Is there a balsamic vinegar without sugar?

Balsamic vinegar is a popular type of vinegar known for its rich, sweet and tangy flavor. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, and gets its signature sweetness from being aged in wooden barrels, which concentrates the natural sugars in the grapes over time. However, with the growing popularity of low-sugar and keto diets, many people are looking for balsamic alternatives without added sugars.

Quick Answers

– Yes, there are varieties of balsamic vinegar made without added sugars.

– Traditional balsamic vinegars will have natural sugars from the grape must, but some brands make low-sugar versions.

– Look for labels indicating no added sugars, or try making your own homemade balsamic from unsweetened wine vinegar.

– Agrodolce and saba are Italian condiments similar to balsamic but less sweet.

– For salads, marinades and glazes, swap in red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or lemon juice.

Sugar in Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Authentic traditional balsamic vinegar is made in Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy from local Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The cooked grape juice, or must, is aged for 12+ years in a succession of casks made from various woods like oak, chestnut, cherry, ash and mulberry. As the vinegar evaporates over the years, it leaves behind concentrated, viscous liquid that takes on a complex sweetness from the wood barrels. By the end, a tablespoon of 12+ year aged balsamic may contain around 20-30 grams of sugar.

So real traditional balsamic vinegar does have natural sugars from the grape must and barrel aging process. There is no way to make original balsamic without some level of sugar, since that caramelized sweetness is integral to its flavor profile.

Balsamic Varieties with Less Sugar

However, there are some options on the market for balsamic-style vinegars with reduced sugar content:

  • Imitation or Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – Made from wine vinegar blended with concentrated grape must. Lower quality and sugar content than true traditional balsamic.
  • Balsamic Condimento – A commercial product sometimes marketed as a “light balsamic”. Can have added caramel or sweeteners.
  • White Balsamic – Made from white Trebbiano grapes instead of red. Tends to be mellower in flavor and sugar content.
  • Low-sugar or No Added Sugar Balsamic – Some brands like Monari Federzoni make balsamic specifically without added sugars.
  • Fruit Infused Balsamic – Flavored with fruits like strawberry, lemon or fig to balance sweetness.
  • Homemade Balsamic – Make your own using red wine vinegar and reduced grape juice. Control sugar content.

When shopping for balsamic, read labels closely and look for indications of “no added sugar” or lower sugar percentages to find varieties made with less sugar.

Sugar-Free Substitutes for Balsamic Vinegar

While you can find reduced sugar balsamic-style vinegars, some recipes and uses call for a completely sugar-free substitution. Here are some ideas for alternatives to use instead of balsamic:

Wine Vinegar

For salad dressings, marinades, glazes and any recipe where balsamic is used for its vinegar tang, not its sweetness, try swapping in red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar. These are made from wine only, with no added sugar, and provide a clean acidity.

Sherry Vinegar

Sherry vinegar is a Spanish vinegar made from sherry wine that has been barrel aged. It has a rich, complex flavor like balsamic and works well drizzled over salads, vegetables, fish and meat.

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is popular in Asian cooking. It is mild, with lower acidity than wine or balsamic vinegar. Seasoned rice vinegar adds flavor without sugar. Use in stir fries, noodle dishes and dressings.

Fruit Juice

For sweetness and acidity, lemon, lime, orange or apple juice can provide fresh flavor in vinaigrettes and glazes. Balance with some vinegar for tang.

Agrodolce and Saba

These two Italian condiments provide the fruity, sweet-sour profile of balsamic, but less intensely. Agrodolce is made from reduced grape must, vinegar and spices. Saba is cooked grape must, like an unaged balsamic. Use sparingly to finish dishes.

Homemade Low-Sugar Balsamic

You can easily make your own balsamic-like vinegar at home with total control over the sugar content. Simply reduce unsweetened wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar with a small amount of grape juice concentrate, to taste. The key is using an unsweetened vinegar and adding just enough grape juice to take off the harsh acidity, while keeping it low sugar. Feel free to add herbs and spices too for extra flavor.


  • 2 cups red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup grape juice concentrate
  • Pinch of salt
  • Herbs, spices, zest or fruit (optional)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Allow to reduce down to a syrupy consistency, about 1 cup total.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to a jar. Allow to cool completely before sealing lid.
  4. Store in the fridge and use within 2-3 months.

