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Cane vinegar is a mild vinegar often used in Filipino cooking and on many islands where sugar cane is grown and harvested. It’s been compared to rice vinegar in its mildness, though there are certainly different grades squeezed from sugar cane. It’s not exactly sweet and instead has a mildly sharp taste that is useful for pickling ingredients or making sauces.
In the Philippines, cane vinegar is often called sukang iloko after the northern region of Illocos, where much of the vinegar is made. It may be labeled sukang maasim, which does not denote region and simply translates as vinegar or sour vinegar. Sukang massim is often more commonly found than sukang iloko in Filipino grocery stores in the US.
Cane vinegar is also available in many large grocery stores in the US since it is also manufactured in places like Hawaii and California. It’s becoming increasingly popular as an alternate vinegar to some more traditional offerings like wine or apple cider vinegar. Many people describe the taste as sour but fresh and like its light taste in a variety of foods.
This vinegar is used in dishes with sweet and sour sauces, including sauerbraten, pickled herring, and even as an addition to humus or lemon custard. In Filipino cooking, one of the classic dishes is adobo, a dish of chicken and pork simmered in vinegar, bay leaves, garlic and spices served over rice. Braised pork leg or paksiw na pata is another popular Filipino dish, usually made with several cups of cane vinegar.
Some cooks also recommend using cane vinegar as part of a marinade to tenderize meat. Since it has a lighter flavor then many other types of vinegar, food tends not to take on its flavor quite as much. It will taste more piquant, but have less of a strong vinegar taste. Some people like to add a touch to dressings for fruit salads since it will have a bite but won’t interfere with natural fruit flavors.