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            One of the most asked questions I receive is about exact substitutions for alcoholic ingredients in favorite recipes.  To simply leave out something from a recipe when we run across unwanted ingredients, such as those that contain alcohol, could result in a drastic change in the outcome of a dish. Most of the time, that ingredient is contributing something to the flavor, texture, and overall balance evident in the result and as such, needs to be substituted for if we hope to recreate something as close to the original as possible. But how?

            I have come across a lot of suggestions on the internet, many of which are good, but some do not, unfortunately, take into account the balance of sweetness and acidity that is necessary.  For example, simply using chicken broth for white wine will not replicate the flavor correctly.  In addition, some suggestions have been made to use extracts like rum and brandy, in lieu of the real thing, which is not a viable substitute for those of us in recovery.  Remember that extracts contain up to 35% alcohol by volume and that mimicking the taste to that degree could be just as much of a trigger as using the real thing.   

            When alcohol is called for in reasonably small amounts (1/2 cup or less for wines and spirits) the following list of substitutes will work fine. (We’ll talk about substituting for liqueurs on another occasion.) Use them as a base for your own enhancements and preferences.  For recipes where alcohol is a primary ingredient and called for in large amounts, it’s usually best to either dispense with the making, or create a “mock” version of the original by changing other ingredients and perhaps the technique which is used in the recipe as well.  A dish like Coq au vin, where wine is required in great amounts, would need to be reworked from its initial marinating stage to the resulting sauce.  The outcome may not be exact, but in essence, it will be very close. Basic trial and error is required in instances such as these but it will be well worth the effort. Experiment with some of the new flavored vinegars, reduce fruit juices into concentrates, and add nonalcoholic flavored syrups and extracts for even more variety. Before long you will gain a feel for what the right substitute should be.

            When very small amounts of alcohol are called for in a recipe (what I like to refer to as “cameo roles”) it can sometimes be eliminated entirely, especially if its contribution is no more than for show or glitz.  By increasing the amount of another liquid in the recipe by the same amount you are eliminating, you may be able to resolve the issue without much thought. But be sure there is not something unique it is adding before doing so and think about how it could be replaced with another flavorful ingredient that is alcohol free and safe to use.


  Alcohol Ingredient Substitute Tips and Uses
  White Wine
(light and dry)
3 parts white grape juice
1 part white wine vinegar
poultry and general use
  White Wine
(slightly sweet)
3 parts apple juice
1 part apple cider vinegar
pork and veal
  White Wine
3 parts white cranberry juice
1 part white balsamic vinegar
  Red Wine
(light and dry)
3 parts red grape juice
1 part red wine vinegar
general use
  Red Wine
(full bodied)
3 parts red grape juice
1 part balsamic vinegar
beef and game
  Red Wine, Port
(dark and sweet)
3 parts red grape juice
1 part black currant juice
(bubbly and tart)
3 parts sparkling grape juice
1 part lemon juice
light sauces
  Brandy, Cognac 1 part apple cider
1 part balsamic vinegar
full bodied sauces
2 parts apple juice
1 part sherry vinegar
add teaspoon sugar
to above
  Bourbon, Whiskey
3 parts apple juice
1 part balsamic vinegar
Dash nonalcohol vanilla extract
pan sauces
  Rum 1 part brewed tea
1 part simple syrup
soaking cakes
  Beer ginger beer or club soda
Splash of barley water
batters for frying
  Dark Beer, Stout root beer or birch beer
Splash of strong tea





In the Sober Kitchen Archives

 Questions, Comments, Suggestions? Write to Liz in the:
"Culinary Camaraderie Clipboard"

About Chef Liz

Recipes and Advice for a Lifetime of Sobriety

by Liz Scott
Liz Scott, author of The Sober Kitchen (Harvard Common Press; 2003) Photograph by Amos Chan

"This is a remarkable and original cookbook with valuable recipes and information."
     —Marion Cunningham, author of
     The Fannie Farmer Cookbook


For the millions of people who struggle to maintain a clean and sober lifestyle free from alcohol and drug dependence, practical and informative literature on cooking and eating in recovery has been virtually unavailable—until now. Professional chef and recovering alcoholic Liz Scott serves up this ground-breaking cookbook—full of vital information on basic nutrition, current addiction science, and realistic advice, as well as 300 recipes—to encourage and enhance a recovered lifestyle.

• In Phase 1, immediate issues such as nutritional replenishment and common cravings are tackled head on with chapters on beverages, snacks, soups, and simply prepared meals.

• In Phase 2, when acute symptoms have waned, the focus is on creating comfort at the table and healing emotions and relationship through the power of food, with recipes for leisurely breakfasts, comfort-food entrées and sides, and delectable desserts.

• In Phase 3, the focus is on the lifelong development of healthy eating with chapters on salads, vegetarian alternatives, and food as preventive medicine. This phase concludes in celebratory fashion with delicious remakes of traditional alcohol-laden dishes.

Throughout, Scott provides the advice, support, and research needed to stay on the path to sobriety, making The Sober Kitchen a comprehensive nutritional and culinary lifestyle companion for the recovering alcoholic and for those who cook for and care about them.

The Official Sober Kitchen Website
For review copies of The Sober Kitchen and for interviews with author and Chef Liz Scott, contact:
Beth Shepard
Tel: (413) 863-2268




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