Alcohol Substitutions

August 19, 2012 12 Comments

Alcohol Substitutions

If your recipes calls for using an alcoholic beverage, what can you use instead?

After posting two recipes for Green Peppercorn sauce, I received an email from a gentleman telling me he does not drink any kind of alcohol and would prefer not to use it in any recipe and what could he substitute for red wine.

Great question and one I’m asked a lot. The answer really depends on what you are cooking and what type of alcohol the recipe calls for. Although it is my opinion that most of the alcohol is cooked off in the process, I can respect someone’s wishes not to handle it at all.

Why cook with an alcoholic beverage in the first place?

The main reason is to add flavor to what you are cooking. Although you may use red wine to deglaze a sauté pan to make a pan sauce, the wine adds additional flavor to the sauce. Adding a bottle of beer to a slow cooked braise leaves some alcohol but contributes a lot to the flavor.

Think of those holiday rum cakes you may have enjoyed.  I remember my Aunt Tess’s rum cakes that would get all us kids a little sleepy after a meal at her house. Those cakes would burn in a fireplace like logs.

Another reason you cook with alcohol is for the chemical reaction that occurs. For example, beer has a yeast in it that helps leaven or get a rise out of bread. Acidic wine is used in some marinades to help break down meat fibers. And what about using wine in fondue to lower the boiling point of cheese to prevent curdling.

So what can home cooks use instead of alcoholic beverages?

Some of the more common substitutes are juices (especially grape, orange, apple and cranberry), beef, chicken & vegetable stock, vinegar, and fruit syrups.

Most Commonly Used Substitutes

Beer or Ale non-alcoholic beer, chicken stock, beef stock or mushroom stock
Port grape juice with a little lime zest or cranberry juice with a little lemon juice added or orange juice
Red Wine Concord grape juice, red wine vinegar, or non-alcoholic red wine
White Wine white grape juice with a little white wine vinegar added or non-alcoholic white wine
Sweet White Wine white grape juice with a pinch of powdered sugar added.
Champagne ginger ale, sparkling cranberry or white grape juice or sparkling apple cider
Coffee Liqueur espresso, non-alcoholic coffee extract or coffee syrup

Other Commonly Used Substitutes

Amaretto almond extract
Anisette anise Italian soda syrup or fennel
Bourbon vanilla extract, orange or pineapple juice or peach syrup
Brandy brandy extract
Chambord raspberry juice, syrup or extract
Cherry Liqueur syrup form a can or jar of cherries
Cherry Brandy same as Cherry Liqueur
Cognac juice from peaches, apricots, or pears
Cointreau orange juice concentrate
Creme de Cacao non-alcoholic vanilla extract and powdered sugar
Creme de menthe spearmint extract diluted in a little water
Kahlua coffee liqueur
Rum white grape juice, apple juice or apple cinder flavored with almond extract
Sherry vanilla extract, orange or pineapple juice or peach syrup
Vodka white grape juice or apple cinder mixed with lime juice

Last modified on Wed 3 September 2014 4:29 pm

Comments (12)

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  1. Sahar says:

    I want to make a double chocolate mousse cake and the recipe says to use 1/4 cup coffee flavoured liqueur. What can I use instead of the liqueur and coffee.

    Thank you

  2. Jenni says:

    @Sahar You can sub 1/4 cup of almost any liquid. If you don’t want the alcohol and you don’t like coffee, you may want to look for a different recipe, but to sub, I’d just go with water or milk. You could also use 1 tablespoon of vanilla (if it’s not already called for) and 3 tablespoons of almost any other liquid that would taste good with chocolate. An out-of-the-box idea would even be orange juice since orange and chocolate go so well together.

  3. Margie says:

    How can I substitute Irish cream in a recipe.

  4. Sarah says:

    Hi, i am making a grasshopper pie and would require an alternative for 4 tbsp of white creme de cacao, how much vanilla extract should i combine with the powdered sugar?

    • Julia says:

      I came here looking for the same answer! My grasshopper pie recipe calls for 3 tablespoons creme de menthe and 3 table spoons white creme de cacao. Since this year a baby will be eating the pie I want to remove the alcohol. A sub for the creme de menthe was easy to find but not the creme de cacao.

      Did you ever find an acceptable substitute?

  5. Nate says:

    For the Coffee liqueur, there are coffee syrups that are coffee flavored. We use one that is Kahlua flavored- I think it’s made by DiVinci or Torani and it is sugar free…which for some reason also prevents it from being too sweet. I would add for those who don’t drink coffee, this is also coffee free. (Don’t ask me what it’s made of, I don’t want to know.) Another option is to make Postum (I think it is still available, as it came into production again.) I would add to make it double strength if you go that route.

    For the Irish Cream I would use the syrup as well. It will add a bit of sweetness, so you may wish to adjust sugar levels.

    The Last thing, anyone use rum extract/flavoring to successfully make chocolate rum truffles (not Rum Balls) or Torrone (Italian Nougat?) I love Sees candies rum nougat and I’m trying to find a way to replicate…but the flavoring and extracts just don’t taste good. Thanks!

  6. Ziyanda Ngxabazi says:

    I have an ice cream Christmas cake recipe that has 2T brandy.What can I substitute the brandy with?

  7. Kyle says:

    Apologies if I missed this in the article. Are these substited for each alcohol 1 to 1?

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