Ume Plum Vinegar 赤梅酢 ( also known as umeboshi vinegar) is the pickling brine from making umeboshi plums with sea salt and red shiso (beefsteak leaf) that impart its ruby red color.
A tart, salty, festive condiment with beneficial organic acids, the vinegar is typically used as a seasoning and as an ingredient in Japanese cooking. You can use it to enliven salad dressings, marinades, pickles, vegetables, dips and beverages. My favorite way of using ume plum vinegar is to give my steamed or stir fry vegetables a few sprinkles for extra bright and fruity flavor.
In the US, ume plum vinegar along with other healthy Japanese ingredients became popular when the health food movement such as fermentation and probiotic were being introduced in the 70s. Thanks to its deep umami and ocean-like flavor, some vegetarians and vegans started using it as an substitute to fish sauce.
Ume plum vinegar can be super salty, so you do want to go easy on salt when you add in the vinegar to your dishes.
Where to buy Ume Plum Vinegar
In the US, I use Eden Foods Ume Plum Vinegar in my cooking. This brand has no artificial dyes, preservatives, or chemicals which I appreciate. You can find it at Whole Foods, local co-ops, health stores or online at Amazon. Some Japanese brands are available in Japanese grocery stores, but you may want to check the ingredients as they may use red dye instead of shiso leaf.
If you don’t think you will be using ume plum vinegar very often, you can use red wine vinegar as the closest substitution.
Delicious Recipe Ideas Using Ume Plum Vinegar (Umeboshi Vinegar)
Try sprinkle Ume Plum Vinegar over your beet salad, mashed chickpeas, stir fried cabbage or use it for your pickled beets or pickled red cabbage. If you would like to try something different, give this delicious Shibazuke Pickles 柴漬け a try:
A popular pickle originated in Kyoto, these salty and slightly sour pickles have beautiful natural purple color from purple shiso leaves. Enjoy the pickles with steamed rice or Ochazuke.