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Gourmet Hacks: 5 BEST Substitutes for Citric Acid

Have you ever wondered what citric acid is and how it’s used in cooking?

Well, most commonly known as a sour or tart flavoring agent, citric acid can be found in many types of food.

It’s often used in jams or candy to add a tangy kick, but it can even be used to help preserve pickles or other items for extended periods of time.

But what happens when you don’t have citric acid on hand?

Luckily, there are five easy-to-find substitute options to consider if you find yourself short on this kitchen staple.

From vinegar to lemon juice and beyond, these simple swaps can give your dishes the same great “sour” taste that citric acid does.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is an essential ingredient in a variety of recipes, but not many people are aware of what it actually is.

Derived from citrus fruits and different varieties of berries, citric acid is found naturally in a lot of plant sources.

In addition to being widely used as a preservative and flavoring agent, citric acid can also be used to adjust the acidity and tartness in a recipe.

Depending on the taste you are trying to achieve, citric acid can be added in varying concentrations to various dishes, such as sauces, jams, soups, and marinades.

Its unique flavor helps balance out other flavors while adding complexity suggesting its potential use as an alternative sweetener.

Aside from flavor enhancement, it has also been used to make bath bombs due to fizzing when combined with baking soda.

Knowing how much to add may take some experimentation, but with a little bit of practice, you will soon master the art of adding just enough citric acid to your favorite dishes for that perfect distinct flavor.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Citric Acid

For those who are looking for a substitute for citric acid, it can be quite a challenge.

But don’t worry.

We have done the research and found the five best alternatives that will do the trick.

1 – Lemon Juice

The tart and sour taste of lemon juice is unmistakable.

This liquid sunshine can be sweetened by adding it to drinks and other recipes, making it as versatile as it is delicious.

A single lemon can yield around two tablespoons of juice, which naturally contains vitamins and minerals that help promote overall health.

Used fresh or bottled, this zesty flavor enhancer adds a burst of complexity to food without overwhelming the dish’s setup ingredients.

Lemon juice can also be used in place of citric acid, a common culinary ingredient added to dishes and drinks to bring out flavors that are usually too subtle when left untreated.

Whether it’s jazzing up a salad, taking away fishy odor from seafood dishes, or creating a creamy topping for cloudy dessert, lemon juice makes an excellent substitute for citric acid.

2 – Lime Juice

Bursting with tart and tangy flavors, lime juice is an incredibly versatile citrus solution for any recipe.

Acting as a great substitute for citric acid, you can add a punch to any kind of dish, from seafood to dessert.

Made from freshly squeezed limes, the flavor of lime juice has sweet and sour notes that can liven up your favorite meal.

It also works excellently as an ingredient for marinades, dressings, cocktails, and more dishes.

When substituting citric acid with lime juice, be sure to use half a tablespoon of lime juice for every teaspoon of citric acid needed in the recipe.

Try adding it to your next meal and discover the amazing flavor profile that only lime juice brings.

3 – Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid, a versatile organic acid found in many natural substances such as grapes, bananas, tamarinds, and other fruits, is well-known for its unique flavor and tangy taste.

It is a colorless crystalline acid with a sour flavor and plays an important role in baking, winemaking, and food production.

Despite having an unmistakable flavor of its own, it is often used to balance or substitute the sharpness of citric acids.

It can be found in the form of purified crystals or powder, which can easily be added to dishes as it dissolves quickly when combined with water at room temperature.

As tartaric acid has less acidic properties than citric acid, it needs to be used in larger amounts when substituting citric acid – however, this may offer more depth and complexity to the overall dish.

Therefore tartaric acid is extremely versatile, enhancing both sweet and savory snacks to give them the perfect balance of sweet-tart flavors.

4 – White Vinegar

White vinegar, though a common staple in the pantry, often has more uses than many people might realize.

White vinegar’s acetic acid content is what makes it so versatile, as this acid can be used for cleaning and can act as a powerful preservative and flavor enhancer.

White vinegar also has a distinctly tart flavor that is excellent for adding a sharp tang to both savory and sweet dishes.

For instance, it’s a great replacement for citric acid when you want to add acidity from something other than citrus fruit.

The substitution ratio is simple – one teaspoon of white vinegar for every ½ teaspoon of citric acid.

With this knowledge in hand, you’ll never have to worry about running out of citric acid when cooking.

5 – Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is an all-natural, zesty addition to any ingredient list, offering an unusual punch flavor.

It is usually made from apple juice.

However, it can be made from a variety of other fruits as well.

The fermentation process begins with the breakdown of sugar into alcohol and then into acetic acid, which gives the vinegar its tartness and pungency.

Along with its versatility as a flavoring agent, apple cider vinegar can also be used in place of citric acid when making pickling brine or deglazing dishes such as pan-fried meats and veggies.

A little goes a long way when substituting it for citric acid – just 1/2 tablespoon is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of citric acid – so use sparingly.

When utilized correctly, apple cider vinegar can dramatically enhance the taste of your favorite recipes.


In conclusion, there are many delicious ways to use citric acid substitutes in the kitchen.

Whether it’s a tartaric acid, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar, each of these substitutions can enhance the flavor and texture of dishes while still offering the same acidic kick.

Lime juice is also an excellent option as it adds a unique sweet-tart taste to marinades, dressings, and more.

With these substitutes available, there’s no need to worry about running out of citric acid ever again.

So get creative in the kitchen and try each substitution in your next dish.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Citric Acid

Out of citric acid but need that tangy flavor? Check out our recommendations for substitutes that bring the same acidity and brightness to your dishes.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Substitutes
Servings 1 Serving


  • Lemon Juice
  • Lime Juice
  • Tartaric Acid
  • White Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Keyword Substitutes for Citric Acid
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