Substitutes For Wine In Recipes

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When you see a promising recipe and discover that it calls for wine–and you don’t use wine– what do you do? Check with us, that’s what! Here’s our guide on substitutes for wine in recipes.

Image of the red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar

Regardless of your reason for wanting a substitute–personal preference, food sensitivity, or simply running out of wine–there are some great ways to cook delicious recipes without wine.  

Wine substitutes fall into three primary categories:

  • Vinegars
  • Water, broth, or stock
  • Fruit and/or vegetable juice

First, determine the flavor profile

First things first: determine what wine will help the recipe achieve. Is it a sweet or savory element? Is it helping to tenderize the meat? Is it to add a hearty, umami flavor or a delicate one? Read through the recipe and description to figure this out.

Also, look at the recipe to see how much wine is called for in the recipe. If it’s a major component of the dish, you’ll want to be more careful in your choice. If it’s just a tablespoon or two, you could perhaps skip the wine entirely, or use water instead.

If you’re confused by varieties of wine, the easy way to remember is this: use light-colored wines with light-colored foods (white wine with poultry and seafood) and dark wines with dark foods (red wine goes with most red meats). With all types of wine, remember to check for savory versus sweet. Sweet wines are often called dessert wines.

Image of the balsamic vinegar that can be used in the place of wine

Substituting Vinegar for Wine

Vinegar probably has the closest flavor profile to wine. For red wine recipes, red wine vinegar is great, as well as balsamic vinegar. You can’t substitute vinegar for wine on a 1:1 basis, though. Vinegar is much more acidic (tart) than wine. A rule of thumb could be to use 1 part vinegar to 2 parts broth or water to substitute for wine.

Vinegars are excellent choices for the wine needed in salad dressing.

Vinegar substituting for red wine:

Red wine is quite tart, so vinegar should be primarily used in savory dishes. The types include:

  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar (adds a bit of sweetness)

Vinegar substituting for white wine:

Because wine is tart, white wine recipes really can’t substitute vinegar in sweet recipes, such as desserts. For savory recipes calling for white wine, good vinegar substitutes can be:

  • White wine vinegar
  • Rice (or rice wine) vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar

Remember to use the light/dark rule for wines and vinegar. Red wine recipes use darker vinegar and white wine recipes need light vinegar. **We don’t recommend using white distilled vinegar as a wine substitute. It’s quite harsh and you won’t be happy with the results!

Image of chicken broth that can be used as a substitute for wine in recipes

Substituting Water, Broth, or Stock for Wine

Water, broth, and stock are great substitutes for wine in recipes, but they also need a splash of acid to bring the flavor closer to wine. Add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to create that flavor. Water, broth, and stock can be substituted for one on a 1:1 basis.

If a recipe requires reducing the liquids, use slightly fewer amounts of water, broth, or stock. When the wine serves as a tenderizer (in a stew with tough meat, for instance), use more vinegar. The acids and vinegar and wine help break down the meat fibers just as the wine would.

When using water, you’ll need to compensate for the flavor loss. Water is flavorless, of course, and nobody wants a flavorless dish! We suggest adding some bouillon to boost the flavor.

As always, use the dark/light rule. Use beef broth to sub for red wine, and chicken or vegetable broth to fill in for white wine.

Broth, water, or stock substitutes for red wine:

  • Beef broth
  • Beef stock
  • Water with additional bouillon or red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Broth, water, or stock substitutes for white wine:

  • Chicken broth
  • Chicken stock
  • Water with chicken bouillon and white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar

Image of cranberry juice that can be used in place of wine

Substituting Fruit or Vegetable Juice for Wine

Wine and grapes are both made from grapes, so grape juice must be a great substitute for wine, right? WRONG! Grape juice is much, much sweeter than most wines (except sweet white dessert wines). Depending on the fruit, if you use juice to substitute for wine, your dish will be much sweeter than the original recipe intended. So, if you’d like to use fruit juice, you’ll need to add some tartness as well. Use one part fruit or vegetable juice to three parts water, broth, or stock. Be sure to use pure fruit juice, not one that is sweetened (even sweetened with fruit juices). Here are some ideas. As you’ll see in the list, some of the tarter juices don’t need vinegar to add that extra punch. They’re plenty punchy on their own!

Fruit or vegetable juice substitutes for red wine:

  • Red grape juice (not purple or white) plus red wine vinegar
  • Pomegranate juice 
  • Cranberry juice
  • Lemon juice (especially good for tenderizing dark-colored meats, even though that goes against the light-dark rule)
  • Tomato sauce or juice (use on a 1:1 basis with a dash of sweetener to counteract the bitterness of tomato)
  • Juice from canned mushrooms (for a strong umami flavor)

Fruit or vegetable juice substitutes for white wine:

  • Apple juice plus a dash of white wine vinegar
  • Ginger ale or ginger juice 
  • White grape juice with a splash of white wine vinegar
  • Lemon juice (especially good for tenderizing light-colored meats)

Using a substitute for wine will alter the flavor of dishes, at least somewhat. When you know which substitutes for wine offer the closest match, however, your recipes can turn out pretty darn close to the original!




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