Vinegar is a condiment that was favored by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It has numerous health benefits and flavors everything from salads and cooked vegetables and acts as a meat tenderizer in marinades and more. In a hadith narrated by Ayesha, Muslim and Ibn Maja, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Allah has put blessing in vinegar, for truly it was used by the Prophets before me.”
Since vinegar can came from a variety of sources (i.e. fruits, corn, etc.) and may be processed as a finished product in a number of ways, I thought a little explanation was necessary here for those who wonder whether or not any particular vinegar on a store shelf is halal (permissible in a Muslim’s diet) since the alcohol question almost always arises when talking about vinegar, due to the nature of how it is made.
These are some of the most common questions I am asked about vinegar, so I hope the responses are helpful. As always, please refer to the experts such as scholars, food scientists, halal-certification agencies who are incredibly knowledgeable about this topic and have resources where you can gain a plethora of information on this topic. (See resources throughout this page).
What is Vinegar Exactly?
The word vinegar literally means sour wine (French derivation). It is basically alcohol that has gone through a chemical process of souring and reached a point where it is no longer alcoholic in nature. This alcohol can be derived from a few things, but most commonly comes from grapes (wine), apples (hard cider), corn or wheat (grain alcohol).
How is Vinegar Made?
As just mentioned, vinegar is the result of a process of chemical change which renders the final product to be free of alcohol, even though it starts out from a product which is then fermented/alcoholic. For a detailed description of the many different sources of vinegar (i.e. fruits, rice, grains) and a descriptive process of how it’s made, please check out this page.
If a Product Says There is “Wine Vinegar” in It, Doesn’t That Mean It’s Not Halal?
One of the most common types of vinegar you will find on the market indicating there is ‘wine’ in the product are the balsamic vinegar varieties. Balsamic vinegar is made from special Italian grapes turned to wine then aged further to make vinegar. Often times a company will list ‘wine’ as an ingredient in Balsamic vinegar for one of two reasons:
a) because wine was initially used to turn the product to vinegar;
b) because wine was added after the vinegar was made, to add more flavor to their product
From my understanding after attending the Fiqh of Food class through the Al Maghrib Institute, the only way there would be alcohol in the final vinegar product is if alcohol were added to the final product, AFTER the vinegar has been made. This is not always the case, but may be found more often in high end gourmet types of vinegar. However, to be certain, the best thing to do is to call each company individually because you may not be able to ell from the ingredient list. Typically, there is no issue with apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar, which is made from corn. Allahu’alim (God knows best).
For further information, read this article by IFANCA: Is Vinegar Halal?
Is All Vinegar Good for Consumption?
There are some types of vinegar which are just simply delicious to add to salads, include as part of a marinade or to take daily as natural digestive. Rice vinegar is great in Asian dishes to give it an authentic flavor.
The one vinegar I hesitate to eat, but buy it in bulk quantities for cleaning my entire home in a non-toxic way is distilled white vinegar. Read more about why at this link on Dr. Mercola’s website. It involves the possible consumption of GMOs.
Where Can I Get Good Quality Vinegar Products?
Date Vinegar– online at www.datevinegar.com and in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean markets.
Trader Joe’s Apple Cider Vinegar– why, Trader Joe’s stores, of course.
About Balsamic Vinegar
There is a bit of a debate about whether or not balsamic vinegar is halal because it is derived from grapes turned to wine then to vinegar. Upon verification there is not alcohol added to the final product, the debate still goes on due to differing opinions from the various madhab (schools of thought). Personally, I am still learning about this difference of opinion. What I understand is that all vinegar comes from alcohol and that alcohol when exposed to air over time is converted into an intoxicant-free product called vinegar. That may be over-simplifying the issue, of course so I suggest every individual do a little research and talk to scholars who are familiar with Sahih ahadith and are also familiar with the food science industry, as well.
Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar– I called Trader Joe’s and asked about the addition of wine and so far they do not add wine to the final product, however, I will be calling every once in a while just to make sure they haven’t changed that status.
Halal-Certification Agencies in the United States