per 100 grams
Carbohydrates 17 g
Proteins 0.5 g
Fats 0 g
Water 76.5 g
Sugar 15 grams
Trans Fats 0 ug
Ash 0.4 grams

Balsamic Vinegar

88 Calories per 100g

What Is Balsamic Vinegar? A Comprehensive Guide

Have you ever encountered balsamic vinegar in the supermarket or on the menu at your favorite Italian restaurant? If so, you may have heard it described as “aged” or “artisanal.” But what, exactly, makes balsamic vinegar so special?

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about balsamic vinegar—its history, production methods, flavor profile, and more. You’ll also learn how to use it in your cooking. Let’s dive in.

What Is Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar is a dark, syrupy condiment made from reduced grape must. Over the centuries, balsamic vinegar has become famous for its complex, tangy flavor enhanced by notes of sweetness and acidity. It's beloved by chefs and home cooks alike for its power to add nuance and depth to dishes.

History of Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar has been produced in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy since the Middle Ages. Although its exact origins are unclear, records suggest that the first vinegars dated back to the 11th century.

The earliest versions of balsamic vinegar were made from unfermented grape juice, or “must,” which was then boiled down and aged for anywhere between one and 25 years in wooden barrels. As the vinegar aged, it developed its deep, complex flavor.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Today, most balsamic vinegar comes from the Modena region of Italy. Here, authentic balsamic vinegar is still made in the traditional way, which includes:

• Selecting and harvesting grapes: Traditionally, balsamic vinegar begins with a blend of grape varieties grown in Modena, including Lambrusco, Trebbiano, Ancellotta, and Spergola.

• Boiling down grape must: The freshly harvested grapes are crushed, sometimes with a pestle. The must is then boiled down to reduce its water content.

• Aging in wooden barrels: The reduced must is left to age in wooden barrels made from chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, and juniper. These barrels are called "batterie," and each one brings its own unique flavor to the vinegar. Smaller barrels contain younger batches, while larger barrels hold older balsamic vinegars.

• Blending and bottling: To make traditional balsamic vinegar, batches from different barrels are combined and left to rest. Finally, the balsamic vinegar can be bottled and sent to shops across the world.

When it's done right, the process of making balsamic vinegar takes up to 25 years! However, some producers have found ways to speed up the process. Nowadays, it’s common to find 12-year-old balsamic vinegars in the supermarket.

Flavor Profile

Balsamic vinegar has an intense, complex flavor that balances tangy, acidic notes with sweet, mellow elements. It's thicker than other vinegars so it coats food nicely and adds an umami-rich punch.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is darker in color and has a thicker consistency than aged balsamic vinegar. Its flavor is incredibly concentrated, as it's made from reduced grape must without the use of any additives. As a result, it tends to be sweeter, more complex, and more viscous than aged balsamic vinegar.

Aged balsamic vinegar undergoes a shorter aging process—usually six years or less—and is made with diluted grape must and caramelized sugar or other sweetening agents. As such, it has a milder flavor than traditional balsamic vinegar and a thinner consistency.

How to Use Balsamic Vinegar

If you stock your pantry with balsamic vinegar, you may be wondering how you can use it in your cooking. Here are some ideas:

• Drizzle a small amount over sliced fruits and vegetables for a fruity, tangy contrast.

• Reduce balsamic vinegar to make a complex glaze for proteins such as pork, chicken, and fish.

• Make a zesty dressing for salads with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.

• Balance the bitterness of cooked greens such as kale and collard greens with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar.

How to Store Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar should be stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Given its high acidity, it won't spoil easily, so it's fine to store at room temperature for several months.

It’s also worth noting that balsamic vinegar will thicken when chilled, so it's best to take it out of the refrigerator an hour or two before you plan to use it, as this will help restore its syrupy texture.


Balsamic vinegar is a complex, tangy condiment made from reduced grape must. While it's traditionally made in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, there are now producers around the world. Authentic balsamic vinegar can take up to 25 years to make, whereas aged balsamic vinegar usually matures for six years or less. Both versions can be used in cooking and in dressings, but traditional balsamic vinegar may be too intense for some dishes.

Now that you know more about balsamic vinegar, why not search for recipes that make use of it? With a few simple ingredients and a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, you can easily upgrade your dishes into something truly special.