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Feb 12, 2007 07:06 PM

Any good substitutes for alcohol (wine) in cooking?

I've never been a big drinker, but I like wine in cooking... my DH liked wine too - far too much! He went on the wagon fourteen years ago, and he thinks it would be okay to use a little in our food because the alcohol is 'cooked out' but I know that's not really true and I don't want to risk it. What could I use as a wine-substitute in the following dishes?
- the sherry/rice wine/Chinese cooking wine in Asian food.
- fish/chicken in white wine
- coq au vin and chicken marsala (his request)
- trifle!

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  1. I really don't think there are any 'good' substitutes for wine, there are just substitutes. If it is just a little bit then it will matter less to the dish, but if it is a lot, as in a coq au vin then I don't think you should make that dish at all. But this might give you some ideas if you feel like experimenting:

    The Galloping Gourmet had the same problem as your hubbie and I've heard him say that he uses dealcoholized wine. He will even use this for larger amounts such as the cioppino in which he calls for 2 cups. I have never tried it, but I guess I would try this first if I couldn't use any wine. It likely has the best chance to have acidity and flavor enough.

    I think that you are right that there are at least trace amounts of alcohol left in the dishes. The main thing about alcohol burning off is that it seems to burn off longer the longer the dish is cooked. You can google and find a table of the amount that burns off depending on the cooking method:

    1 Reply
    1. re: coconutz

      I was wondering whether the 'non-alcoholic' wine would work for cooking, or whether it would just taste dreadful...

    2. Okay, I know this is going to sound crazy, but believe me, it works in some dishes... I've used Perrier before! It works great for a white wine substitute, anything where a lemony background is fine. I used it for the first time when I was making sauteed mushrooms and realized that I didn't have any white wine at the last minute- subbed the Perrier and my husband said he liked it better that way! Necessity is the mother of all inventions! I think it works well because it has a little zip to it and is bubbly, so it deglazes well.

      1. I apologize for not following the links coconutz posted, but I often make substitiutes for wines in recipes when my rack is empty. Fruit juice and vinegars go a long way towards emulating spirits in many dishes.
        Apple juice and sherry vinegar with a dollup of honey make a decent swap for marsala.
        Apple juice diluted with 1/4 water with a squirt of lemon juice substitutes well for chardonnays, chablis, and some other medium bodied whites.
        Red grapejuice (Not concord), which shows up on grocers shelves from time to time with a splash of red wine vinegar is almost indiscernable from that quarter bottle of cabernet I have sitting next to my stove from the meal from last week.
        Asian substitutes are quite easy, too- Mirin, though it is made directly from rice wine, is extremely low in alcohol (I've never gotten it to flame). Rice wine vinegar combined with a dollup of honey to cut the acid works well in many sauce and marinades.
        As for the coq au vin, I suspect unless you're going for a three day marination and a half hour braise, enough of the alcohol will have simmered away over the 2 hour cooking period.
        Trifle and other brandy/liquer soaked desserts is a bit of a puzzler- sure, you can soak lady fingers in double strength coffee with too much sugar, but the alcoholic "perfumes" are pretty hard to mimic.
        Good luck!

        2 Replies
        1. re: lunchbox

          Lunchbox, your fruit juice 'n vinegar tip is great!

          There are times when I want some wine for cooking, but have just enough wine left from last night's bottle for drinking, and I don't want to open a new bottle for just a cup or so. This will be ever so useful for those times, and for time when I don't remember to buy marsala before making Turkey Marsala. (And, of course, when I'm cooking for recovered alcoholics.)

          For the trifle challenge - hmmm... In another thread, someone suggested using coconut milk instead of liqueur for moistening rumball-type cookies. Perhaps this would work for a truffle, too? Or you could try boiling down fruit juice until it's really concentrated and syrupy - fresh squeezed orange juice, white grape juice, pomegranate juice, etc.

          [EDITED TO ADD] I found a link for a no-alcohol "Better than Sex" trifle that uses caramel and chocolate sauce - the ingredients (cake mix and cool whip) are way too Sandra Lee, but you could substitute better ingredients.


          1. re: lunchbox

            Thank you VERY much! These tips will be very useful... :) I don't miss wine itself (apart from a nice white) I miss the taste of dishes that have wine in them - they tend to just not taste right if you leave it out entirely.

          2. I'm unclear on the original post. What exactly do you think that you "risk" by using alcohol in cooking? Are you afraid that your DH WILL GET inebriated by eating a meal prepared with alcohol, or that the aroma and/or flavor will REMIND your DH of alcohol? Even when the alcohol is mostly boiled off, Burgundy Beef and Coq Au Vin can smell quite wine-y. But I would be led to believe that one would have to eat many, many, many, many servings to actually get mildly inebriated.
            Furthermore "non-alcoholic" wine does have some trace alcohol. However, if it's your concern that the smell might trigger a relapse then "non-alcoholic" wine isn't the solution either because it too smells wine-y.
            The solution is to cook something else.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chinon00

              It's not that I'm worried about him getting inebriated on the food... or that I think he'll run off and find the nearest bar after eating it... but since I love him I want to make his life easier, not potentially harder (and besides, he pretty much destroyed his liver, and while it recovered amazingly, his body wouldn't be able to tolerate ANY alcohol - he has trouble with a lot of foods because he can't process them properly any more :( )

            2. I found two related links I think will help you.
              First, a chart of how much alcohol is burned off with different techniques, which shows that if you flame your alcohol it's still mostly there, but for something like coq au vin, you'd have to have a really winey recipe to get drunk (5% left after 2 hours):
              Second, a list of substitutes, for if you really just want an ethanol-free experience:
              (This has a pretty funny typo in the "substitutions" column for brandy).

              Good luck!