Which balsamic vinegar is best?

Like any ingredient, the number of uses of balsamic vinegar depends on the chef’s vivid imagination and inspiration. Balsamic vinegar dressing can spice up any salad, but with some of them, such as Caprese salad, drizzling some balsamic vinegar is mandatory. It can also be added to soups, stews and other dishes to add layers of flavor. Add some kick to your dipping game by mixing balsamic vinegar and olive oil and use it as a dip for freshly baked bread.

The best balsamic vinegar to suit all these needs and more is The Balsamic Guy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. This Italian balsamic vinegar is aged for 25 years and is denominazione d’origine protetta (protected designation of origin) certified, meaning it is guaranteed to be made according to the tradition of a specific region in Italy.

Types of balsamic vinegar

Traditional balsamic vinegar

The creme of the balsamic vinegar crop. Traditional balsamic vinegar must be made in Italy’s Reggio Emilia or Modena regions using grapes from the region and storing it in wooden barrels for at least 12 years. Authentic traditional balsamic vinegar will have a DOP seal and the words “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” somewhere on the bottle.

These balsamic vinegar are syrupy, complex and best used as a finisher for the top of your dishes instead of added during cooking.

Condiment balsamic vinegar

The qualitative middle ground of balsamic vinegar. These balsamic vinegar don’t have to follow the strict traditions required to receive a DOP sea, and accordingly, the quality of condiment balsamic vinegar can vary widely.

Condiment balsamic vinegar is generally syrupy and rich like traditional balsamic vinegar and is also meant to serve as finishers or dips instead of ingredients in cooking.

Salad balsamic vinegar

The lowest quality balsamic vinegar. This balsamic vinegar should be processed in Modena but can be made from grapes from any region so long as the grapes are typical of the Modena region. Unfermented and aged for a minimum of just two months, salad balsamic vinegar is usually mixed wine vinegar to offset the drawbacks of the low-quality production.

Salad balsamic vinegar is what you use to mix into recipes and create balsamic vinegar dressings due to their low cost and simple flavors.

Balsamic vinegar features

Flavor

Balsamic vinegar takes its flavor from the grapes that they are made from. They should be sweet and a little tart, but the richer and more complex the flavors, the higher it climbs on the quality ladder. 

Lower quality balsamic vinegar can also have different and unusual flavors added to them like peach, garlic or even chili for an extra kick. Don’t listen to the balsamic vinegar snobs who complain about messing with the traditions of balsamic vinegar; flavored balsamic vinegar can be an exciting way to change up a recipe or add some oomph to an oil and balsamic vinegar dip.

Color

Standard balsamic vinegar is dark and purple, as it is made from grape must that is simmered until caramelized before being aged.

However, there is another one: the white balsamic vinegar. White balsamic vinegar is pressure-cooked to avoid caramelization and ages for a maximum of a handful of years, giving it a lighter and fresher taste. Experts tend to say white balsamic vinegar isn’t real balsamic vinegar, though.

Age

The longer it sits in wooden barrels, the more rich and complex the finished product is, making it the quickest way to gauge the quality of balsamic vinegar.  

Salad balsamic vinegar destined for balsamic vinegar dressings are typically aged for a few months, with condiment balsamic vinegar aging for up to 10 years. On the other hand, traditional balsamic vinegar ages for a minimum of 12 years but can age for as long as a full century.

Balsamic vinegar cost

The cheap salad balsamic vinegar is usually $.50-$2 an ounce, while condiment balsamic vinegar can be anywhere from $5-$50 an ounce for long-aged options. Traditional balsamic vinegar can break your bank as even the cheapest will be around $30, while the 100-year-old bottles can hit $300 an ounce.

Balsamic vinegar FAQ

I just ran out of balsamic vinegar, so what can I use as a substitute?

A. The easiest balsamic vinegar substitute is just balsamic vinaigrette, as this is just balsamic vinegar plus olive oil. Other balsamic vinegar substitutes are a combination of red wine vinegar and either maple syrup or grape jelly and soy sauce. Tastes delicious!

What’s the difference between traditional and condiment balsamic vinegar?

A. Whiskey can only be labeled “bourbon” if made in Kentucky or “scotch” if made in Scotland. The same applies to the vinegar distinction. If two different balsamic kinds of vinegar are made following all the traditional rules required to be labeled “traditional,” but one is made outside of Italy’s Modena or Reggio Emilia regions, only the balsamic vinegar made in-region can be labeled “traditional.”

Which balsamic vinegar should I get?

Best of the best balsamic vinegar

The Balsamic Guy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

The Balsamic Guy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

What you need to know: This is one of the highest quality traditional balsamic vinegar you can find.

What you’ll love: The thick and aromatic traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for 25 years.

What you should consider: It’s in the higher price range.

Where to buy: Amazon

Best bang for your buck balsamic vinegar

Mantova Organic Flavored Balsamic Condiments

Mantova Organic Flavored Balsamic Condiments

What you need to know: This set of four flavored balsamic vinegar make for a great gift.

What you’ll love: Pear, fig, pomegranate and raspberry flavors mean a huge range of recipe possibilities.

What you should consider: It’s a touch thin in consistency.

Where to buy: Amazon

Honorable mention balsamic vinegar

Ellora Farms Pure Balsamic Vinegar

Ellora Farms Pure Balsamic Vinegar

What you need to know: The spray bottle cap makes this balsamic vinegar a snap for topping dishes.

What you’ll love: It comes in a pack of two, which equals more money saved.

What you should consider: It costs only 3.4 ounces per bottle.

Where to buy: Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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