Citric acid might be essential in many of your recipes, but if you’ve ever been out of luck while trying to get some for your baking project, you’ll know the perplexity that comes along with it.
However, there are actually several ingredients that could easily serve as a citric acid substitute and enable you to bring life back into your culinary experiments.
In this blog post, we will take a look at five such replacements that not only offer an equal amount of taste but also possess additional nutrients which make them perfect substitutes for citric acid.
What is Citric Acid?
Citric acid is a popular food additive and preservative found in many packaged foods and beverages.
It is also used to add flavor to foods.
It is naturally occurring in some citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, but can also be manufactured or synthesized in a laboratory.
Citric acid helps prevent spoilage, provides a tart taste, adds sharpness to the flavor of food, and acts as an emulsifying agent to aid in ingredient blending.
Benefits of Citric Acid
Citric acid is a natural preservative and commonly used in the food and beverage industries to increase the acidity of foods and drinks.
It has a tart, sour flavor without any underlying sweetness, making it an ideal ingredient for sauces, marinades, desserts, canned goods and more.
Not only is citric acid a preservative, but it also provides many dietary benefits as well.
The primary benefit of citric acid is that it’s naturally occurring and contains no dangerous chemicals or additives.
As part of the Vitamin C family, citric acid helps to reduce inflammation within the body while also providing essential electrolytes necessary for healthy bones and muscle tissue.
In addition, citric acid has been shown to help with digestion by encouraging the release of bile salts which break down fat molecules in small intestine.
Finally, its antioxidant properties have been known to reduce oxidative stress within the cells by neutralizing free radicals which can lead to cellular damage or mutations on a molecular level.
5 Best Citric Acid Substitutes You Should Try
It’s used in many food products and beverages such as soft drinks, jams and jellies, canned vegetables and processed meats.
However, some consumers have limited access to citric acid or may prefer to use other ingredients to adjust the flavors of their foods or drinks.
Therefore, here are 5 best substitutes for citric acid you should try:
1 – Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is one of the best substitutes for citric acid.
Not only does it contain citric acid, but it also adds flavor and can be used in citric-acid-based drinks or salads.
Lemon juice is also an effective preservative in food and beverage products like jams and canned vegetables.
For each teaspoon of citric acid called for, substitute one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
If using bottled lemon juice, use two tablespoons instead.
If a recipe calls for more than one teaspoon of citric acid, you may need additional lemons to make sure that you get the right amount of juice.
2 – Lime Juice
Lime juice is probably the most common replacement for citric acid, as it has a similar acidic flavor though lime juice is not as potent as citric acid, so you may need to use a bit more.
Plus, lime juice also adds an additional citrus flavor.
Because the sourness of lime juice isn’t as strong as citric acid, you may need to experiment with equal parts lime juice and sugar to balance out flavors in certain recipes.
Be sure to add it right at the end of cooking though, otherwise it can lose much of its sourness.
3 – Tartaric Acid
Tartaric acid is a white powder that is produced from certain fruits and grape wines.
It’s stronger than citric acid and offers a tart flavor to many food products.
Tartaric acid has twice the potency of citric acid, so when substituting this ingredient you will need to use half the amount listed in the recipe.
Tartaric acid is an approved additive and can be found in baking supplies, health food stores, or online retailers.
4 – White Vinegar
White vinegar is made from the fermentation of grains such as wheat, barley or sorghum.
This vinegar may have a slightly harsh taste when it’s used in cooking, but it can be modified to make a better substitute for citric acid.
To substitute citric acid with white vinegar, combine 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per 1 teaspoon of citric acid that a recipe calls for.
Additionally, you can reduce the liquid volume in the recipe to make up for the added fluid created by the white vinegar.
White vinegar works as a general substitute for citric acid in savory dishes such as braises and stews however it is not ideal for preserving or pickling applications.
Additionally, pairing other acids like lemon juice with white vinegar can more closely mimic the flavor profile of true citric acid in pickle recipes.
5 – Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a popular choice for substituting citric acid and is most likely in all homes.
It has a sharp, sour taste so use very little and be careful not to add too much.
Apple cider vinegar has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties as well as being rich in vitamins A and B, making it a great alternative to citric acid.
Here are some tips on how to best use this substitute:
- Add one teaspoon at a time, tasting the food between each addition until you reach the desired level of acidity;.
- Start with this alternative if you’re trying to preserve colors or flavors;.
- It’s ideal for butterscotch or other recipes that require both sweet and tart;.
- Apple cider vinegar should not be used for pickling as it will give the food an unpleasant taste.
Citric acid is a versatile ingredient used in many recipes and products.
It adds tartness, though not as much as acid from other sources.
If you don’t have access to citric acid, there are many good substitutes you can use.
Lemon juice and lime juice are the two go-to replacements for citric acid in most recipes, as they are widely available citrus fruits with a high acidic content.
Alternatively, vinegar and cream of tartar can both be used, albeit in different amounts than citric acid.
For those needing to avoid any citrus sources for a recipe or dish, salt or even baking soda make great substitutes for an acidic bite.
These alternatives may lend a strong salty taste to your dish so be sure to adjust its seasoning accordingly before serving.
Finally, if none of these options suit your needs, consider using commercially available replacement products that have been specifically formulated with citric acid’s unique properties in mind – they may provide just the flavor profile you need without compromising quality or taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is citric acid?
Citric acid is a naturally occurring weak acid that is found in citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges.
It has a sour, tart flavor and can be used as a preservative, flavoring agent, and pH adjuster.
What are the best substitutes for citric acid?
The best substitutes for citric acid are lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, and ascorbic acid.
All of these ingredients can provide a sour, acidic flavor to foods and drinks.
What are the uses of citric acid?
Citric acid is used in a variety of ways, including as a preservative, flavoring agent, and pH adjuster.
It is also used in baking powder and as an ingredient in some candies and sodas.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!