Though a lot of people love balsamic vinegar in their salads, true connoisseurs know that sherry vinegar is the superior option. This tasty dressing imparts a well-rounded acidity that instantly elevates any dish to professional chef heights.
But precisely because it’s so unique, you might think it’s irreplaceable. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. There are plenty of things you can use as substitutes for sherry vinegar while maintaining the flavorful tartness of your favorite dish.
5 Best Ways to Substitute Sherry Vinegar
1. Rice Vinegar
When looking for the best substitute for sherry vinegar, there is no better option than rice vinegar. Sherry vinegar is derived from fermenting Spanish sherry wine for around six months. In contrast, manufacturers make rice vinegar by fermenting rice grains and using it to season Asian-style dishes.
So right off the bat, there seems to be a major difference between the two, both in terms of their origin and the type of fruit or grain used in fermentation.
However, despite the discrepancies, the two have a surprisingly similar flavor profile. Rice vinegar has the same rounded acidic bite, with a sweet aftertaste, along with some impressive health benefits. Therefore, it’s actually the perfect substitute for sherry vinegar.
When substituting, remember the amounts.
1 Tbsp of sherry vinegar = 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar.
However, be sure to select unseasoned rice vinegar when you’re using this alternative. Most kinds of rice vinegar are seasoned with salt, sugars, and spices to better suit Asian dishes. Because of this extra flavor, seasoned rice vinegar won’t impart the same flavor profile as an unseasoned one.
2. Red Wine or White Wine Vinegar
Since sherry vinegar is derived from sherry wine, replacing it with a different kind of wine vinegar seems like a no-brainer. Red wine or white wine vinegar both make an excellent substitute for sherry vinegar. However, red wine in particular has a stronger acidic bite than sherry vinegar. White wine vinegar is a bit milder, and dryer, yet it is still much stronger than sherry.
Both alternatives also lack the signature sweetness of sherry vinegar. So when using them, you may want to add a teaspoon of sugar, honey, or any kind of sweetener of choice to mimic sherry’s distinct flavor profile.
Accounting for red and white wine vinegar’s strength, adjust the amounts.
1 Tbsp of sherry vinegar =½ Tbsp of red or white wine vinegar.
This ratio is not fixed, so be sure to taste the dish and adjust the amounts if you feel the need to.
3. Balsamic Vinegar
When thinking of a substitute for sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar was likely the first thing that came to your mind. This delicious vinegar is the dressing of choice for high-end dishes and fancy salads everywhere, because of its rich acid kick. The flavor profile is strikingly similar to sherry vinegar, making balsamic a good alternative.
Moreover, because balsamic is also derived from grapes, it has a similarly sweet, fruity aftertaste as sherry does. However, balsamic has a much more dominant taste than sherry, which can easily overwhelm a dish. So when using it, be careful not to add too much, unless you’re a fan of eating balsamic vinegar with a side of salad.
1 Tbsp of sherry wine = 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar.
Another important thing to note is to use good balsamic vinegar. This dressing is a premium-grade food item, since authentic balsamic can only come from the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions in Italy. Not only that, but the fermentation process can last for up to 12 years, and pack a price tag of a whopping $200.
Therefore, that $12 bottle of balsamic you see on your local supermarket shelf is likely a poor-quality imitation that wasn’t aged properly. So if you’re going to use balsamic to substitute sherry vinegar, be prepared to make an investment.
4. Lemon Juice
If balsamic is too fancy for your liking, then humble lemon juice can serve as a good substitute for sherry vinegar. Lemon juice is the acid of choice for most dressings or fresh summer dishes. It elevates the natural richness of many Mediterranean dishes, and it pairs especially well with fish like salmon or cod. Its sour taste and slight sweetness make it a good alternative for sherry vinegar.
However, lemon juice’s downside is that it tastes like, well, lemon. It’s much milder in intensity than sherry vinegar, so you may need to add more of it to compensate.
1 Tbsp of sherry wine = 1 ½ Tbsp of lemon juice.
Be sure to taste the dish when adding the lemon, and adjust the amount if you feel it’s necessary. Furthermore, take care to use only freshly squeezed lemon juice, and not the bottled variety. Bottled lemon juice lacks that fresh, zesty flavor, making it a less desirable alternative to the real deal.
5. Sherry Wine
When looking for a substitute for sherry vinegar, why not go straight to the source? Professional chefs actually consider this wine as a classic ‘cooking wine’. This is because it has a delightful complex blend of nutty, dried fruit, and saline flavors. The combo is ideal for elevating the taste of many dishes, especially fruity desserts like apple pies, cherry tarts, or citrusy cakes like lemon, orange, and lime.
In terms of savory dishes, sherry wine pairs with hearty beef dishes like butter and toast. It can also work as a dressing for many nut-based salads, the sweetness complimenting the earthy flavor well.
However, though the wine has sweetness in spades, it’s still not vinegar. Therefore, it won’t have that acidic bite that makes sherry vinegar so unique. So it won’t work as a substitute in all dishes.
When substituting, keep track of the ratios.
1 Tbsp of sherry vinegar = 1 Tbsp of sherry wine.
Adjust the amount to your taste. Furthermore, be careful not to add too much, so your dish doesn’t turn out too sweet. More sherry wine won’t make the dish tarter. The only way to add tartness to it is to mix the sherry with another kind of vinegar like apple cider vinegar or plain alcoholic vinegar.