Here's What You Can Substitute For Cooking Wine

We've all been there. It's a busy weeknight and when it comes time to make dinner, we realize we don't have a specific ingredient — like cooking wine. Thankfully, there's no reason to stress. There are always easy substitutes you can use that will add flavor to the dish you are making. So what can you substitute for cooking wine?

The Kitchn recommends analyzing the recipe to determine what the purpose of the wine serves in the dish. Wine can add different layers to a meal and serve as a balance to other ingredients such as acidity, sweetness, or rich and robust flavors. Additionally, wine can tenderize meat, deglaze a pan, or ensure a dish isn't dry.

When a recipe calls for red wine, there are several options you can use that will probably be readily available in your pantry. Becky Sue Epstein, who wrote Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z Kitchen Reference, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, "A few drops of lemon juice or tomato sauce (depending on whether any is called for in the recipe) will add the needed acidity."

Other cooking wine substitutes

Huffington Post suggests swapping beer for red wine in stew recipes and mixing red grape juice with red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and water as an alternative for red wine in marinades. Pomegranate juice can also serve as a substitute for red wine. According to Healthline, the color, acidity, and flavor of this antioxidant-rich juice can boost flavor, making it a perfect alternative to red cooking wine.

White cooking wine also has plenty of easy-to-find substitutions in your kitchen cabinets. The Spruce Eats says that while ginger ale can seem like an odd alternative, it actually has similar elements to white wine in that it is dry and sweet. This makes it easy to swap equal amounts of the carbonated beverage for recipes calling for sweet white wine. 

Apple juice can also be a great substitute for white wine, but you'll have to use small quantities. Ann Pittman, executive editor of food at Cooking Light magazine, told the Denver Post, "If the recipe that serves eight people calls for 1/4 cup of dry white wine, it's OK to swap in some Mott's." If your recipe calls for more wine, you might want to find a different ingredient for the sub. Wide Open Eats notes that if you are looking for a dry, sweet flavor, try apple cider, as it has less sugar.

You probably already have these easy cooking wine substitutions

Just as you can substitute white wine for chicken stock, the converse is true. Chicken or vegetable stock or broth can be a great substitute for cooking wine. Foodi Ideas notes that either broth can add depth to any recipe. Tastessence recommends broth with a couple of drops of lime juice as an appropriate substitution for white wine in risotto recipes, but warns to stay away from vinegar alternatives, as they will ruin the flavor of the dish.

Lifehacker suggests using a 50-50 mixture of fresh lemon juice and white grape juice when you are out of white wine and are making chicken piccata or shrimp. And if all else fails, the easiest and most readily available substitute for cooking wine is water, but to make up for what it lacks in flavor, add in some herbs. Palak Patel, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, told Livestrong, "The addition of an herb — dry or fresh — will round out the flavor of whatever it is you're cooking."