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What to use instead of alcohol while cooking.

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I have a dilemna. I'm cooking different recipes asking to use brandy in a sweet potato recipe, bourbon in a pumpkin-pecan recipe, and white wine in a cornbread,wild mushroom and pecan stuffing recipe. I'm hosting for a family of alcoholics, and I do not want to use alcohol, what do I use instead? And what is Calvados? Please help, asap, before Thanksgiving day. Thanks.

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  1. Calvados is a French Apple Brandy. You could look to the de-alcoholized wines for the white wine.

    1. You can EASILY find recipes for pumpkin/pecan pie, sweet potatoes and cornbread stuffing that don't call for any alcohol in the first place. It would be a much better bet to find new recipes rather than trying to substitute ingredients (which may not be very successful).

      1. Calvados is apple brandy.

        I think you're going to have a hard time substituting for any of these things, but you might try diluted champagne vinegar instead of white wine. The liquors are all mainly going to add sweetness and acid, in addition to aroma; you might try juices, particularly apple and white grape. The aroma isn't going to be super straightforward to replicate, so I wouldn't put much time into that.

        With any of these substitutions, I wouldn't advise doing a straight swap of anything--don't replace a cup of Calvados with a cup of apple juice, for example.

        On the other hand, I haven't got much experience cooking for alcoholics, but the amount of alcohol that's actually present in the food (once it's diluted by the other ingredients, and after much of the alcohol evaporates during cooking) is probably pretty negligible. The flavor will also be quite different. So you might be able to get away just using the alcohol, but that's your call. If you were doing something like a rum-soaked pudding, that would be a bad idea, obviously.

        If you go the substitution route, I'd highly recommend doing a test run before the day so you don't end up with something awful.

        Also, you might have more luck getting ideas on the Cooking board.

        Good luck.

        1. Actually, listen to Christy. None of these dishes HAS to be made with alcohol. In fact, I don't think I've ever had booze in any of these dishes. Find new recipes and you'll be much better off.

          1. Just omit it. It's just to flavor it. It will still be good without.

            1. I agree that it wouldn't take more than a quick internet/cookbook search to find recipes that don't call for alcohol and thus raise no substitution issues.

              1. You can find alternate recipes as the other replies have said. But I doubt that any alcohol remains in the dishes you mention after cooking/baking. I'm very sensitive to any form of alcohol but I routinely cook with it. As long as the dish is cooked for some time (I would guess around 20-30 minutes), all the alcohol is cooked off.

                2 Replies
                1. re: cheryl_h

                  Alcohol never fully cooks out. Some always remains, sometimes a LOT more than you think. It depends on the cooking time and method.

                  Nearly 40% would still remain after cooking for 20 minutes.

                  Here's a burn-off chart: http://homecooking.about.com/library/...

                  Plus, recovering alcoholics don't want to taste the stuff in food anyway.

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    I agree. Telling an alcoholic that it's "all burned off" is sort of like telling a vegetarian that you only put a tablespoon of chicken broth in something. It's just not a friendly, accommodating, and understanding attitude.

                    And like the previous poster said, the common wisdom that it all burns off is not true.

                2. Kinda funny actually... I've used perrier for deglazing a pan before (don't ask... I'm the queen of substitutions!) and it worked amazingly well! In fact, I make a sauteed mushroom recipe that calls for white wine deglazing the pan, but my husband likes it better with perrier!

                  1. It is incorrect to assume it cooks out. There is a table somewhere on the net that shows relative amounts left, and the longest cooking dishes had the least remaining. But you might find this article interesting.


                    If you are cooking for people who are not drinking, when don't even use small amounts or nonalchohol substitutes, that is just not necessary. But for some recipes the liquor can just be omitted. I recently made a great pumpkin pie that called for 3 Tbsp rum and it was wonderful without it.

                    1. apple cider deglazes quite nicely and so do other juices. apple cider vinegar is another winner for deglazing.

                      i agree that the booze can be eliminated most of the time with no detriment to the taste.

                      let's be honest, who keep calvados in the house outside of brittany?

