Red wine has a variety of functions in our everyday lives, from a glass at the end of a long work day to being a crucial flavor agent in soups, stews, sauces, and meat marinades. Even if you aren’t a drinker of wine on its own, it can still be a regular cooking ingredient to enhance flavor and color, as well as tenderize and moisten big cuts of meat. However, if you don’t have any red wine on hand or simply don’t consume alcohol at all, there are plenty of non-alcoholic substitutes that you can use in place of red wine to add plenty of rich flavor to your dishes.
Many of these red wine alternatives can be used in a simple 1:1 swap, while others require some minor additions to make sure you’re achieving the right balance of flavor and color, so your final product turns out just as delicious. If your wine rack is empty and a trip to the store just isn’t in the cards, check out our guide to the 6 best substitutes for red wine and make sure your favorite savory dishes won’t lack one ounce of flavor.
1. Red Wine Vinegar
Just like in the name, red wine vinegar is made with compounds that are found in wine, as well as acetic acid and water making it a great substitute for red wine in cooking. Despite the acidity, the flavor of red wine vinegar is similar to red wine, so when using it as a red wine alternative, you won’t substantially affect the taste of your final product. At the same time, because of the acidity you’ll want to dilute your red wine vinegar so it doesn’t overpower your dish.
2. Pomegranate Juice
If you’ve been drinking pomegranate juice because it is rich in antioxidants, you’ll be glad to know that it also makes for a great red wine substitute in savory dishes, from salad dressings and sauces to glazes for meat and vegetables. Because of the rich, fruity flavor of pomegranate juice, your final product will certainly get a flavor boost if you use it in place of red wine, but for an even stronger flavor you can mix it with a teaspoon or two of vinegar to make up for the lack of acidity.
3. Cranberry Juice
Similar to pomegranate juice, cranberry juice is rich in antioxidants but also makes for a suitable red wine substitute in just about any recipe because of its similar color, acidity, and depth of flavor. Use cranberry juice in a 1:1 swap for red wine but be sure to avoid using cranberry juice with added sugar, as it may make your final product sweeter than you’d like.
4. Red Grape Juice
Since red grape juice and red wine are almost identical in flavor and color, it’s no surprise that it makes for an ideal red wine substitute in just about any recipe, from meat marinades to sauces. Grape juice has a rich flavor profile which will enhance the flavor of your final product, but for less sweetness you can combine it with a few drops of vinegar to enhance the tartness and acidity.
5. Beef Broth
Since red wine is typically used in cooking to tenderize and add depth of flavor to meat recipes, it’s no surprise that beef broth is an excellent red wine substitute in cooking, as it serves a very similar function. Beef broth is dark and rich in flavor, making it a better red wine substitute than chicken or vegetable broth, but it is also far more savory than red wine, so you can use it as a 1:1 swap with a teaspoon or two of vinegar to balance out the flavor.
6. Tomato Juice
This savory juice is not just for Bloody Mary’s anymore; it also makes for a red wine substitute in cooking because of its similar color and acidity. Use it as a 1:1 ratio and mix it with a few drops of fruit juice to add a sweetness that is more in line with red wine. However, when using tomato juice as your substitute, beware of the difference in flavor. Be sure to taste as you go to make sure you get the right balance of flavor without going over the top.