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Hi I have recently really been getting into cooking however the girl I am dating has allergic reactions to vinegar, which is in a lot of sauces and stuff.

Looking for possible substitutes that might work when recipes call for this, currently use lemon juice but sometimes that tastes weird (For example I tried to make ketchup since she can't have kraft ketchup which she use to love, however lemon juice tasted quite horrible for my try at it).

Let me know what I should be using! thanks:)

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  • Vinegar, alias acetic acid, is present almost everywhere. I don't believe your girlfriend is, per definition, allergic to vinegar. Apr 26 '16 at 19:49
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    To distilled white vinegar (dilute acetic acid, as GyroGearloose mentions) or to white/red/etc. wine vinegar?
    – derobert
    Apr 26 '16 at 20:32
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    @GyroGearloose an "allergy" to vinegar is different from an actual allergy, as the body's immune system isn't involved, but the symptoms can be very much the same. See michiganallergy.com/food_and_histamine.shtml
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 26 '16 at 22:11
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Citrus juice is probably the most widely available substitute. However, if you can get your hands on some Verjus (or Verjuice) you will be pleasantly surprised.

Verjus is the juice of pressed green grapes. It is similar to wine but the grapes haven't had a chance to ripen and there isn't any alcohol. It has a much more neutral flavor than lemon juice. It can be difficult to find though. I buy mine at a local vineyard. You may be able to find some online.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verjuice

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I have been allergic to vinegar for years, I cook frequently and have not found a substitute for most condiments because as a couple of you noted- citric acid usually tastes bad, and nothing tastes like vinegar.

A few tips:
Coleman’s mustard doesn’t have vinegar! Make your own hot sauce by boiling and pureeing habenaros (wear a mask). Make your own mayo with lemon juice. Homemade hollandaise is also vinegar free when lemon is used

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    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. While interesting, this doesn't answer the original question. Jul 7 '18 at 18:51
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    Actually, “there is no good substitute” is an answer - even if it’s not necessarily what the OP was hoping for. Whether it’s a correct answer is another issue, but it seems that others agree.
    – Stephie
    Jul 8 '18 at 13:52
  • I agree with @DanielGriscom -1
    – Fabby
    Jul 8 '18 at 22:23
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Citric acid powder or granules, as opposed to lemon juice. This will impart less undesired flavor than lemon juice, should be a better substitute. 1/4 teaspoon substitutes for 2 tablespoons of 5% vinegar, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice. I got mine from Amazon.

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I also can’t tolerate vinegar due to inflammatory actions. I also can’t tolerate ascorbic acid or citric acid. To compensate I found a chefs tip that I tried for a suitable substitute. I Add 1 part Amchoor or Amchor powder with two parts water, mixed and refrigerated overnight to allow the two to meld & produce a nice tart substitute that I can use in place of vinegar in cooking and salad dressing. It’s not acidic so it’s not a preservative. Amchoor or Amchur. Powder is dehydrated green mangos. I hope maybe this might help you.

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    This is a great idea and I can see it bringing an interesting flavor as well as tartness. But I'm pretty sure amchoor is in fact acidic. According to this site it contains both citric and malic acid. Aug 3 '20 at 2:37
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I find rhubarb juice home made is fabulous in oil and “ vinegar” salad dressing. I can’t eat vinegar or alcohol or citrus. Didn’t know about ascorbic acid.

Rhubarb juice rocks it and there is a lovely pink color

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Brew your own wine stores sell "acid blend" crystals which include all three of the main organic acids: tartaric, malic, and citric. The ratios differ between brands. You could try mixing up a bit of acid blend in water to make a solution that is 5% acid, similar to the acid level in vinegar and see how you like it.

Some wine shops also sell the acids separately which would allow you to adjust the ratios to your own liking. Most fruits are a combo of malic and citric acid, so if it were me, I would make a 65:35 blend of malic and citric and leave out the tartaric, as tartaric acid is pretty rare in nature. Malic acid is a good flavour blender, and its sourness lasts longer. Citric acid is sharper, fresher, and quicker.

