Skip to Content

Best Alcohol Substitutes For Cooking

There are many recipes that call for alcohol in the ingredients. But if you are cooking for someone who can’t consume alcohol, or just prefer not to use it, you may wonder what you can use in its place. Some of the best alcohol substitutes for cooking will often be determined by the type of alcohol being used, and the recipe you are making.

Each alcohol has a unique flavor profile, so there isn’t really one option that is a general fit to cover all types of alcohol, so we’ll cover several different types of alcohol and the best options to use in it’s place. But first, let’s talk about why we cook with alcohol.

Best Alcohol Substitutes For Cooking

Reasons To Use Alcohol When Cooking


Like, we mentioned above, different alcohols have very distinct flavor profiles, and these flavors add to the recipes that they are used in. Think Vodka Sauce, Beef Bourguignon, and Chicken Marsala, to name a few. The alcohol used in these dishes impart a specific flavor.


Alcohol can be used to flambe, a method in which an alcohol like brandy is splashed on top of the food in a pan to create a flame during the cooking process. Alcohol can also be used to braise and deglaze. Adding beer to baked goods increases moisture, and when you add it to batter (fish and chips, anyone?), it creates a light and crispy crust. If you’re trying to make a good glaze, use red wine or sherry and simmer it down with pan juices from your meat. Making a sauce? Liquor and white wine are great for reducing sauces and concentrating the flavors.


When cooking with meat, alcohol is a great way to tenderize before or during cooking. Alcohol breaks down collagen and fibers in the meat. You can use beer, vodka, bourbon, or other alcohol to tenderize.

Alcohol Commonly Used For Cooking

  • White Wine: Sauces, deglazing, marinating and poaching lean meats like fish and poultry
  • Red Wine: Sauces, deglazing, soups and stews
  • Beer: Marinades, soups and stews, batters, desserts
  • Bourbon: Sauces, desserts (especially fruits)
  • Whiskey: Seafood, cured meats, desserts
  • Rum: Caramelizing, flambéing, desserts
  • Vodka: Sauces, baked goods

Best Alcohol Substitutes For Cooking

There is alcohol in surprising places, and it’s commonly used in cooking. The common ingredient Vanilla Extract is a popular one that contains alcohol — the vanilla beans are soaked in alcohol, so if you need are trying to avoid alcohol in all forms, this is one you’ll need to find a replacement for.

Here is a list of common alcoholic ingredients used for cooking, and the best substitutes for each.


Amaretto is often used in baked goods, sauces, and glazes, and has an almond flavor. Here are the best substitutes:

  • Almond extract (look for the non-alcoholic kind): Use half a teaspoon in place of each tablespoon of Amaretto


Beer is often used as a tenderizer for meat, and it can also be added to batters for a light and flaky coating on things like fish and chips.

  • Use chicken broth, ginger ale, or white grape juice in place of light beer
  • Use mushroom stock or beef broth in place of dark beer
  • Use root beer or cola to tenderize meat
  • Use ginger ale or non-alcoholic beer for batters


Bourbon enhances flavors in your food and adds notes of smokiness, honey, caramel, and nuttiness.

  • Use Non-alcoholic vanilla extract and water in the ratio of one part vanilla and two parts water


Brandy adds robust flavors to your recipes and helps keep meat moist and tender.

  • Apple cider
  • Apple juice
  • White grape juice


Champagne is often used in sauces and marinades and adds a bit of acidity to the dish.

  • Ginger ale
  • Sparkling white grape juice
  • Sparkling apple cider

Coffee Liqueur

Coffee Liqueur adds a robust coffee flavor to your recipes.

  • Espresso
  • Coffee
  • Coffee extract
  • Coffee syrup


Cognac is most often used for deglazing, but also adds and enhances flavors in soups and sauces. In desserts, it is great when paired with apples and stone fruits like peaches.

  • Peach juice
  • Pear juice
  • Apricot juice

Crème de Menthe

Adds a minty flavor to recipes.

