Balsamic Vinegar vs. Balsamic Vinaigrette: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
Difference Between Balsamic Vinegar and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Both balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinaigrette are basic seasonings in many households. They infuse a whole lot of flavors into your meat or vegetable dishes and salads. Balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinaigrette may seem one and the same to some. However, there is a difference.

What’s the difference between balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinaigrette? The main difference between the balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinaigrette lies in the composition. Balsamic vinegar is composed of just pure and concentrated vinegar, while balsamic vinegar is a mix of vinegar, oil, and additional spices or herbs.

Interestingly, some use lemon juice instead of vinegar as the base for balsamic vinaigrette. Vinegar is the common and essential ingredient in these two and authentic balsamic vinegars and vinaigrettes use crushed grapes.

What are Other Differences Between a Balsamic Vinegar and Balsamic Vinaigrette?

Besides the basic difference in composition, they also differ in shelf life. Balsamic vinegar is pure vinegar. It will definitely last longer than balsamic vinaigrettes that contain other ingredients.

Secondly, they differ in prices. Although balsamic vinegar is premium compared to regular vinegar, balsamic vinaigrettes tend to have higher prices because these are specialty or premium blends of balsamic vinegar, oil, herbs, and spices.

Thirdly, you can use a bit of balsamic vinegar for baking desserts and sweet treats, but you can’t use balsamic vinaigrette for baking cakes and pastries.

Does Balsamic Vinegar Taste Like a Balsamic Vinaigrette?

Well, yes and no. Both carry the primary taste of vinegar made from crushed grapes. But balsamic vinaigrettes vary in taste depending on the oil, herb, and spice used in the mix.

Is Balsamic Vinegar and Balsamic Vinaigrette Healthy for You?

Yes, they are. Balsamic vinegar is fermented grape must. Hence, it is richer in antioxidants compared to regular vinegar. Now, balsamic vinaigrette has added oil in it but regular portions are still healthy. However, those who need to control their oil consumption must be careful not to consume too much balsamic vinaigrette. 

When Do You Use Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar is a good choice for seasoning in almost most any type of dish. It is also used to marinade meat and fish. You can also splash some vinegar to your green salads.

Balsamic vinegar is very strong vinegar, and while you may use it for baking, be careful with the portions you use. You may likely need lesser amounts of balsamic vinegar if you are substituting regular vinegar with balsamic vinegar for cooking or baking.

When Do You Use Balsamic Vinaigrette?

Like balsamic vinegar, you can use balsamic vinaigrette for cooking or even to marinate meat and fish. More commonly, you use it as dressing for many types of salads. It is never used as a substitute for regular vinegar when baking sweet treats. This is because it has other ingredients in it which do not complement your other baking ingredients.

Can You Make Your Own Balsamic Vinaigrette?

Yes, you can. You can make it as light or as intense as you like. Here is a basic balsamic vinaigrette recipe you can whip up in minutes. Use this vinaigrette to dress your salads or even season your roast meat.

See the steps below:

  1. Choose your base balsamic vinegar.
  2. Choose your olive oil.
  3. Choose your sweetener (honey, maple, or corn syrup).
  4. Mince some garlic (1 clove).
  5. Prepare some mustard.
  6. Prepare some salt and ground pepper.
  7. Portion out as desired, mix and blend all these ingredients.
  8. Store in the fridge and allow some time for the flavors to blend and fuse together before using.

Note: 

You may use ½ cup olive oil and ½ cup vinegar or ¾ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar, depending on how tart or pronounced you want the balsamic vinegar to be.

Are There Different Types of Balsamic Vinegars?

Yes. The product name “balsamic vinegar” is loosely allowed for branding by manufacturers. Products can be labeled as balsamic vinegar or Aceto Balsamico as long as they are wholly or partially made from juice crushed from grapes with all the skins and seeds.

However, three types of balsamic vinegars are strictly regulated and their names are legally protected by the European Union. These are Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia, and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

Among these three, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is the least expensive because it is a blend of grape and wine vinegar. However, the other two are made from pure grapes and aged for several years in wooden barrels. Hence, they tend to be more expensive to buy in stores.

Are There Different Types of Balsamic Vinaigrettes?

Yes. Balsamic vinaigrettes are as varied as the brands that carry them. Each company will have its own blend of oil, herbs, and other seasonings used. Flavors may range from tart to sweet. Some are garlicky, others herby.

What is the Shelf Life of Balsamic Vinegar?

Vinegar is fermented. Hence, most believe that it does not expire. You can store it in the fridge or cupboard. Extend the quality and good taste of your balsamic vinegar by keeping it away from direct sunlight where it is cool, dry, and dark. Remember to place the lid securely after each use.

What is the Shelf Life of Balsamic Vinaigrette?

Balsamic vinaigrettes are best up to 6 months after opening. They expire because balsamic vinaigrettes are no longer pure vinegar. The oil, herb, and spices they contain can affect their quality and taste. Remember to store your balsamic vinaigrettes in the refrigerator after opening them. Be sure to discard any funny smelling and odd-looking vinaigrettes even before their “best before” date.

Final Thoughts

  • Balsamic vinegar is pure and very strong grape vinegar, while balsamic vinaigrette is a mix of vinegar, oil, and other herbs and spices.
  • Balsamic vinegar is commonly used to season or marinade meat and fish dishes, while balsamic vinaigrette is more commonly used as a salad dressing.
  • Regular balsamic vinegar is generally cheaper to buy, while balsamic vinaigrettes are often specialty or premium mixes.
  • Balsamic vinegar has a longer shelf life than balsamic vinaigrettes.
  • You can still use balsamic vinegar for baking desserts, but you don’t normally use balsamic vinaigrette for baking cakes and pastries.

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