Rice Vinegar vs. Rice Wine Vinegar: What’s the Difference?

Name that vinegar.
Name that vinegar. / Kamilopafilms/iStock via Getty Images Plus

You’ve just returned from a grocery run with ingredients for a new dish when you realize the recipe calls for rice wine vinegar—and your bottle is labeled “rice vinegar.” Before you head back to the store to exchange it, you should know that the products are actually one and the same: It’s simply known by two (slightly) different names.

As MasterClass explains, rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar) is created by first fermenting rice into alcohol, and then further fermenting that alcohol into acetic acid. It can be found in everything from marinades and salad dressings to sushi rice. Rice vinegar is a little sweeter and less bitter than other types of vinegar, so if you’re looking for a substitute, adding a tad of sugar to apple cider vinegar should do the trick.

What you shouldn’t do is swap rice vinegar for rice wine, which is a different liquid. Like rice vinegar, rice wine is made by fermenting rice into alcohol—but it remains in its alcohol state. While rice wine is used in plenty of recipes, too, certain kinds can also just be drunk as a beverage. Saké, for example, is a Japanese rice wine. 

If a recipe requires rice wine and you don’t have any on hand, The Kitchn recommends using pale dry sherry or dry white wine. That said, rice wines vary widely when it comes to taste. If you want your dish to be the best it can be, it might just be worth buying the specific rice wine listed in the recipe.

[h/t MasterClass]

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