Think Beyond Adobo and Sawsawan: A Guide to Vinegar

Vinegar Guide

We all have it in our homes, yet our use of it is relatively limited: although we know vinegar to have a range of layers and flavors, it has more depth than it lets on. In the Philippines, locals use it as a main flavoring in several dishes and as an accompaniment to meals. As a principal ingredient in local cuisine, we may use it extensively but limit ourselves to using only a few kinds. Compared to the number of commercially available ones, we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.

Locally, we produce different varieties. A few of these can be found in supermarkets or in regions these are produced in. Locally available vinegar are palm, coconut, cane, and the popular sukang Iloko. We’ve devised this guide as a means to explore its possibilities in local culinary applications.

Vinegar Guide

Vinegar contains acetic acid, and the percentage ranges from 5–20%. To produce this, a liquid containing natural sugars undergoes a fermentation process. Through this process, acetic acid is produced in the liquid—thus the tart flavor in vinegar. Several ingredients can be used to produce vinegar, such as various grains and even fruits! The main ingredient used heavily affects the resulting flavor.

As a mild acid, vinegar is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different ways. In a typical Filipino home, a single bottle is the go-to for many recipes that call for the use of the ingredient. Turn to this guide when in need of an easy, straightforward overview of vinegar.

White Wine Vinegar

White Wine

Main Ingredient: White wine.
Flavor Profile: Mellow. The quality of the wine used will heavily affect the flavor.
Popular Uses: Infusions, vinaigrettes, and for retaining the color of food.

Pepper Notes: We suggest using white wine vinegar for the tokwa’t baboy. The simplicity of the dish will allow the flavors of the wine to shine through, you’ll appreciate the depth of this vinegar more in a simple dish such as the tokwa’t baboy.

Red Wine Vinegar

Red Wine

Main Ingredient: Red wine.
Flavor Profile: Sharp and fruity. Similar with white wine vinegar, the flavor and overall quality of this is affected by the wine it was produced from.
Popular Uses: Vinaigrettes and marinades.

Pepper Notes: We switched out the usual white vinegar in dinuguan for the red wine version—its sharp and fruity profile contrasts well against the richness of the blood stew.

Coconut Vinegar


Main Ingredient: Coconut water or sap.
Flavor Profile: Sharp, acidic, and yeasty.
Popular Uses: Marinades and as a dipping sauce.

Pepper Notes: We suggest using coconut vinegar for inasal style marinade. Its naturally sharp flavor complements the inasal.

Cane Vinegar


Main Ingredient: Sugarcane juice.
Flavor Profile: Mellow.
Popular Uses: Marinades, for pickling, and as a dipping sauce.

Pepper Notes: We recommend swapping out your usual for adobo with this regional favorite.

Rice Vinegar


Main Ingredient: Rice.
Flavor Profile: Delicate and clean. A red and black variety is available and is stronger in flavor.
Popular Uses: Dressing, seasoning, sushi, infusions, and for pickling.

Pepper Notes: Try using it in the local sisig enhances the flavors of the pork and cuts through the richness and fattiness of the dish.

Distilled Vinegar


Main Ingredients: Corn or malt.
Flavor Profile: Slight malty flavor.
Popular Uses: Cooking, baking, meat preservation, and for pickling.

Pepper Notes: We suggest using it in the local kinilaw, the distilled solution lets the dish’s flavors come through.


Apple Cider

Main Ingredients: Pressed apples.
Flavor Profile: Mellow and fruity
Popular Uses: Dressing, marinades, healthy recipes for alternative medicine

Pepper Notes: Pork and apples go so well together, so we suggest using apple cider vinegar with pork dishes like humba and crispy pata.

5 Responses

  1. You’ve forgotten the apple cider vinegar, which is in your cover photo, but not included in the article. 🙂

    1. I was looking for that. We have a bottle sitting in our cupboard and no one here knows which dishes we could use it in.

      1. I take it as a health drink (been doing so since 1985) but was hoping to have some recipes I could use it with or substitute it for vinegar with.

      2. Hi Dez and AC, thank you for your comments. We apologize for not including the apple cider vinegar in our article. Anyway, we highly recommend that you use it with pork dishes like crispy pata or humba 🙂

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