Red wine cooking substitute

Dry White Wine

What is it?

White wine is a pantry staple for most cooks, and it’s really versatile. Use it to deglaze the brown bits for a pan sauce for sautéed fish, chicken, pork, or mushrooms. Use it in risotto for a good touch of acidity. Add it to a pot of shellfish just before you put the lid on for steaming (check out our Steamed Mussels with Chorizo recipe for instructions). A dry white is any white wine that isn’t sweet. But for cooking, you want a wine with a high acidity known in wine parlance as “crisp.” Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sémillon, and dry sparkling wines are especially good. Fuller whites with strong, oaky flavors, like some Chardonnays, don’t work as well for cooking. They’re lower in acidity and don’t lend as much punch as crisper wines. When reduced, oaky, buttery flavors turn bitter and don’t add anything pleasant to a dish.

Don’t have it?

You can almost always substitute dry Vermouth for white wine (a handy substitution since an opened bottle of Vermouth lasts longer than an opened bottle of white wine). Lemon juice or even white wine vinegar can substitute for wine when just a splash is called for, but use a tiny bit less.

How to choose:

Heat won’t improve the undesirable qualities of bad wine—it will only accentuate them, so cook with something you wouldn’t mind drinking. Conversely, heat kills the subtle nuances in a complex wine, so save the good stuff solely for drinking.

How to prep:

Because wine also contains alcohol, you usually add it at the start of cooking so the alcohol has a chance to burn off. Splashing wine into a dish at the end of cooking usually results in an unpleasant raw-wine taste.

How to store:

Store unopened bottles in a dark, cool, place. Once opened, wine will begin to oxidize, which adversely affects flavor. Recork opened bottles and refrigerate them to slow down the process. Use an opened bottle within a few days.

More on Wine
For information on how to store wine for drinking (as opposed to cooking), read Tim Glaiser’s expert Wine Storing Tips and check out our handy cheat sheet for pairing food and wine. Visit our dedicated Drinks page for more expert advice on cooking with and enjoying wine.

Cross Reference



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Our answer

In most recipes you can substitute chicken or fish stock (broth) for white wine, in equal quantities. This won’t give quite the same depth of flavour but will usually give a good finished dish, particularly if the wine is only in small proportions. In some cases a little wine vinegar can also be used to add flavour, but it is far more acidic than wine itself so quantities need to be reduced and you need a recipe where the acidity can be cooked out.

For the Sake Salmon you could try switching the sake in the marinade for a dash of rice wine vinegar and in the sauce use fish stock instead of sake, but add a teaspoonful of rice wine vinegar. Taste the sauce before adding the fish sauce as you may need to reduce the quantity of fish sauce because you are using fish stock. In risottos (for 4 people quantities) where they may suggest using wine or vermouth, try adding instead a tablespoonful of a good white wine vinegar plus a little stock instead. Let the vinegar cook until the acidic fumes have gone (stand back as it may make your eyes water) then add more stock and cook the risotto as usual. For sweet wines apple or white grape juice can be useful substitutes.

Out of red wine? Don’t worry, there are easy substitutes to make alcohol-free dishes

It’s a common kitchen dilemma.

You’re perusing a cookbook or website for a mouthwatering recipe.

You scan the ingredients list, mentally ticking off what you have on hand. Excitement comes to a screeching halt, however, when you see that you need a dry red wine to deglaze the pan or amaretto liqueur to add a nutty flavor to your chocolate cake.

Just because you don’t have the needed alcohol in the house doesn’t mean you have to rush out to buy a bottle or ditch the recipe. Plenty of substitutes can pinch-hit for alcohol in savory and sweet dishes.

“People are afraid to substitute, and the fact that they’re fearful cooks limits them,” said Becky Sue Epstein, who wrote “Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z Kitchen Reference” (Sourcebooks, $9.99, 208 pages).

The trick is in the w’s: why the alcohol is being used, when it’s being used and what can be swapped in its place.

While most of the alcohol in recipes cooks off after a certain amount of time, in most cases alcohol is being used to add flavor or in some cases acidity to a dish, Epstein said.

No dry red wine for that slow-braised stew? No problem. Stock or bouillon will work fine in its place.

A few drops of lemon juice or tomato sauce (depending on whether any is called for in the recipe) will add the needed acidity, she said.

“Lemon can really brighten things up,” Epstein said.

To build the flavor, try increasing the herbs to one-and-a-half times the called-for amount.

If it’s a pan sauce that uses marsala or wine, the same tips hold true. Just stay away from vinegar, because it could leave the sauce with a sour flavor, she cautioned.

If you don’t want to use alcohol in your savory dish but are looking for the rustic flavor that wine can impart, consider using a nonalcoholic wine, suggested Cathey Birum, a certified sommelier in Sacramento.

