Most of us have faced one or more of these situations.
- You have invited your friends over for dinner. Many of them have kids under the age of eighteen and are, therefore, skeptical about the wine-braised chicken you made for the main course. The parents end up having to restrict how much of your chicken the kids can eat and you feel sorry that the kids couldn’t have more of that tasty chicken.
- You are cooking for a recovering alcoholic and are unable to decide what to replace the wine in white wine shrimp with. Since you want to make sure your AA-attending friend feels comfortable eating at your home, you end up having to compromise your creativity and you make fried chicken instead.
Undoubtedly, it feels unfair that wine should make food taste so great, since the people who are really keen about food, kids, aren’t eligible to eat wine-based food. Is there a solution to this? What can we replace wine with, in wine-based food, so as to retain the quality and subtlety of taste that can be brought about by wine, but to also make a completely alcohol-free dish?
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Why Put Wine in Food?
Wine, as we all know, is a very popular alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice. Red and white wine are, apart from the above, also important cooking ingredients. They are used in various recipes to enhance both flavor and color. Moreover, it is also used in cooking to provide moisture, tenderize meat or to deglaze a pan.
Alternatives for Wine in Cooking
Red and White Wine Vinegar
Those of us who cook have encountered vinegar several times. It is a common salad dressing and is used to impart acidity to your food. It is a fermented, acidic liquid. Its main components are acetic acid and water. Vinegar also has a lot of compounds that are found in wine, since the latter is often used to make the former. It can also be made using apple cider, coconut water, malt or rice.
Wine vinegar is generally used in liquid-based recipes such as salad dressings and marinades. Red wine vinegar is best for beef, pork and vegetables, whereas white wine vinegar goes best with less filling dishes, such as those containing chicken and fish.
It is recommended to dilute white vinegar before adding it in place of wine to any recipe since it is more acidic than regular wine. Mixing water and white vinegar in a 1:1 ratio is one way to do that. Remember that vinegar may contain trace amounts of alcohol. It mostly disappears during the fermentation. The alcohol content also reduces with cooking. However, if somebody has an alcohol-restrictive diet, they might want to stay away from wine vinegar.
This one has a rich, fruity flavor. Its acidity boosts the flavor of the food it is used in. Its flavor, aroma and acidity are a close match to those of red wine. Therefore, it is a great substitute for red wine in food. However, pomegranate juice is less acidic than red wine and can be used in combination with a tablespoon of vinegar to mimic the flavor of red wine. It may be used for quite a variety of dishes ranging from sauces to a glaze for vegetables. Apart from the resemblance to wine, it is good for your health. It is rich in antioxidants and has been found to optimize our blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease.
This is a tart beverage that is also a great replacement for red wine due to its similar color, rich flavor and acidity. Since cranberry juice is quite sweet on its own it is preferred that you use a version with the least or preferably no added sugar so as to mimic the taste of wine to the greatest accuracy. It may be mixed with some vinegar before adding to food as mentioned in the case of pomegranate juice. Apart from all this, it is also very good for our health. It is rich in antioxidants and possesses anti-inflammatory qualities, reducing the risk of infections like urinary tract infections.
Ginger Ale is a carbonated, ginger-flavored soft drink. It usually has a few other ingredients in it such as lemon, lime, cane sugar, etc. Due to its similar appearance, it can be used as a substitute for white wine. Volume-wise, it is equivalent to white wine. Its acidity makes it a great meat-tenderizer, which means that it breaks down the proteins in the meat, making it tender and easy to chew. Let us, however, remind you that ginger ale has a slight ginger flavor. So, it can only be used in dishes that can accommodate a slight spicy ginger flavor.
Red and White Grape Juice
This too is a beverage with a nice flavor profile. Being close in all respects to wine, it can replace wine with a 1:1 ratio. Of course, white grape juice should be used in place of white wine and red grape juice should be used to replace red wine. Vinegar may be added to increase the tart flavor. A grape juice-vinegar marinade can be used for meat and fish. Grape juice is also rich in polyphenol antioxidants. It boosts immunity and lowers heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Did you know many wines are actually named after the grapes used to create that wine? See some of the most popular grapes used in wine making here.
Chicken, Beef or Vegetable stock
Chicken, beef or vegetable stock or broth may be used as a base in many kinds of dishes, like soups and sauces. Stock is made by simmering animal bones, meat, seafood and/or vegetables in water. To add flavor to stock, vegetable scraps, herbs and spices are often added. It is mostly used to simmer and tenderize meat. It is a very suitable substitute for wine due to its similar function in cooking. Beef broth, having a stronger and darker consistency, is a good replacement for red wine while chicken and vegetable stocks are suitable as substitute for white wine. Depending on your flavoring needs, you may or may not replace wine with stock with a 1:1 ratio. Note, however, that stock is savory, much less acidic and way blander than wine. For extra flavor or tenderizing meat, it is useful to add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of stock in any dish.
This sweet beverage can act as an excellent replacement of wine in some cases. Its sweetness and light color make it a great replacement for white wine in recipes. White wine can be replaced with apple juice in a 1:1 ratio. Apple juice is good as a substitute only when a small amount of wine is called for in the recipe. Otherwise, there is a possibility of a huge disparity in flavors. As mentioned before, vinegar may be added as an enhancer of flavor and acidity. It’s mostly used in sauces that are used to marinate lighter dishes.
It is a sour beverage that is a key ingredient in many recipes. It adds a great deal of tangy, tart flavor to dishes. Its acidic nature makes it a common marinade ingredient for tenderizing meat. Owing to their similarity in functions, you may add lemon juice in place of white wine while cooking. However, it is quite tart and should be used in a much-diluted form for it to resemble white wine in any dish. Usually, it is mixed in a 1:1 form with water. Not to mention, it is rich in nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B, vitamin E, magnesium, etc.
Liquid from Canned Mushrooms
If you have ever had mushrooms straight out of the can, you are probably familiar with the slightly tart, vinegary taste that the liquid in the can possesses. This preserving liquid also holds a distinctive mushroom flavor, which is similar to the oaky flavor imparted by wine. It is most often used as a substitute for red wine in savory dishes since mushrooms have a savoury flavor. However, if you need a sweeter substitute, it is best to mix some pomegranate, cranberry or grape juice in the liquid. Remember that these canned liquids are quite high in sodium content. If you want to control the sodium content of your dish, make sure you use low-sodium canned mushrooms.
Start Cooking Already!
Now that you know quite a bunch about all kinds of substitutes for wine in food, you can run to the grocery store next door and start planning a ‘not so boozy’ feast for the little ones or your friend who doesn’t drink. You are armed with enough information for the alcohol in the recipe to not be a hindrance to your culinary creativity. So, if you want to keep the bottle of red wine you bought to yourself and don’t want to share it even a bit with the food you are making, that’s okay. Go ahead, use a suitable substitute and flaunt your cooking skills the best way you now know how to.
If you’re not keen on using any of these alternatives for cooking wine, how about you check out our article about cooking wine in the first place? Read all about “what is cooking wine?” here.
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Happy Cooking! We’ll Uncork ya Later!! 🍷🍷