I’m not exactly big on vinegar, but every now and then I’d grab a bottle to change my food’s flavor.
I always keep a bottle in my pantry and sometimes I do fancy buying a different vinegar. Well the truth is, whether you love it or you don’t, it’s a kitchen staple.
So, here goes the question, is vinegar vegan?
Now I know there are so many types of vinegar out there. So I went to look up as much as I can just so I consolidate all the answers right here. Keep your fingers crossed for your favorite vinegar!
How Vinegars Are Made
In general, vinegars are simply made by fermentation, which is what makes them sour, just like with yogurt and pickles.
This is because fermentation creates acid by breaking down sugar molecules into alcohol and then converting it into acetic acid.
The level of sourness also depend on the length of fermentation. For example, other products of fermentation such as cheese and wine are not sour like vinegar.
If a wine’s seal gets broken in storage, it will eventually turn into vinegar. Get the picture?
The sources also vary of course, although vinegars are mostly made from fruits or grains. Sometimes it’s a mixture of different sources.
But whether it’s just one source or more, the combination (or lack of it) is what creates the unique flavors.
Common Sources Of Vinegar
- Wine or spirits
- Grains (rice, wheat, barley, oat)
- Fruits (grapes, apple, palm, cane)
- Wood products (beech, oak, birch)
When it comes to commercial production, the process is a bit longer than the traditional means. As you’d expect, this is to improve the final product’s taste, flavor, and its shelf-life, most of all.
There are also different methods that manufacturers use to produce vinegar. The following are some of them:
Different Methods Of Vinegar Production
Oldest method known. Really slow but it produces high quality vinegar. Fermentation using alcohol is done in casks or barrels with holes. However, the process can take 1-3 months.
This traditional method is done by leaving the juice or sap in a container under the sun for several days. The container must have a cover that also allows passage of air. Also best for DIYs.
Generator Fermentation Other names: German Method/Quick Process/Trickling Method
Newer and faster method. Requires the use of an alcohol substrate, which the fermenting bacteria will react to in a chamber to create vinegar. Also used to create distilled vinegar.
Faster and more efficient for industrial businesses but it requires a special equipment/machine. After oxidation, filtration and pasteurization must also be done, but the entire process only takes 1-2 days.
Also note that manufacturers may also add other ingredients to the vinegar while using in any of the methods above.
These additional ingredients are what can make a vinegar vegan or NOT. Refiners and preservatives are common among commercial vinegars.
A “mother” or strain of fermenting bacteria must be present to create vinegar. Ideally, this will come from the actual bacteria/yeast itself.
However, solutions that have undergone fermentation already, and are therefore carrying the strains, are also common.
- Ethanol (from fermented fruits)
- Yeast enzymes
- Fermenting bacteria such as acetobacter
Fermentable liquids like sugar solutions are also a choice, although they take longer to become vinegar.
Adding fermenters speed up the process, especially for manufacturers who must produce more vinegar in the shortest time possible.
Is Vinegar Vegan?
Most vinegars are vegan. You’d think the same I’m sure because the most common sources are plants anyway, right?
However, some sources of vinegar, or the vinegar itself may contain additives or enhancers from animal products. Yikes!
The most common animal product found in some wine, beers, and champagnes is also known as isinglass.
Made from the swim bladders of fishes, isinglass helps to clarify beers, champagnes, and wines.
Isinglass is also a common fining or purifying agent for these beverages. This means that vinegars from these sources may NOT be vegan.
In wines, isinglass is a known fining agent along with chitosan (from crustaceans) and casein (from milk).
In addition, red wines often have albumin (egg whites). Other wines may also use blood or gelatin (from animal connective tissues). Yep, that’s all animal products! So be careful with wine vinegars!
Wines can actually ferment fine naturally without aid but this will take a long time. Producers, of course, will want to make more wine faster, so they resort to fining agents as a shortcut.
However, manufacturers can also choose vegan-friendly fining agents such as bentonite clay and activated charcoal. This means there are wines, champagnes, and beers, including their vinegar versions, that remain vegan.
Furthermore, vinegars with flavors or infusions (and sugars!) may not be vegan.
Always check the flavors in the ingredients, and if that flavor isn’t straightforward enough, then just step away from it. For example, when it says “natural flavors”, but they don’t tell you what they really are.
Yes you can probably see through the bottle, but with food processing these days, trust me that’s not enough.
The Most Common Types Of Vinegar Around The World
Yes they all taste different! Some are best for cooking while some are ideal for dressings. There are also vinegars for pickling and marinating.
Color & Flavor
Apple cider or apple must
Golden brown; tart and fruity taste
Trebbiano grape must
Dark brown; sweet and sour
Not all (authentic ones only)
Beer (any brew)
Light gold; sharp, malt taste depending on the brew
Black Fig (Fig/balsamic fig)
Green or purple figs
Deep gold to dark brown; thick, sweet and sour
Sugar cane juice
Dark yellow to golden brown; mildly sharp taste
Champagne (red and white grapes)
Light yellow to golden yellow; lighter and mellow taste
Cloudy white; sharp, yeasty taste
Dark brown; rich and fruity
Distilled alcohol or wood products
Clear; light, weak flavor
Color and taste depends on fruit flavor
Light yellow to dark orange-brown; smooth and rich with a hint of floral
Barley kernel sprouts
Dark brown; distinct malt taste
Slightly cloudy brown; mild taste
White, red, or black rice
White – Clear or pale yellow; mild and delicate Red – sweet and tart Black – strong and smoky
Dark brown; strong, caramel flavor
Grains or ethanol
Clear; strong, harsh flavor
Red or white wine
Red – Dark red; slightly sweet White – light yellow; fruity and light
For wine vinegars, the only chance they will be vegan is if the wine in question is “not fined”. Also, for cane vinegar to be vegan, unrefined sugar must be used. Learn more about sugars being vegan or not in this article.
