5 Surprising Red Wine Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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 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.

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. Here are a few replacements that will help give some of the flavors of red wine, without the alcohol.

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

There are several alternatives to cooking wine like pomegranate or tomato juice. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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 powerful health benefits too. To cut some of the sweetness, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Pomegranate works especially well for glazes, sauces, and marinades.

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 use unsweetened cranberry juice.

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 add 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.

Word of Caution: Cooking with alcoholic beverages results in only some loss of alcohol content. Foods baked or simmered in alcohol can retain anywhere from 4 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab. [1]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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