The possibilities are endless for infusing your homemade balsamic-style vinegar. Get creative with ingredients like blackberries, figs, cloves, pear, basil, rosemary or vanilla. Reduce to your desired sweetness and acidity.

How to Use Sugar-Free Balsamic Alternatives

Balsamic substitutes work great in any application where the sweet-tart flavor of balsamic is needed, without the sugar. Here are some ideas:

Vinaigrettes and Dressings

Boost the flavor of oil and vinegar based dressings by using red wine, white wine, sherry or rice vinegar instead of balsamic. Add a touch of fruit juice or zest for sweetness.

Marinades and Glazes

Skip the sugar in sweet-sour marinades and glazes by using wine vinegar, agrodolce or fruit juice concentrate along with spices and herbs.


For pasta sauce, chicken, beef or fish, swap balsamic for wine vinegar and lemon juice. Simmer until slightly thickened and reduced.

Roasted Vegetables

Drizzle sugar-free vinegars over roasted veggies like zucchini, eggplant, onions and mushrooms. Rice vinegar and agrodolce work especially well.

Fruit and Cheese

Traditionalpairings like balsamic-strawberries and balsamic-mozzarella still work without the sugar. Use an aged red wine vinegar or homemade fruit-infused vinegar.


In recipes like panna cotta or fruit tarts, replace balsamic glazes with agrodolce or fruit purees. Balance sweetness carefully.

Nutrition of Balsamic vs. Alternatives

Here is how the nutrition compares for a 1 tablespoon serving of different balsamic-like vinegars and substitutes:

Vinegar Calories Carbs (g) Sugar (g)
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena 20 4 4
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar 80 18 16
Red Wine Vinegar 2 0.2 0
Rice Vinegar 0 0 0
White Wine Vinegar 2 0.2 0
Sherry Vinegar 3 0.5 0
Apple Cider Vinegar 0 0 0

As you can see, wine vinegars, rice vinegar, cider vinegar and other alternatives are negligible or completely 0 grams for carbs and sugar per tablespoon. So swapping them for sweetened balsamic can save a significant number of calories, carbs and added sugar.

Tips for Cooking and Baking Without Balsamic

When crafting recipes without balsamic, keep these tips in mind:

  • Focus on boosting umami flavor from ingredients like mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce or nutritional yeast to make up for the lost depth from aged balsamic.
  • Add sweetness through in-season fruit, fruit juice, or a pinch of stevia or monk fruit sweetener instead of sugar.
  • Look for the right balance of sweet and sour. If a substitute tastes too sharp, add a touch of sweetener. If it’s cloying, increase the vinegar.
  • Reduce vinegars down to a syrupy consistency to concentrate flavor for glazes and reductions.
  • Cider, wine and rice vinegar work best in lighter dishes, while richer foods can handle the flavor of sherry or red wine vinegar.
  • Use restraint with stronger vinegars like sherry, which can quickly overpower if you’re not careful.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Avoiding Balsamic?

Swapping out balsamic certainly comes with health perks from reducing added sugar intake. However, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Loss of complexity – The aroma, depth, sweetness and acidity of long-aged balsamic can’t quite be replicated. Accept that simplicity in flavor may be sacrificed.
  • Use of multiple ingredients – It may take a blend of several vinegars, juices and extracts to achieve the right balsamic profile.
  • Higher acidity – Alternatives like wine or rice vinegar tend to be sharper and brighter rather than mellow.
  • Won’t act the same in baking – Sugar-free substitutes may not brown, caramelize, or behave the same way in baked goods.


Balsamic vinegar has become a ubiquitous ingredient due to its rich, nuanced flavor, but the sugar content can be off-putting for some diets. Luckily, acceptable substitutes can be found through lower sugar balsamic varieties, wine vinegars, sherry vinegar and homemade infused vinegars. While the complexity and mildness of aged balsamic can’t be truly replicated, careful blending of vinegars, juices and extracts can provide a similar sweet-sour profile. When swapping into dressings, glazes and other recipes, focus on balancing sweetness, acidity and umami. With some strategic use of ingredients, you can successfully craft delicious dishes and reductions using sugar-free balsamic alternatives.

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