Balsamic glaze (also knows as balsamic reduction) is one of my most favorite condiments! It’s basically a reduction of balsamic vinegar and a touch of sweetener. It takes only about 15 minutes to make it and you can use it on so many dishes.
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Balsamic glaze is one of the easiest to make condiments and is wonderfully versatile in the kitchen. You can serve it with just about anything! Balsamic vinegar, reduced or not, compliments any protein and goes so good on salads, vegetables, breads, and more. I don’t joke when I say that you can put that stuff on everything!
The flavor of Balsamic Glaze is bright, rich, tangy, and sweet. The rich, deep, and complex flavor of the glaze is sweet, but also holds on to the tang from the vinegar. It’s those contrasting yet complimentary flavors that make it so delicious!
It’s one of the best condiments to keep in the refrigerator. You will use for lunch, snack, and dinner, I promise!
Why Make Your Own Balsamic Reduction?
Yes, there are several brands of balsamic reduction and glaze available on the market. Admittedly, it’s super convenient to just buy some at the store instead of making it at home.
The reason I prefer to make my own is because of the ingredients. There are only two ingredients in a homemade balsamic glaze. Without the sweetener, there is only 1 ingredient!
You also have full control over the balsamic vinegar used. They are NOT all created equal and you can taste the difference between the deferent balsamic vinegars, especially when reduced. Balsamic vinegars range widely in quality and grade. Try to get better quality of balsamic vinegar when possible!
At the store, pay attention to the nutritional labels on the Balsamic Reduction/Glaze jars. You’d be hard pressed to find a bottle with only two simple ingredients listed.
There are only two simple ingredients in this easy balsamic glaze! This is a budget friendly homemade condiment you’ll love having in your kitchen.
Balsamic Vinegar – I like to use an aged variety because it has a deeper, richer flavor, but regular balsamic vinegar will work as well.
Sweetener – This is where you can really customize your reduction! You can use light or dark brown sugar, which is the most traditional sweetener. Or, you could opt for honey (which is a personal favorite) or even maple syrup to sweeten the reduction.
How to Make Balsamic Glaze
Start by pouring the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pot and bring it to a simmer (1).
Once simmering, lower the heat and allow it to more gently simmer. If you choose to use a sweetener, this is when to whisk it in.
Allow the vinegar to simmer on low for approximately 5-8 minutes, being sure to stir often.
Test the thickness of your reduction by simply using a spoon. Dip a spoon into the reduction (2), and see if it coats the back. Keep in mind that Balsamic Reduction will thicken as it cools, too! (You can run a finger across the back of the spoon to clearly see the glaze consistency (3).)
You can either enjoy the Balsamic Glaze immediately, or store it for later.
PRO TIP: don’t want until the reduction reaches the consistency you want it to be as it’s cooking! Remember, it will continue to thicken as it cools! So if you wait until it’s thick as it cooks, it will be solid once cooled.
You can always make this reduction ahead of time and store it for any time you need it. Make sure to keep it in a glass jar with a secure airtight lid.
It may be kept for months at a time in the refrigerator if you didn’t add sugar.
If you did add sugar, it will stay good for several weeks.
Technically speaking, Balsamic Reduction is purely reducing balsamic vinegar down to a thicker consistency. Balsamic glaze usually refers to the balsamic reduction that is a little thicker and slightly sweetened with a sweetener.
Balsamic vinegar does naturally have a little sweetness that comes through even more after it’s been reduced. However, in many dishes, it’s nice to use slightly sweetened balsamic reduction.
I usually use brown sugar or honey, but there are a few more options. You can use maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar. If you wish to keep it keto but want to add a little sweetness, you can use monkfruit sweetener or another sugar substitute. Just be careful with sugar substitutes, because they tend to be sweeter, so add half the amount that’s actually called for.
Just like with most ingredients, it always matters what quality ingredients you use. With that being said, you don’t need to spend a whole lot of money (and it can be hundreds and thousands of dollars) on the best balsamic vinegar.
There are three main grades of balsamic vinegar:
Tradizionale (traditional) – it is the authentic balsamic vinegar that comes from the region of Madena and Reggio Emilia. This is the most expensive option because if it made in the original region where this vinegar came from following the traditional methos and grapes. It will carry “DOP” designation on the label. It is made with proper grape must and aged 12 to 25 years. This vinegar will the rich, sweet, thick and syrupy and there is NO NEED to reduce it.
Industriale (“Balsamic Vinegar of Madena” or “Commercial Grade”) – this vinegar is made quickly from wine grapes and aged very minimally if at all. This is where you will find the most variations because it’s not strictly regulated. These are thinner, much more acidic, and not very sweet. Look for labels like IGP, aged, and choose those darker in color.
Condimento (Condiment grade – these are negarally made outside of the regions of Madena and Riggio Emilia. These vinegars are inferior to any of the above and normally contain many ingredients to blend the flavors together rather than the grape must. This type of balsamic vinegar is not regulated much so you will find the widest range of quality here. Check the label, there is often added ingredients and sweeteners. You’re looking for vinegar that lists only grape must or gapes.
How To Serve Balsamic Glaze?
Prosciutto and Melon – a fun and easy Italian appetizer that’s made with prosciutto, melon, and balsamic reduction.
Bruschetta – a simple combination of tomatoes, onion, garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil over toasted bread slices flavored with olive oil, garlic, and salt that’s best when drizzled with balsamic reduction.
Balsamic Salmon Salad – this salad is made with balsamic salmon but you can also drizzle some glaze of the top of the whole salad. It’s great drizzled over any salad.
Fruit and desserts – strawberries are particularly good with this glaze but you can do it over many fruit and berries. One of the most traditional Italian desserts is a simple pannacotta with balsamico tradizionale and strawberries.
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Balsamic Glaze Recipe
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp sweetener like brown sugar, OR honey, OR maple syrup
- Pour balsamic vinegar into a sauce pot and bring it to simmer over medium heat.
- Once it starts to simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and let it gently simmer. Whisk in sweetener if you wish.
- Let the vinegar simmer gently for 5-8 minutes, stirring often.
- The vinegar should be reduced to 1/2 or 1/3 cup, depending on how thick you like it. You can test it with as spoon: dip a spoon into it and check if it coats the back. Remember, it will continue to thicken as it cools!
- Store balsamic reduction in a glass jar with an air-tight lid. Store it in the refrigerator for up a long time (months) if you didn't add sugar, and little less if you did add sugar.