What’s the Best Vinegar to Use for Pickling?

Want to know what vinegar is good for pickling? Pickling with vinegar is a relatively easy and quick method of food preservation. 

To ensure a safe, crisp, and consistently excellent result, it’s best to choose only the best vinegar for pickling. That way, you’d hardly need to worry about storing your fresh veggies whenever your gardening efforts pay off or you visit the grocery store. 

But how do you determine which vinegar to use when so many options are available on the market? This post will examine the specifications for pickling vinegar and what vinegar is good for pickling.

Which is the Best Pickling Vinegar?

The best pickling vinegar is the type with an acidity of at least 5% for food storage and preservation.

Because of the pH levels, vinegar has served as a very efficient preservative for several years. Acetobacter, a particular acid-producing bacterium, produces acetic acid in vinegar. Foods preserved with vinegar can stay significantly longer, sometimes even for several years, without needing refrigeration because the acidity of vinegar prevents the development of germs.

Therefore, acidity is crucial when selecting vinegar for food preservation. We need to make sure the vinegar we use to pickle with is acidic enough to begin with, since certain forms of bacteria may flourish in mildly acidic situations. Pickles need adequate preservation, so ensure the vinegar you choose has an acidity level of at least 5% or greater. In our post on dill vs sour pickle: differences and varieties explained, you can use pickling vinegar to try your hand at making shelf-stable pickles.

Types of Pickling Vinegar

What Vinegar Is Good For Pickling

There are many types of vinegar for pickling, each with its own upsides and drawbacks. We have fruit vinegar, malt vinegar, sugar vinegar, and even distilled or spirit vinegar. Pickling without vinegar is also an option. However, in this post, we shall focus on just three pickling vinegar: rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and malt vinegar.

Rice Vinegar

Compared to others, pickling with rice vinegar is preferred because of the mild taste. However, it may need to be combined with another vinegar to raise its acidity level to the recommended level of 5%.

It also has a slight sweetness from the rice, making it a perfect complement to dishes that call for sweetness or tang, like salad dressings. While you may buy a bottle of rice vinegar at the supermarket, making your own is more enjoyable. You can brew a bottle of fresh rice vinegar in your home with some “mother” of Vinegar, cooked rice or rice wine, water, and some perseverance.

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Rice vinegar comes from fermented rice. First, the sugars in rice are fermented to form alcohol (rice wine). After that, via a second fermentation process involving bacteria, it converts to the acid we call vinegar. A mildly delicious addition to marinades, pickles, salad dressings, or just sprinkling over sautéed veggies, pickling with rice vinegar produces a taste that is often mild and far less acidic than those made from malt, grape-based wine, or pure distilled white vinegar.

Rice vinegar may be labeled as both “rice vinegar” and “rice wine vinegar,” or, in this case, “rice pickling vinegar,” since it is officially converted into alcohol before it is produced into vinegar. Like the Japanese cuisine ingredient mirin, rice wine has a considerably sweeter character without the acid from the procedure’s second stage.

Balsamic Vinegar

Pickling With Balsamic Vinegar

Made from fermented grape juice, balsamic vinegar is renowned for its unusual, strong, complex taste and sour aftertaste as a popular condiment. Real balsamic vinegar may be expensive because it requires aging in barrels for months or years. Balsamic vinegar is becoming popular in culinary applications, notably marinades and salad dressings. People often use it as part of a heart-healthy diet or as a low-fat supplement.

Some people also think that pickling with balsamic vinegar is beneficial in itself. According to some ideas, balsamic vinegar may promote a bright complexion, weight loss, and even cholesterol reduction. Balsamic vinegar is a healthy food additive that contains no fat and barely any natural sugar. It has been proven to successfully lower cholesterol and maintain stable blood pressure. It contains probiotic microorganisms, and some research suggests it may help reduce appetite. Furthermore, it tastes great and is simple to incorporate into meals.

Although studies and awareness of the health benefits continue, there is hardly a reason against pickling with balsamic vinegar.

Malt Vinegar

If you have been somewhere with chips and fish on the menu, you must have heard of (or even tried) malt vinegar. The term “malt” typically refers to the process of germinating and drying barley grains. 

