Got a recipe that calls for apple cider vinegar, but you’re all out? No problem! Use any of these simple apple cider vinegar substitutes in your baked goods!
I try to keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar on hand at all times. So many recipes call for it! Apple cider vinegar has become a super popular ingredient because of it’s versatility, fruity flavor, and apparent health benefits including the fact that it may assist in weight loss and blood sugar control.
Apple Cider Vinegar’s Role in Baking
I find replacing apple cider vinegar to be pretty intuitive in simple recipes like salad dressings, but baked goods are another story. Baking involves more than just flavor — there’s chemistry going on here!
Apple cider vinegar’s function in most baked good recipes is to supply acid. The acid reacts with a base to leaven our baked goods by creating little bubbles. With proper leavening, our baked goods rise appropriately and have a better crumb. The base we use is typically baking soda.
Baking powder, by the way, is actually a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar (an acid). This is why you’ll often see acids like apple cider vinegar in recipes that include baking soda, but not necessarily ones that include baking powder. I don’t recommend using baking powder as an apple cider vinegar (and baking soda) substitute, unless you are a very experienced baker. Baking powder can totally mess with the flavor of your baked goods when used in incorrect amounts.
Fun fact: Did you ever do that experiment as a kid where you made a baking soda and vinegar volcano? The same reaction that makes your volcano explode is what makes your cake rise.
In addition to it’s leavening action, apple cider vinegar has a distinctive taste. Depending on how much a recipe calls for, this extra flavor may or may not be detectable or important to the end product.
So, what’s the best apple cider vinegar substitute? It really depends! Read on to find out more!
As you might have guessed, other varieties of vinegar make the best apple cider vinegar substitutes. All vinegars have the same type of acid (acetic acid) though in slightly different concentrations.
Most types of vinegar have about the same low pH, which is somewhere between 2 and 3, and this level of variation is small enough that they’re pretty interchangeable for leavening purposes. This means any of the vinegars below can be directly swapped for apple cider vinegar in a recipe. In other words, use 1 tablespoon of any of these vinegars in place of apple cider vinegar.
Flavor variations are a different story and will be talked about in some detail below!
1. White Vinegar
White vinegar has the most neutral flavor, which is why I find it to be the best substitute for apple cider vinegar in baking. I know I can use it without any odd flavors showing up! I also always have a bottle of white vinegar on hand, since it’s super cheap and versatile!
2. Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar has a fruity flavor, which is different from the fruity flavor of apple cider vinegar, but might be a nice change of pace in certain dishes. It’s my second favorite apple cider vinegar substitute for baking. It’s main difference from apple cider vinegar is it’s slight pinkish color, which might be detectable in some recipes depending on how much of it you use.
3. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is another favorite with fruity tones. Whereas red wine vinegar includes flavor notes from red wine, white wine vinegar tastes more like (you guessed it!) white wine. It’s also a really good substitute for apple cider vinegar in baked goods. It has the advantage of being clear, so there’s no risk of imparting your baked goods with a funky coloring.
4. Champagne Vinegar
I actually LOVE using champagne vinegar in place of apple cider vinegar. It’s fruity, mild, and quite similar to white wine vinegar. It’s an excellent substitute for apple cider vinegar. The only reason I don’t use more of it is because it’s less widely available than red and white wine vinegar.
5. Unseasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
Rice vinegar can be found in the international foods section of most supermarkets. It’s pale in color and tastes mildly like rice, but really only in large amounts. So for the most part it’s just fine as an apple cider vinegar substitute! Just make sure your rice vinegar is unseasoned. Seasoned rice vinegar has extra sugar and salt, which can mess with the flavor of your recipe.
6. Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar is made from malted grains. It’s grainy, yeasty taste might remind you a bit of beer, but if you’re using less than a tablespoon of malt vinegar probably wont alter the flavor of your baked goods.
7. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is the one variety that I’d really caution you against using in place of apple cider vinegar. Balsamic vinegars can vary a lot in terms of flavor, quality, and acidity, all of which can alter your results in baking. They can even be pretty sweet! You’re better off using a different vinegar.
If you absolutely love to experiment in the kitchen and want to give it a go, use a lighter, more tart variety of balsamic vinegar in order to get the acidity and sour taste you need in your recipe. You could even go so far as to test the pH of your balsamic with some litmus paper.
As luck would have it, fruit juices are highly acidic and make great apple cider vinegar substitutes! They can also add distinctive flavors to your dishes.
Fruit juices are a little more tricky to use in place of apple cider vinegar substitutes, due to greater variations in pH and flavor. We’ll talk about how to work around those obstacles below!
8. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice, like vinegar, generally has a pH between 2 and 3, which is about the same as apple cider vinegar. Yay! This means you can use a tablespoon of lemon juice for every tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in your recipes, or cup of lemon juice for every cup of apple cider vinegar (though that would be a LOT!).
Lemon juice is my go-to fruit juice apple cider vinegar substitute. It can add lemony flavor to your recipe, even in amounts as small as a tablespoon. This can be a good or not-so-good thing depending on the recipe! Many of us tend to keep a few lemons stashed in the fridge at all times, so this is also a super convenient option.
9. Lime Juice
From a functional perspective, lime juice works just as well as lemon juice in place of apple cider vinegar. It has about the same pH, which is what we need for leavening. The only downside to using lime juice is that the flavor might not work as well in as many recipes.
10. Orange Juice
Orange juice is slightly less acidic than all of the other options we’ve discussed so far, with a pH somewhere in the 3 to 4 range. I find this doesn’t affect the outcome of most recipes, and some types of recipes, like muffins, are particularly forgiving. Orange juice will obviously add some orange flavor, as well as a bit of sweetness due to it’s higher sugar content. This shouldn’t be an issue when used in small amounts (less than a tablespoon or so).
11. Apple Juice
Apple juice has the highest pH of our options discussed so far, being somewhere in the range of 4. It also has more sugar than options like vinegars, lemon and lime juice. (Definitely make sure you’re using unsweetened apple juice to compensate for this!) Again, this might not matter in small amounts. If you’re concerned about the acidity you could increase the amount by a smidge (and really, just a smidge — 10% or so). It’s also the only of our substitutes that tastes like apples, which can be a good thing when you’re replacing apple cider vinegar!
12. Citric Acid
Citric acid is a great pantry staple to keep on hand. It’s sold in powdered form and can be used to lower the pH of a recipe while adding a hint of sourness — which is exactly what we need here! In general you should be able to substitute ⅛ teaspoon of citric acid plus a tablespoon of water for every tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a recipe calls for, however the acidity of commercial citric acid can vary by brand in my experience, so I recommend experimenting a bit.