Is Balsamic Vinegar Salty?

Vinegar and oil can make any dish pop as almost all savory foods need a combination of tart, sweet, salty, and fat. And some vinegar tastes salty. But is balsamic vinegar salty?

Here’s what I know from years of selling and buying it:

Balsamic vinegar isn’t typically salty and can contain anywhere from 0 mg of sodium up to 5 mg of sodium per tablespoon depending on the brand. By comparison, 1 tablespoon of balsamic salad dressing contains between 100-300 mg of sodium.

But 0 mg to 5 mg is still a wide range even if the total sodium is fairly low.

So we’re diving deep into balsamic vinegar in this article. We’ll go more into the sodium levels of vinegar, what vinegar is the best if you avoid salt and the different vinegar types.

Let’s get into it!

Does balsamic vinegar have high sodium?

Generally no. Balsamic vinegar rarely contains more than 5 mg of sodium which technically makes it sodium-free. So, while not usually completely free of sodium, it does not contain high levels of sodium.

But how much sodium it contains majorly depends on the type of balsamic vinegar you get and the brand. There is traditional, commercial, and condiment balsamic vinegar.

Now, while, for the most part, all of these have about the same sodium level, you can expect more sodium in condiment balsamic vinegar than in traditional.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is very rich and is considered a costly grade of vinegar that is only produced in two regions of Italy.

These two regions are the Modena and Emilia Romagna regions of Italy. These types of balsamic vinegar aren’t always readily available nor very affordable. 

However, commercial and condiment forms of balsamic vinegar are more available while still being reasonably affordable.

Balsamic vinegar doesn’t have much sodium in it in any of these forms, however.

Vinegar only has about 1 milligram of salt in every tablespoon, which means The National Labeling and Educational Act classifies it as sodium-free since it has less than 5 milligrams of salt in it.

Meaning, vinegar is perfect for people who need to stick to a low sodium diet. This type of vinegar also has low calories at about ten calories per tablespoon. 

However, the calorie count depends on what’s added into the vinegar, such as any added fruit like raspberries.

I also have a recent article on the benefits of balsamic vinegar. Not only are they good for diets, especially in moderations, but they have many other benefits too.

Simply click the link to read it on my site.

Why does vinegar taste salty?

Vinegar can sometimes taste salty due to our taste buds confusing the sour and sweet flavors of vinegar with salty. This is even more true with those who don’t use vinegar often and aren’t used to the complex flavors.

As you may know, humans have five known tastes, which are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami.

For those of us that don’t know what umami is, it can be described as brothy, meaty, or savory. Humans have a hard time distinguishing between the flavors of something sour and something salty.

Meaning when you try vinegar, you might think it’s very salty when in reality, it’s pretty sour.

Vinegar is known for being sour or tangy with a slight sweetness. But, vinegar can’t be very salty because it doesn’t contain enough salt in the first place. 

However, because we have a hard time telling the difference between salty and sour, you can use this to your advantage when using vinegar.

You can add a more salty flavor to a dish without adding more salt if you use vinegar instead. Vinegar can help you lower your sodium use and intake while still making sure your food isn’t bland.

This is great for someone on a low sodium diet because it can be hard to spice up bland food when you can’t add salt.

How much sodium is in balsamic vinegar dressing?

Balsamic vinegar salad dressing, while made from balsamic vinegar, has a lot more sodium; typically anywhere from 100-300 mg per tablespoon.

Of course, as with most food condiments, the sodium content varies a lot by brand. There are also some brands marketed as low-sodium balsamic dressing, such as the one made by One&Only on Amazon with 0 mg of sodium. 

Just click that link to see the current price on Amazon.

The balsamic dressing that Panera Bread serves has 84.9 mg of sodium per 2 TBS of dressing, making it a great choice for those on a low-sodium diet. (source)

Of course, for most of us, making our own balsamic dressing where we can control the sodium content is the best way to go. For a simple recipe, just use:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 TBS yellow mustard powder (regular mustard will add sodium)

Now that One&Only balsamic vinegarette I mentioned above is not only no-sodium but also keto-friendly. Unfortunately, most balsamic vinegar dressings will not be keto-friendly.

I have a recent article on this that goes far more into detail about why and why not balsamic vinegar is keto-friendly than I can fit in this one article.

Simply click the link to read about it on my site.

Do they use salt in making balsamic vinegar?

Generally no. Balsamic vinegar is not made with salt. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made purely from grapes whereas low-priced balsamic vinegar will contain wine vinegar, grapes, and caramel coloring which can include a small amount of sodium. But it is such a small amount it is still considered sodium-free.

But again, this goes back to what I said about the different grades of balsamic vinegar.

As I  mentioned, traditional balsamic vinegar (tradizionale balsamico) is made purely from grapes. I’m talking about the ones that are $130+ a bottle.

The price is well worth it. Many chefs will tell you that if you have money to splurge on food, always splurge on a good quality oil or vinegar.

This is because traditional balsamic vinegar is simply grapes fermented in a wooden barrel for quite a long time. 

How long? Well, these grapes can be fermented up to 25 years before being sold in a fancy bottle!

Note that most kinds of vinegar don’t have salt added to them until later on and it’s usually not added while making the vinaigrette.

The vinegar you can buy at your regular grocery store tends to contain wine vinegar, some grapes, and caramel coloring.

Either of these kinds of vinegar does have salt in them, but it’s usually added in such a small amount that it’s considered sodium-free

Which vinegar has the least sodium?

Malt, rice, or white wine vinegar are typically the lowest in sodium. But, different kinds of vinegar, in general, don’t differ much in sodium count, and even when they do, they’re still considered sodium-free.

But let’s go over the different types of vinegar and their sodium count.

This is per tablespoon.

  • Balsamic vinegar: 4 milligrams 
  • Apple cider vinegar: 1 milligram
  • Red wine vinegar: 1 milligram
  • White wine vinegar: 0 milligrams
  • Rice vinegar: 0 milligrams
  • Malt vinegar: 0 milligrams

This isn’t all vinegar types, but it’s a pretty decent list that you might be picking from at the store.

As you can see, there are quite a few 0 milligrams in different types of vinegar. Balsamic vinegar doesn’t win for having the least sodium; however, it’s still impressive compared to using actual salt.

If you want to go all out with no sodium, you can choose between rice, white wine, male, and normal vinegar. 

These are great options but remember to look at more than just sodium when you go to buy. While they may be low in sodium, they might be very high in another category that doesn’t fit well with your diet or food choice.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about balsamic vinegar being salty?

We learn that vinegar is sourer than it is salty. And almost every brand of balsamic vinegar is considered sodium-free even when trace amounts are present.

Balsamic vinegar is an excellent choice for those who want to go on a low sodium diet or for anyone who simply wants less salt in their dish.

Vinegar can add new flavors to your dish without increasing the salt count.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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