Rice Wine vs. Rice Vinegar: What Is the Difference? (Read!)

When we speak of rice wine and rice vinegar, we almost always think they’re the same. It is because these two are cooking condiments and are mainly used in Asian cooking. Also, these two came from rice, but how do they differ? What makes rice wine and rice vinegar different? Let’s find out!

Rice wine is an alcoholic beverage for drinking but can also be for cooking. On the other hand, Rice vinegar is only for cooking. The former has a sweet and alcoholic taste, while the latter has an acidic taste. While both have the same names, you shouldn’t use one to replace the other.

Rice wine and rice vinegar are my favorite culinary staples. But, amidst their similar names, they are not the same. However, you may be wondering if one may be used instead of the other. So, you need to know more about each one!

This article will cover all the differences between rice wine and rice vinegar. This way, you’ll understand their uses and see whether you can use them interchangeably. You’ll also learn about the alternatives of the two.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Rice Wine vs. Rice VinegarPin

Is rice wine the same as rice vinegar?

Rice wine is not the same as rice vinegar. Although both condiments come from rice, they have different properties and purposes that set one apart from the other.

Rice wine is a rich, alcoholic drink that you may use in food preparation and direct consumption. On the other hand, Rice vinegar is commonly used in sushi, fried rice, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings. 

Even though they have similar names, they should not be confused. In general, think of both as regular wine and vinegar. You won’t use vinegar in exchange for wine, and vice versa.

Let’s understand each one on their own.

What is rice wine?

Rice wine is a typical liquor that you may consume and cook with most of the time. It is known as sake in Japan and is the country’s national beverage. Mirin from Japan and Huangjiu from China are two more varieties used in cooking.

To generate alcohol, you should ferment rice starches with yeast, fungus, and lactic acid bacteria. For example, Aspergillus oryzae, a mold, transforms starches into sugars, while Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast, creates alcohol.

What is rice vinegar?

Rice vinegar is produced through fermentation of the starches in rice with an acetic acid bacterium known as Mother of Vinegar (Mycoderma aceti) and tiny amounts of rice wine to convert the sugars into alcohol, which is subsequently converted into acetic acid.

To confuse things, people often refer to rice vinegar as “rice wine vinegar.” It’s like this name even though it is not an alcoholic beverage despite having “wine” in its name. First, however, you should know that it is not rice wine.

What is the difference between rice wine and rice vinegar?

Although rice wine and Rice vinegar come from rice and are popular condiments in Asian Cuisine, you should know that they differ significantly. Here are some of the noteworthy differences between the two:

Rice wine vs. rice vinegar taste and flavor

Rice wine has a different taste and flavor than Rice vinegar. While Rice wine has a sweet and flavorful taste, Rice vinegar has a sour and acidic taste. Thus, Rice wine is mainly for consumption while Rice vinegar is mainly for cooking. Still, Rice wine is also famous as a cooking condiment. 

There are several varieties of rice wine. The most common rice wine variants are Huangjiu (Chinese rice wine), mirin (Japanese cooking wine), and sake (Japanese drinking wine). They have a sweet, mild flavor and are generally lower in alcohol concentration when compared to other rice wines.

There are other additional rice wine variants on the market, each with its distinct flavor and color due to the fermenting process and other ingredients such as spices, herbs, or fruits.

Rice vinegar has a sweet, acidic flavor comparable to other vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar. Rice vinegar, unlike rice wine, is often used in modest amounts. It is not suggested to substitute one for the other due to the significant taste variations.

Rice wine vs. rice vinegar uses and cooking

Although Rice wine and Rice vinegar are popular cooking condiments, they differ in their uses and cooking needs. In addition, since Rice wine is sweet and alcoholic, it has a different effect on food compared to the sour and acidic effect of Rice Vinegar.

Rice wine is both a culinary ingredient and a popular alcoholic beverage. It is typically added straight to foods or into marinades or sauces such as teriyaki as a flavor enhancer.

