Tarragon Vinegar Substitute: Top 5 Terrific Choices

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Did you know?

There are hundreds of condiments from all over the world available to us all today.

We’re talking about Korean Gochujang, Italian Pesto, British Worcestershire sauce, Swedish Lingonberry Jam, Middle Eastern Tahini, Japanese Wasabi, and so many more.

But of all those, there is one condiment that a kitchen cannot, should not go without.
Vinegar.

The Condiment That’s As Old As Time

Believe it or not, people have been using this since 3000 BC in Egypt and Babylon for various applications.

In 5000 BC, during the Romans’ eminence in history, a lot of legionnaires drank this – a poor man’s wine known as Posca. If you would recall, Jesus was offered this at his Crucifixion.

Perhaps it’s the ease in producing this which made it so popular then.

The simple two-step process includes fermentation without oxygen and then allowing oxygen in for the production of water, amino acid, and other compounds.

In the Middle Ages, production has become professionalized.

Orleans in France is known for its very specific process.

Alegar from the malt is produced in England.

Balsamico was invented in Modena, Italy.

It took a while for the rest of the world to follow, but follow they did.

In the 19th century, the rest of the world followed. Germany had a large factory that created the distilled, white variant.

It was also around this time that Japan made its version from rice.

Soon after, Louis Pasteur discovered the type of bacteria found in fermented substances.

This has helped revolutionize the production of this condiment around the world, making it cheaper and more accessible to a lot of people.

The Hundreds of Vinegar to Choose From

With hundreds now available from all over the world coming from various sources, don’t be surprised if you see a whole grocery aisle dedicated to this condiment.

You’re probably familiar with fruit types coming from common origins like apples and tomatoes.

But there are also those you probably haven’t heard of until now like persimmon, jujube, and wolfberries.

Palm or coconut and cane is a common source too, especially from South East Asia and other tropical regions.

Grain sources include malt, rice, wheat, millet, and sorghum.

Finally, there’s spirit that comes from chemically-made acetic acid like sherry.

Some variants have been made better and more flavorful by steeping in different herbs and spices.

One of these is Tarragon Vinegar.
And it’s truly a treat to your tastebuds!

What in the World is Tarragon Vinegar?

It’s as simple as it sounds.

This is fresh tarragon sprigs steeped in any plain-flavored white variant like cider, rice, or white wine.

Leave it there for a week and you’ll get a hint of the herb.

Let it suffuse the liquid for a month and you’ve got a really good seasoning.

Tarragon is not as favored in a lot of dishes as parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme.

But this deserves to be on your grocery list or in a spot on your herb patch.

Prized in French cuisine, this has a delicate licorice flavor mixed with a cool splash of mint.

It is so distinctive, Bernaise sauce on asparagus and steak would taste awfully blah without this herb.

Now imagine adding this leafy seasoning to our deliciously sour condiment.
This here is another proof of how magical simplicity is.

Making Dishes Extra Special

Aside from recipes that traditionally call for Tarragon, many others would benefit from having this in the mix – especially our featured ingredient.

• Poached Eggs
• Basic Salad Dressing with Herby Balsamico
• Tuna Salad with Home-made Mayo
• Radishes Sauteed in Wine
• Stuffed Porkchops with Provolone and Vinaigrette
• Market Basket Soup
• Pumpkin Clam Chowder
• Shrimp Coleslaw

When You Run Out Of It

Once you fall in love with our featured ingredient, it’s hard not to prepare meals that will require it.

If you open your fridge one day and can’t find this, here are some suitable substitutes:

White Wine Vinegar

Fermented from white wine, it has a fruity note (wines are made from grapes) and is not as acidic as the distilled white variant.

That mildness makes this a favorite in pickling and braised foods.

It also is great in salads, giving those appetizers a brighter, zestier flavor.

Why Will This Work?

This is considered to be the best alternative because it has a very delicate flavor and won’t overpower your dish.

