Do you need a substitute for brandy because the amount remaining in the bottle isn't enough for your recipe? Or, maybe, you're looking for a non alcoholic alternative?
Fret not! I have summed up my favorite alcohol-based and alcohol-free substitutes to relieve you from the stress of trying to figure out what ingredient will work best for your recipe.
Whether you're looking for a brandy substitute in baking, cooking, or preparing cocktails and mocktails, you're sure to find one or more options that you can quickly grab from your local grocery store, liquor store, home bar, and/or pantry.
6 Best Alcohol-Based Substitutes for Brandy
If the alcohol content of brandy isn't the reason you're searching for a great substitute for brandy, here are my top recommendations:
Some of you might already have wine in your pantry or home bar because it's one of the commonly used liquid ingredients in cooking and baking. Plus, some of us just need to store a bottle or two for unexpected guests, fancy dinners at home, or something to sip while binge-watching and relaxing.
Wine is one of the best brandy substitutes because brandy is, after all, distilled wine. As such, some of you might notice that brandy has wine like notes.
It will give your savory and sweet dishes the same kind of flavor but with less alcohol. It will also enhance the richness and overall flavor of your dish, especially when combined with onion, garlic, and olive oil.
At this point, you're probably wondering: what should I use? Red or white wine? The good news is both red and white wines work perfectly for savory and sweet dishes.
However, you need to consider the red wine's color if you're very particular with the final color of your dish and sauce. Also, red wine is sweeter than white wine, so you might want to consider that before using it.
Nonetheless, you can adjust the sweetness of the red wine, even sweet white wines. What I do is add a splash or two of lemon juice or vinegar when I find the wine too sweet for my taste and/or my recipe.
Another important thing to keep in mind when you opt for wine to replace brandy in your recipes is to check the fruit it's made from. Most of them are grape-based, so make sure you pick an apple or cherry wine if you need an apple or cherry brandy substitute.
Now, how do you use wine as a brandy substitute in cooking, baking, and cocktail-making? Simply add the same quantity of wine as what your recipe calls for brandy.
Best for just about anything.
With its slightly sweet taste, bourbon is a suitable substitute for brandy in making your favorite fruit cake, chocolate cake, and other desserts and some savory dishes. You simply need to use the same amount of bourbon as what your recipe requires for brandy.
However, since it's a type of whiskey, it contains more alcohol than brandy, giving it a more distinct alcoholic taste. This can slightly change your dessert or dish's overall flavor and aroma, but won't throw off the balance of flavor.
But if you think it can affect the overall quality of the food you're preparing, I recommend using ¾ of the amount of brandy stated in your recipe. For instance, add ¾ cup of bourbon for every cup of brandy.
Best for meats, eggs, dairy foods, and desserts.
3. Scotch Whiskey
A type of whiskey that you can use as a brandy substitute for cooking savory dishes and making marinades and sauces is Scotch whiskey. Unlike bourbon, it has a smoky flavor that will add depth to the flavor.
To use, add ¾ of the amount or the same quantity as what the recipe calls for brandy.
Best for chicken, turkey, and seafood dishes, barbecue sauces, and marinades.
Since vodka is tasteless, colorless, and odorless, it's commonly mixed with other ingredients and alcohol to make an alcoholic beverage. These characteristics also make it one of the best brandy substitutes that will give your baked goodies the right texture and amount of moisture it needs.
Not only that; vodka can also enhance the natural flavors of the other ingredients you add to your recipes.
Ratio-wise, use the same amount of vodka as what's listed for brandy.
Best for baked goods, pasta, sauces, and cocktails.
An ideal brandy substitute in baking and making sweet treats is rum. It's also one of my favorites when l need a brandy substitute in sangria.
It's a bit sweeter than brandy but won't make your treats too sweet; in fact, rum is known to help balance the flavors in your recipe. For this reason, I add the same amount of rum as what's required for brandy in my recipes.
Still, you can reduce the amount of rum you add to your recipe to ¾ if you're worried about the rum's sweetness.
