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Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Recipe

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The balsamic vinegar pearls are a simple and fantastic way to add a touch of molecular gastronomy to your dishes. The balsamic vinegar is transformed into small jelly balls using agar agar and the cold oil spherification method.

The cold oil spherification method consists of cooling droplets of a hot agar solution below 35 ˚C (95 ˚F) by releasing them in cold oil using a syringe or pipette. Agar agar needs to be heated to boil for jelling and sets at a temperature of about 35-45 ˚C (95-113 ˚F). The droplets need to cool down and set before they reach the bottom of the cold oil container to keep a nice spherical shape.

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls splash - cold oil spherification technique

Cold Oil Spherification - balsamic vinegar pearls

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls calm


Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Ingredients

100 g (7 oz) Balsamic Vinegar

1.5 g (1.5%) Agar Agar

Oil Bath

1 cup of oil, cold from being in the freezer for at least 30 min


1- Start by placing the oil in a tall glass in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. It is better if you use a tall glass so there is more time for the balsamic vinegar droplets to get cold and gel before reaching the bottom.

2- Once the oil has been in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, put the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan, dissolve the agar agar and bring it to the boil, stirring constantly with a beater. Take off the heat and skim to eliminate any impurities.

3- Wait a few minutes until the temperature drops to 50-55 ˚C (~120-130 ˚F). If the liquid is too hot, the droplets may not cool down enough and therefore not gel completely before reaching the bottom of the glass resulting in deformed spheres.

4- Fill a syringe with the hot balsamic agar solution and expel it drop by drop into the cold oil. The syringe needs to be high enough for the drops to sink when they get in contact with the oil but not too high or the drops may break into smaller drops creating “baby” spheres. Do not use a Caviar Maker or it will be very difficult to clean with the agar solidifies inside.

5- Wait a few minutes and then carefully remove them from the oil bath using a slotted spoon and rinse them in water. You can keep them in a container in the fridge for later use.


Serving Suggestions

- Serve on salads

- Serve on tomato halves


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  • Victor Ng

    What kind of oil do you use?

    • Quantum Chef

      Any oil is fine. I use canola oil.

      • ghappy2b

        Do the pearls burst open with a little liquid or are they solid?

        • Quantum Chef

          No, these pearls are all solid gel.

        • Anonymous

          No, they are solid gel.

          • ghappy2b

            Could you tell me the process for a liquid center?

          • dan

            Is the gel soft inside, or quite firm?

          • QuantumChef


  • Italian Chef

    there is another way to do this same gelification, that WILL produce a liquid center but still have the hard outside

    • Anonymous

      What way? Basic spherification will not work because of the acidity and with reverse spherification the spheres will stick together. Do you have another technique you can share with us? Thanks!!

      • Italian Chef

        use this ratio
        .43g agar agar
        1.5 sheets gelatin
        3.38oz balsamic vin
        32 oz of olive oil at 4 degrees C or about 38 degrees F

        bring vinegar to boil for 2 min with agar. add in bloomed gelatin and place in squeeze bottle. you can let it sit for 15 mins to cool at room temp, but its not needed. the bigger the drops you make into the oil the more of a liquid center you will have. then drain with fine mesh strainer and leave then surrounded by a few drops of oil to prevent them from sticking together. the way this works is the gelatin sets before the agar helping to make a liquid center. but of course like i said you need to make bigger pearls to keep more of a liquid center.

        • Myriam


          What do you mean by bloomed gelatin? Do you bloom it in water ? 
          How many grams of gelatine are in the 1.5 sheets ?
          Can you make a detailed tutorial on how to do it. Perhaps you have some techniques for the liquid centre and hard exterior :)


        • Stephanie

          I noticed there is a full stop/period before the 43g agar agar. Is it a typo and it is meant to be 43 g or agar agar or is it correct and it is meant to be 0.43g agar agar per 1.5 sheets of gelatin?
          Also since sheets come in various sizes can you tell us the strength/powdered weight in grams instead? Thanks.

    • Eli

      If you mix sodium alginate with the liquid that you want to gel, and drop it into a calcium chloride bath, you will have a liquid center but a gelled outside. The issue with agar is that whatever the agar is dissolved in will gel. The alginate-calcium specification is based on a reaction between the two chemicals, so if you remove the spheres from the bath quickly, there is not enough time for the inner liquid to react. If you want a more detailed recipe, look up something like alginate specification.