Most Asian nations have their wine varieties. For example, Sombai, a famous Cambodian rice wine liquor, contains fruits, flavors, and sugar cane. Dansul also referred to as gamju, is a creamy rice wine popular in South Korea.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean rice vinegar are the most common due to their unique taste and yellowish hue. Dark vinegar, such as Kurozu, is also popular. Marinades, sauces, fried rice, pickled vegetables, and sushi benefit from the vinegar’s taste.

Sushi translates to “sour rice” or “sour-tasting” due to the old method of keeping fish amid fermented rice and salt. However, rice vinegar was eventually utilized rather quicken the fermenting process and enhance the taste.

Rice wine vs. rice vinegar nutrition

Both rice wine and vinegar are low in nutritional value. Thus, you shouldn’t rely on both if you’re pushing for a healthy condiment. It’s hard to compare their nutritional compositions because of their various applications.

A 5-ounce serving of wine has 201 calories, 7.5 grams of carbs, and 0 grams of sugar and salt. A tablespoon of flavored rice vinegar has 30 calories, 8 grams of carbs, 8 grams of sugar, and 710 milligrams of salt. 

Seasoned rice vinegar contains sugar and salt, so choose a flavorless kind if you’re attempting to cut back on these elements. Sugar-free rice vinegar, on the other hand, has no calories, carbohydrates, or sugar.

Rice wine vs. rice vinegar health

Since Rice wine and Rice vinegar give little nutrients, they don’t promote much when it comes to health. 

In short, you’ll think of both as mere condiments and not something you can rely on to improve your health. 

However, in most cases, both the Rice wine and Rice vinegar give tiny health benefits worth noting when consumed moderately. 

Can you substitute rice wine for rice vinegar?

No, you cannot substitute rice wine for rice vinegar. It is because rice wine gives sweetness and a bit of an alcoholic taste to food. Thus, it’s completely different from Rice vinegar’s acidic and sour taste. For this reason, you’re better off searching for other alternatives to Rice wine.

What are the best substitutes for rice wine?

Rice wine is ideal for both cooking and drinking. The most popular varieties include Huangjiu, Mirin, and Sake. Thus, if you have no other options available, you can use alternatives like white wine, white grape juice, dry vermouth, or dry sherry.

Can you substitute rice vinegar for rice wine?

No, you cannot substitute rice vinegar for rice wine. Rice vinegar gives a sour and acidic flavor to food. Thus, it will give an entirely different effect to your food compared to the sweetness and alcoholic taste of Rice wine that you expect. Thus, you’ll want to find better alternatives to it.

What are the best substitutes for rice vinegar?

If you have no Rince vinegar, you can find other types of vinegar ideal to replace it. Some of the best types of vinegar to replace Rice vinegar include:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Champagne vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • White balsamic vinegar

You can also use acidic fruit juices like lemon or lime. Further, these citrusy acids can give a fresh scent to your food.

Rice wine or rice vinegar for sushi?

If you’re having sushi, you should go for Rice vinegar rather than Rice wine. The most typical applications for rice vinegar include sushi, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings. 

Add a pinch of sugar to other vinegar such as apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, or white wine vinegar to quickly replace rice vinegar. Despite their famous names, rice vinegar and rice wine should not be confused.

Rice wine or rice vinegar for stir fry?

If you’re stir-frying, you’ll find it better to use Rice wine rather than Rice vinegar. Rice wine is a sweet liquor that you may use in cooking as well as drinking. Thus, you’ll find Rice wine better in giving your food flavor, especially when you’re stir-frying.

Rice vinegar is commonly used in sushi, fried rice, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings. Even though they have similar names, they should not be confused.


In a nutshell, Rice wine and Rice Vinegar are different, and you won’t find it ideal for replacing one for the other. Rice wine is an alcoholic beverage that you may also use in cooking.

Rice vinegar, on the other hand, is solely used in cooking. The former has a sweet, alcoholic flavor, while the latter has an acidic flavor. Therefore, even though they have the same name, you should not use one instead of another.



Image credits – Canva

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