Substitution Details

If the recipe requires a cup, use a cup of this white wine product as well.

You can add a small sprinkling of the dry flavoring or a fresh sprig if you want that taste to come out.

Additional Tips

If you were wondering if the red wine type will work, the answer is NO.

This is more robust, a whole lot deeper, and has a kick that’s why it favors beef, veal, and other red meat compared to its lighter counterpart that is better with poultry and seafood.

Champagne Vinegar

This is very similar to the first possible alternative because it also has a muted tartness that is great for salads and deglazing.

Also, the champagne this is derived from made use of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

Why Will This Work?

Its lack of a punch – that strong tang – makes this a great replacement for our featured ingredient and, more importantly, matches the dishes listed above.

Substitution Details

The ratio for swapping this with the other is 1:1.

Additional Tips

Because it is extremely mild, don’t use this for simmering or boiling.

This is better served in vinaigrettes and salads.

But if this is the only one you’ve got at home, try adding this to the pot once you’ve turned the heat off.

Rice Vinegar

Prominent in Asian cuisine, this rice product has a mellow tartness mixed with a lovely sweetness that makes it perfect for a lot of dishes.

Arguably the easiest kind to process, it is made by letting cooked rice with yeast and a starter ferment for two weeks, mixing it a couple of times every day in between.

The traditionally crafted product is still favored by many today over commercially produced ones.

Why Will This Work?

It will complement the star of the dish rather than overpowering it, as evidenced by the simplest of dishes – sushi rice.

Substitution Details

Use two cups of this rice condiment for every cup of our featured ingredient.

Additional Tips

If you haven’t used this alternative before and you’re scared that the 1:2 ratio is just too much, try adding it per tablespoon and tasting your dish so that you get the right balance.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Compared to the first two alternatives in the list (and if you don’t have an Asian background), it’s highly likely that this is the souring condiment you’ve got in your kitchen.

And compared to the others in the list, this is a bit more acidic, its sharpness mellowed only by its fruity quality.

This is made oh-so-simple by slicing up apples and putting them in a jar with water.

The jar is left for a few days, allowing its contents to ferment in its sugar.

The great thing about this is that the ‘mother’ is also formed in this procedure which can be used for other vinegar-making projects.

Why Will This Work?

First of all, you have this at home. Second and more importantly, its fruitiness counters the acidity which makes it a fitting proxy for our missing ingredient.

Substitution Details

For every tablespoon of our featured ingredient, use only half of apple cider.

Because the sourness is more highlighted with this alternative, you could use this in pork dishes and more complex recipes like chowders.

Additional Tips

If you think that this is just too sour for your recipe, give plain apple cider a try.

That has a tartness also but its sweetness is more pleasant to most people.

Lemon Juice

This tart fruit is the go-to for souring dishes, especially when you want that fresh flavor.

It is also the substitute for any vinegar, even when making other condiments like mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, chili paste or sauce, pico de gallo, salsa, chimichurri and so many more.

Why Will This Work?

It is sour.

Sure, it’s at the bottom of this list because, technically, this has citric acid and not acetic acid like the other vinegars.

But if you’re after the bright zest than pungent acidity for a particular dish that requires our featured ingredient, use lemons over all those listed above.

Substitution Details

With this particular food item, it’s hard to be specific with the ratio for replacement.

It’s best to add bit by bit and tasting it to check the balance.

Additional Tips

This works best for dishes with fresh fruits and vegetables than in meaty stews.

Or You Could Use Tarragon – Just the Herb!

If you have this at home – whether it’s a bunch of fresh sprigs or a bottle of dried, shredded ones – use this instead.

Just remember that if you’re going for the latter, you will need to add less because

There are several ways for you to achieve the tartness required in the recipe.

Any of the vinegar listed above will work.

But only Tarragon will lend that distinct minty and licorice flavor.

Using this as a replacement for Tarragon Vinegar would be the best solution.

Last Updated on July 22, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.