“Honestly, there are some nonalcoholic wines that if you were to smell and taste them next to regular wine, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” she said.

When it comes to wine and substitutions, another good option is unsweetened varietal grape juice, suggested Ann Pittman, executive editor of food at Cooking Light magazine.

“Those are great for these uses because they will taste closer to what the wine would taste like and give you that sort of essence without the alcohol,” she said.

That doesn’t mean Pittman endorses grape juice in place of wine. Traditional grape juice is too sweet and won’t work.

Apple juice, however, is a good sub for white wine, although only in small quantities. If the recipe that serves eight people calls for 1/4 cup of dry white wine, it’s OK to swap in some Mott’s. “If you’re getting into bigger amounts, you need to be very careful,” she said.

If the recipe calls for hefty amounts of alcohol and you’re not keen on that flavor, it might be best to move on, said Barbara Bowman, owner of, an online gourmet food and cooking resource based in Los Gatos.

If a recipe calls for brandy and you don’t have any or don’t care for the distilled spirit’s flavor, try vanilla extract in an equal amount.

Alcohol flavorings, such as brandy, rum and amaretto, tend to work well too.

“You can get a pretty good likeness without having alcohol,” Bowman said.

But no matter what you use in place of alcohol, the key is to taste your dish every step of the way, author Epstein said.

And remember to write down your adjustments for future reference.

“Literally write it on your recipe,” she said. “Good recipes have spatters and notes on them.”

Cooking with alcohol, decoded

Dry white wine (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay aged in stainless steel barrels)

Substitutes per 1 cup: 1 cup of sherry, vermouth, sake, mirin, stock (chicken, vegetable, fish, veal) or 3/4 cup white grape or apple juice plus 1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar

Dry red wine (cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, Bordeaux, some merlot)

Substitutes per 1 cup: Beef stock, nonalcoholic red wine, unsweetened grape juice (same varietal if possible), beer, soaking liquid from dried mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes.


Substitute: chicken or beef stock, sake, ginger ale

Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Substitute: Orange juice (boiling down helps concentrate flavor) or frozen orange juice concentrate


Substitute: Vanilla extract, apple cider, cognac, brandy or rum

Other ideas:

Don’t want to spend a fortune on a full-size bottle of liqueur, but still want the flavor in your finished dish? Head to a large liquor retailer. There you’ll find mini bottles in dozens of varieties, such as Frangelico, Marker’s Mark and Grand Marnier.

Vladimir Mironov/iStock/GettyImages

You’ve found the perfect recipe for dinner tonight (this simple coconut salmon à la Ashley Benson) and are halfway through making it when you realize a key ingredient that brings it all together is missing: white wine.

You have two options. Option one is to skip the wine, reducing the overall flavor of the dish and—let’s be real—we don’t want to be basic like that. Lucky for us, option two is available, allowing us to get creative and make use of the wine substitutes that are probably already lying around in the pantry.

The science behind wine in cooking

Thanks to the rising popularity of molecular gastronomy, understanding the science behind cooking and the interaction on a molecular level between ingredients has never been simpler. When it comes to wine, be it red, white, or rosé, the alcohol content is what’s responsible for enhancing the flavor profiles of dishes.

Heating wine causes a chemical reaction to occur between the alcohol and ingredients already in the pan, resulting in fragrant chemical compounds known as esters and aldehydes that transform the final product. And, the wine you pick depends on if you’re cooking red meat, fish or vegetables; red wines are used for color and dryness, whereas white wines are known to enhance the acidity of dishes.

Knowing this makes it easier to pick out substitutes to use instead of wine in cooking. Just follow our handy guide, and you’ll be a wine substitute aficionado in no time.

3 substitutes for red wine in cooking

If the dish you’re cooking requires color, a stronger flavor, or body to it that red wine usually delivers, try these three substitutes.

  1. Red wine vinegar In need of acidity in your dish? Substituting with red wine vinegar is the way to go. Made by slowly fermenting red wine for a few months—which you can totally do yourself, BTW—red wine vinegar often needs to be combined with grape juice or water to decrease its overall acidity level, and to recreate the original flavor.
  2. Pomegranate juice The flavors and aroma of pomegranate juice are similar to that of red wine, making it a suitable red wine replacement. It is, however, less acidic in nature, so if your dish requires a tad more of a punch, a splash of red wine vinegar mixed with the juice will do just the trick. And an added bonus to using this substitute? Pomegranates are very heart healthy.
  3. Beef broth If the sauce in question requires body, then beef broth makes an excellent substitute for red wine in a recipe. While beef broth brings the flavor, it tends to lack in acidity, so for an extra kick, don’t forget to add in some vinegar.

