Top 13 Best Sushi Vinegars to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!

We know–foodies are all about the authentic stuff. When you eat sushi, you want sushi that takes you straight into the heart of a Japanese fish market, so much so that you can almost hear vendors hawking their wares. What fish and what rice you use is important, of course, but sushizu (すし酢)※1 is an often underrated ingredient in sushi-making.

Sushi vinegar gives rice its depth of flavor. It’s an indispensable ingredient. So in order to find the best, we ordered the 13 most popular bottles of vinegar from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon and Yahoo Shopping) and tested them all.

We also invited three certified seasoning sommeliers and asked them to taste each product. (For those that are unfamiliar with seasoning sommeliers, they are professionals that have passed an exam proctored by the Japan Seasoning Meisters Association.) The three experts then compared the following:

1. Balance of Sweet and Sour
2. How Well It Goes with Rice

This is how we tested and found the most exceptional sushi vinegars.

※1 すし酢: sushi vinega

This article's specialists

Megumi Yoshida
Etsuko Makino
Yoko Tsujii
  • Last updated: 10/28/2019
  • 32 views
Table of Contents

Introducing the Experts Who Lent Us Their Knowledge

This time around, we borrowed the knowledge of three certified experts, who have earned the title of both vegetable sommelier and and seasoning sommelier. They’re all active in their field, teaching, penning columns, and making media appearances.
Introducing the Experts Who Lent Us Their Knowledge
{Left: Megumi Yoshida}
She's a food expert that's a certified vegetable sommelier and seasoning sommelier. She wears many hats, crafting and publishing family-oriented recipes, writing columns, teaching at a cultural center, running the Aomori Vegetable Marché, and making radio appearances.

{Middle: Etsuko Makino}
She uses her knowledge as a vegetable sommelier and seasoning sommelier to develop new recipes and products, introducing the charm and flavor of fruits and vegetables to all generations. She's very active, making appearances on on NHK Radio's "Saitamazu" and Television Saitama's "Machikomi."

{Right: Yoko Tsujii}
She's a cooking professional that holds many certifications, including that of vegetable sommelier and seasoning sommelier. She works to share the joy that comes through food and cooking with children, who are our future. She conducts short courses for elementary schoolers and above.

How to Choose Sushi Vinegar – Buying Guide

Sushi vinegar can be astringent or mellow; it can contain other underlying flavors or be clean and plain. Actually, there’s a lot you can tell about the flavor of a vinegar from simply reading the labels.
We’ll get into how we tested and compared all the bottles of vinegar, but before that, we want to introduce one thing you should definitely look out for when picking out sushi vinegar.

Look For Any Special Flavoring

You’d think all bottles of sushi vinegar would have more or less the same ingredients, but it turns out that that’s not always the case. Depending on the brand, you can get all sort of flavors: bottles of vinegar where acidity is prized over mellowness or where sweet and sour is perfectly balanced.
You can even find sushi vinegar that’s been infused with kelp or honey.

Check if Any Kombu Dashi Has Been Used

Check if Any Kombu Dashi Has Been Used
First off, you want to see if there’s any kombu dashi (昆布だし)※1 in the bottle. Kombu dashi is a stock made from kelp, and when it’s used as an ingredient in sushi vinegar, the final product usually turns out smooth and mellow, light and sweet, rather than sour.
If you’re worried about buying vinegar that’s too sharp, if you want a softer, more layered flavor, then get a bottle that includes kombu dashi.
※2 昆布だし: kelp stock

Check and See if It’s Been Labeled as Sweet or Light

Check and See if It’s Been Labeled as Sweet or Light
Sometimes, sushi vinegar will be labeled as amakuchi (甘口).※2 Sushi vinegar normally contains sugar, but amakuchi bottles will have an extra helping of the stuff.
Sweet vinegar is well suited for marinades and Chinese food. It’s often used to pickle vegetables or to tamp down sharper-tasting produce, such as onions. (On the other hand, a vinegar that’s too sour will mask the delicate flavors of your veggies.) Sweet vinegar is also used for Chinese dishes like sweet-and-sour pork, which is much beloved here in Japan.
However, you don’t want to use amakuchi vinegar in sushi. If your rice gets too sweet, it will overwhelm the umami of the fish. So when you make sushi, rolls, or chirashi bowls, you want to avoid sushi vinegar that contains kombu dashi and honey.※3
※3 甘口: sweet or light
※4 はちみつ: honey

