Trendy Condiment Alert: Flavored Vinegars!

Balsamic vinegar has always been one of my favorite salad toppers, but now that I’ve discovered the delicious, flavored varieties that keep popping up at stores all over the country, I have found many more creative ways to use it in the kitchen. As a nutritionist, I’m a big fan of balsamic vinegar (and other vinegar varieties) because it has some terrific and surprising health perks. As a foodie, I love it because it makes the perfect finishing touch for so many recipes (sweet and savory alike)…and it adds impressive gourmet flair to everyday meals.

Flavored vinegars are created by infusing or blending plain vinegar with fruit, herbs, spices, chocolate, and other ingredients to give them a rich and unique taste profile. In the case of balsamic varieties (made with dark or white balsamic vinegar), the vinegars are then aged to intensify and round out their flavor.

So how about those health benefits? For starters, these trendy vinegars are a terrific condiment choice for dieters looking to add a pop of flavor to meals for minimal calories (at just 10 to 15 cals per tablespoon, they’re a total steal). If you dress salad with unlimited vinegar and just a drizzle (1 to 2 teaspoons) of olive oil instead of pouring on regular bottled dressing, you can save yourself hundreds of calories (you’ll also be avoiding a whole bunch of preservatives). They’re also a tasty way to dress up “boring” dinnertime staples like grilled chicken or fish.

All vinegars, including extra-yummy flavored versions, are virtually sodium-free, so they’re a great choice for people with high blood pressure and others trying to reduce their salt intake.

Also, consuming a few teaspoons of vinegar at the start of meals has been shown to blunt the rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating. That’s especially valuable info for people with type 2 diabetes, who need to carefully monitor their blood sugar. Starting lunch or dinner with a simple salad of mixed greens liberally dressed with flavored (or regular) vinegar is a simple way to improve blood sugar control.

Below, I’m sharing a few fabulous brands from across the country that produce some truly divine flavored balsamic vinegars, and I’ve linked to their websites if you’re interested in ordering them online. However, there are plenty more on the market, so explore your grocery store and specialty food stores for other interesting flavors.

Vines & Branches, a Hamptons-based company, sells a number of decadently flavored vinegars for about $16 per bottle. Their Cranberry Pear variety is the perfect accompaniment to salads garnished with fresh fruit and nuts, and the Dark Chocolate flavor tastes divine drizzled over sliced strawberries or pears.

Fustini’s, which has several brick-and-mortar locations in Michigan, offers more than 30 scrumptious varieties of balsamic vinegar for $15 to $18 per bottle. Try pouring some of their decadent Espresso Bean Balsamic over vanilla ice cream for a tangy take on the Italian classic “affogato” dessert. YUM!

Temecula Olive Oil Company, which hails from Southern California, sells a handful of premium flavored balsamic vinegars for around $18 per bottle. Their Vanilla & Fig Balsamic, made with fresh California figs and pure Madagascar vanilla paste, then aged for more than two years, pairs wonderfully with cheeses, like parmesan and ricotta, as well as grilled vegetables.


Looking for more food trends that’ll keep your health and wellness goals on track? Check out What’s Hot in Health!