Yesterday I made bread based on a recipe I found on the flour bag. It contained both rye and wheat flour but also three tablespoons of vinegar. I've never seen it used in bread before, why is it there?

6 Answers 6


If it contained a high amount of rye flour, an acid would be needed for the bread to leaven. This is because bread with lots of rye rises due to polysaccharates called "pentosans" (if i remember correctly) being sticky and holding in the carbon dioxide bubbles. With heat, an enzyme in rye called "amylase" will start eating up the pentosans, unless the amylase is deactivated with acidity (wheat flour uses a protein called "gluten" to trap bubbles, and its amylase is deactivated with heat anyhow). The acidity is traditionally lactic acid, produced by lactobacilli bacteria in sourdough, but could be vinegar.

If it's mostly wheat flour (i.e. if you have to knead it), the vinegar would just be for flavour.


Another reason you can use vinegar in a bread recipe - to produce a sourdough. Under traditional methods of making a sourdough bread, one keeps a 'sour' (sponge) or a piece of dough from the days previous production, which acts as a starter for the current bread. In many of todays commercial bakeries (grocery stores, etc.), sours are not kept from day to day, and powdered substitutes are used. They are normally just a glorified acetic acid (in a powdered form). So, you can just use vinegar to produce the same results.

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    Since there is rye in the dough, I could definitely see the intent being to produce a sourdough-like flavor.
    – justkt
    Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 14:00
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    Yep, that's right. One thing that most people don't understand is that rye bread is a sourdough bread. It's always made off of a rye sour. Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 21:40
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    This recipe didn't contain any sourdough starter of any kind, just yeast.
    – johnny
    Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 7:52
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    Then there is something wrong with the recipe. You can't leaven rye with yeast, the enzymes in the rye prevent it. Maybe, if it is a mixed recipe with a high wheat-to-rye ratio, the yeast will still work, but I'm not sure why you would need to imitate a sour taste through vinegar then.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 19:17
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    You definitely can leaven rye with yeast. The enzymes in rye cause it's starches to convert to sugar quickly, so it's actually great for yeast. The issue is that since rye relies on gums for structure, it's difficult to retain the bubbles, no matter what's producing them.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 20:28

When I asked this question - Is there anything I can add to homemade bread to preserve it? - Arafangion said that one commercial bread company now uses vinegar as a preservative. This is his answer to my question:

"One commercial bread company has switched preservatives... They use vinegar (I suspect ordinary white vinegar).

Maybe you could give a little bit of vinegar a go and see how that works? You can still smell it if you sniff and sandwiches do have a faint vinegar flavour, but it seems to work well enough for the company and it apparently hasn't sabotaged the product line...

Then again, it /is/ commercial bread..."

  • Thank you for answering. I'd still like to think that there's another explanation. I've never seen homemade bread recipes that contains something which only purpose is acting as a preservative.
    – johnny
    Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 11:49

I've found that a lower pH (more acidity) weakens the gluten and makes the crumb less chewey or less rubbery.
Certainly one thing to try before taking the step of adding vinegar to a bread recipe is to replace any bread flour with general purpose flour instead -- it should have the same effect.

  • Never make a bread with an all-purpose flour. Big no-no. Acidity does not weaken the gluten, it serves to speed gluten formation. This means that a bread will be properly mixed (gluten properly formed) sooner when you are mixing a sour bread when compared to mixing a 'regular' bread. In turn, the dough will be over mixed if you mix it the same amount of time you would mix that regular bread. So the acidity just speeds up the whole gluten cycle. Commented Jan 1, 2011 at 16:53
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    @mrwienerdog: See cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/19577/vinegar-in-pie-crust/… with respect to acidity. Also I think you're being way too negative about all-purpose flour. It may not be ideal for breads, but it does work. And if you're trying to weaken gluten structure, well, bread flour's primary difference compared to all-purpose flour is increased gluten...
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 18:49
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    @mrwienerdog Acidity is used in bread dough as an oxidizer. It doesn't speed gluten formation, but it makes the links in the gluten stronger (frequently making the dough stiffer). Reducing agents are actually what speeds gluten formation, though they are frequently used in conjunction with an oxidizer.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 20:32
  • You can't tell me that it doesn't speed gluten formation. That's simply not true. If you replace 5 percent of the water in your mix with vinegar, it will DEFINITELY be mixed quicker. Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 21:04

In making faster no-Knead bread Jim Lahey suggest adding 4 drops or up to 1/4 tsp of red wine vinegar to the basic recipe. Improve gluten development and flavor. See the video with Mark Bittman here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08mini.html?ref=dining


It might also, in addition to something like bicarbonate soda act as a raising agent for some types of bread - the reaction of the vinegar with the bicarb causing gas release causing rising.

This is only a guess however

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