3 substitutes for white wine in cooking

Finding a white wine substitute can sometimes be a challenge because of the variety of wines that exist, each offering different depth and flavor—light, sweet, woody, or buttery.

  1. White wine vinegar
    Like its red wine counterpart, white wine vinegar is made from fermenting white wine, resulting in a concentrated flavor and higher acidic content. White wine vinegar works particularly well in recipes with chicken and vegetables.
  2. Apple juice or white grape juice
    The sugar content of apple juice makes it good for dishes that call for a sweet wine such as a Riesling or Moscato. It cannot, however, be used to replace large quantities of wine in a recipe. Grape juice, on the other hand, has a flavor that’s similar to wine and can be used to substitute white wine in an equal ratio.
  3. Chicken or vegetable broth Chicken broth is the perfect replacement for dishes that require a buttery flavor that wines like Chardonnay provide. And for vegetarians, just use a vegetable-based broth. Adding in a splash of white wine vinegar to amp up the broth’s acidity certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

Non-alcoholic substitutes for sparkling wines, cooking sherry, and beer

If you want to save the bubbly for a special occasion, sparkling apple cider or ginger ale can serve as good non-alcoholic substitutes to recipes that call for champagne or rosés. A good substitute for cooking sherry, which is a fortified blend of wines, is a sweet juice such as apple or orange.

You’ll be happy to learn that a lot of the substitutes for red and white wine—both chicken and beef broth, apple cider, and white grape juice—also work as great substitutes for beer in cooking.

Once you know what wine the dish calls for, finding a substitute is easy. Just keep in mind the final flavor you want the dish to have, and before you know it, you’ll be a well-seasoned pro. Which means one thing…more wine for drinking!

Non-Alcoholic Cooking Substitutions

There are plenty of non-alcoholic substitutions available to all the young cooks out there, so don’t despair! These combinations will give your dish the same texture and flavour without the worry. Check out the substitutions below to see what common but useful pantry staples you should keep on hand for situations such as these:

Red Wine Substitutes

  • Red Wine Vinegar – it sounds alcoholic, but it’s not really. It’ll provide the same acidity to your dish without the worry or minute alcohol content.
  • Grape, Pomegranate or Cranberry Juice – These juices are acidic enough to be a good substitute for red wine. Their fruity flavour also adds to the dish!
  • Chicken, Beef or Vegetable Stock – These will add flavour to your dish, though not as much as red wine, and they’re not as acidic. To enhance the flavour, add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of stock.

White Wine Substitutes

  • White Wine Vinegar – if you need dry white wine, white wine vinegar will work just as well.
  • Lemon Juice – Dilute the lemon juice with equal amounts of water and add to any dish.
  • White Grape Juice – If you need a sweeter wine, use white grape juice. To add a little flavour, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per cup of grape juice.
  • Chicken or Vegetable Stock – Like with red wine substitutes, these stocks can provide the necessary flavour without the need for wine.

Rice Wine Substitutes

Rice wine is very popular in Asian cooking. It’s made from fermented glutinous rice, and may be called several things, like Shaoxing, mirin, or sake. But never fear, there are substitutions!

For one, you may be able to find specifically non-alcoholic versions of the above mentioned wines, especially mirin. Rice Wine Vinegar isn’t an exact replacement for rice wine, unlike our other substitutions.

  • Apple Juice or White Grape Juice – these juices are better substitutes than rice wine vinegar. Their acidity acts as a tenderizer, much like rice wine will, though the flavour will not be exactly the same.
  • White Grape Juice & Lemon Juice – mixed together, this combo works great to re-create mirin.

Sherry Substitutes

Sherry is a fortified wine from Spain, used in many recipes for soups and sauces. To substitute sherry in a recipe, use equal amounts of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar.

Other Liquor Substitutes

Occasionally, you’ll come across a recipe that needs bourbon, brandy, rum, or vodka. For most of these, you can find non-alcoholic extracts of the liquors which make great substitutions, but you can also create your own with regular pantry staples!

  • Bourbon Substitutes
    • Per 2 tablespoons of whiskey – 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
  • Brandy Substitutes
    • Per 2 tablespoons of brandy – 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of raspberry extract.
    • 2 tablespoons of water, white grape juice, or apple juice.
  • Rum Substitutes
    • Per 2 tablespoons of rum – 2 tablespoons of white grape juice, pineapple juice, or apple juice.
    • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of almond or vanilla extract.
  • Vodka Substitutes
    • Per 2 tablespoons of vodka – 2 tablespoons of water, apple cider, or white grape juice mixed with lime juice.

– Emily Hotton


About Food – Rice Wine Substitute
Gourmet Sleuth – Substitutes for Alcohol in Cooking
The Kitchn – Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Red & White Wine
Skillet – Rice Wine, Rice Wine Vinegar, Rice Vinegar

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