A substitute for balsamic vinegar is a mixture of 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, according to About.com. Another option is to mix the same amount of sugar with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar adds a unique flavor to meats, salad dressings, gravies and fruit, according to the Vinegar Institute, an industry association. Though red wine vinegar has a different flavor, it's often used in the same foods as balsamic vinegar, according to the institute. Balsamic vinegar has a lengthy shelf life, and it stays good indefinitely when the bottle remains closed.