Is Rice Vinegar the Same as Rice Wine Vinegar?

rice wine vinegar

Asia is the largest continent on Earth, not in terms of the area only but with the diversity of the population as well.

Asian people are rich in culture.

They have a spectacular versatility when it comes to name and nomenclatures, religions, customs, traditions, and most importantly food.

Asian people are always experimenting when it comes to cooking food. They have a wide range of ingredients that impart a particular taste to their dishes.

A few ingredients are so confusing that they seem similar but are entirely different.

One such example is Rice wine and Rice Vinegar and their use has been popularized in many western countries as well.

Since you are in this article, you must be wondering as well, what’s the difference between the wine and the vinegar.

In this post, we hope to answer that question for you by looking at what these staples are, their nutritional values, uses, and more.

So, keep reading!

What is Rice Wine?

Rice wine is a sweet alcoholic drink that is enjoyed not only as a drink but is widely used for preparing numerous dishes, primarily Asian cooking.

It is produced from freshly steamed glutinous rice that is fermented to transform the sugars into alcohol in the presence of yeast.

To create the wine, lactic acid, yeast, and fungi are used to ferment rice and the final product will be alcohol.

Rice wine has an alcohol content of 18-25% ABV.

Rice wine is popular among Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian cuisines.

In China, it is used in making their popular Shaoxing wine and Shumai dumplings. Probably the most common type of rice wine you’ll see is sake.

It is mainly used in Japanese dishes and is commonly consumed as an accompanying beverage.

Moreover, this wine imparts a characteristic sweetness to marinades and a deep flavor to sauces. It can be both mild and strong depending upon the variety and age of the rice used.

Usually, it has a pale yellow to reddish-brown color.

What is Rice Wine Vinegar?

Rice vinegar, also called rice wine vinegar, is another byproduct of fermented rice.

It is created when the sugars in the rice break down and are converted to alcohol through the fermentation process.

This alcohol is then combined with acetobacters and changes to acetic acid or vinegar.

Acetobacters are a specialized genus of bacteria that are characterized by their ability to convert alcohol into acetate.

Additionally, the vinegar has a potent acidic taste similar to apple cider vinegar that puts a real kick into the dish that a recipe calls for.

As compared to other forms of vinegar, rice vinegar has a milder, lesser acidic taste and is sweeter than the former. It is a popular ingredient of the famous udon noodle soup and Korean cold noodle soup.

Other dishes that use rice vinegar include sushi rice, fried rice, salad dressings, etc. It also lends a bright flavor to sauces and is typically fortified with salt and sugar.

This vinegar comes in a variety of colors like black, red, and white, and surprisingly every color has a slightly variable taste!

Rice Vinegar Vs Rice Wine Vinegar – What Is The Difference?

Although both the ingredients are made by fermentation of rice, without a doubt, they have different characteristics, particularly in how they add flavor to your meals.

Because of the similarities in name, we tend to get them confused, especially when the vinegar is seen in the grocery store as rice wine vinegar; however, it is not wine.

Here are some of the potential differences between the two.

1) The Manufacturing Process

Rice wine and vinegar differ in their methods of processing. Here is how.

Rice wine, as mentioned above, has a sweet flavor and is a mildly alcoholic beverage. Not many of you may know, but it is the national beverage of Japan and is known as “Sake” there.

The manufacturing process of rice wine involves the fermentation of starch in the rice to produce alcohol.

The microorganisms used during the process are yeast, fungi, or lactic acid bacteria. Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Aspergillus oryzae are the respective yeast and mold popularly used in the making of the wine.

On the other hand, the vinegar is manufactured by fermenting the rice starch but the microbe used here is the acetobacters or acetic acid bacteria.

Mother of Vinegar or Mycoderma aceti is one popular example of acetobacters. Furthermore, rice vinegar is made from the dregs of fermented rice.

Sometimes, rice wine is also subjected to further processing for converting the alcohol into vinegar.

However, it is not an alcoholic beverage.

2) Variety in Flavor

Rice wine and rice vinegar have characteristically different tastes.

If you are given the two and asked to identify which one is wine and which one is vinegar, you can tell it by simply tasting a meal with them!

Unlike rice wine, rice vinegar is typically used in very small quantities.

The wine comes in different varieties depending upon the area and its proposed uses.

Types of Rice Wines

  • Huangjiu as Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing)
  • Sake is Japanese rice wine for drinking
  • Mirin is sweet Japanese rice wine for cooking. It is important to note that the word mirin is used with rice wine interchangeably.

Compared with the other varieties, these three have a mild flavor, low alcohol content, and are sweeter. The flavor and color of rice wine can be boosted using a different process of fermentation and adding spices or herbs to it.

Types of Rice Vinegar

The vinegar also has a small variety and is mostly sweet and acidic in taste. It is much similar to apple cider vinegar and is used in much lesser quantities as compared to the wine.