What Products We Ordered and How We Tested Them

What Products We Ordered and How We Tested Them
Now to introduce the 13 most popular bottles of vinegar that we ordered and the process by which we tested them.
{The Products We Tested}
1. Uchibori Brewing Mino Tokusen Sushi Vinegar (内堀醸造 美濃特選すし酢)
2. mizkan Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi (ミツカン すし酢 昆布だし入り)
3. Seven Premium Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi (セブンプレミアム 昆布だし入りすし酢)
4. Fuji Sushi Vinegar (富士すし酢)
5. Gensen Sozai Sushi Vinegar (厳選素材のすし酢)
6. mizkan Sushi Vinegar (ミツカン すし酢)
7. Ohyama Foods Sushi Vinegar (大山食品 すし酢)
8. Uchibori Brewing Amakuchi Sushi Vinegar with Dashi (内堀醸造 だし入りすし酢甘口)
9. Uchibori Brewing Sushi Vinegar (内堀醸造 すし酢)
10. Marushosu Jozomoto Sushi Vinegar (丸正酢醸造元 寿しの酢)
11. Kawakamisu Mise Sushi Vinegar (川上酢店 寿司専門酢)
12. TOPVALU Sushi Vinegar with Rishiri Kelp (TOPVALU利尻産昆布使用すし酢)
13. Marushima Foods Hokkaido Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi (マルシマ食品 北海道産 昆布だし入り すし酢)
We then tested each for the following things:
Test ①: Balance of Sweet and Sour
Test ②: How Well It Goes with Rice

Test ①: Balance of Sweet and Sour

Test ①: Balance of Sweet and Sour
First, we tested how well the sweet and sour elements in the vinegar balanced each other out.
A lot of people think that the more fragrant and sour a vinegar is, the better it is, but they would be wrong. Truth is if the vinegar is too strong, it could overpower the natural umami of the foods you’re trying to season.
We had our three experts grade each bottle of vinegar on both the fragrance and how well sweet and sour were balanced on a scale from D to A+. They smelt each vinegar before tasting it. They then tasted each and shared how well they thought the sweet and sour flavors played together.

The Big Takeaway: Be Wary of Sushi Vinegar that is So Sweet, You Can’t Taste the Acid

The Big Takeaway: Be Wary of Sushi Vinegar that is So Sweet, You Can’t Taste the Acid
You’d think that because vinegar is acidic, it would be pretty sour, right? But out of the sugary bottles of vinegar we tested, there were a few where the sweetness of the sugar overpowered the taste and fragrance of the vinegar.
Sweeter bottles of vinegar pair well with vegetables but not with rice, so for the purposes of this test, they tended to fall at the bottom of our ranking. After all, when the vinegar is too sugary, the light natural sweetness of your rice can’t come through.
On the other hand, bottles that brought out the natural fragrance and acidity of vinegar tended to do well during our tests, seeing as they pair well with rice. The main takeaway is this: if you plan to season rice, do not get sweetened vinegar.
Megumi Yoshida
Seasoning Sommelier, Vegetable Sommelier Pro
Megumi Yoshida
The flavors in Uchibori Brewing's Sushi Vinegar were well balanced. It's got a light taste and a refreshingly sour fragrance. A mild flavor like this would be good for those who are worried about the vinegar being too biting.
Etsuko Makino
Seasoning Sommelier, Vegetable Sommelier Pro
Etsuko Makino
Amakuchi vinegar is perfect with spicy produce, like onions! It'd make a good marinade. You can also use it to season dishes like sweet-and-sour pork.

