most types are made of wheat bran which means they are not gluten-free. 

Is Chinese black vinegar healthy?

Many people use Chinese black vinegar in their daily diet to lose weight. It comes with a great source of amino acids and citrate that help to burn fat. It also helps to improve metabolism. 

Does Chinese black vinegar have sugar?

If the label is “Sweetened Black Vinegar” then it contains sugar, otherwise it won’t. The sweetened variety may contain other flavors too including ginger. It is usually used with braised pork. 


Today many more people are interested in Chinese cuisine and if you want to make Chinese dishes yourself then you should use the required ingredients or at least possible alternatives. 

We have tried to come up with all the possible Chinese black vinegar substitutes to make your choice easier and help you prepare the dish you have tried in your favorite restaurant. 

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