How to Substitute Alcohol in Cooking

Alcohol Substitutions
Alcohol Substitutions

Alcohol is often used in  a variety of dishes, whether sweet or savoury. But, there are often people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t like using wine or other alcohol in their cooking.

Often, it is the alcohol itself that causes people to look for a substitute.

Substituting Alcohol

So, what can you use to substitute for wine?

The important thing to remember is that wine or other alcohol is used in cooking primarily for the flavour it imparts. The alcohol plays no significant role (unless your main goal is to flambe).

The simplest substitution is to use water. But you would need to consider the lack of flavour with water.

If you want to retain the wine’s flavour and acidity, you can add a citrus, fruit juice or a vinegar.

ALCOHOL MAIN FLAVOUR POSSIBLE SUBSTITUTION
Amaretto Almond 1/2 Tsp Almond Extract per 2 Tbsp Amaretto
Anisette Anise or Fennel Anise or Fennel herbs
Beer Varies For dark beer add a small amount of beef or mushroom broth. For lighter beers add white grape juice. Non-alcoholic beer can also be used
Bourbon Vanilla Use up to 2 Tsp of Vanilla Extract
Brandy (Apple) Apple Use apple juice, apple sauce, apple cider
Brandy (Peach) Peach Diluted syrup from canned peaches, peach puree or preserves, peach extract
Brandy (Apricot) Apricot Diluted syrup from canned apricots, apricot puree or preserves
Champagne Fruit and Citrus Ginger ale, sparkling apple cider, sparkling cranberry juice, or sparkling white grape juice.
Coffee Liqueur Coffee To replace 2 Tbsp of liqueur, use 1/2 to 1 Tsp of chocolate extract mixed with 1 Tsp of instant coffee, which has been mixed in 2 Tbsp of water. Can also substitute espresso, non-alcoholic coffee extract or coffee syrup.
Cognac Peach, Apricot, Pear Peach, apricot or pear juice
Cointreau Orange Orange juice
Creme de menthe Mint Non-alcoholic mint extract, mint Italian soda syrup, spearmint extract, or spearmint oil with a little water added. If green color is needed, add a drop of green food coloring
Grand Marnier Orange To replace 2 Tbsp of liqueur, use 2 Tbsp of orange juice concentrate or 2 Tbsp of orange juice with 1/2 Tsp of orange extract
Kahlua Coffee & Chocolate Substitute 1/2 to 1 Tsp chocolate extract or substitute 1/2 to 1Tsp  instant coffee in 2 Tbsp water for 2 Tbsp Kahlua
Orange Liqueur Orange Orange concentrate, juice, or marmalade
Peppermint Schnapps Peppermint Non-alcoholic mint or peppermint extract, mint Italian soda syrup, or mint leaves
Port Wine, Sweet Sherry, or Fruit Flavoured Liqueur Orange, Apple Orange juice or apple juice.  Substitute equal amount of liquid
Rum Almond and Fruit White grape juice, pineapple juice, or apple juice. May also add 1/2 to 1 Tsp of non-alcoholic rum, almond or vanilla extract
Sake Rice Rice vinegar
Triple Sec Orange Orange juice concentrate, orange juice, orange zest or orange marmalade
Vermouth, Dry White grape juice, white wine vinegar, or non-alcoholic white wine
Vermouth, Sweet Apple juice, grape juice, balsamic vinegar, non-alcoholic sweet wine, or water with lemo
Vodka White grape juice or apple cider combined with lime juice or use plain water in place of the vodka
Wine, White Red grape juice, cranberry juice, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, clam juice, fruit juices, flavored vinegar
Wine, Red Red grape juice, cranberry juice, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, clam juice, fruit juices, flavored vinegar

When trying to make any sort of substitution, look at what flavour is added to the dish by using a particular alcohol. Try to provide that flavour through an appropriate substitution.

The other thing to consider is whether the alcohol in the recipe adds liquid to the recipe or just flavour. If it adds liquid, be sure to add an equal amount of liquid with your substitution. For example;

  • 1 Cup Red wine: substitute 1 cup of red grape juice
  • 1 Cup Rum: Substitute 1 cup apple juice + 1 Tsp almond extract

Burning Off the Alcohol

Contrary to many opinions, it is very hard to cook off all the alcohol in a dish. An alcohol soaked fruitcake would have to turn into a solid brick before all the alcohol is cooked off.

The US Department of Agriculture created the fantastic graphic below to show the burn-off rate of alcohol. As you can see, the determining factors for how much alcohol remains are time and cooking method.

If you are at all sensitive to alcohol, this is good information to know.

Alcohol Burn Off Chart
Alcohol Burn Off Chart

Sources: http://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t–904/alcohol-substitutions.asp, https://whatscookingamerica.net/alcoholsub.htm, US Dept of Agriculture

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