Culinary Arts

What Is Malt Vinegar? Learn How Malt Vinegar Is Used in Cooking With 4 Recipe Ideas

Written by MasterClass

Jun 3, 2019 • 3 min read

A whiff of malt vinegar can transport you to another world. It can take you to England, where the prized condiment is copiously added to pub fare, or to an oceanside boardwalk where french fries topped with malt vinegar are a summer staple. But malt vinegar is more than just a dipping sauce—it is also a great addition to recipes.

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What Is Malt Vinegar?

Malt vinegar is a vinegar made from malted grains of barley. It has a tart flavor and can help to enhance the flavors of other foods it is paired with. It is best known for topping fish and chips.

  • Malt vinegar is produced from the same grains that are used for making beer, and so it has a similar lemony, nutty, and caramel flavor profile as malted ale.
  • It can range in color from light to dark brown. Some distilled varieties are clear.
  • It is usually found in condiment or bakery aisles at the grocery store.
  • It’s a culinary mainstay in British and Canadian cuisine.

How Is Malt Vinegar Made?

All kinds of vinegar are made by fermenting an alcohol compound called ethanol. Any ingredient containing ethanol—such as beer, wine, cider, or champagne—can be made into vinegar.

Malt vinegar is made through a double fermentation process in which grains of barley are malted and brewed into ale. Here is a step-by-step process of how malt vinegar is produced:

  1. The process of malting begins by germinating grains of barley. This process entails immersing the grains in water to support sprout growth.
  2. The grains are dried to create malt.
  3. The malt is brewed into ale.
  4. The second fermentation step turns the ale into vinegar.
  5. Lastly, the vinegar is briefly aged, which contributes to the vinegar’s sharp mouthfeel.

Throughout the fermentation process, bacteria is used to break down the ethanol. This creates byproducts of acetic acid, and different minerals and vitamins. Flavor notes come from a vinegar’s source ingredient—such as beer, cider, or wine. Because malt vinegar is made by malting barley, there are also minimal traces of grain in the ingredient list, so it is not gluten-free.

3 Ways Malt Vinegar Is Used In Cooking

The tart acidity of malt vinegar makes it a rich addition to many dishes. Here are three culinary uses for malt vinegar:

  1. Pickling. Malt vinegar is great for pickling produce or vegetables that have a lot of flavors. For example, pickled onions are often made with malt vinegar.
  2. Topping. Oily fish can be sprinkled with malt vinegar when baking or frying. Malt vinegar is usually drizzled over fish and chips when served.
  3. Salad dressing. A tablespoon of malt vinegar mixed with olive oil can be used for dressing a salad.

4 Ideas for Cooking With Malt Vinegar

The acidity in malt vinegar pairs well with sugar and helps to balance the sweetness. Malt vinegar can be used to make chutney sauces, brines, and marinades for meat and poultry. It can also be added to side dishes for an extra kick.

Here are some recipe ideas:

  1. Coleslaw. Kick up a coleslaw side dish, which is traditionally made with white vinegar, with malt vinegar.
  2. Bean salad. Add malt vinegar to a combination of different kinds of beans—like waxed beans, green beans, and lima beans—for an interesting bean salad.
  3. Maple-bourbon glaze. Put a spin on barbecue sauce by adding malt vinegar to a combination of brown sugar, bourbon, maple syrup, and Worcestershire sauce to make a delicious glaze for meat.
  4. Aioli. Whisk together malt vinegar, egg yolks, and olive oil to make an aioli sauce perfect for dipping french fries or beer-battered seafood.

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