  • chef_jeff_mti

    Will this work with any liquid or does it have to be balsamic vinegar?

    • Anonymous

      Any liquid should work.

      • Jpeg

        You responded to dtanski earlier regarding the vinegar acidity. “The strength of the agar is affected by the PH.” So I’m confused as to if any type of liquid can be used or do I need to find out its PH level? Would this work with say, soy sauce pearls or chinese black vinegar pearls?

        • QuantumChef

          The strength of the agar gel weakens with lower PH but it is quite tolerant to acidity in general so you really don’t have to worry much about the PH level of the liquid unless it is extremely acidic.

  • leener11

    Will powdered gelatin work instead of agar agar?

    • Anonymous

      Haven’t tried this with gelatin but you may encounter a few issues. There may not be enough time for the gelatin to cool down and set before it reaches the bottom of the container. The high acidity of the balsamic vinegar may inhibit the gelification process. Also, this is not necessarily a problem, but keep in mind that if made with gelatin the pearls will have to be served and consumed cold before the gelatin melts while with agar the pearls can be served at room temperature or even warm/hot.

      • leener11

        Great QC.  Thanks for the info!

  • Brittany

    Would this work with balasmic vinaigrette? Instead of just straight balsamic vinegar? 

    • Anonymous

      Not sure because the Agar may not dissolve in the oil but it may work. Please let us know if you try it!

  • Alyson

    Can you make this a day ahead?  How long will they stay and what is the best way to store them.  I am making them for a catering event on an hors d’oeuvre. 
    Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Yes you can. Just keep them in a sealed container so they don’t dry. You can add a little of balsamic vinegar to keep them moist too.

      • Alyson

        Thank you!!

  • nitin

    pls tell me gelatin granuals can be use in place of agar agar

    • SFeater

      No I tried it does not solidify fast enough and just disperses in the oil

  • lilfreddie316

    if you made a balsalmic reduction, would this technique still work?

    • QuantumChef

      yes, it should.

  • Anonymous

    Why not icy cold water?

    • QuantumChef

      The high density of the oil gives time to the drop to gel before it reaches the bottom so it keeps the shape.

      • p

        its actually the lower density of the oil. The vinegar in this case, like water sinks to the bottom slowly. This allows the the agar to gel in shape as it sinks through the oil. also oil repels water. if you drop the vinegar agar solution into water it will just dissolve into it.

  • rrkrose

    Are these different than caviar? Are they supposed to be jelly like inside or should they be a liquid inside?

    • QuantumChef

      Yes, they are different. These are all jelly and have no liquid inside.

  • Trailfan8

    Thanks for the recipe.  I tried making these last night (second try at agar pearls) and didn’t have much success. Even though I had my oil in the freezer for 30 minutes and I made sure the temperature of the balsamic mix was cool enough, the oil seemed to warm up too quickly and prevent any of the pearls from setting up completely.  When I strained them out and rinsed, they were all stuck together and unattractive.
    I also had issues with my agar-agar, which is flakes rather than powder.  It never fully dissolved!
    Any advice about these issues?

    • QuantumChef

      I’ve never seen agar agar in flakes, that may be the issue especially if it never dissolved completely.

    • Ben Wood

      for flaked agar it must be dissolved slightly in water first otherwise it will create a corse and lumpy texture

    • emojitsu

      I ran into the same problem, but solved it by placing the oil container in an ice bath. see if that works?

    • Frankie B

      I just threw the Agar Flakes in a coffee grinder and the agar powder worked great!

  • Hannah G

    for the arugula spaghetti, could you substitute basil for arugula?

    • QuantumChef

      yes, no problem

      • hannah G

        how much basil would you use? would you still use the same recipe for the spaghetti?

        • QuantumChef


  • Jordan

    Why couldn’t you just do reverse spherification but do it carefully so that the drops don’t touch until the membrane solidifies? Than they’ll be able to touch

    • QuantumChef

      This recipe does not use spherification at all but if your question is related to making caviar with reverse instead of basic spherification the answer is that it would take too long to do what you are suggesting but you also have another problem. The high viscosity of the bath in Reverse Spherification will make it difficult to form small “caviar” spheres as it will not allow the droplets to penetrate the bath surface with their small weight.

