7 Substitutes for Rice Vinegar in Sushi

Rice vinegar is made out of fermented rice, and is also called rice wine vinegar. It is very popular in Japanese, Korean, South Asian, and Vietnamese cooking. Its taste is subtle and sweet, and it is used most often as a sweetener for sushi rice. It can also be used for dressings and desserts.

If there is no rice vinegar available to you, don’t start worrying yet. There are plenty of other ingredients that can do the same job that rice vinegar does. Some of the best substitutes for rice vinegar in sushi are: white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and seasoned rice vinegar. 

How Do You Use Rice Vinegar?

Rice vinegar has many uses. It can be a soy sauce substitute, or added to salads and fruits as a flavoring agent. Rice vinegar can also be useful to clean with. Dousing it over your next dish will add a more vibrant flavor, and sushi is one of the best known foods it is used for.

Is Rice Vinegar Necessary for Sushi?

The main purpose of rice vinegar in sushi is to make the rice more sticky. By doing this, seasoning stays on the rice better. It is also used for flavor and preservation. Rice vinegar will add a subtle sweetness to sushi and elongate its shelf life.

Although rice vinegar is the most typical ingredient used to do this, it is not the only one. Rice vinegar itself is not necessary for sushi, but something that can achieve the same purposes should probably be used.

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What Can You Use Instead of Rice Vinegar for Sushi?

Instead of rice vinegar, there are many other ingredients that can mimic the same properties it is used for. Here are some of the most tried and true replacements:

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is made out of fermented apple juice. It works in sushi because, like rice vinegar, it adds some sweetness to the dish. The only notable difference is that it has a very indistinct apple flavor, but this shouldn’t alter the taste of your recipe too much.

You can use apple cider vinegar in any situation that you would use rice vinegar. Using equal parts will work.

2. White Wine Vinegar

The flavor of white wine vinegar is very similar to that of rice vinegar. It is somewhat bland, and has notes of general sweetness. It also has some hints of acidity, due to the fermenting of white wine to make the vinegar. 

White wine vinegar is particularly useful for dressings and sauces, but can also be used in sushi. It is a little less sweet than rice vinegar, so adding ¼ cup of sugar per tablespoon of white wine vinegar should even it out and replicate the flavor of rice vinegar.

3. Lemon or Lime Juice

Lemon juice is not one of the first choices as a rice vinegar replacement in sushi. In fact, it should be more of a last-option scenario. It will work, but doesn’t mimic the taste of rice vinegar. It is more tart than rice vinegar is, and will alter the flavor of your dish.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will make your sushi more tart. Like rice vinegar, its acidity will help preserve the sushi for longer. When using lemon or lime juice as a replacement, start with a few drops and add more if needed.

4. Champagne Vinegar

The flavor of champagne vinegar is very intricate and light, so it won’t really alter the taste of your sushi. Its mild flavor makes it an ideal rice vinegar replacement for any other recipe, too. If you have champagne vinegar on hand, it might be your best bet.

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5. Seasoned Rice Vinegar

As the name suggests, seasoned rice vinegar is a type of rice vinegar. So, if you can’t find any rice vinegar at the store but can find seasoned rice vinegar, it’s worth considering. It is made by adding salt and sugar to regular rice vinegar.

The two taste somewhat similar, but seasoned rice vinegar is stronger. For recipes that are already pretty seasoned, it can be just what you need. But for sushi, add less than you would regular rice vinegar so it doesn’t become the main flavor.

6. Sherry Vinegar

The reason rice vinegar is so popular in sushi is because it has the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Sherry vinegar possesses this trait too, making it a good candidate for a rice vinegar substitute in sushi.

Its taste is nuttier than rice vinegar and a bit richer, but this can enhance your foods even more. Using a one to one ratio of sherry vinegar will do the trick.

7. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is more acidic than rice vinegar is, so its flavor may be more overpowering. In sushi with rice vinegar, the flavor is hardly noticeable. This likely will not be the case with balsamic vinegar, so slowly add it and taste-test until it fits your preferences. 

How To Make Sushi Rice Without Rice Vinegar

To make sushi rice without rice vinegar, use any of the substitutes listed above. Apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar are particularly ideal. Then, boil some salt, vegetable oil, and sugar.

Once you’ve boiled your mixture, add cooked rice and thoroughly stir. Once the rice is dry, it can be used for sushi rolls. The difference will hardly be noticeable; if anything, the extra time spent adding a few more ingredients will create an improvement in the flavor of your sushi.

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Related Questions

Do you roll sushi with hot or cold rice?

You should always roll sushi with cold, or at least room temperature, rice. When rice is slightly cool, the vinegar sticks to it the best. If rice is too hot, it will be rubbery instead of sticky, making for a disappointing sushi roll.

What happens if you don’t rinse sushi rice?

In some cases, the label on rice will say “do not rinse.” In this situation, the rice has added vitamins and minerals and has already been cleaned. So, rinsing it would deplete it of these added nutrients.

However, if your rice does not have this label, it should be rinsed. For one, it gets rid of any possible bacteria. But rinsing sushi rice also helps it to become more sticky. Sushi rice contains more starch than other rice to make it sticky. Rinsing the rice will get rid of excess starch and make it just sticky enough to make sushi rolls. If you don’t rinse sushi rice, you may be left with rice that is too chewy.

How much rice vinegar should I put in my sushi rice? 

The amount of vinegar you use will depend on the amount of rice you’re cooking. So, for example, if you cook two cups of rice, use about ¼ cup of vinegar. This ratio can be applied universally, so about one-eighth of the amount of rice that you are using.


Rice vinegar is a very popular additive to sushi, because it adds a subtle sweetness and helps the seasonings stick to the rice. In addition, rice vinegar helps preserve the sushi and may keep mold away for a few extra days. If you don’t have any rice vinegar, there are a few other options you can use instead that work just as well.