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In addition, it’s widely used for adding a toasty and rich flavor to an array of things like milkshakes and beers. Apart from being a versatile condiment in the world of fried food, it works in a fascinating way when it comes to pickling. With its strong acidity, malt vinegar can easily pickle watery vegetables like cucumbers, onions, etc. If you’re wondering whether pickled vegetables are healthy, look up our article on are vinegar pickled vegetables good for you and find out!

Malt vinegar is much bolder than other types of pickling vinegar. It boasts a dark brown color that changes the shade of the vegetables stored in it. Besides, it helps you enjoy a stronger taste than you expected. However, to make the most out of pickling with malt vinegar, you should note a simple fact—the combination of boldness and strength only goes well with bold veggies. 

Malt vinegar is available in various types: dark, light, and distilled. While the brown one helps with flavors, the white distilled ones bring a kick of robustness. However, all three link toward the mellower side of the acid spectrum, making them perfect for pickling.

How to Choose the Best Vinegar

Pickling With Vinegar

When preserving food quickly, probably nothing can leave pickling behind. However, pickling without vinegar (that too, the right one) may be a hard nut to crack. To decide what vinegar is good for pickling, you may need to consider several factors. They include, but are not limited to, the following;


Make sure the acidity of the vinegar you use is at least 5% or higher if you want to store your pickles well. “5% acidity” refers to the fact that 5% of a specific volume of vinegar is acetic acid. This is the level that shows that the pH level is low enough after the pickles have been cooked and processed. This is the secret of your pickles’ crunch and texture. 

In addition, you should also keep in mind that every meat, fruit, or vegetable holds a specific liquid content. This water content somehow dilutes the vinegar. Naturally, this dilution reduces the robustness of the acidity. Additionally, excessive water dilution may also obstruct the goal of preserving the food. So, check the acidity of your pickling vinegar, which must be at least 5%, before you buy it.

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Vinegar may be neutral, or it may add flavor. Generally, most recipes recommend the use of distilled white vinegar for pickling. It has more than 5% acidity. Besides, its flavor is neutral. Typically, the foods you want to pickle boast delicate flavor profiles. You will want to retain them at their best. 

For example, when you pickle cucumbers, you may expect to keep their subtle flavors intact, and you can do so by using white distilled vinegar. However, if you want to mask the natural flavor of cucumber, you can use vinegar with a bold flavor. Usually, veggies like onions call for strong alternatives like malt vinegar, while carrots and beetroot go well with cider vinegar.

Types of Vinegar

You can find pickling vinegar in different types. All of them feature unique characteristics. However, not all pickling vinegar works in the same way; neither their flavor nor taste are the same. The most common types include white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, rice vinegar and cider vinegar. 

Among them, pickle enthusiasts consider white vinegar as their go-to choice because of its distinct acidity and tart notes. Most importantly, it allows foods to maintain their color. On the other hand, malt and cider vinegar have separate fan bases. The malt variety is mainly used for making onion pickles, while the cider one is an excellent alternative for canning sweet pickles and peppers. 

The balsamic and wine vinegar go well with berries, pear, and blood orange. However, these types of vinegar are often less acidic. Therefore, check their acidic content before starting to use them for pickling.

What’s the Best Vinegar to Use for Pickling Summary

Vinegar has always been one of the most used food preservatives, making it ideal for pickling. Its acidic nature helps to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms in food and prevent spoilage. Now that you know what’s the best vinegar to use for pickling, you can go ahead and enjoy the tanginess!

*Always use glass, food-grade plastic, or enamelware while pickling with vinegar. Don’t use iron or copper, as these metals react with the acidic content of vinegar, which may produce toxic materials. 

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Eve MayHew

Eve Mayhew is a stay-at-home Mum, graphic designer and wife who takes more of a relaxed and practical approach to her lifestyle. She prefers to live a more stress-free life and enjoys food and drink in moderation by counting her blessings rather than counting the calories or feeling guilty over the odd soft drink or fast food fix every now and then. (Contact Author)