Out Of Vinegar? Here Are Substitutes To Make Your Dish Sour

You can turn to these ingredients in a pinch.
pork sinigang sa mangga

You’ll find many uses in recipes when it comes to vinegar. The most obvious recipes would be for paksiw and of course, adobo. Vinegar does have many uses and its versatility might be the reason for that empty bottle.

Whether you’re making sinigang, paksiw, or just need to give a dish a spritz of sourness, you’re going to need an ingredient substitute. While vinegar is an essential kitchen ingredient and considered a basic commodity, there is no telling if the store down the block might suddenly run out, too. 

For those moments when you gain a burst of inspiration or just want to experiment with another flavor, why not try any of these ingredient substitutes for vinegar:           

Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

1 Sampaloc or tamarind 

If you’re making a classic sinigang sa sampaloc, this is the first ingredient that needs to be on your list! Fresh sampaloc is available in most markets and supermarkets. You’ll have to remove the outer shell, remove the seeds, and then simmer the flesh in water to create a paste.  


Want to make your life easier? You can grab a bottle of tamarind paste which is great for not just sinigang, but also that phad Thai you’ve been craving.

Photo by Judgefloro [CC0] on Wikipedia Commons

2 Green mango

Green mangoes are just the unripe version of our sweet mangoes. The best mango variety to use as a substitute for vinegar is the Indian mango or carabao mango which are two of the more sour varieties and are fantastic for eating unripe with bagoong

To use it as a souring agent, you’ll have to prepare it like you would a mango and then either simmer it in the broth or mash it into the sauce. You’ll have to give either this pork or fish sinigang using green mango as its main sour ingredient a chance.  

Photo by courtesy of Ifex

3 Calamansi or lemons 

One of the easiest ways to add sourness to a dish is by using citrus fruits such as calamansi, lemons, or limes. These juicy fruits are easy to use and give a delicious and distinct flavor to many dishes. Your pancit might not be the same without a squeeze of calamansi to accompany it! You can easily squeeze the juice and add as needed or desired to your dish. 


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Got another citrus fruit on hand? You can even use the juice from suha or pomelo if it’s not yet ripe and you don’t mind the bitterness that accompanies the sour-sweet flavor that it has. Grapefruits will yield the same flavor as the pomelo, but its bitterness is more pronounced. For the best sour citrus notes, you can’t go wrong with the local calamansi or a squeeze of lemon. 

Photo by Pexels

4 Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are synonymous to sour flavors. It’s a tartness that is sweet, too, but the main taste is sour. It’s one of many fruits that has both sour, sweetness, and umami or savory flavors. That might be why tomatoes are so popular and an addictive ingredient! For those who love their sinigang, tomatoes are a classic addition but there are dishes that use its natural sourness to its advantage to create tomato dishes that need no other ingredient other than a partner. Pork and chicken make great complementary flavors to the tomato as you’ll see in these easy recipes.          

Photo by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

5 Kamias or bilimbi 

Also known as the “tree cucumber” since cucumbers grow on vines, not in trees, this is a classic substitute for sampaloc in sinigang, too. In fact, it’s a common substitute. It’s a great sour taste that’s refreshingly tart with a juiciness that is only rivaled by a citrus fruit. It’s incredibly juicy since the entire fruit is sour! This is one of the ingredients you can use in kansi, the regional dish from Bacolod. Since batuan or batwan (another sour ingredient) is hard to find in the metro, kamias makes a great substitute for this recipe.   

The seasonal fruit santol or the cotton fruit is a great alternative, too. Can you think of other sour ingredients to use when there is no vinegar?



Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here!

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