8 Best Substitutes for Citric Acid

Citric Acid

Citric acid can be found in supermarkets, mostly in the baking section.

It is a compound usually sold as a white powder and is used to preserve food, tenderize meats, and is also used in baking, specifically when making something sour.

It is a useful item to have at home when preserving foods, specifically when fermenting your own wine, but it is not always available in all supermarkets.

Citric acid is found in fruits such as lemons, pineapples, and oranges and adds an acidic, sour flavor to a lot of foods.

In fruit, the citric acid is more diluted and therefore not as sour, but when you buy citric acid on its own, it has a very sour taste that can be compared to vinegar. 

Citric acid is a great ingredient to have, however, there are some excellent substitutes that you can use.

The best substitutes for citric acid include lemon juice, white vinegar, tartaric acid, and apple cider vinegar, among others.

Best Citric Acid Substitutes

You can easily replace citric acid with other ingredients. Below is a list of the best substitutes for apple cider vinegar.

1. Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice

This is the best substitute for citric acid since citric acid is often derived from lemon juice. Lemon juice is very acidic and sour, which is what makes it the best substitute for citric acid.

You can use it in the same recipes as citric acid. And for each tablespoon of citric acid, use about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice as it is much less concentrated than citric acid.

Lemon juice is popular to marinate meat in, as well as make cheese like mozzarella. Thus, if you cannot find the citric acid, lemon juice is the best replacement for it. 

2. White Vinegar

White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is another substitute for citric acid because it is incredibly acidic. You can use the same recipes in place of citric acid.

White vinegar can be used to tenderize meat, keep foods fresh, and used in the production of cheese to turn the milk into curds and whey.

When substituting citric acid with vinegar, you should use about triple the amount as the vinegar is more diluted. You can add more as well. But the vinegar will change the flavor a little bit, so don’t add too much or it will ruin the recipe.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can also be used in place of citric acid or white vinegar, as it is also very acidic. Although it has a slightly sweeter flavor than white vinegar, it still will not alter the taste of the recipe as long as you don’t add too much.

Like white vinegar, add about triple the amount of apple cider vinegar in your recipes. It adds the same flavor as citric acid. However, be careful not to add too much. Otherwise, it will ruin the taste of the consistency.

You can use apple cider vinegar in recipes to marinate and flavor meat and to keep ingredients fresh. You can also use it in cheese making, although white vinegar is the recommended vinegar to use when making cheese. 

4. Tartaric Acid

Tartaric is a natural acid, like citric acid, and it occurs in many fruits.

Both tartaric acid and citric acid are sour and can be used to add a sour flavor to recipes, so this is a good substitute. This is especially a good substitute when fermenting wines. It is often used in wines instead of citric acid.

You can also use tartaric acid in other recipes. However, make sure to add about half the amount as citric acid, as tartaric acid is more acidic. You can add more as you go along, but make sure not to add the whole amount at the beginning of the recipe. 

5. Vitamin C

This vitamin is found in many citrus fruits and is also known as ascorbic acid. So, you can look for it under both names in nutrition stores or specialty stores.

Vitamin C has similar uses to citric acid, hence why it is a good substitute for it. It is also a great preservative, so it is a good substitute to use instead of citric acid when preserving.

It can also be used in other recipes as the two have similar functions, and the same quantities of vitamin c can be used as citric acid. To get vitamin C, you can purchase vitamin C tablets and crush them up, and then add them to your recipe. 

6. Citric Acid Crystals And Boiling Water 

If you cannot find citric acid in supermarkets in its powdered form or liquid form, the best thing to do would be to order citric acid crystals online.

These are easily available online and are not very expensive, and they can last for a long time, meaning you can use them for multiple recipes.

When you want to use citric acid, just add your citric acid crystals to boiling water and stir until dissolved, and then you’ll have your citric acid ready to use in any recipe you desire.

Although it might take time to order citric acid crystals, you can be sure that the recipe will work and that it will turn out exactly the way you intended. 

7. Sugar

granulated sugar

Sugar is the complete opposite of citric acid. However, if you’re making homemade gummy candy or something that needs a sour coating, you can use sugar instead if you don’t want it to be too sour.

Please note that this will not work in any recipes like wine, cheese, and tenderizing meats. However, it will work when making candy that you don’t want to be sour.

You can coat the candy in sugar instead of citric acid to give it a sweet, crunchy exterior instead of a sour exterior. 

8. Salt 

Table salt

Salt is a popular ingredient for food preservation. And a lot of the time you can store foods in a brine solution in order to make them last longer.

By doing this, you no longer need citric acid to preserve the food, although this might still help. If you need to preserve something with citric acid, try using salt or putting the foods in a brine solution instead. This will help it last longer. 


Can you make your own citric acid?

If you want, you can extract citric acid from lemon juice.

However, this is time-consuming and you will need to find other chemicals, such as calcium chloride, sodium hydroxide, and sulfuric acid to extract the citric acid and turn it into crystals.

You also will not get a huge amount of crystals. But if you want to, you can make your own at home. 

You can also buy citric acid crystals and add them to boiling water, stirring until they dissolve, in order to make liquid citric acid if that is the form needed in your recipe. 

Can I use baking soda instead of citric acid?

You cannot use baking soda as a substitute for citric acid because they have different uses. But the two can be used together since citric acid makes baking soda activate and fizz up, which can be used for some recipes.

You cannot replace citric acid with baking soda. However, as it will not work in the same way and your recipe will not work out as planned. 

Can I substitute cream of tartar for citric acid?

Yes, you can use a cream of tartar instead of citric acid.

The cream of tartar is available in the baking aisle of grocery stores. It is a common ingredient of many baking recipes such as snickerdoodles. It is also called tartaric acid, which was mentioned above as a substitute for citric acid.

When replacing cream of tartar for citric acid, use only about half the amount as it is more acidic. Then, add more if you need to as you go along. Cream of tartar will also not fizz up as much as citric acid, but it will still work as a substitute. 

Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of citric acid?

Yes, you can use apple cider vinegar instead of citric acid.

Distilled white vinegar would be a better option as it will not ruin the flavor at all, however, you can still use apple cider vinegar when preserving, or adding it to a recipe, and the recipe will turn out fine.

You should add about triple the amount of apple cider vinegar as it is much more diluted than citric acid. But make sure that this will not affect the consistency of your recipe.

What fruits contain citric acid?

Many fruits naturally contain citric acids such as lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruits. And you can usually notice this because of their sour taste, which comes from citric acid. The name citric acid is derived from the word citrus.

  1. If you, like me, started out as a believer in the sanity of the world, you spent a good part of your innocent life thinking that citric acid was made from citric fruits. There is a reason it’s called “citric,” right? No, wrong.

    More than 90% of all citric acid in the world (up to 99%, according to some sources) is produced using Aspergillus niger, an allergenic and toxic mold that is associated human disease.

    The above was from a Dr. Mercola newsletter.

    1. I must agree with the person speaking of the effects of commercial citric acid. Use lemons, limes, or ACV/white vinegar. Just saying stay fresh!

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