FAQs On Vegan Vinegars
1. Is red wine vinegar vegan?
Red wines often require egg whites as a purifier or fining agent. So although it is made from grapes, it is often not vegan. Red wine that has undergone fining is NOT vegan.
2. Is white wine vinegar vegan?
Similar to red wines, white wines also use animal products for fining. White wines typically contain isinglass from fish. So vinegars made from fined white wine are also NOT vegan.
3. Is malt vinegar vegan?
Malt is a grain, which makes it naturally vegan. Malt vinegar is vegan-friendly but always check the ingredients to make sure. Also, malt contains gluten and may not be suitable for those with sensitivity to gluten.
4. Is balsamic vinegar vegan?
True balsamic vinegar done the traditional way is vegan. However, traditional balsamic vinegar is not sold as much as the imitation ones because they take years to age. Lower grade balsamic vinegar, which is everywhere, can be made with wine vinegar, which may NOT be vegan. If possible, stick to the authentic ones.
5. Is apple cider vinegar vegan?
Yes it is! The production of ACV only requires yeast to start fermentation. No animal products, so it’s vegan!
Check out my blog post “6 Tips For Choosing The Best Apple Cider Vinegar. The (Top) 13 Brands!!”
6. Is Sarson’s Malt Vinegar vegan?
I don’t think so. The ingredients list on actual product page doesn’t include any obvious animal products. However, shopping sites that carry this product only tag it as “suitable for vegetarians”, not vegans really.
Also, Sarson’s website also includes a vegetarian and vegan recipe page, and guess what? Their malt vinegar is not in it. So, until it’s clear that their malt vinegar is really vegan, I’d say skip it for now.
Vegan Vinegar Brands
I compiled a list of vegan vinegar brands so that you don’t have to! Here they are:
- Biona Organic Vinegars (all varieties)
- Lotus Organic ACV
- Brandless Balsamic Vinegar of Moderna
- Clearspring Organic Vinegars (all varieties)
- White Truffle Balsamic Vinegar
- Healthy Buddha Coconut Vinegar
- Balsamumm Balsamic Vinegar Reductions (all varieties)
- Jarrow Formulas Organic ACV
These are some of the few brands that come with a vegan label. However, keep in mind that not all vegan vinegars have the ‘vegan’ label since most varieties are naturally vegan anyway.
Also, don’t forget to check the ingredients. If you follow me, you should know better by now!
You can also opt for these naturally vegan vinegar varieties instead:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Distilled Vinegar
- Balsamic Vinegar (authentic ones only!)
- Coconut Vinegar
- Rice Vinegar
These varieties only need the fruit or grain source and a fermenter. Also, when a vinegar is cloudy, it most likely means that there are no fining agents in it.
BONUS: To learn how to make your very own Apple Cider Vinegar. check out the video below!
How To Make Your Own Vegan Fruit Vinegar
Yes! How about a good ol’ DIY? Fruit vinegars are actually easy to make! Well it does take time, yes, but it’s far from labor intensive.
Plus, you will know for sure it’s vegan! Check out this easy peasy fruit vegan vinegar recipe!
Fruit Vinegar Recipe from Food Republic
- 1 pound fresh fruits of your choice or fruit scraps (peels, cores, etc.) cut into small pieces
- ⅓ cup unrefined sugar
- ½ cup ACV (or any vegan vinegar)
- Mason jar (half gallon size)
- Cheesecloth or any breathable fabric
- Rubber band or string
- Strainer or filter
- Combine the fruits and sugar in the mason jar then add just enough water to cover it.
- Pour the vinegar in.
- Cover the opening of the jar with cheesecloth and secure it in place with rubber band or string. This is to keep pests or foreign materials from entering the container.
- In the first week, give the mixture a stir once a day. The first week is only the beginning of the fermentation.
- Store it for another week, stirring only occasionally. Bubbles should start to form at this time. This is a sign of fermentation from sugar to ethanol (alcohol). The bubbles are the resulting carbon dioxide from the reaction.
- At the end of the second week, take out the mixture and strain or filter the solids out. Then put all the liquid back to jar and cover it again with the cheesecloth and secure it.
- Store the jar for 4 weeks for the final fermentation of ethanol to acid. At the end of the 4th week, you can test the taste for acidity. Strain the mother* to get a clear liquid. Your vinegar is now ready!
*The mother is made up of the murky and slimy-looking strands that make the mixture look cloudy. You can store it in a separate container and use it as starter for your next vinegar recipe. You can also leave some of it in the mixture for a healthier concoction!
You can experiment with the taste or flavor by leaving the mixture for a few more weeks or months. Full conversion can take up to 3 months. But you can also leave it for a few years if you want a more mellow flavor.
Most vinegar types are vegan. However, unless it comes with vegan certification, avoid those made from wine, beer, and champagne as they may contain animal products.
If you are busy like me, just pick a vegan vinegar from the list I provided above. That way you don’t have to look around anymore, and you will know that your vinegar is vegan for sure.
Which vinegars do you avoid as a vegan? Are there brands you always go for? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.