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How Do I Choose the Best Rice Vinegar?

Choosing the best rice vinegar starts with understanding your culinary needs. Opt for unseasoned rice vinegar for versatility, or seasoned for a touch of sweetness. Consider the origin—Japanese varieties tend to be milder, while Chinese types are more assertive. Always check for additives; pure rice vinegar will elevate your dishes. Curious about the impact of aging on flavor? Let's explore further.
Kristeen Moore
Kristeen Moore

Vinegars are essential cooking tools that are used in several types of dishes to help to enhance flavors and to change a food’s consistency. Asian cooking often utilizes rice vinegar, which is a product that is derived from fermented white grains. It is important to bear in mind that this is not the same product as rice wine versions. The best vinegar that you choose ultimately depends on the type of dish you are cooking, and it is generally available in red, white, and black versions. Small bottles of various rice vinegars are a culinary mainstay if you cook several types of Asian meals on a regular basis, but you might consider buying a particular kind in bulk if you use it often.

Rice wine vinegar is one of the oldest tools in Chinese cooking, and it is derived from sugars that are turned into alcohol. True rice vinegar is slightly different in that the process involves converting the alcohol into acid with the help of bacteria. Choosing between the two depends on whether you want a sweeter kind of vinegar or a more acidic one. If you are looking to cook traditional Asian cuisine, you will likely need rice vinegar, and not brands that are labeled as “wine."

Red and white rice vinegar.
Red and white rice vinegar.

There are three primary types of rice vinegar — red, black, and white — which are mostly used in Chinese cooking. The red type offers a tart flavor, while black versions are stronger and slightly bitter. White vinegars are generally the sweetest and mildest of all, and are a good choice if you are new to Asian cooking. Some regions of Japan utilize yellow vinegar, which is made from a combination of rice and sake. Japanese vinegars have similarities to white versions fermented in China in terms of mildness of flavor.

White rice vinegars are generally the sweetest and mildest.
White rice vinegars are generally the sweetest and mildest.

Most Asian food stores carry rice vinegar, but some supermarket chains might also offer certain types. If you regularly cook both Chinese and Japanese meals, then you should consider keeping several types of vinegar on hand because they are often not interchangeable in different recipes. Rice vinegar is also sold in bulk online as well as in some stores; you should utilize this option in order to save money if you use a particular type often. Some experienced chefs prefer to control the sweetness and acidity of vinegar by making it from scratch, but this is often a long and arduous process that should be taken on with care.

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Discussion Comments


If anyone is planning to buy rice vinegar to flavor sushi rice or cure raw fish, then please make sure that you get pure rice vinegar. Yone-su type white vinegar is the only one that works. There is no substitute for this rice vinegar when it comes to sushi.

Some products labeled as "rice vinegar" are not really rice vinegar, they just taste like it. If you use one of these products to cure raw fish, it's not going to work and you might get sick. So please get the original Japanese rice vinegar for sushi.


@turkay1-- That's a good question! Seasoned rice vinegar has sugar in it. Sometimes they add regular sugar and food coloring and sometimes they add brown sugar.

Which one you want to use is a personal preference. If you like sweet foods, you can try the seasoned one. But I think that the unseasoned one is better. My mom is Chinese and I've never seen her use the seasoned one before. It just might be that my family is not too fond of sweet dishes though. I don't use white rice vinegar much, I mostly use the red one.


I was at the Asian grocery over the weekend and saw that there are bottles of seasoned and unseasoned rice vinegar.

What do the seasoned bottles contain in addition to regular rice vinegar? Do the seasoned ones have more flavor?

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    • Red and white rice vinegar.
      By: GeoM
      Red and white rice vinegar.
    • White rice vinegars are generally the sweetest and mildest.
      By: kazoka303030
      White rice vinegars are generally the sweetest and mildest.