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    Not being a pro at the MG techniques, it took me a few tries to get this recipe down, but now I get consistently awesome results everytime. Here is what i discovered for perfect pearls:
    -Put the oil in the feezer for longer that 30 minutes (I have done it for 2 hours, although I use about 3 cups of oil.) The oil should be cloudy and opaque throughout, and if it is nice and thick (petroleum Jelly status), you can stir it and you should be fine.
    -Make sure that when you heat the liquid solution with the Agar Agar, you let it boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring vigorously. This will allow the Agar to fully saturate in your liquid.
    -Let the solution cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, before starting to drop the pearls.
    Hope this helps. Happy cooking!

    • Frankie B

      This addition really helped and knocked this out first try! This recipe plus your addition was great! Perfect and beautiful!


    • Maria Ramirez-Gregg

      Thanks for the suggestion. It really helped me make an impression.

  • dtanski

    I have a couple questions and a few comments:
    1. The recipe calls for 100g of vinegar or 7oz. 100g = 100ml (volume?), which is 3.4 oz. Which is it 7oz or 3.4 oz?
    2. Can you re-use your oil? It seems a bit expensive to use a cup of oil every time for a small amount of pearls.
    3. I have tried both grape seed and extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil seemed to thicken too much and the vinegar just sat on top. The grape seed oil worked well the first time, but the next three times were abject failures.
    4. Does the acidity of the vinegar matter? I have vinegar that is barely vinegar at about 3% acidity and I have vinegar as high as 7.5%.
    5. Is there an optimal temperature for both the oil AND vinegar? Does the vinegar need to still be hot when dropped in the cold oil?

    • QuantumChef

      Great questions!

      1. It is 3.5 oz, there was a typo. Just keep in mind that by weight is always more accurate since 100g is not exactly 100ml for vinegar and it varies by ingredient you use.

      2. Yes, I would pass it through a sieve to remove any bits of agar if there are any.

      3. Leave it less time in the freezer. The oil should be somewhat dense just to delay the drop but not too dense.

      4. As you can read in our ingredients guide, the strength of agar is affected by the PH, getting weaker at lower PH. I didn’t measure the PH of the vinegar I used but it was quite acidic and didn’t have any problem.

      5. Agar gels at temperatures below 88°F/32°C. So you are just trying to cool the pearl to this temperature before it reaches the bottom. There are not exact temperatures because it depends on the height of the oil in the jar / glass. It is always better if the vinegar mixture is as cold as possible but above 88°F/32°C so it can reach this temperature quickly. The oil should be as cold as you can but making sure it is not too viscous so the vinegar drops can penetrate its surface and drop to the bottom.

  • Elizabeth Feroze

    Cannot wait to try this technique. Do you think it will work with honey? Or is it too thick? And how long can you store these for? Thanks!!!

  • Pedro

    Is it possible to heat the pearls after? Can i leave them rest in a warm water for instance? I want to use this instead of port wine redution for duck.

    • QuantumChef

      Yes, no problem as long as you don’t heat them over 185°F/85°C.

      • Pedro

        You rock!

  • Tracey J

    I am really excited to try this. My concern is that, when a true balsamic vinegar is boiled, the natural sugar will burn and becomes bitter. A balsamic that is reduced by boiling will clearly prove this, while one that is reduced slowly, just below a simmer, will be sweet and delicious. So…. is there any way to do this with out boiling the balsamic vinegar? Thank you!

    • QuantumChef

      You can hydrate (boil) the agar in 1/3 of the balsamic vinegar and then add the rest. Just make sure the final temperature doesn’t drop below 35-45 ˚C (95-113 ˚F) right away. If necessary you may have to warm up the additional balsamic just a little before mixing it.

      • Tracey J

        I’ll try that….Thanks!

  • Buddyzee Fisher

    How does one make those green noodle things??

  • dimitris

    i try this recipe with cherry juice instead of balsamic vinegar and with lower agar 1.30. Thanks for the recipe!!

  • Amanda33

    I have two questions. The first, how long in advance can I prepare the balsamic pearls? And what is the green substance the picture shows? Is it a basil spaghetti gelification?

  • Paul S

    Is the 1.5 g of Agar Agar measured by weight or volume?

    • QuantumChef


  • Dave Ryerson

    Can I make these pearls using fresh squeezed grapefruit juice?i