  • White rice vinegar is the regular rice vinegar
  • Chinese Rice Vinegar is known for its mellow taste
  • Black Rice vinegar- made from black glutinous rice
  • Seasoned Rice Vinegar is plain rice vinegar flavored with small amounts of sugar and salt.

3) Nutritional Content

The wine and the vinegar have particularly different nutrient profiles.

Note that both of them impart little nutrition to the consumer but the nutritional value can be a significant factor when accounting for the differences between the two.

Rice wine nutritional content

Around 5 ounces provide you with:

  • 201 calories
  • 7.5 grams of carbohydrate
  • 0 sugars
  • 0 salt

Rice vinegar nutritional content

A tablespoon of has:

  • 30 calories
  • 8 grams of carbohydrates
  • 8 grams of sugar
  • 710 mg of salt

The vinegar is usually processed with added sugar and salt. If you want to avoid the added sugar and salt, you can try unsweetened rice vinegar which has no calories, carbs, or sugars.

4) Purposed Uses

The major differences between rice wine and rice vinegar are their uses.

Uses of Rice Wine

Rice wine is a popular alcoholic beverage as well as a cooking ingredient.

As a flavor enhancer, it’s frequently added directly to foods or mixed into marinades or dipping sauces like teriyaki combined with soy sauce.

It is also ideal for stir fry and seafood dishes or to make dishes sweeter in general. Almost every Asian cuisine has its own unique wine varietal.

Fermented fruit, spices, and sugar cane are all used in the popular Cambodian rice wine liqueur Sombai.

Uses of Rice Vinegar

On the other hand, rice vinegar is only used for cooking purposes.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean rice vinegars are the most popular because of their mild taste and distinctive flavor, along with a pale yellow appearance.

Dark vinegar, such as Kurozu, is also common.

It is best used for marinades, salad dressings, and to pickle vegetables. Marinades, sauces, fried rice, pickled vegetables, and sushi all benefit from the vinegar’s flavor.

Sushi literally means “sour rice” or “sour-tasting,” owing to the dish’s traditional preparation, which required preserving fish in a mixture of fermented rice and salt.

Ultimately, to hustle the fermentation process and increase the rich flavor, rice vinegar is used.

4) Raw Consumption

Rice wine can be had on its own or as a beverage to a meal, such as the commonly consumed Chinese rice wine, mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine), and sake (dry Japanese rice wine). H

owever, unlike rice wine, rice vinegar cannot and should not be had on its own. It would be like drinking white vinegar or distilled white vinegar.

In fact, because of its potency, don’t be surprised if a recipe calls for double the amount of rice wine as it would the vinegar.

Medical Benefits

According to a study published by Medscape General Medicine, it is believed that these two products have certain medicinal benefits.

For example, the findings suggest that a traditional Japanese rice vinegar (Kurosu) inhibited the proliferation of human cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner.

In another clinical trial put forward by the Food Science and Nutrition Journal, it was found that rice wine could have antifungal and anti-aging effects.

There are far more potential health benefits associated with the wine and the vinegar; however, these few stood out.

 Rice Wine and Rice Vinegar Alternatives

If you don’t want to use or don’t have access to rice wine or vinegar, there are alternatives that you can use.

These will serve you with a similar taste.

Rice wine substitutes

  • Dry sherry and sugar
  • Pale dry sherry
  • Dry white wine
  • Gin
  • White grape juice
  • Red wine

For drinking

  • White wine
  • Dry vermouth
  • White grape juice for a nonalcoholic option

Rice vinegar substitutes

  • Apple cider vinegar makes a great alternative because of its distinct flavor. Add plus 1/4 teaspoon sugar.
  • Champagne vinegar
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Or white wine vinegar instead; for every tablespoon of rice vinegar, use the same amount of white wine plus 1/4 teaspoon sugar.
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar

Final Thoughts

Rice wine and rice vinegar are two popular staples of Asian food.

The two are often confusing because of their similar appearance and manufacturing process, people sometimes believe they are the same thing.

However, there are distinct differences.

Although both are prepared by the process of fermenting rice, they employ different microbes for it.

Rice wine uses yeast for converting the rice sugars to alcohol while rice vinegar requires acetobacters for its manufacturing.

Also, rice wine is an alcoholic beverage used for cooking and drinking purposes but rice vinegar is non-alcoholic and used only for cooking.

The former comes in a wide variety of tastes and can be combined with herbs and spices.

Whereas, the latter isn’t padded with flavor boosters.

The nutritional content of both the staples is different with vinegar containing sugars, carbs, and salts usually.

While the rice wine has no sugars and salts added in it.

Additionally, if you want to use something else, there are plenty of alternatives, like red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, and white wine vinegar.

Now, when you visit your nearest grocery store and see these two displayed on the shelf, you will be certain of their differences and how best to use them.