Test ②: How Well It Goes with Rice

Test ②: How Well It Goes with Rice
If you’re going to use vinegar in sushi, then how well it goes with rice is pretty important. For our second test, we mixed vinegar with rice, which we then had our experts taste.
We then asked them to grade the vinegar on a scale from D to A+, depending on how well it paired with rice.

The Big Takeaway: Light and Refreshing Flavors Tend to Go Well with Rice

The Big Takeaway: Light and Refreshing Flavors Tend to Go Well with Rice
In the end, it was the bottles where the natural fragrance and acidity of the vinegar came through that did well. Most fish that’s served as sashimi tastes pretty strong, so if you don’t mix in a suitably sour vinegar, the flavor of your sushi rice isn’t going to come through.
In fact, the bottles that let the natural flavors of the vinegar shine through were so good, our experts said they could eat them with just rice. Sour vinegar also tends to feel lighter on the tongue, and it both enhances the light sweetness of rice and brings out the umami of fish.
Yoko Tsujii
Seasoning Sommelier
Yoko Tsujii
Marushima Food's Hokkaido Sushi Vinegar with Konbu Dashi did a great job balancing sweet, sour, and salty elements! It was quite acidic, but it would go well with raw fish, so I really recommend this one for sushi rice.

The Final Verdict: Top 13 Best Sushi Vinegars to Buy Online

Now to introduce the 13 best sushi vinegars available online. They were ranked by how well they did on our tests and given an overall grade ranging from D to A+.
13. mizkan Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi 1

13. mizkan Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi

$3.56

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityC
Rice CompatibilityC
Overall ScoreC
12. Seven Premium Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi 1

12. Seven Premium Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi

$1.67

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityC
Overall ScoreC
11. Kawakamisu Mise Sushi Vinegar 1

11. Kawakamisu Mise Sushi Vinegar

$4.32

Kombu DashiNo
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityC
Overall ScoreC
Kombu DashiNo
AcidityC
Rice CompatibilityB
Overall ScoreC
9. Uchibori Brewing Amakuchi Sushi Vinegar with Dashi 1

9. Uchibori Brewing Amakuchi Sushi Vinegar with Dashi

$2.74

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityC
Overall ScoreB
8. Ohyama Foods Sushi Vinegar 1

8. Ohyama Foods Sushi Vinegar

$5.77

Kombu DashiNo
AcidityC
Rice CompatibilityB
Overall ScoreB
7. Uchibori Brewing Mino Tokusen Sushi Vinegar 1

7. Uchibori Brewing Mino Tokusen Sushi Vinegar

$3.88

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityC
Rice CompatibilityB
Overall ScoreB
6. Fuji Sushi Vinegar 1

6. Fuji Sushi Vinegar

$5.50

Kombu DashiNo
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityB
Overall ScoreB
5. TOPVALU Sushi Vinegar with Rishiri Kelp 1

5. TOPVALU Sushi Vinegar with Rishiri Kelp

$1.67

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityB
Overall ScoreB
4. Marushosu Jozomoto Sushi Vinegar 1

4. Marushosu Jozomoto Sushi Vinegar

$11.21

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityB
Overall ScoreB
3. Gensen Sozai Sushi Vinegar 1

3. Gensen Sozai Sushi Vinegar

$2.63

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityA
Overall ScoreB
2. Uchibori Brewing Sushi Vinegar 1

2. Uchibori Brewing Sushi Vinegar

$2.40

Kombu DashiNo
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityA
Overall RankingA
1. Marushima Foods Hokkaido Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi 1

1. Marushima Foods Hokkaido Sushi Vinegar with Kombu Dashi

$5.00

Kombu DashiYes
AcidityB
Rice CompatibilityA+
Overall ScoreA

Summary

We invited three experts, purchased the 13 top selling bottles of sushi vinegar, and tested them all.
They’re good for not only sushi, but also as marinades and seasoning, so make sure to stick one of our top rankers into your cart the next time you’re restocking your pantry.
Original by Nozomi Onishi; Translation by Jasmine Li

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