America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo

What Is Seasoned Rice Vinegar?

A sweeter companion to a trusted staple ingredient.

Published Apr. 14, 2022.

 You’ve no doubt cooked with rice vinegar before—it’s a staple ingredient in everything from stir-fries to satays and is commonly used to season sushi rice. But what about seasoned rice vinegar? Is there a difference, and can you substitute one for the other? 

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

What is seasoned rice vinegar?

Seasoned rice vinegar is just plain rice vinegar with added sugar and salt. It’s commonly used post-cooking and is a great pantry staple to deepen the flavors of marinades, dipping sauces, and dressings. Take our Chicken Salad with Pickled Fennel, Watercress, and Macadamia Nuts for example—seasoned rice vinegar is used to pickle some deliciously crisp fennel, and the leftover pickling liquid is then used to emulsify a tangy vinaigrette.

What's the difference between rice vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar?

Rice vinegar (also called rice wine vinegar, but don’t confuse it with rice wine) is made from steamed rice that’s blended with yeast and fermented into alcohol before being aerated to form vinegar. It is available both seasoned and unseasoned. Plain, unseasoned rice vinegar can be used throughout the cooking process. 

Seasoned rice vinegar is plain rice vinegar with a kick: It takes the slightly sweet, mildly acidic tasting notes of plain rice vinegar up a notch. Because it has added sugar and salt, it brings a more nuanced balance of flavors than plain rice vinegar. Avoid cooking with seasoned rice vinegar as it can result in an overly sweet dish.

400 Recipes, 200 Skills

The New Cooking School Cookbook: Fundamentals

No matter what stage you’re at in your culinary journey, you'll learn new techniques and recipes in this tell-all cookbook. You’ll be able to ensure the success of each recipe with helpful highlights and step photos as well as troubleshooting checklists.
Save 51% Right Now

Can I substitute seasoned rice vinegar for unseasoned rice vinegar?

Though they have similar-sounding names (and look similar!), you shouldn't substitute seasoned rice vinegar for rice vinegar in recipes. However, in a pinch, you can use unseasoned rice vinegar to make your own seasoned rice vinegar at home. For that reason, if you’re choosing just one to purchase, we recommend unseasoned; it's more versatile and allows you to control the level of salt and sugar in your recipes.

How to Make Seasoned Rice Vinegar

  1. Combine ½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon table salt in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk constantly until sugar and salt dissolve, about 3 minutes. (Seasoned vinegar can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

How do you use seasoned rice vinegar?

You’ve probably had seasoned rice vinegar in a few dishes before. The salad dressing in your favorite bento box uses seasoned rice vinegar, and you can make that delicious salad dressing at home! It can amplify the spicy notes of fresh ginger in a Charred Cabbage Salad and round out a rich peanut sauce in a Spicy Peanut Rice Noodle Bowl

Seasoned rice vinegar adds dimension to homemade pickles as well. Whether you’re quick-pickling carrots or cucumber pickle chips, sweet and savory seasoned rice vinegar will brighten a pickle recipe in a flash. 

This is a members' feature.