If you're cooking that Bolognese and realize you don't have any red wine in the house, it's okay. There are a few substitutions you can make which will help pull the dish together just as intended. So take a look in your pantry or fridge to carry on without skipping a beat.
Red Wine Substitutes for Cooking
When it comes to red wine substitutions when cooking, don't overlook it and opt to skip it. By pulling one of these substitutions from the cupboard you'll dial in the dish with the similar complex flavors red wine imparts.
|Red wine vinegar||Dilute with an equal amount of water|
|Cranberry juice||100% juice, no sugar added|
|Pomegranate juice||100% juice, no sugar added|
|Red grape juice||100% juice, no sugar added|
|Unsalted and homemade, if possible; if salted, reduce salt in the recipe|
|Tomato juice||1:1 substitution|
|Water||Add a dash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar|
|White wine||1:1 substitution|
|White wine vinegar||Dilute with an equal amount of water|
|Nonalcoholic red or white wine||1:1 substitution|
|Liquid from canned mushrooms||1:1 substitution|
|Brewed black tea||Dilute with an equal amount of water|
Red Wine Vinegar
Once red wine, now vinegar, red wine vinegar has all the flavor you're looking for with punchy acidity. Often used in salad dressing, you're likely to have a bottle of this tucked in the cupboard that you can reach for. Using straight vinegar would be a bit too aggressive, so you'll want to dilute it with water at a 1:1 ratio.
Red Fruit Juice
We're not talking about some juice box fruit punch here, more like a 100% cranberry, pomegranate, or red grape juice without added sugar or preservatives. The tart red fruit notes will come through in a pleasantly subtle way in the dish while adding a little extra moisture and acidity to tenderize the meat.
While stock doesn't have that fruity flavor profile, it does provide big flavor and achieves the same goal when it comes to adding moisture or deglazing a pan. Of course, homemade stock takes the cake every time, but you can use whatever you have on hand whether it be from the carton or concentrate. Vegetable, chicken, mushroom, and beef stock can all sub-in quite well, so choose whichever makes sense with what you're cooking. Remember that store-bought stock and concentrate are notoriously salty, so use a light hand in salting the dish otherwise. You can always come back and check for a final seasoning.
If you don't have any of these available, try a 1:1 substitution with any of the following. It may change the flavor profiles slightly, but your dish will still be delicious.
- Tomato juice
- White wine
- White wine vinegar
- Nonalcoholic red or white wine
- Liquid from canned mushrooms
- Brewed black tea
Do I Really Need That Red Wine for Cooking?
If you're one of those people who uses recipes more as guidelines, leaving out the occasional ingredient or skipping steps, this ode to cooking with red wine is for you. People aren't just willy-nilly asking you to open a bottle of red for no reason. The purpose of incorporating red wine into your beef stew, ragú, or coq au vin is to bring a whole bouquet of complex flavors as well as marinate and tenderize the protein. It is also commonly used to deglaze a pan, releasing all those tasty caramelized bits of goodness stuck to the bottom of the pan and reincorporating them into the dish. So when you add the red wine, always use the side of a spoon to scrape any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Bridging the Gap
If you don't have a bottle of red wine around or don't want to buy one as a non-wine drinker, don't let it deter you from making that slow cooked beef stew. You can find many of the same characteristics in red wine vinegar, pomegranate juice, or even a good stock. Flexible cooks are rewarded.