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7 Best Red Wine Substitutes for Pot Roast

Homemade Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes

No matter if you’ve just run out of red wine or you can’t “booze it up,” there are several excellent substitutes for it when you’re cooking a pot roast. You can either choose to mimic the flavor (as much as possible) or go another route altogether.

Here are the 7 best options that you can try today.

1. Balsamic Vinegar

It may not sound like something you would want to use in a humble pot roast, but balsamic vinegar is a great way to add all the flavors you need from red wine. After all, it is made from grapes and has similar aromas and notes as a finely aged wine.

How to Use This Substitute

Use sparingly and closer to the end of cooking. A small splash for a whole pot roast will be more than enough.

This substitute works best if you plan to reduce the cooking liquid and turn it into a sauce or gravy. Wait for it to reduce by half, and then stir the vinegar through and cook for another minute or so.

Pro Tip: Red wine vinegar is also a decent option, but it will mostly bring acidity to the party and not enough of everything else.

2. Red Grape or Cranberry Juice

This is the most direct substitution option for red wine, and it’s particularly useful when you’re not allowed to handle alcohol or its byproducts.

Both the red grape and the cranberry have a sufficient amount of acid and fruitiness and will be able to mimic the flavor of numerous types of red wine. Brands that don’t have any added sugar will work the best – basically, pick something that you will not enjoy drinking as is.

How to Use This Substitute

Even without added sugar, these juices will be slightly sweeter than your average cooking wine. Either use about 80% of what your recipe calls for or offset the sweetness with some acidity. Maybe layer with balsamic vinegar for the best effect?

3. Black Tea

Black tea contains tannins, the same flavor compounds you can find in all wines. They are usually not the most welcome when you’re brewing a cuppa, but they can work as a red wine substitute in pot roast in a pinch.

You can also get the tannins when you over-extract green tea, but they will come with a robust grassy note.

How to Use This Substitute

Black tea will work best when combined with either of the previous two entries since you will need a fruity note to achieve the best match in the original flavor. So, if you’re using 80% of cranberry juice, replace the remaining 20% with tea.

But if you’re out of juice and balsamic vinegar, use more tomato puree than your recipe calls for. That will provide the necessary fruitiness, so you can simply follow up with a generous splash of black tea.

4. Soy Sauce

Umami in a bottle. Good soy sauce has a complex flavor and is an easy solution if you find that your pot roast tastes a bit flat when you omit the red wine.

And considering how many different types of soy sauce exist in the world, you can play with different aromas to find the perfect one for your taste buds.

How to Use This Substitute

Check the back of the packaging first to see if there are instructions on substituting soy sauce for salt. Replace anything between 30 to 100% of salt in the recipe with soy sauce as per instructions. Of course, the more you add, the more potent soy sauce aroma you’ll end up with.

To balance that out, you can add some Granny Smith apple into the broth (you don’t have to eat it later, just fish it out and discard it).

5. Onion Jam

From this point on, we will make some changes to the flavor of your pot roast recipe. Onion jam is easy to make (think overnight in your slow cooker) and has a unique sweet and fruity flavor that will work in numerous dishes.

Can you just add more onions and call it a day? No, they can’t replace the magic you get by reducing a bunch of onions into apple butter consistency.

How to Use This Substitute

Dissolve one or two tablespoons in the broth before you add it to the pot. Throw in one whole star anise as well – the combination of this spice and onions will boost the beefy flavors.

Taste before you add the finishing touches. If you think that the dish is a bit too sweet, you can always balance it out with a dash of vinegar.

6. Demi-Glace

Demi is a bone broth reduction that resembles jelly when cold and becomes liquid when warmed up. It’s full of umami and gives a pleasantly sticky sensation in the mouth.

Demis come in multiple flavors, but you should pick beef. It will give that deep color to the broth and elevate the aroma without changing the dish’s flavor profile.

How to Use This Substitute

About half a cup per 6-quart pot should do the trick. If you’re getting the store-bought stuff, check for salt and adjust your seasoning if necessary.

Don’t worry about mixing it first – it will melt into a viscous liquid on its own. Just stir it through at some point.

7. Marmite or Vegemite

We continue riding the umami wave here. Both Marmite (from the UK) and Vegemite (from Australia) are yeast extracts that may not be the most appetizing thing you can spread over a slice of bread, but they are the most amazing thing you can add to a pot roast. Or any other dish.

You are very unlikely to find them at the local supermarket, but that’s what the internet is for. You can find it on Amazon and have it delivered. Here is the type I recommend (Please click to see Amazon listing).

Quick Tip: If you do see it in your local whole foods store, keep in mind that they are not luxury goods. So, if you see a considerable markup, move along and find a different seller.

How to Use This Substitute

You only need one generous tablespoon for a whole pot roast. Stir it through right before you put the lid on and walk away.

You will be tempted to add more, but resist it with everything you have. Too much of this stuff will make everything taste like yeast.

By the way, here is a video of me making my mother’s pot roast the way she did it since the 1920s.

For more, don’t miss 2 Ways to Tell When a Pot Roast is Done.