Alcohol is a key ingredient in many dishes both sweet and savory. Often used in sauces and marinades, it adds richness and distinct flavor elements as an ingredient on its own. More importantly, when heated to cooking temperatures alcohol actually causes other foods to release flavors that otherwise wouldn’t be achieved. Adding alcohol into the cooking process can create a unique balance of acidity, sweetness and savory in a dish.
Whether you are poaching fruit in sweet white wine, soaking cakes in bourbon, braising chicken thighs in red wine or making beer battered fish and chips, alcohol can be a very important ingredient in the kitchen. But the truth is not everyone wants to use alcohol in their food. If you are one of these people or are having a dinner guest who is, don’t be discouraged when you see a spirit in the ingredient list. While there is no exact replacement for beer or wine or whiskey in a recipe, there are many substitutions that will work just fine. Remember that measurements may not be exactly equal when replacing alcohol in recipes. And generally, if it is a tablespoon or less it can be eliminated entirely. Also keep in mind if alcohol is a main flavor ingredient in a dish, it is suggested that you look for a different recipe rather than trying to replace it.
Here is a helpful list of replacement ingredients for alcohols commonly found in recipes:
Beer or ale: for light ale use chicken broth or white grape juice, for darker ales use beef broth or mushroom stock. Non-alcoholic beer can also be used. In a batter recipe replace beer with soda water.
Red wine: chicken or beef broth, red wine vinegar diluted with water, grape juice mixed with a little red wine vinegar, water or tomato juice. Use 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar to 1-cup liquid for diluting. Add a tablespoon of sugar for sweet wine.
Amaretto: almond extract
Brandy: use fruit juice with corresponding flavor, for example apricot juice for apricot brandy.
Orange liquor: Frozen orange juice concentrate
Sake: white grape juice with lemon zest or rice vinegar diluted with water
Sherry: orange or pineapple juice
Dry vermouth: white grape juice or white wine vinegar
Sweet vermouth: apple or grape juice or balsamic vinegar
White wine: chicken broth, white wine vinegar diluted with water, ginger ale or white grape juice mixed with a little lemon juice. Use 1 TBSP vinegar or lemon juice to one-cup water or grape juice. Add a tablespoon of sugar for sweet wine.
Kahlua: chocolate extract mixed with espresso powder, coffee syrup or coffee extract
Bourbon: vanilla extract
Rum: rum flavoring or pineapple juice
Frangelico: hazelnut or almond extract
Hard cider: apple juice, sparkling apple juice or cider
Champagne: Sparkling grape juice or ginger ale