The Best Alcohol Substitutes for Cooking

Whether you're avoiding alcohol or just don't have any on hand, you can still make your favorite dishes without sacrificing flavor. Read on to learn how.

Extra-Virgin Cooking

Eliminating wine and spirits doesn't mean you have to toss out the culinary classics. Here are eight easy switch-outs to help you omit the hard stuff yet stay true to a recipe's flavor when making everything from fondue to fruit cobbler.


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Instead of white wine, try … lemon juice. This citrus offers the same light, bright acidic hit you get from a crisp white. Dilute it with a little water or chicken broth, and use it in place of wine wherever it's called for in your recipe.


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Instead of red wine, try … grape or pomegranate juice plus a splash of red wine vinegar. The juice will lend a similar deep tannic sweetness to a bold red, and the vinegar will deliver the bite that brightens everything up.

Cobblers and Pies

Instead of bourbon or whiskey, try … prune juice. That raisin-y sweetness that deepens the flavor of desserts can be evoked with a splash of something plummy.

Au Poivre Sauce

Instead of cognac, try ... peach, apricot or pear nectar. Though cognac is made from white grapes, the sediment-y, fruity quality of these juices mimics the effect that cooking with brandies has on a pan sauce.


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Instead of mirin or sake, try … rice vinegar. These rice-based wines can add a sweet and salty quality to dishes, and so does rice vinegar, which is also derived from (surprise!) rice.


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Instead of kirsch, try … black cherry juice or syrup. That tiny, almost imperceptible hit of cherry that rounds out the cheeses so well will also work when it's alcohol-free.


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Frying Batter

Instead of beer, try … club soda or seltzer. In dishes like beer-battered onion rings, the bubbles will work their magic in a similar way.


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Instead of beer, try … clam juice or chicken broth with a splash of malt vinegar. You'll get a satisfying malty tang.


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Pan Sauce

Instead of port, try … balsamic vinegar. That deep, dark sticky-sweet flavor of an aged balsamic will be nearly indistinguishable from the flavor of fortified wine.


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Baked Sweets

Instead of vanilla extract, try … vanilla bean seeds. The paste you scrape from a vanilla bean is what gives vanilla extract flavor, after all. For a second, budget-stretching alternative, make vanilla sugar. Stick a scraped bean or two in a sealed canister of sugar. With time, the sugar will take on a warm, rummy fragrance and can be substituted for the granulated sugar in your recipe.


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Ultimate Wine Guide