Update: June 8, 2017 – We no longer recommend. Do not use! Marukan Rice Vinegar appears to no longer be gluten-free.
Our son recently had allergic reactions and over the past few months we were able to narrow it down to the rice vinegar we used. More details to come.
We generally rely on Marukan rice vinegar whenever a recipe calls for ‘vinegar.’ Rice vinegar is more mild and less sharp than white vinegar, but is still an excellent substitute.
Unfortunately, most white vinegar sold in stores is made from generic “grain,” which is problematic when avoiding gluten like we must. This is because wheat and barley are the two grains grown most in the US. Both contain the gluten protein that causes allergic reactions in our son and celiac disease in other people.
As with other ingredients we use, we started the process of selecting Marukan rice vinegar by reading the ingredients label: water and rice. Then we contacted the company directly and asked about the facility in which it makes and bottles the rice vinegar, its hygiene practices, and the steps it takes to prevent cross-contamination. Once satisfied, we used the Marukan rice vinegar in a dish that we then introduced slowly to Sprout.
Use in any recipe that calls for generic vinegar. You can also substitute rice vinegar in place of lemon juice where it makes sense in a recipe. For example, I use rice vinegar in place of lemon juice for roast chicken when I don’t have lemons.
We recommend storing rice vinegar in the refrigerator because we’ve had a bottle go bad at least once. It isn’t likely when the bottle is emptied quickly, but there are times where we might go months without using rice vinegar in a recipe.
Where to buy
We buy Marukan rice vinegar at Asian markets around Los Angeles. I do see it in some of the local Ralph’s and Whole Foods. If you don’t see any in your local supermarket ask the manager to stock some for you. Larger chains like Kroger (it owns Ralph’s) may already have Marukan rice vinegar available in their distribution networks due to its availability in my local California markets. We were also able to find some in Saipan, which may say something about either it’s broad reach in the Pacific rim or overall market saturation.
Note that some stores may stock only a seasoned rice vinegar used for sushi and other Japanese vittles. Trust me, the seasoned rice vinegar doesn’t substitute well although it makes excellent sushi. In case you’re wondering, yes we tested Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar, determined it safe for our Sprout, and now use it in foods we prepare for him.