  • Spearmint or other mint extract
  • Mint coffee syrup
  • Soda syrup


Most commonly used in drinks and desserts, this imparts an orange flavor to your recipes.

  • Orange juice concentrate
  • Orange flavored syrup
  • Orange extract


Most commonly used in drinks, this adds a nutty flavor to desserts.

  • Almond extract
  • Hazelnut extract

Grand Marnier/Orange Liqueur

Grand Marnier is commonly used for flambéing and in classic dishes like crepes suzette. It imparts an orange flavor in your recipes.

  • Orange juice concentrate
  • Orange extract (use half teaspoon extract for each two tablespoons of liqueur)

Hard Cider

Adds fruitiness and sweetness to recipes, and can be used in brines, batters, cheese sauces, and other sauces.

  • Apple cider
  • Apple juice
  • Sparkling apple cider


Most often used in desserts, this liqueur made from coffee beans adds coffee flavored notes to your dishes.

  • Espresso
  • Coffee
  • Coffee extract
  • Coffee syrup

Red Wine

Red wine is often used for braising. It adds acidity to recipes, and helps tenderize meat during the cooking process or marinating.

  • Red grape juice
  • Beef broth
  • Unsweetened cranberry juice


Different rums add different flavor profiles to the recipes they are used in. Light rums can add the fruity or coconut notes, darker rums add caramel notes, and spiced rums add spicy notes.

  • For light rum: Mix white grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, or apple cider with a dash of almond extract
  • For dark rum: Mix molasses and juice with a dash of almond extract


Scotch or Whiskey adds a smooth creamy finish to sauces and pairs well with meats. You only need small amounts.

  • Non-alcoholic vanilla extract and water in the ratio of one part vanilla and two parts water
  • Beef broth
  • Mushroom broth/stock
  • Vanilla extract
  • Apple cider vinegar


Sherry adds sweet, nutty flavor profiles to your recipes. A drier sherry will add less sweetness to the dish.

  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Apple juice


Tequila is best used for deglazing and flambéing. It adds caramelization as well as citrusy notes to your recipes.

  • Agave juice

Triple Sec

Another orange flavored liqueur, Triple Sec add citrusy, orange notes to your recipes.

  • Orange juice concentrate
  • Orange extract (half teaspoon in place of each two tablespoons)
  • Orange zest


Sweet vermouth enhances the sweetness in your recipes’ flavors, while dry vermouth adds herbal notes.

  • Dry vermouth: white grape juice, non-alcoholic white wine
  • Sweet vermouth: apple or grape juice, balsamic vinegar


Vodka is most often used in sauces and enhances the flavors and aromas of your dishes.

  • Water
  • Chicken broth or chicken stock

White Wine

White wine is often paired with seafood and poultry and adds a bit of acidity to your recipes. It is great for deglazing as well.

  • Chicken broth or stock
  • Apple juice
  • Apple cider
  • White grape juice
  • Ginger ale

How To Choose The Best Alcohol Substitutes

Always consider your recipe when determining what to use as an alternative to alcohol when cooking. Here are a few tips:

  • When using as a tenderizer or marinade, use soda, ginger ale, or a sparkling juice in place of the alcohol. The carbonation will help break things down.
  • When making sauces, use a broth like chicken or beef that best matches your recipe — beef broth or mushroom broth for meat dishes, chicken broth for poultry or seafood.
  • For desserts, add something that has the most similar flavors for the alcohol that is originally called for.
  • For batters, like fish and chips, use ginger ale or soda.

The Best Pick For Alcohol Substitutes When Cooking

If you’re looking for the best alcohol substitutes, we always swap in a broth or stock in place of alcohol in most recipes. It is versatile and flavorful, and won’t change the overall flavor profile of the dish. When baking, we use a non-alcoholic extract, or the option that best matches the flavor of the recipe.

Find More Great Substitutes For Your Recipes!

Heidi Deal
Latest posts by Heidi Deal (see all)