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Scallops drizzled with Riesling vinegar and garnished with caramelised garlic
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How to:

Substitute alcohol in a recipe

There are several recipes that call for alcohol as one of its ingredients, but for a variety of reasons, from health to religious to the fact that the dish may be served to children, you may not want to use it in the dish that you are making.

There are a variety of reasons for using alcohol and understanding them can help make a common sense decision about whether to substitute it or leave it out. Keep in mind that, during cooking, alcohol evaporates completely. 

The main reasons for using alcohol in recipes is for flavour or because it will affect the cooking or baking process.


For flavouring purposes, it is easy enough to substitute the flavour of the liquor or liqueur with that of an essence or flavouring. You can even get a brandy essence!

Naturally an essence is far stronger than the taste that will come from the liqueur so use the appropriate amount of essence and then make up the liquid volume with  water, grape or apple juice.


Wine is often called for in a recipe and here a good chicken or beef stock with some vinegar makes a suitable substitution.

Alternatively replace it with Verjuice, an unfermented grape juice used in non-alcoholic cooking, or an alcohol-free wine or sparkling wine.

Clear apple juice can be used in recipes that call for cider, sweet sherry or sweet mirin.

However, once the alcohol has burnt off, some of the flavour, caramelisation (which comes about as the liquid is burnt off and the sugar remains) that comes from the wine will be lost.

Generally, red wine can be replaced with red grape juice, apple juice, or broth to get the specified amount of liquid called for in the recipe.

Dry white wine can be substituted with chicken stock or consommé, ginger ale, white grape juice, white wine vinegar or the liquid from canned mushrooms.

For fortified wine 1/4 cup or more port, sweet sherry, rum, brandy, liqueur can be exchanged for an equal measure of unsweetened orange juice or apple juice plus 1t of corresponding flavoured extract or vanilla extract.

Beer or stout is often used in batters, breads and cake mixtures and performs the chemical function of helping these recipes rise as well as leaving a rich flavour behind. Keep an eye out for alcohol-free beers that do the job perfectly.

Alternatively use a recipe that calls for other leavening agents such as yeast, baking soda or baking powder.


Similarly, marinades that call for wine do so because the acidity of the wine helps to break down tough fibres in the meat as well as allowing flavour to be absorbed by the meat.

A good substitute is tomato juice or the juice of any acidic citrus fruit like lemons, limes or even oranges or grapefruits. Also see 'sherry' below.


Lastly, alcohol is used when a recipe calls for something to be flambéed. Here there is no real substitute and while part of the reason for flambéing is for flavour, there is nothing else that can be used for the actual flambéing.


Here are a couple of the most common alcohols that you may have to substitute in recipes

  • Amaretto: For 2T Amaretto or other almond-flavoured liqueur, substitute 1/2t almond extract
  • Bourbon: For 2T bourbon, use 2t vanilla extract
  • Brandy: For 2T brandy, substitute the following: 1/2 to 1t brandy extract
  • Coffee liqueur: For  2T Kahlua or other coffee or chocolate- flavored liqueur, substitute with 1/2 to 1t chocolate extract plus 1/2 to 1t instant coffee granules dissolved in 2t hot water or espresso.
  • Cointreau, Orange liqueur (Grand Marnier): Use orange juice, frozen orange juice concentrate or 2T orange juice and 1/2t orange extract.
  • Kahlua: Use chocolate extract, 1t per 2T of Kahlua. Alternatively, use 1t instant expresso powder per 2T of Kahlua
  • Liquorice or anise flavored liqueur: Can be substituted with anise, Italian soda syrup or fennel.
  • Rum: Use non-alcoholic vanilla or rum extract or pineapple juice or syrup flavoured with almond extract. 
  • Sherry: For 2T sherry, substitute the following: 1 to 2t vanilla extract or 2T orange or pineapple juice. To substitute sherry in a marinade: for 1/2 cup sherry use 1/4 cup vinegar + 1t sugar + 1/4 water or 1T vinegar, plus chicken stock or water to make 1/2 cup.
  • Vodka: Can be replaced with white grape juice mixed with lime juice.

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Recipe by: Maranda Engelbrecht
Serves: 2
Allergens: Wheat free
Dietary considerations: Fat conscious / Pescatarian / Dairy free
Category: Takes a little effort
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes, plus three days
For fermentation
2 x 750 ml bottles Riesling wine, 1 chilled
8 cloves garlic
½ cup sugar
8 scallops
crushed ice, for serving
Cooking instructions:

Store the unchilled bottle of Riesling open in a warm place for three days, until it has turned to vinegar.

Blanch the garlic in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and refresh in ice-cold water. Strain the water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Place the sugar in a saucepan over a gentle heat and heat until golden and caramelised. Dip the garlic in the caramel and place on a lightly greased surface to cool.

Using a bamboo steamer, lightly steam the scallops, until tender, but still firm to the touch.

Place crushed ice in the bottom of each glass and top with the chilled Riesling wine. Add a scallop and a drizzle of the Riesling vinegar, and garnish with the caramelised garlic.

Also read: How to cook scallops


TASTE’s take:

Apple and clove, cumin and apricot, crystallised ginger and salted pistachio, caramelised garlic and Riesling vinegar, wasabi and maple syrup…embrace the new spirit of adventure with these unusual flavour pairings.

Wine: Zonnebloem Limited Edition Sémillon 2008

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Useful Tools

conversion table

½ t = 2 ml
1 t = 5 ml
1 T = 15 ml
½ cup = 125 ml
1 cup = 250 ml

Fahrenheit - Celsius

Subtract 32, then multiply by 0.56

Celsius - Fahrenheit

Multiply by 1.8, then add 32

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