The Best Red Wine Substitutes in Cooking

Cooking with red wine can add a rich and complex flavor to your dishes. However, sometimes you may find yourself without a bottle of red wine on hand. Or you may be cooking for someone who doesn’t consume alcohol.

Pouring red wine into pot on stove

No worries! There are a surprising number of substitutes that can make recipes that call for red wine taste at least as good without it.

What Red Wine Does in Cooking

It helps to understand why recipes call for red wine in the first place. It’s commonly used in cooking to enhance the flavor of various dishes.

  • Flavor enhancer: Red wine adds depth and complexity to sauces, stews, and marinades. It helps to intensify the flavors of other ingredients and provides a rich and savory taste.
  • Tenderizer: The acidity in red wine can help tenderize meat by breaking down the muscle fibers. It’s often used in marinades to help make the meat more tender.
  • Deglazing agent: Red wine is used to deglaze pans after searing or sautéing meat or vegetables. It helps to loosen the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, which adds flavor and forms the base for delicious sauces.
  • Colorant: Red wine can also be used as a natural colorant, giving dishes a deep, rich color.

Sometimes you’ll need to understand why a recipe is calling for red wine to know which substitute will work. Think about whether the recipe requires sweetness, body, acidity or all of the above.

1. Grape Juice

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, grape juice is an excellent substitute for red wine in cooking. It’s made from grapes, just like red wine, which means it has a similar fruity and slightly sweet flavor.

However, keep in mind that grape juice lacks the acidity and tannins found in red wine. If your recipe needs that, you may need to also add an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

2. Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice is another fantastic option that can mimic the flavor profile of red wine. It offers a tangy and slightly tart taste, which complements many savory dishes.

Pomegranate juice works particularly well in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, where it adds a unique and vibrant twist to stews, marinades, and sauces.

3. Vegetable Broth

When it comes to savory dishes, vegetable broth can be a versatile substitute for red wine. While it won’t provide the grape flavor found in wine, it adds depth and complexity to your recipes.

Vegetable broth is especially suitable for vegetarian and vegan dishes, enhancing flavors without overpowering the other ingredients.

As a substitute for red wine, it generally works better in combination with another substitute for red wine.

4. Beef or Chicken Broth

If you’re looking to replace red wine in meat-based recipes, beef or chicken broth can be your go-to substitutes. These broths add richness and umami flavors to your dishes, complementing the meat and other ingredients perfectly.

When using broth as a substitute, remember to adjust the salt content in your recipe accordingly, as broths can be saltier than red wine.

5. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a versatile ingredient that can provide the desired acidity and depth found in red wine. Its sweet and tangy flavor pairs well with meats, sauces, and marinades.

When using balsamic vinegar as a substitute, start with a smaller quantity and gradually adjust to avoid overpowering your dish.

6. Cranberry Juice

For dishes that require a touch of sweetness and acidity, cranberry juice can be an perfect substitute for red wine. Its vibrant flavor adds a refreshing twist to sauces, glazes, and roasts.

Just like with any substitute, adjust the quantity according to your taste preferences and the specific recipe you are working on.

7. Tomato Paste or Sauce

When preparing hearty dishes such as stews or braises, tomato paste or sauce can act as a suitable substitute for red wine.

The natural acidity and rich flavor of tomatoes can help balance other ingredients while adding complexity to your dish. Start with a small amount and taste as you go to achieve the desired balance.

8. Red Wine Vinegar

If you’re looking for a potent substitute that adds tanginess and acidity, red wine vinegar can be an option worth considering. It offers a similar flavor profile to red wine due to its fermentation process.

However, keep in mind that red wine vinegar is stronger in flavor than red wine, so use it sparingly and adjust other ingredients accordingly.

9. Grape Juice Concentrate

Grape juice concentrate is a concentrated form of grape juice that can be used as a flavorful substitute for red wine. It provides a more intense grape flavor compared to regular grape juice, making it ideal for recipes where you want the fruitiness of red wine to shine through.

10. Non-Alcoholic Red Wine

For those who still want the taste of red wine without the alcohol content, non-alcoholic red wine is an excellent option. These varieties are made by removing alcohol from regular red wine while retaining the authentic flavors.

Non-alcoholic red wine is particularly useful when you want both the taste and the health benefits associated with red wine – just not the alcohol.