The short answer is that certain types of balsamic vinegar are vegan, while others may not be.
Generally speaking, there are 2 main types of balsamic vinegar, which will be clearly indicated in the name on the bottle:
- Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP (or something like “Traditional balsamic vinegar”)
- Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP (missing “traditional”).
The traditional kind is “true” balsamic vinegar. It’s made from grapes being reduced and aged for several years.
The second kind is the cheap stuff that you’ll find in grocery stores. It only takes 2 months – 3 years to make, and contains other ingredients like coloring, caramel, and thickeners.
If you see any of those ingredients on the ingredients list on the label, you know it’s the second kind.
Here’s the problem: Some of these are still probably vegan, but they rarely explicitly say so.
The biggest problem ingredient is caramel. While it can easily be made with only vegan ingredients, caramel is often made with dairy like cream and milk. So it might be vegan, but it might not.
Most labels just say “caramel,” without saying what’s actually in it.
Summary of Whether or Not Balsamic Vinegar is Vegan
If you want to be 100% sure that your balsamic vinegar is vegan, then buy a traditional one that’s certified for several years, and doesn’t have any of those cheap ingredients in the ingredients list.
Yes, it’s a lot more expensive, but it should taste better as well at least.
If you buy the second type, the cheap balsamic vinegar, it may be vegan. But there’s a good chance that it’s not. So it’s up to you if you want to take that risk.