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White Vinegar vs. Malt Vinegar: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on December 12, 2023
White vinegar, made from acetic acid and water, is clear and strong, used in cleaning and cooking; malt vinegar, brewed from malted barley, is darker, milder, and used as a condiment.

Key Differences

White vinegar, a clear solution, typically contains 4-7% acetic acid and water, known for its strong, sharp taste. Malt vinegar, brewed from malted barley, has a distinctive brown color and a subtly complex, milder flavor.
In cooking, white vinegar is versatile, used in marinades, pickling, and as a natural preservative due to its acidic nature. Malt vinegar is best known as a condiment, particularly popular in British cuisine for flavoring dishes like fish and chips.
White vinegar is often used as a household cleaning agent because of its disinfectant properties and ability to dissolve mineral deposits. Malt vinegar, while edible, is less commonly used for cleaning due to its color and weaker acidity.
The production process of white vinegar involves fermenting distilled alcohol, resulting in a clear, potent liquid. Malt vinegar, conversely, is made by fermenting ale from malted barley, which contributes to its characteristic brown color and sweeter taste.
White vinegar is typically more acidic and has a more neutral taste, making it suitable for a variety of uses in both cooking and cleaning. Malt vinegar, with its distinct flavor, is primarily used in culinary contexts, especially as a flavor enhancer.

Comparison Chart

Base Ingredient

Acetic acid and water.
Malted barley.




Strong and sharp.
Milder, slightly sweet.

Culinary Use

Versatile in cooking and pickling.
Primarily used as a condiment.

Other Uses

Cleaning agent due to high acidity.
Less common in cleaning, more in flavoring.

White Vinegar and Malt Vinegar Definitions

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a common household disinfectant due to its antimicrobial properties.
White vinegar can effectively disinfect kitchen surfaces.

Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar is a brown vinegar made from fermented malted barley.
Malt vinegar is a classic accompaniment to British fish and chips.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is used in dressings and marinades for its acidic punch.
White vinegar adds a tangy flavor to salad dressings.

Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar is commonly used in British cuisine as a condiment.
He seasoned his mashed potatoes with malt vinegar.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is known for its neutral flavor, making it suitable for pickling.
White vinegar is my go-to for pickling cucumbers.

Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar is less acidic than white vinegar, making it less suitable for cleaning.
Malt vinegar is primarily used in the kitchen, not for household chores.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a clear, highly acidic liquid used in cooking and cleaning.
She used white vinegar to create a homemade cleaning solution.

Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar's brewing process is similar to that of beer.
Malt vinegar is brewed from ale, giving it a unique flavor.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is made from distilled alcohol, fermented into acetic acid.
The acetic acid in white vinegar makes it a versatile kitchen ingredient.

Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar has a milder, slightly sweet flavor compared to white vinegar.
Malt vinegar provides a subtle sweetness in marinades.


Is white vinegar stronger than malt vinegar?

Yes, white vinegar is generally stronger and more acidic than malt vinegar.

Can I substitute malt vinegar for white vinegar in recipes?

Substituting malt for white vinegar can change the flavor due to the milder, sweeter taste of malt vinegar.

What's the main use of white vinegar in the kitchen?

White vinegar is used for pickling, marinating, and as a salad dressing ingredient.

What dishes are best with malt vinegar?

Malt vinegar is excellent with fish and chips, and in marinades for meats.

Can I use malt vinegar in salad dressings?

Malt vinegar can be used in dressings, but it will impart a different flavor than white vinegar.

Can malt vinegar be used for cleaning?

Malt vinegar is less common for cleaning due to its color and milder acidity.

How is malt vinegar made?

Malt vinegar is made by fermenting ale from malted barley.

Can I use white vinegar on colored fabrics?

Yes, white vinegar is safe for most colored fabrics as it doesn’t stain.

Is white vinegar good for health?

White vinegar has health benefits like antimicrobial properties and can aid in blood sugar control.

Is malt vinegar good for a low-sodium diet?

Malt vinegar is a good seasoning for those on low-sodium diets, adding flavor without salt.

What are the health benefits of malt vinegar?

Malt vinegar offers digestive benefits and can add flavor without added calories.

Can white vinegar help with weight loss?

White vinegar may aid in weight loss by helping to control blood sugar and appetite.

Can I make homemade white vinegar?

Making homemade white vinegar is complex, requiring fermentation of distilled alcohol.

Why is white vinegar used as a cleaning agent?

Its high acidity makes it effective at dissolving mineral deposits and sanitizing surfaces.

What's the flavor difference between white and malt vinegar?

White vinegar is sharp and potent, while malt vinegar is milder and slightly sweet.

Is white vinegar more versatile than malt vinegar?

Yes, white vinegar's neutral flavor makes it more versatile in cooking and cleaning.

Why is malt vinegar popular in British cuisine?

Malt vinegar’s unique flavor is a traditional complement to British dishes like fish and chips.

Does white vinegar expire?

White vinegar has an almost indefinite shelf life if stored properly.

Can I use malt vinegar on fries?

Malt vinegar is a popular and flavorful topping for fries, especially in British cuisine.

Is malt vinegar suitable for marinades?

Yes, malt vinegar’s milder flavor makes it suitable for certain types of marinades.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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