You may also dilute your rum with a little amount of water; say, ¼ teaspoon of water for every cup of rum. Remember that adding too much water to rum can give your sweet treats a different texture.
I also sometimes add drizzles of fruit juices to my recipe when they need a bit of a fruity flavor.
Best for sweet baked goods and desserts and cocktails.
Made from fermented grain mash or malt, gin is a surprising entry in my list of the best substitutes for brandy because of its distinct taste that's different from brandy. Gin has crisp, woody, herbal notes instead of fermented fruit aroma and flavor.
That said, it worked well for some of my savory dishes, especially those whose main ingredient is meat. Gin is another great choice when you need a substitute for brandy in sangria.
Simply replace brandy with the same quantity of gin.
Best for poultry and game meat dishes.
4 Best Non Alcoholic Substitutes for Brandy
Now, when looking for an ideal alcohol-free brandy substitute for cooking, baking, and making drinks, here are my top suggestions:
1. Unsweetened Fruit Juices
When looking for fruit juice options, always opt for natural juices or so-called unsweetened products. Fruits are naturally sweet because they contain fructose, so the juice can already make up for the sweetness brandy brings to your recipe.
They're perfect for your fruit cake but also work for most savory and sweet recipes. That said, here are my top recommendations when it comes to fruit juice as a substitute for brandy:
- Apple Juice: This is your top option since it can work for all recipes. While it's the best apple brandy substitute, you can use it to replace most brandy brands.
- White Grape Juice: Like apple juice, white grape juice is a very versatile ingredient. While some may find it too sweet when consumed as a drink, its sweetness is minimized when it's cooked. You can also add ⅛ teaspoon of water for every tablespoon of white grape juice.
- Cherry Juice: Choose this fruit extract if you're looking for a substitute for cherry brandy.
- Orange Juice: Like with cherry juice, orange juice only works perfectly when substituting a specific type of brandy: orange brandy. Unlike the other fruit juices above, orange juice is a bit thicker, so I sometimes add ⅛ teaspoon of water for every tablespoon of orange juice.
To use any of the juices as a non alcoholic substitute for brandy in cooking, baking, and making mocktails, add half the amount of the required brandy in your recipe.
Best for just about anything.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
As an excellent apple brandy substitute, apple cider gives the much-needed sweet and sour punch to your recipes. To use, dilute your apple cider with water, using a 2:1 ratio. Then, add the same amount of the diluted apple cider as what your recipe calls for brandy.
Best for savory dishes.
Vegetable or chicken broth will not work in many recipes as a brandy cooking substitute. Use it if you don't have any option available for your sauce or marinade.
To use, you will need to add half the amount of the brandy required in your recipe.
Best for marinades and sauces.
4. Brandy Extract
Before we discuss brandy extract as an alternative to brandy, I would like to remind you that not all brandy extract products are free from alcohol. Some contain trace amounts.
Make sure you check the label before using it in your recipes if you're serving kids and those with dietary restrictions.
With that out of the way, the extract is only suitable as a brandy substitute in cooking and making drinks. While you can use it in your baking or dessert recipes, the products won't have the same texture and moistness as when you use brandy.
Brandy extract is more concentrated than brandy, so you will need to replace brandy with a lower amount of the extract. What I follow is 5:1, or five tablespoons of brandy extract to one tablespoon of brandy.
Best for sauces and marinades.
Let the Best Substitute for Brandy Work Its Magic!
There you have it! A great list to pick the best alcohol-based and non alcoholic substitute for brandy in cooking, baking, and whipping up beverages.
Choose what works best for your recipe and the people you're serving the dishes, baked goods, desserts, and/or drinks. Like with other ingredient substitutes, always make sure you use the right amount of the substitute.
Best Substitutes for Brandy
- 1 cup wine
- 1 cup apple juice
Best Alcohol-Based Brandy Substitute: Wine
- In your recipe that calls for one cup of brandy, replace it with one cup of white wine.
Best Non Alcoholic Brandy Substitute: Apple Juice
- In your recipe that requires one cup of brandy, replace it with one cup of apple juice.
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