The Best Cooking Wine Substitutes, According to Our Test Kitchen

No vino on hand? We’ve got your back with these substitutes for red or white wine while cooking.

There are thousands of recipes that utilize wine as an ingredient. Savory recipes like Bolognese and braised pot roast, and desserts such as brownies and ice cream are just a few. It's especially essential in some beloved French recipes that they're even named after the spirit; case in point: Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon. But not all of us have a cellar stocked with wine at all times, and according to a 2021 Gallup Poll, four in 10 American adults don't imbibe in alcohol.

"There are many reasons someone might want to use a cooking wine substitute: if you're sober, you don't drink for religious reasons, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an allergy or intolerance, don't have any wine handy or simply can't find your wine corkscrew," says Sarah Brekke, Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen culinary specialist.

No matter the reason, rest assured that you can turn to these Test Kitchen-endorsed white wine substitutes and red wine substitution ideas for a similar flavor experience.

pouring wine into food
Andy Lyons

Why Recipes with Wine Exist

Recipes feature wine as an ingredient for one of several reasons, such as adding:

  • Flavor or aroma
  • Acidity
  • Sweetness
  • Complexity
  • Color
  • Moisture
  • Tenderness

If you are cooking with wine, remember this important pro tip from Brekke: "When selecting a wine for cooking, always choose a wine that you would enjoy drinking on its own."

That's because the wine's flavor concentrates as it cooks. But, no, contrary to popular belief the wine does not cook out. Due to the cooking method, how long the alcohol was heated and at what temperature it was cooked or baked, "There is a wide range in the amount of alcohol left in a recipe after the cooking or baking is completed. Research shows that after cooking, the final amount of alcohol left in a food item can range anywhere from 4% to 95%," Brekke says.

For example, if you add wine to a recipe, bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately remove the pan from the heat; the final mixture will retain about 85% of that alcohol, she explains. However if the wine is added to a stew that simmers for 2½ hours, the remaining alcohol content will only be about 5% of what you initially added, research proves.

If you're worried about the alcohol content, "Don't assume that because the food has been heated it was enough to cook off all of the alcohol," Brekke warns. "This is a great time to use one of our suggested substitutes for white wine or red wine."

The Best Cooking Wine Substitutes

"Certain recipes utilize high-proof alcohols with the intent of flaming or flambéing for presentation. But when it comes to regular wine, most recipes are compatible with the cooking wine substitutes here," Brekke says. "For recipes that call for smaller amounts of wine, these swaps will blend in nicely with only subtle flavor differences in the final dish. If a recipe calls for a larger amount of wine, you may notice a more significant change to the final flavor when using a substitute, but the result will still be delicious."

The Best Substitute for Red Wine

If you're seeking a red wine substitution, consider replacing one-for-one with:

  • Alcohol-free red wine
  • Beef broth
  • Chicken broth
  • Red wine vinegar (use ½ vinegar and ½ water for similar flavor results)
  • Cranberry juice*
  • Pomegranate juice*

The Best Substitute for White Wine

If you're seeking a white wine substitute, consider replacing one-for-one with:

  • Alcohol-free white wine
  • Chicken broth
  • White wine vinegar (use ½ vinegar and ½ water for similar flavor results)
  • Apple juice*
  • White grape juice*

*These cooking wine substitutes work well in sweet or savory applications.

The Best Substitutes for Dessert Wines and Sparkling Wines

While far less common, if you're in need of a Madeira wine substitute or a Marsala wine substitute, use an equal amount of fruit juice for the wine called for in the recipe. Try to use a juice that's close to the same hue as the spirit called for in the recipe and you should score a deceptively-similar finished product.

For sparkling wines, sparkling grape juice is an excellent alternative.

Now that you're well versed in all of the best cooking wine substitutes, dive into any or all of these recipes with wine with confidence that the replacement will be worthy of a 100-point rating.

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