Last Updated on 28th July 2022 by Pauline Loughlin
When rice is fermented, it can be used to make rice vinegar, or rice wine or rice wine vinegar. All of these can be used for many of the same dishes you cook, but they don’t produce the same flavour. Your food will taste different and have different characteristics depending on which one you use, so let’s compare them and find out the differences between rice vinegar vs rice wine vinegar.
The fermentation process is similar among all of these different rice liquids, but there are some factors that are different about them. The three liquids cannot be used interchangeably, and they are different from one another. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that rice wince, rice wine vinegar, and rice vinegar are three names for the same thing.
What Is Rice Vinegar?
Looking at rice wine vs rice vinegar, different parts of fermented rice are used to make these. For rice vinegar, you use the dregs from fermented rice. That is also the part known as the lees, and it is kind of like the leftover solid parts. Basically, anything that isn’t liquid is the dregs, and that is what’s used to make rice vinegar. It’s a potent liquid that you don’t want to drink on its own, just like you would not drink white vinegar on its own. It needs to be diluted and is often used for cooking so that some of the potency is cooked out and watered down.
Once these dregs are prepared into vinegar, then all the alcohol has disappeared out of them. You don’t have to worry about there being any alcohol content left in rice vinegar and making anyone drunk who eats the food. So, when we compare rice vinegar vs rice wine, the main difference in the characteristic is the alcohol level. That’s primarily why you would use one or the other.
This is a vinegar that has a low acidity level, making it milder than western vinegars. If you find the white vinegar is too strong for your liking and you want something that isn’t as strong, then rice vinegar may do the trick. Looking at white vinegar vs rice vinegar, there is a definite difference in how strong one is compared to the rother. The Asian or rice vinegar will always be milder and not have quite as potent a flavour or smell.
What Is Rice Wine?
Rice wine goes through a fermentation process as well. It is made from glutinous rice that has been freshly steamed to make the best rice wine. This is a wine with a low alcohol content, compared to other kinds of wines, like those made from barley hops. It’s also low in alcohol content compared to most beers. A common kind of rice wine you may have heard of is sake, which is very popular throughout Japan and other Asian countries.
Mirin is a common rice wine as well, and comparing rice wine vinegar vs mirin, the difference is in the vinegar content. They both contain alcohol, but you use them for different purposes. You can use the words mirin and rice wine interchangeably, as mirin is simply a kind of rice wine.
Rice wine is used to make dishes sweeter, and it may be added to stir fry, veggies, and soups. Sherry is used as a substitute in many western parts of the world, as it is more readily available and more popular. It is very similar to rice wine as well. If you are comparing mirin vs rice wine vinegar, you will find that they are very different in their flavours. The rice wine vinegar will heighten the flavour of a dish, whereas the mirin or rice wine will sweeten it. These cannot be used interchangeably since they both alter the profile of a dish considerably and in different ways.
What Is Rice Wine Vinegar?
This type of vinegar retains it alcohol content. Pay close attention to what you are buying and what it is titled. There are subtle differences between all three of these, and your food will turn out different based on whether you are using rice wine vinegar vs white wine vinegar, or rice wine vs rice wine vinegar. Pay close attention to what the recipe calls for that you are using. You could end up severely altering the flavour of the food and making it not quite taste right if you use the wrong ingredient.
Rice wine vinegar is made by fermenting the starch from rice using Mother of Vinegar. This creates something that is a cross between rice wine and rice vinegar. You get all the perkiness and flavour intensity of a vinegar with the alcohol content and sweetness of rice wine.
So this vinegar is a bit sweeter than regular rice vinegar. Comparing rice wine vinegar vs rice vinegar, you can use these on the same dishes, but you get different flavour results. Your rice wine vinegar will make the food sweeter than the plain rice vinegar will. After the fermentation process, some rice wine is added, and this sweetens up the end product even more. The effect this has on the vinegar is that it turns the sugar into alcohol and then into an acid called acetic acid.
Many people will use the terms rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar interchangeably, but as you can see but the way they are fermented and processed, that isn’t the right way to classify them. They are not the same thing, and you’ll get a different flavour in whatever dish you are making when using rice wine vinegar vs rice wine.
You also don’t want to mix the rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar up with red wine vinegar. The flavour profile is a bit different with that one too. When we look at rice wine vinegar vs red wine vinegar, the red wine vinegar will be more acidic and taste a bit different. The red wine vinegar is closer to traditional vinegar like white vinegar. It does retain its alcoholic content, though. Anytime vinegar has the word “wine” in it, it will have some alcohol.
Now that you understand some of the difference, we hope you won’t confuse these and won’t feel the need to use them interchangeably. Understanding the differences between the different kinds of wines and vinegar help you to make more suitable choices for whatever you are cooking and ensures that you don’t make a mistake when buying ingredients from the grocery.
I'm Pauline, a retired patisserie chef, mother of four and now a full time food blogger! When i'm not cooking i love long walks, reading thriller novels and spending time with my grandkids. Head to my about me page to learn more about the woman behind the food! You can find my Facebook here
Thursday 19th of August 2021
Hi Pauline! I used to be able to get rice wine vinegar in my local grocery store, but I haven’t been able to find it for about 15 years. I’ve tried oriental food stores, even tried ordering it. Sure I can get it on Amazon for $18/ 20 oz bottle - yikes. Do you know any place I can get it for a normal price? I’m willing to buy a case if needed. I have a slaw recipe that just isn’t the same with regular rice vinegar! TIA - Katie