When people are easing up on their alcohol consumption, are trying to cook using just the ingredients they have on hand, or are trying to cook more affordably, finding some non-alcoholic substitutes for favorite recipes is useful. If chefs are cooking up tasty dishes and want to cut out the alcoholic ingredients from the recipe cold turkey, is there a way to still make good food without the alcoholic additives? After extensive research, here are the best ways to replace alcoholic beverages in various recipes.
To complete a recipe, even if it calls for an alcoholic ingredient, use replacements like apple juice, ginger ale, almond extract, or vegetable stock. There are even more solutions and replacement ingredients; it just depends on the recipe. For best results, compare each item to the current recipe.
What makes some of these ingredients better to use in some specific recipes than others? What other ingredients can be used as replacements if others aren’t readily available? Let’s go over what to be aware of when replacing alcoholic beverage ingredients in recipes!
1. Apple Juice
Apple juice is a fantastic substitute for recipes that ask cooks to use brandy, hard apple cider, port, rum, sherry, or white wine. This kind of fruit juice is naturally very sweet and has a light-colored tint, so it resembles white wine already. Apple juice can be used on a 1:1 proportion as a recipe replacement. If there needs to be more acidity or a different taste for a recipe, add some vinegar to the apple juice to improve the recipe or sauce being worked on. If the store is all out of apple juice, sparkling apple juice can be used instead for some recipes.
2. Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice is an excellent alternative to red wine, and unsweetened cranberry juice is usually the best type of juice for the perfect taste in the finished dish. Instead of sweet apple juice from before, cranberry juice is a very tart and strong drink. It has a dark coloring, tartness, higher acidity, and rich taste, similar to red wine. Cranberry juice can also be replaced using a 1:1 proportion for recipes. Please keep in mind that cranberry juice is often sugary, so please try to buy a type of juice that is sugar-free. Regular cranberry juice can also be blended with a single tablespoon of vinegar to decrease the sweetness.
It is a useful substitute, and cranberry juice can also provide health benefits like decreasing urinary tract infections. Cranberry juices are even high in antioxidants, which also fight disease-causing inflammations. The many benefits of this juice are why it’s a common go-to for recipe tweaking. Give this helpful video a watch for other great substitutes when a recipe specifically calls for wine.
3. Ginger Ale
Ginger ale is a carbonated soft drink with flavor derived from the strong ginger root plant, and is a great replacement instead of beer, champagne, or white wine in recipes. Some ginger ales also have amounts of lemon or cane sugar in them, so different brands of ginger ale may affect some recipes differently. Ginger ale can be substituted for white wine in identical quantities, but keep in mind that ginger ales have varied flavors, just like white wine. Some ginger ale types are dry or sweet in flavor, but either way, it should only substitute in recipes that won’t be ruined by a slight ginger root taste.
4. Pomegranate Juice
Red wine can be replaced with pomegranate juice while cooking. Pomegranate juice can be replaced using an easy 1:1 proportion in recipes. It is a drink with a refreshing, fruity taste and is acidic, with the ability to strengthen the taste of nearly any food to which it is added. Although pomegranate juice is less acidic than red wine, it can be mixed with a small teaspoon of vinegar to give it a more pungent taste.
Pomegranate juice has another strength–its versatility with many different kinds of dishes. It flavors salads, vegetable veneers, and pulps well. Similarly to cranberry juice, pomegranate juice is also high in antioxidants and is excellent for reducing blood pressure, thus decreasing the likelihood of heart disease.
5. Canned Mushroom Juice
Of all unusual things, the liquid from canned mushrooms, or even mushroom stock, can make a stellar replacement instead of less healthy red wine or beer. Specifically, liquid from canned mushrooms will leech from them and absorb some of their savory flavors. Since the flavor is pleasingly tangy, try to use this type of liquid in salty-tasting recipes and dishes. For recipes that are sweet tasting, try blending the canned mushroom liquid with some cranberry or grape juice to even out the flavor. The canned mushroom liquid is high in sodium, so if this content needs to be controlled while cooking, a can of mushrooms with less sodium content can always be purchased at most decent-sized grocery stores.
6. Lemon Juice
Why use white wine in recipes when lemon juice can suffice just as well? Lemon juice is famous for its overpowering, sour flavor and is surprisingly a key ingredient in many dishes. The pungent tang of lemon juice can increase and bring out the levels of flavor in a dish. Lemon juice is very acidic, so it can be added to steeps to help tenderize meat. Just remember that lemon juice is so strong that it can’t be substituted for white wine on a 1:1 ratio, so use a bit less than necessary unless overly tangy and sour-flavored food is the goal.
If recipes only call for small amounts of regular wine, white wine, or vodka, water can replace these alcoholic drinks! Water is the most straightforward liquid of them all, and it will add the moisture that some recipes need and can save a dish from getting too dried out and unpalatable. With some simple sugar or vinegar from the pantry, water can even be flavored with these staples, depending on what tastes best for each chef and culinary explorer.
