Just a drizzle of this one-ingredient, sugar-free balsamic glaze transforms weeknight staples — grilled chicken breast, frozen tortellini, roasted veggies, etc. — from basic to bellissimo. (And it might also become your new favorite ice cream topping!)
What is balsamic glaze?
The word glaze makes it sound like a fancy sauce, but it's way simpler than that. Balsamic glaze, also known as balsamic reduction or balsamic syrup, is simply balsamic vinegar that has been cooked down (reduced) to a syrupy consistency. Sometimes with honey or sugar, sometimes without.
(I skip the sugar in the following recipe because I like the intensity and sweetness of pure balsamic glaze as it is. If you feel the need to add some extra sweetness, do me a favor and try the recipe without it first — the natural sweetness will surprise you!)
Why not buy it at the store?
Rule number three in Michael Pollan's Food Rules: An Eater's Manifesto* reads, "Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry." Store-bought balsamic glaze is often made with colorings, thickeners, and other unnecessary additives, and is more expensive than the bottle of regular balsamic vinegar you need to make your own.
How to Use Homemade Balsamic Reduction
When you make balsamic glaze without sugar, you can use it in a wide range of sweet and savory dishes. Here are some of my favorite ways to use the rich, tangy-sweet reduction:
- On ice cream. I made this number-one on the list for a reason. Seriously. Drop everything, make a batch, and drizzle it over a few scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream. *mic drop*
- With fresh fruit. Try it on any type of berry, or serve it as a dipping sauce with orange and apple wedges.
- To complement cheeses. Pour a little balsamic glaze into a ramekin and serve it on your next cheese board. It's especially delicious with aged parmesan, gouda, certain cheddars, and just about any goat or blue cheese.
- In vinaigrettes. Instead of regular vinegar, whisk some balsamic reduction with olive oil, salt, and pepper to make a simple salad dressing or marinade.
- Slathered on grilled meat and/or veggies. The deep richness of balsamic glaze might remind you a bit of barbecue sauce . . . so why not use it in a similar way?
- Tossed with roasted veggies (especially root vegetables and Brussels sprouts). Season a mix of chopped/cubed vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, roast them until they're tender, and then drizzle them with some balsamic glaze before serving. Not only does the glaze add flavor, but it also gives the classic side dish some visual flair.
- Drizzled over homemade pizza, pasta, caprese salad, bruschetta, etc. Balsamic vinegar is an Italian thing, so it makes sense that the flavor goes especially well with Italian dishes. Use the reduction to elevate white or red pizzas, "basic" pasta with red sauce, sliced fresh tomatoes with mozzarella, etc.
Balsamic Glaze (without sugar)
- Small saucepan
- Whisk or wooden spoon
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and place it over medium-high heat.
- Bring the vinegar to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer (bubble gently) for 15 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. The glaze will thicken up more as it cools. If you want your glaze to be extra-thick, keep simmering it for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Use the glaze immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
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