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Monday, April 13, 2015

Substitutes for wine in recipes

Don't we all make substitutions in recipes when we don't have the needed ingredients?

I made a soup the other night in which the recipe called for white wine. Not a drinker, here, so I didn't have wine on hand. I used some rosemary vinegar and water in a 50/50 mix, to substitute for white wine.

Here's a list of alcohol-free substitutes for various wine flavors/types to use in cooking. Some of these suggestions were passed on to me by a medical professional, while others I have picked up along the way.

With any of the vinegars used as substitutes, you can add a pinch of sugar, for the natural sweetening you'd find in wine. Or not. Taste and see if it needs just a hint of sweetening. This will depend on the nature of the recipe.

white wine

--herb vinegar, such as tarragon, rosemary or thyme, use full strength or in a 50/50 blend with water. These can be easily and cheaply homemade with fresh herbs left to steep in white vinegar. (As a substitute, I use a half and half mixture of vinegar and water as a substitute for white wine in soups, sauces and stews)
--apple juice or apple cider
--chicken stock, won't give a wine flavor but offers nice taste for savory dishes
--clam juice, especially nice in fish or other seafood dishes

red wine

--red wine vinegar in a half and half mixture vinegar and water (pinch of sugar can be added)
--berry vinegars (sweetened or unsweetened), also in a half and half mixture water to vinegar
--red grape juice, cranberry juice or pomegranate juice can be substituted (I like thinned down versions of these juices, to cut the sweetness)
--any of the above blended 50/50 with beef broth
--25/75 blend of red wine vinegar to grape juice (no sugar added variety). This is a good alternative to burgundy wine in a dish like Boeuf Bourguignon. It won't taste exactly like a traditional Bourguignon, but it will be an acceptable version. If possible, add in a bit of mushroom stock or sodium-free beef stock. (I do sometimes have mushroom pieces, ends of stems that sort of thing, that I cook up into stock.)

Port wine

--Concord grape juice with lime zest added
--cranberry juice with lemon juice added
--weak apple or orange juice can be substituted for lighter ports


--white grape juice with lemon juice added

sweet white wine, like a dessert wine

--white grape juice with 1 tablespoon (per cup of grape juice) Karo syrup


--the obvious choice --Champagne vinegar
--ginger ale mixed with soda water (for desserts that call for champagne)
--or a blend of either of the above with stock, in savory dishes
--sparkling apple cider


--grape juice

for deglazing a pan

--red wine vinegar
--balsamic vinegar

for marinading a piece of meat, poultry or fish

--any of the vinegars mentioned for particular meats/seafood, using half the amount called for of wine, in vinegar, then make up the other half with water, and add a spoonful of sugar. So, if your marinade recipe calls for 1/2 cup of wine, use 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and teaspoon of sugar.

My choice for most recipes is a vinegar and water blend, sometimes with a pinch of sugar added. I choose my vinegar flavor based on the dish and the overall flavor I want to impart. Right now, I have rosemary-thyme vinegar, which I use to replace white wine in recipes, and unsweetened blackberry vinegar, which I use to replace red wine in recipes. I always have flavored vinegars on hand. So this is sort of a no-brainer choice for me.



  1. I just bought a bottle of Aldi's cheapest wine ("Winking Owl") which I use only for cooking purposes. I think it was $3/bottle and a bottle lasts me quite awhile. Your other suggestions are good. We have gone from drinking maybe 1 glass of wine every 3 months to 1 every six months--we've cut our consumption in half! Ha! We rarely consume alcohol--I prefer to eat my calories ...

    1. Hi Kris,
      Winking Owl -- oh with a name like that, you know it must be good! You know what was popular here for a while, it was a Trader Joe special, known as Two Buck Chuck (cost $2). Apparently it was quite the seller and they couldn't keep the shelves stocked.

      You know, if you won't be going through the whole bottle in time, you can freeze it in ice cube trays.

      I'm with you on preferring to eat my calories! There are so many delicious foods I'd like to eat more of. No sense using up my calories on something I don't really care for.

  2. We're not wine drinkers either so we usually don't have wine on hand. But I see a trend in your suggestions--1/2 vinegar/juice and 1/2 water. Add sugar if a bit of sweetness is needed. So far my cooking hasn't advanced much past red wine or white wine being called for in the recipes so this basic formula will work for me.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Most of the recipes that I use will call for a generic red or white wine. But occasionally I'll come across a recipe that is very specific, in wanting something like a Chardonnay. What I'll typically do is google the attributes of that particular wine, and use something that just sounds right. (FYI, Chardonnay is known to be "buttery", so I've read that chicken broth is a good substitute.)

  3. This is an awesome list, Lili! I used to keep the little six-packs of individual wine bottles -- one red and one white -- in the pantry all the time for cooking.

    Nowadays, I avoid wine and vinegar, both, when I can. So, in Asian-flavored meat marinades and some Asian sauces, I sometimes substitute either orange or lemon juice for the acid ingredient. Orange juice compliments dark soy especially nicely. For other cuisines, apple juice works okay as an acid for some types of pork marinades, and I've used cranberry juice a couple of times for beef/elk (just don't use too much!)

    Sara :D

    1. Hi Sara,
      Oh, those small bottles are very handy for the cook who only needs wine occasionally.
      I like your suggestion for using orange or lemon juice in Asian-stye cooking. I can imagine how orange juice would go very well with sot sauce, sesame oil and other Asian flavors.

      Good to know about cranberry juice with beef dishes. I may try that in Bourguignon (if the price of beef ever comes down again!). I think cranberry juice would add a nice flavor. Thanks!

    2. You'll have to let us know if you do the Bourguignon with cranberry, and how it turns out. :)

      I forgot probably the best fruit juice marinade of all-- scientifically speaking. Pineapple juice. I'd imagine that the enzymes in that would make it the best tenderizer of all. It's certainly a tasty "acid" for meat marinade, especially for poultry and pork. I've used it both for Asian and for other cuisines with good results. And it certainly has the "sweet" that some people love in marinades!


    3. I will, Sara!
      Yum. I love pineapple juice in teriyaki marinade for chicken!

  4. Lots of good, helpful information... never thought of replacing wine with vinegar. I learned today that adding some apple cider vinegar to beans during soaking helps too. Seems vinegar has many uses including breaking down flour (as in your last post).


    1. was another source that mentioned using vinegar to break down


    2. Hi YHF,
      Very interesting about adding vinegar to beans. I'll try that sometime. Thanks!
      You know, my pie pastry recipe calls for vinegar. It supposedly tenderizes the dough. It certainly turns out nice and tender, so maybe there's something to that.

    3. Actually, Lili, there IS something to that pie crust thing. My cousin gave me a recipe that uses just a touch of vodka in it. I only made it once or twice (husband isn't a big pie eater), but it WAS a really fabulous crust! Sara

    4. How interesting, Sara! Well then, I'll continue making my crust with the vinegar. My family and I certainly think the crust is pretty good.

  5. Great ideas, Lili. I have also used ginger ale instead of white wine in a risotto.

    1. Hi anexacting,
      that sounds delicious! I'll add ginger ale to my personal list of white wine substitutes, especially for risotto. Thank you!


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