There are tons of recipes, both in cookbooks and online, that require many forms of alcohol. So for those chefs who want to take advantage of tequila lime shrimp, Mezcal Gazpacho Soup, salsa, fruit dips, spicy mustard, or dozens of other recipes, read further to find the perfect substitute. No matter what meat, veggie, or fruit is being prepared, it can be spared from having alcoholic ingredients being needlessly added to it.
8. Red or White Wine Vinegar
Both red and white wine vinegar are acidic liquids and are often used in cooking up tasty grub. Both vinegars resemble wine since they have mixed acetic acid and water. These types of vinegar could also be created from rice and apple cider. So instead of using wine, try using some red or white vinegar. Both of these types of vinegar taste similar to wine, and they will not powerfully alter the flavor of the cuisine.
Any liquid-based formulas can be easily replaced with white vinegar, such as in marinades or salad dressing. Red wine vinegar pairs well with beef, veggies, or mutton recipes as a replacement. On the other hand, white wine vinegar is excellent in heartier dishes, like recipes with fish and chicken. Red or white wine vinegar is more acidic than most common wines, so to dilute them if needed, add water along with red or white wine vinegar using a 1:1 proportion.
Even though these wine vinegars are better than straight alcohol beverages, it’s still important to know that they both contain trace amounts of alcohol. Granted, most of the alcohol vanishes and cooks off thanks to the culinary fermentation method, and the alcohol content will also decrease a bit as it is mixed with other foods, so it might not be any trouble. However, if alcohol is strictly prohibited, people can skip the red or white wine vinegar and choose to pick a different substitute from this list!
9. Vegetable Stock and Meat Stock
Both vegetable and meat stock are liquids that can be versatilely used in multiple recipes that have sauces and broths in them already. Stocks like these are often made through a process of boiling animal bones, flesh, and vegetables in water. Usually, varied herbs and veggies are used to better the flavor of culinary stocks, and they can even be utilized to tenderize and boil meats!
Beef broth stocks are darker in color, with a deep flavor that acts as a great alternative to red wine. On the other hand, chicken and vegetable broths are suitable replacements for white wine. These culinary choices depend on what a cook wants from the final dish. Wine can also be replaced with some types of stock by using an equivalent ratio while cooking. Stocks are always salty, have less acidic options on this list, and have milder tastes and flavors than wine.
10. Almond Extract
Does a recipe call for a splash of Amaretto or Frangelico as alcoholic ingredients? Almond extract can help in replacing these rarer alcohol ingredients. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic almond extract can be used in a one-half teaspoon extract for every two tablespoons of Amaretto that is asked for in a recipe. As for Frangelico using recipes, hazelnut or almond extracts can work well, replacing one-half teaspoon of extract for every two tablespoons that are called for. Even the rum can use alternative combos of other liquids along with almond extract to fix up a recipe.
11. Vanilla Extract and Water
Put down that bourbon, scotch, and sherry. Instead, pick up the vanilla extract. Even this common household ingredient can help replace harmful alcohol while cooking food. Bourbon can be substituted with alcoholic or even non-alcoholic vanilla extract and some water. Use one part vanilla and two parts water when taking out the bourbon or the scotch from the recipe. As for replacing sherry, a surprising list of pineapple juice, orange juice, or apple juice can be used with a teaspoon of vanilla extract that can be used on its own instead of a tablespoon of sherry liquid.
12. Tomato Juice
Many recipes can benefit from some added tomato juice. This form of juice is flavorful, with a bitter and acidic taste. Instead of red wine, tomato juice can be a healthier alternative that increases flavor outlines and is an easy-to-remember 1:1 proportion while cooking. Tomato juice stands in well for red wine since it has a similar acidity level and striking red color. Even if tomato juice tastes abrasive on its own, a taste test might prove how delicious it can be instead of wine or alcohol.
13. Grape Juice
Yet another stand-in for wine is the similar fill-in liquid of grape juice. Bear in mind, often grape juice needs to be mixed with other ingredients depending on the recipe in some cases. If the final taste is a concern, never hesitate to try a taste trial with replacements like these too. Try grape juice for a healthier, non-alcoholic path in the recipe when looking to replace beer, brandy, champagne, port, red wine, rum, vermouth, and white wine.
14. Cactus Juice or Nectar
One alcoholic beverage that hasn’t been covered yet is the rarer tequila. This liquid is just as unique in recipes as its substitutes, which are odd, to say the least. Either nectar or cactus juice can be used instead of tequila while cooking. It’s worth it to taste and compare each of these alternatives, or buy the cheaper one, to make a complete yet non-alcoholic meal. So while preparing and cooking up guacamole, popsicles, or chicken skewers that usually call for tequila, remember that nectar or cactus juice will probably make it taste just as yummy.
15. Orange Juice or Orange Concentrate
Finally, orange juice makes an incredible substitute for so many alcoholic drinks. Some of these include Cointreau, grand Marnier, orange-flavored liqueur, port wine, sweet sherry, bourbon, or triple sec, and even more alcohols that can be easily replaced with orange juice or orange concentrate. Resources online can direct how much orange juice or concentrate when measuring for each unique recipe.
For more check out The 32 Best Milk Substitutes for Recipes (Dairy & Non-Dairy).
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Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.