Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar are both acidic ingredients that are commonly used in cooking and baking. They provide tangy, bright flavors and can be used to help activate baking soda or balance out richer flavors. While they have some similarities, there are differences between lemon juice and apple cider vinegar that impact how they should be used.
One of the main differences between lemon juice and apple cider vinegar is their level of acidity. Acidity is measured in pH, with lower pH values corresponding to higher acidity. The typical pH of lemon juice falls between 2 and 3, making it a very acidic ingredient. Apple cider vinegar has a pH around 2.4 to 3.5, so while still acidic, it is slightly less tart than lemon juice.
|Lemon juice||2 – 3|
|Apple cider vinegar||2.4 – 3.5|
This means if you substitute apple cider vinegar for lemon juice in a recipe, you may need to use more vinegar to achieve the same sourness. Start by using a 1:1 ratio, then adjust according to taste if more acidity is needed.
In addition to varying acidity, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar have different flavor profiles. Lemon juice offers bright, fruity citrus notes. Apple cider vinegar has more muted fruitiness along with oak flavors imparted from barrel aging.
When cooking savory dishes, apple cider vinegar provides a mellower acidity and can blend well with other ingredients. The sharper lemon juice is often better for providing balance in creamy or rich dishes. In sweets like cakes, pies and frostings, lemon juice is usually preferred, as its brighter flavor comes through amidst sweet ingredients.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar in Place of Lemon Juice
While apple cider vinegar won’t replicate the exact tart, citrusy taste of lemon juice, it can work well as a substitute in some recipes. Here are some guidelines for swapping in apple cider vinegar:
- Use a 1:1 ratio of apple cider vinegar for lemon juice as a starting point, then taste and adjust acidity as needed.
- In vinaigrettes, marinades and salad dressings, apple cider vinegar can generally replace lemon juice. Its flavor mellows when mixed with other ingredients.
- For baking, substitute apple cider vinegar for lemon juice in recipes for cakes, muffins, breads and pancakes. The results may be slightly less bright tasting.
- In curries, stir fries and other savory dishes, apple cider vinegar can provide acidity in place of lemon juice.
- For lemonade and at-home lemon cleaning products, use more diluted apple cider vinegar to prevent an unpleasantly strong vinegar flavor.
- Avoid substituting vinegar in dishes where lemon flavor is essential, like lemon meringue pie or lemon curd. It won’t provide the right citrus taste.
Amounts to Substitute
Use the following recommended amounts when substituting apple cider vinegar for lemon juice:
|Lemon Juice||Apple Cider Vinegar|
|1 teaspoon||1 teaspoon|
|1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon|
|1/4 cup||1/4 cup|
|1/3 cup||1/3 cup|
|1/2 cup||1/2 cup|
|2/3 cup||2/3 cup|
|3/4 cup||3/4 cup|
|1 cup||1 cup|
As noted above, you may want to use a bit more vinegar than lemon juice specified in a recipe depending on the dish and your taste preferences. It’s easiest to add more as needed vs. overwhelming a dish with too much acidity.
Potential Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
In addition to being a useful substitute for lemon juice in cooking, apple cider vinegar is associated with a variety of potential health benefits, including:
- May support healthy blood sugar levels, according to some studies
- Contains antibacterial compounds that may promote gut health
- Rich in antioxidants derived from apples
- May boost skin health and complexion when applied topically
- May promote satiety and support weight management efforts
- Potassium content helps regulate blood pressure
However, many claims about apple cider vinegar’s health effects are not yet strongly supported by research. As with any supplement, check with your healthcare provider before using apple cider vinegar if you have any medical conditions or are taking medications.
Potential Downsides of Apple Cider Vinegar
There are some potential downsides associated with apple cider vinegar to keep in mind:
- Erosion of tooth enamel: Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic and can damage tooth enamel with regular use. Dilute it and avoid swishing it around your mouth.
- Digestive distress: Consuming too much undiluted apple cider vinegar may cause nausea or throat burn.
- Medication interactions: The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may interact with certain drugs like diuretics or insulin. Talk to your doctor.
- Burn risk: Undiluted vinegar can cause chemical burns if applied to the skin for too long.
Safety Tips When Using Apple Cider Vinegar
Here are some tips for safely using apple cider vinegar:
- Always dilute apple cider vinegar in water, juice or another liquid when drinking it. Start with a ratio of 1 tablespoon vinegar to 8 ounces of water.
- Limit apple cider vinegar consumption to 2 tablespoons diluted in a full glass of water per day.
- Don’t apply apple cider vinegar directly on your skin. Mix with water and use for short periods before rinsing.
- Rinse your mouth after drinking apple cider vinegar.
- Check with your doctor before using apple cider vinegar if you take medications or have chronic health conditions.
- Purchase only organic, raw apple cider vinegar with the “mother” to get the most health benefits.
- Store apple cider vinegar in a sealed container in a cool, dark place to preserve its nutrients.
Apple cider vinegar can be used to replace lemon juice in a variety of recipes. It provides acidity and tangy flavor, though the result may be somewhat less bright tasting compared to lemon juice. Use an equal amount of vinegar as lemon juice, then adjust to taste. Consider apple cider vinegar’s health benefits and potential risks when incorporating it into your diet or skincare routine.
While vinegar won’t replicate that signature lemon flavor, it can be a handy substitute when lemons are unavailable. Give it a try in your next recipe when you’re out of lemons!