In situations where you want a lot of citric acid character one of the citrus fruits will give you more complex flavor. Limes have the strongest flavour, lemons are a bit less strong, but oranges are fairly mild and tend not to dominate. Orange flavoured bitters are handy in cooking.

A solution made with a 50:50 blend of tartaric and malic acid could stand in as a replacement for wine vinegar. One made with just malic acid could stand in for apple cider vinegar.

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  • This got me curious I mixed up various combos of malic, citric, and tartaric acid. Mar 21 '21 at 17:53
  • I did not like any of the ones with tartaric acid. Results 1.) 60:30:10 (like Carlson Acid Blend) I found very lemony and biting. 2.) 75:20:5 very astringent, mouth puckering, not citrusy, bit harsh. 3.) 70:30:0 astringent, green apple. 4.) 65:35:0 astringent, green apple, sour. 5.) 60:40:0 not astringent, most balanced. I liked this one best. Note: I did not try a 50:50 blend of malic and citrus. Maybe I would like that even better. Mar 21 '21 at 18:06
  • So did a few more tests today: straight citric acid is sour and tastes a bit like a chewable Vitamin C tablet. Also tried a 50:50 and a 40:60 malic to citric, then went back and compared it to the 60:40. I still find the 60:40 the most rounded and pleasant. Mar 22 '21 at 13:57
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Unfortunately there really isn't anything that tastes like vinegar except for vinegar, and the lemon juice you're trying is about as close as you're going to get.

It just comes down to chemistry. Most categories of edible compounds, like starch, protein, hydrocarbon lipids, etc. have a ton of different compounds in them, so if you have to avoid one you can often find another with very similar characteristics regarding flavor and how it reacts with other compounds when being cooked. These chemical similarities are what allow for good substitutions.

The problem is that vinegar comes from the much less human-friendly compound category of acids. The list of edible acids is incredibly short, and once you rule out the ones you either can't use (carbonic only exists in carbonated drinks) or wouldn't ever want to put in your mouth (butyric and lactic come from spoiled dairy products), you only have a handful of possibilities. The food acids you're left with at this point are:

  • oleic (olive oil)
  • palmitic (palm oil)
  • oxalic (tomato)
  • tartaric (tamarind)
  • citric (citrus obviously)
  • acetic (the vinegar you're trying to get away from)

The only thing on that list that even remotely shares vinegar's tanginess is citric acid, which is why lemon juice is the standard suggestion to use in a pinch if one is out of vinegar.

Your best bet would be to experiment with other citrus juices and see if perhaps using something other than lemon would help things taste better.

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    I wonder how you came to your list, but it isn't very helpful. It lacks some of the most common edible acids (malic and lactic at least, maybe more), cites an unusual source for oxalic acid (tomato), lists oxalic as a good substitute for vinegar even though it is toxic and cannot be consumed at levels comparable to vinegar consumption, and suggests two fatty acids, which are chemically indeed an acid, but culinary completely unsuited as a vinegar substitute.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 27 '16 at 16:06
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    @rumtscho My apologies, but I didn't imply that oxalic was a vinegar substitute, nor did I offer the fatty acids as substitution candidates. In fact I explicitly state that none of them are viable subs except for the citrus. That was my entire point; Vinegar's flavor comes from being an acid, so a substitute would have to be an acid. Most acids will kill you and the few that are safe to eat taste nothing alike and wouldn't react the same way if cooked, which is what the list illustrates. If you reread my answer, I think you'll see your comment is actually agreeing with and reiterating my point
    – Barkode
    Apr 27 '16 at 17:32
  • The idea that vinegar is one of very few food-safe acids is ridiculous. Most ingredients are at least mildly acidic. And while it’s not difficult to distinguish acetic acid from, say, citric acid, in a recipe it can be much more difficult. Did you know that “salt and vinegar” potato chips are often flavored with lactic acid, the yogurt and sour cream mainstay that you derided as being found in “spoiled dairy products”?
    – Sneftel
    Aug 2 '20 at 21:41

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