Citric acid is a commonly used preservative in drinks, sweets and canned food. It’s also used in cheese and jam making, where it works to coagulate the milk and activate the pectin in jam. It’s not advisable to leave it out of your cooking if the recipe calls for it, as it often plays a big role.
Citric acid can be bought in bulk from health food stores or online retailers, but in case you can’t get hold of any, citric acid substitutes are fairly easy to find. Here are four of them in case you’re ever stuck needing one.

1. Lemon Juice

This is found in many households, and is a great substitute for citric acid. It gives a similar sour flavor with the addition of vitamin C. There are around 3 grams of citric acid in one juiced lemon, and add 4-5 tablespoons of lemon juice for every 1 tablespoon of citric acid the recipe calls for. You will probably have to reduce the other liquid ingredients in order to maintain the consistency of the recipe. Lemon juice is one of the best sources of citric acid.

2. Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid comes in as a second choice if you don’t have lemon juice. This grape-flavored acid is often used as an acidic agent in wines, and is also sold as a powder. Because the acidic taste is stronger, a reduced amount is recommended in recipes. Start with half the amount listed for citric acid, and increase if needed. Don’t confuse tartaric acid with cream of tartar, as tartaric acid is water soluble, and cream of tartar is not.

3. White Distilled Vinegar

Vinegar is mild like citric acid, and gives a similar sour flavor. To use as a substitute, start by tripling the amount of vinegar for citric acid in the recipe, and add more to taste. The reason for this is that vinegar is a much weaker acid than citric acid, so you need more to get the same effect. You will need to reduce the other liquids in the recipe to compensate for the extra vinegar. You can use other types of vinegar, but stronger ones may change the taste of your dish.

4. Ascorbic Acid/Vitamin C

Crushed vitamin C tablets are an effective preservative substitute for citric acid, and you can sub these at a 1:1 ratio. Vitamin C is not technically known as citric acid, but as ascorbic acid.