                      1. Important: although most alcohol cooks off, traces often remain. If anyone is taking Antibuse and is really sensitive, they can have a severe, even life-threatening, reaction. People have been known to have reactions even to wine vinegar. NOT worth risking.
                        Let's hope that all of your guests are in recovery and not struggling but do them a favor and not place them in jeopardy by using so-called de-alcoholed products which do have traces of alcohol. Even O'Doul's beer has a low alcohol content. There's a higher incidence of relapse during the holidays so be sensitive to their problems.

                        You can substitute apple juice or grape juice, cut with water to diminish the sweetness, combined with good vinegar for the wine in most recipes. I have some fig, muscat, cane sugar, banyuls, sherry, cidre and champagne vinegars that I use. Expensive but excellent. I think they actually have improved a few dishes. This does require some experimentation before you get the hang of it.
                        For the recipes you're planning, you could probably use the juice/wine trick for the stuffing since that's a little sweet anyway or just use stock. You can probably omit the booze from the sweet potatoes and pie with no real effects. I don't use it in either of those.

                        If a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon or so of cognac or something, you can usually just leave it out. Powdered vanilla works fine. There are obviously a lot of desserts that are just not possible. Rum balls? No.

                        When in doubt, leave it out. Good food can be made without alcohol. Alcoholism is a tricky disease and impossible to understand even among those who bear its burden. Don't add to it unwittingly, please.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MakingSense

                          RE: Antibuse, a very important point, and well put.

                        2. Thank you Making Sense. The recipes are favorites among my family. My son is not an alcoholic, but he is cooking with my assistance. He and I were concerned for my husband, and his family that are alcoholics. I will try the vinegars this time around. Also, I think I may use hard cider for the stuffing. Your answer was very helpful. Happy Thanksgiving!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rhema

                            Hard cider has more alcohol in it than beer. IMO vinegar would not be my choice to sub for brandy and especially not for bourbon. Generally, it's considered a more approriate sub for wine.

                          2. Hard cider is cider with alcohol.

                            Aside from that, there are flavors that are ONLY soluble in alcohol. See: vodka tomato sauce. Does it all cook out? No. Does most of it? Yes.

                            I agree you shouldn't compromise anyone's health, it's not worth it or respectful. However in the future (not including these folks) if you have other people over who aren't sensitive, be sure and include it!

                            1. A good chicken stock is a acceptable substitute for white wine in savory dishes.
                              I would use a sweet cider(unfiltered) as a substitute for Calvados. Most liquors can be simmered for a few minutes over low temp and burn off more of the alcohol, but if a person is a recovering alcoholic they will be able to taste the flavor. Their systems are very sensitive to any alcoholic drink and it might encourage a relapse.
                              I would encourage you to stay away from using cooking wines, as they are full of salt and they tend to throw off the flavor of the dish. Freshly squeezed fruit juices make a great substitute for flavored liquors

                              BTW, Vanilla extract is 40% alcohol, but the amount used is so small that the effect is negligible.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                Simmering it for a few minutes would burn off just a small % of the alcohol. See chart above.

                              2. Doesn't the wine provide a bit of acidity that chicken stock doesn't have?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: christy319

                                  You are right about the acidity. You can correct for that with a touch of mild vinegar or lemon depending on the dish.
                                  Cooking wines are dreadful - made by adding salt to low quality wines. The standard is if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it! And they still contain alcohol which is what the OP is trying to avoid.

                                2. Of all the pumpkin pies, pecan pies, turkey dressings and sweet potato casseroles I've ever made. Exactly zero have had alcohol in them.


                                  1. Verjus (verjuice) is a good non-alcoholic alternative to white wine in cooking. A few wineries make their own versions and most bottles will run you less than $10.


                                    1. If you can deglaze with alcohol, you can deglaze with most, if not all, water based products, including plain water. There are certain flavor compounds that will only be released with alcohol, but the deglazing itself doesn't have anything to do with the alcohol. Obviously, the use of a flavorful liquid for deglazing will add more flavor to the final sauce, etc, but that is up to the taste of the cook.