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All About Balsamic Vinegar: Benefits & Uses

What is Balsamic Vinegar? Most likely known as the standard staple nestled in the back of your pantry reserved for the occasional tomato basil salad, balsamic vinegar is a unique piece of Italy’s history. The ancient Romans believed that cooked grape mash, or must (the main component of balsamic vinegar) was more than a dressing for foods: it was also a healing elixir. Even the name “balsamic” refers to the original medicinal purpose of this alleged restorative “balm,” indicating its place in ancient society as a tonic.

Much like champagne, the most authentic balsamic vinegar comes solely from the Reggio Emilia and Modena regions of Italy. The two areas have been perfecting the art of this dressing and condiment since the year 1100, when Balsamic Vinegar was a popular gift for visiting royalty and nobility. 1 [1]

This storied history attached to balsamic vinegar makes it an exciting addition to Italian-inspired recipes and dishes, as does its versatility. From balsamic reductions, to glazes, even as a sweet and sour drizzle on vanilla ice cream, there’s no limit to the culinary uses of balsamic vinegar. Dressed up or dressed down, this condiment has serious kitchen staying power. Despite its ubiquity in most chef’s pantries, most folks don’t know the secret benefits and advantages of adding this condiment/dressing hybrid into your meal routine.

Is Balsamic Vinegar Good for You?

The Ancient Romans may have been on to something. Many cultures cite natural vinegars and vinegar products as a source for various therapeutic properties. While you won’t find doctors writing prescriptions for balsamic vinegar anytime soon, some studies show that consuming certain vinegars in their recommended amounts could have some benefits. 2 [2]

The Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar

There’s not a lot of research behind the health effects of balsamic vinegar, but the handful of studies available show that when broken down, the bioactive components found in balsamic vinegar can be linked to a myriad of benefits.

Balsamic Vinegar: Calories and Carbs?

Quality over quantity. When it comes to balsamic vinegar, carbs and calories tend to vary depending on processing methods, and depending on the richness of the final product. Quality of ingredients and authenticity of production are paramount when it comes to choosing a Balsamic Vinegar, especially with a serving size suggestion of just one tablespoon. Generally speaking, most balsamic vinegars range between 10-30 calories and about 7-8g of carbohydrates per serving.8 [8]

People tend to use less of a high-quality balsamic vinegar compared to lower quality variety to achieve a similar flavor intensity.

How to Choose the Best Balsamic Vinegar

There’s no shortage of balsamic vinegar options in your neighborhood grocery store, and with a plethora of culinary uses, choosing the best balsamic vinegar is no easy task. When searching for your pick, here’s what to keep an eye out for:

How Is Balsamic Vinegar Made?

Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilio Reggia or Modena regions of Italy, and begins by cooking grape mash (must). It is then brought through a series of fermentations and aged in a wooden barrel. 10 [10]

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

The aging process differs depending on the type of balsamic. For traditional balsamic vinegars, at least 12 years aging is required, with many being aged for over 25 years. Talk about patience! Balsamic vinegar of Modena, one of the most versatile variants, is only aged for two months. As you might expect, the aging process affects the taste and texture. 11 [11]

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena: Why It Matters

A type of balsamic vinegar you might already be using or have seen stocked in market shelves, is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena refers to not only the origin of its creation, but also the origin of the ingredients used to make it. More widely available, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a wide range of culinary uses. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is slow-cooked, for a distinct flavor profile of sweet and sour, with a thicker, syrup-like consistency.

Primal Kitchen®’s recently launched Balsamic Vinegar of Modena [12] is PGI Certified and made with Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients, for a high-quality, flavor-forward take that maintains Italian authenticity.

Balsamic Vinegar Uses

How to Make Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

Who doesn’t love a vinaigrette to dress up salads and charcuterie? A good rule of thumb to follow is a oil and vinegar dressing ratio of 3 to 1.

Here’s a basic balsamic vinaigrette recipe:

From there, make it your own! Add a clove of garlic, a drizzle of honey, a pinch of herbs, a squeeze of lemon etc.

The only sure way that you know your dressing will be on point every time? Skip the mixing and use Primal Kitchen® Balsamic Vinaigrette & Marinade. [13]