The 2-Ingredient Balsamic Vinegar Substitute Your Bruschetta Needs

There's hardly an easier or more versatile appetizer than crispy bruschetta. The classic Italian pairing of fresh, sweet tomatoes and aromatic basil served on a slice of toasted bread is meant to showcase the flavor of seasonal produce, brightened with the slight tang of balsamic vinegar. In a perfect world, our pantries are always stocked with everything we need, and we have room for all the bottles of condiments that every recipe calls for. In the real world, we often need to find a substitute here and there, and luckily, balsamic vinegar is one item that can be swapped out if necessary.

Balsamic vinegar's flavor profile is both sweet and acidic. Traditional balsamic vinegar is quite different from other kinds of vinegar due to the special sweet grapes used to make it and the 12-year-long (or more) aging process it undergoes. But choosing a strong, full-flavored vinegar and adding a hint of sugar will create a pretty good substitute for the real thing. About half of a teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of alternate vinegar will do it.

Balancing your bruschetta with what's on hand

The best kinds of vinegar to use for this balsamic swap would be robust red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar — avoid flavorless distilled white vinegar and delicate rice vinegars. They lack the flavorful fruit-based background that will add more than just acid balance to your bruschetta. If you have sherry vinegar or Chinese black vinegar on hand, those would also make interesting choices. You can use white sugar or try brown sugar, which will give the mixture a deeper, toasty flavor. Experiment with the taste to see which one you prefer — there's no wrong choice.

Of course, you don't need to limit this practical hack to traditional tomato bruschetta. Your substitute vinegar creation's sweet, fruity acidity would be dreamy when drizzled on a creamy fig and ricotta combination, or perhaps sweet peaches with fresh mozzarella and crushed almonds. Don't stop there — every version of avocado toast is even better with a little sweetened vinegar drizzled over it. So, there's no need to let a missing bottle of balsamic stop you from bringing balance to your bruschetta creations.