5 Surprising Red Wine Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Using the right red wine substitutes is important if you are cooking for someone who avoids alcohol, or if you have simply run out of your favorite bottle of red!

Red Wine Substitutes

Red wine substitutes may be necessary if you’re preparing a recipe calling for a cheap, dark cooking or table wine. Red wine is used in many recipes for the depth of flavor and slight acidity it adds. It is commonly seen in recipes for sauces or braising meats.

Glass of red wine held in a hand in a green background

There are many reasons a person might need to substitute for red wine in a recipe, from simply having none on hand, to wanting a completely non-alcoholic recipe. Even though most of the alcohol in the wine will cook off, for many non-drinkers, a non-alcoholic alternative is preferred. Here are a few replacements that will help give some of the flavors of red wine, without the alcohol.

Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice is a very full-flavored, intense dark juice that has a similar flavor and acidity to red wine. It’s even the right color, and has many different health benefits! To cut some of the sweetness, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Pomegranate works especially well for glazes, sauces, and marinades.

Cranberry juice with lime and fresh cranberries in a bowl on a wooden table

Cranberry Juice

Surprisingly, cranberry juice is an excellent red wine substitute. It has flavors that are similar, as well as high acidity, although it is thinner. Be sure to get unsweetened cranberry juice. Also, just like wine, cranberry juice is full of antioxidants, so you even get some of the health benefits of red wine.

Red Grape Juice

Red grape juice and red wine have very similar flavors and can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio. Grape juice is much sweeter than wine; However, add a little bit of red wine vinegar to bring back some acidity and tang.

Tomato Juice

This kind of substitution is only for certain recipes. Tomato juice tastes much different than red wine but brings the same acidity. Think about what other flavors are in the dish. Tomato juice may also work in Italian or other European vegetable and pasta dishes.

Red Wine Vinegar

Depending on the amount of red wine the recipe calls for, red wine vinegar can be substituted in small amounts. As suggested above, it’s perfect for cutting the sweetness of fruit juice. However, the acidity can quickly overwhelm a dish or sauce if you use too much of it. Try diluting red wine vinegar with water to get the flavor, while taming down the vinegar. Please note that vinegar does contain trace amounts of alcohol, but that alcohol should all cook off during your meal preparation.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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