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October 14, 2023

Get Excited about Vinegar

by Mindy McCullough, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Vinegar is a jack of all trades.  It is considered to be medicinal in some cultures, it can remove odors, and is a cleaning agent. Vinegar can also be used to flavor foods. Vinegar has low to no sodium with a strong and powerful taste, making it a great flavoring agent.  Vinegar can help you meet your health goals and keep flavor in your life. It might leave one asking, what can’t vinegar do?

History of Vinegar

Vinegar can be traced back to 5000 BCE in Babylon.  History has it that vinegar was discovered when a bottle of wine was left in storage too long and went sour.  Vinegar has been touted for proposed medicinal benefits throughout history, including in early records from China, the Middle East, and Greece.  Some of these proposed medicinal benefits are still touted today.  However, research currently does not show clear benefits to using vinegar to treat minor ailments, chronic disease, inflammation, or support weight loss.

What is Vinegar?

Vinegar is made by a two-step fermentation process that yields a combination of acetic acid and water.  Vinegar is required to contain at least 4% acetic acid by the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA). The strong flavor and smell of vinegar can be contributed to its acetic acid content. Depending on the type of vinegar, flavors can widely range from sour to savory to sweet.

Vinegar is low in calories, ranging from 2-15 calories per tablespoon.  Nutrient composition ranges from zero in distilled vinegars to trace amounts in others.  Overall, vinegars do not have significant amounts of nutrients in them.  Some vinegars can have added sugar, like balsamic glaze, or are blended with grape juice, hence the importance of reading labels and ingredients lists before choosing a vinegar.  Most vinegars are no to low sodium and have no sugar making them a great low calorie, low sodium option for flavoring foods.

Using Vinegar in the Kitchen

Vinegar changes texture in foods by breaking down the structure of protein.  This helps to make the food item more tender.  Think about the actions of a marinade on meats and fish.  Most marinades contain vinegar or another acid.

Vinegar is also used to pickle foods.  Pickling is a preservation method that can make perishable foods last longer.  Less food waste for the win!  You can pickle many foods, such as red onions, cucumbers, and okra.  Many can be quick-pickled and left in the fridge for 2-3 weeks or some can be pickled and canned which extends the shelf-life further. Pickled vegetables make a great snack or a flavorful addition to tacos, sandwiches, salads, and bowl type dishes.

Vinegars make great salad dressings, add flavor to roasted or grilled vegetables, and taste amazing added to a bean salad.  Some vinegars even add a tangy contrast to the sweetness of fruits, ice cream, and other sweet treats.  A dash of vinegar can make rice fluffier, and it can help you perfect those poached eggs.  Use the descriptions below to help you pick the right vinegar for the job.

White Distilled Vinegar

Taste: Highly acidic, crisp and clean, neutral

Use: pickling, baking recipes, cleaning

Mix a small amount with milk for a quick buttermilk to use in recipes

Balsamic Vinegar

Taste: Sweet, bold, and rich

Use: salad dressings, marinades, roasted or grilled vegetables

Can be simmered to make a reduction that can be used on fruit or ice cream

Rice Vinegar

Taste: Mild sweet flavor that is less acidic

Use: dipping sauces, peanut sauce, cooking rice

Pairs well with Asian dishes like sushi and stir-fries

Wine Vinegar

Taste: Acidic and sharp

Use: Marinades, salad dressings, bean salads, cooking vegetables, cooking meat and fish

Apple Cider Vinegar

Taste: Lower acidity, faint apple flavor

Use: salad dressings, salad, pickling, bean salads, marinades, sweeter dishes

Add a splash to boiling water to make perfect poached eggs

Malt Vinegar

Taste: Strong acidic flavor

Use: sauces or dips

Sherry Vinegar

Taste: Nutty flavor

Use: Great for deglazing a pan to make a pan sauce

We hope this inspires you to get creative in the kitchen and try some different uses of vinegar to help add flavor without added sugar and salt.

Interested in learning more about healthy eating that will fit your lifestyle? An Avance Care dietitian is available to help. Book online at



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