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8/10 times when someone asks “what is dish dish missing?“ the answer = 2 drops of vinegar.

When To Add Acid To Food:

Acid is the secret to all great cooking, not butter, not fat but it’s acidity that makes a dish take off. Most people think lemon juice or maybe red wine vinegar but their are many way to answer the question “how do I add sour to food?”. In this post we offer some examples of acidity packed foods and some of the best sour products we know of.  Short answer: You should always add acid, it will help your home cooking taste better.

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What type of vinegar should I use? 

Most people think of balsamic red wine vinegar. Most people only use it in salad dressing or maybe they’ve doused some malt vinegar on fish and chips. But it’s the most underappreciated ingredient in cooking. From tarragon vinegar in France being dropped in bearnaise sauce to cane vinegar livening up adobo in the Philippines, vinegar makes food pop. Here’s an experiment, put a drop of vinegar on your next grilled cheese, or can of baked beans or anything, you’ll notice that vinegar introduces a new dimension. Vinegar helps food because it cut the unbalanced amount of sugar and fat in most food.

Some vinegars we like:

Acid League

Fly By Jing Vinegar - 10 Year Aged Black Vinegar 


In the Philippines, it’s Calamansi in Japan Yuzu, but citrus gives brightness to food (especially of the raw variety). Think of the tart hit of key lime pie or the impact of fresh lemon squeeze over greek seafood. Yet, we seem to stop there, if your dish has no acidity squeeze a lemon or blood orange. Liven up your salad with chunks of pomelo and grapefruit. You should never roast anything in butter without a trace amount of acidity. It’s why the world loves French butter sauces like hollandaise or beurre blanc . 


From Caper to a sour pickle at a proper Jewish deli, pickles pack enough acidity to cut through any meal.  

Some pickles we like:

Pacific Pickleworks

Rick's Picks

Yoghurt / Buttermilk  or "Sour Dairy"

Many people overlook buttermilk in dressing and as a marinade (think buttermilk fried chicken) but if you can get your hands on the stuff test it out. Good Greek Yoghurt isn’t always thought of acidic but it is. It adds the perfect twang to dessert or is the base for any healthy salad dressing or creamy sauce instead of mayonnaise or heavy cream. (Try a yoghurt-based Caesar dressing next time). It should be used like lemon, stir a spoonful into curry sauces or a soup to add tartness.

It can be deployed the same way you would sour cream in borscht or strained and dolloped on nachos. 

Kombucha / Shrubs 

A naturally sour and refreshing drink? Try Kombucha or Tamarindo or Kyrgyzstan Fermented Kvass. There’s a world of refreshing, acidic beverages beyond lemonade. We love shrubs mixed with water and lots of ice.

Some of our favorite shrubs:

Liber & Co. Grapefruit Shrub

Element Shrub

Tomato Paste

Tomatoes are acidic (why nonna’s swear by a punch of sugar in their pasta sauce). A squeeze of tomato paste can wake up sandwich spreads or add punch to wing sauce along with some butter and hot sauce.  


Most commonly found in worcestershire, toss the fresh pods or puree into soups and broth for a refreshing sour hit.

Kimchi / Sauerkraut 

Adding sauerkraut to a grilled cheese cuts the fat and adds texture. Adding bacon and kimchi for bacon kimchi fried rice provides a simile balance of fat and acid.


Umeboshi Paste 

A little goes a long way with this Japanese sour plum. Try it in stir fry or folded through rice. Never underestimate the effect of a bit of vinegar or something acidic on rice.  



Lots of fruits and vegetables are naturally acidic, a good example is rhubarb. Seek out condiments like this achar that take advantage of its natural pop. Also working acidic fruits and veg into your salad will brighten them. Rhubarb can be easily pickled or stewed down with rosemary to serve over ice cream for a fat, sour, cold, hot balance that is delicious.



The most important thing about acidity is remembering to use it. Having a couple of these items in your pantry or fridge will upgrade your home cooking in seconds. Get a Mantry subscription or click the links and stock up!


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