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12 High-Quality Bourbon Substitutes To Use In Your Cooking

Bourbon is a popular and versatile cooking ingredient used extensively in the kitchen due to its rich range of flavors, including sweet, smoky, spicy, toasted oats, caramel, honey, vanilla, and cherry flavors. 

A dash of bourbon can elevate a bland recipe from culinary oblivion into a mouthwatering kitchen delight.

Besides its deep, complex flavors, bourbon is critical in tenderizing meats, baking, caramelizing desserts, and enhancing the flavors of jellies, sauces, and gravies.

A lack of bourbon shouldn’t stop you from enjoying flavorful and high-quality kitchen delights.

Nutrition Table

RecipesCalories
Cognac105
Scotch whisky55
Amarula103
Brandy220
Bourbon vanilla extract290
Ginger beer34
Rum231
Almond extract4
Peach nectar and apple cider vinegar17
Apple, orange, and grape juice109
Dark beer200
Water0

Substitutes For Bourbon

Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the qualities and uses of these bourbon substitutes in your cooking.

1. Cognac 

This caramel-flavored brandy made exclusively in the Cognac region of France is an excellent bourbon kitchen substitute.

The delicately flavored French brandy, made from a particular type of grapes, and aged in oak barrels for at least two years, give this drink a unique caramel flavor perfect for sweet desserts, pastries, rich meat sauces, and fruit-based dishes.

Popular cognac dishes include cognac truffles, creme brulee, pasta in cream sauce, chocolate cognac mousse, poached pears with cognac sauce, cognac shrimp, and the plump farmhouse breast with cognac mushroom sauce. 

For best results, use aged cognac, which, although expensive, will give your recipes a distinct, savory flavor.

Some of the best cooking brandy brands include Raynal, Paul Masson XO, and E & J XO. 

How To Substitute

Substitute bourbon with cognac on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one glass of bourbon for one glass of cognac.

2. Scotch Whisky

If you’re looking for the perfect bourbon replacement, scotch whisky must be at the top of your list.

The rounded, rich, complex flavors of scotch whisky are almost similar to bourbon, making it a perfect bourbon substitute in your creative gourmet recipes.

Scotch whisky is a famous Scottish spirit made from malted barley, wheat, or rye, aged in oak barrels for at least three years.

And since both scotch whisky and bourbon are barrel-aged spirits, they share similar flavor profiles, although scotch whisky is more smoky and intense than bourbon.

Due to its natural scent, scotch whisky is perfect for desserts that require a unique floral, woody, or fruity note.

Scotch whisky is widely used in preparing rich BBQ and meat sauces, desserts, and fruit-based dishes.

Some popular scotch whisky recipes include scotch sponge cake, pasta, and shrimp with scotch-infused sauce and scotch caramel sauce for cakes and pancakes.

How To Substitute

Replace bourbon with scotch whisky on a 1:1 ratio, i.e., one glass of scotch whisky for an equal part of bourbon.

3. Amarula

Made from the African marula nut, the thick, creamy, chocolatey Amarula is a good bourbon substitute, especially for sweet desserts, sauces, and creams.

Full of delicate fragrances and flavors, Amarula infuses a natural nutty flavor and smoky aroma into dishes turning any recipe into a gourmet special

The best part about using Amarula in your dishes is that the lower alcohol content in this South African drink means you don’t need much time to cook off the alcohol.

Some popular Amarula dishes include Amarula pudding, baileys Amarula truffles, Amarula cupcakes, brown elephants recipe, crustless Amarula milk tart, Amarula fudge, and Amarula chocolate cake.

How To Substitute

Although much sweeter than bourbon, replace one part of Amarula for every one part of bourbon. Adjust the amount of Amarula as per your recipe requirements.

4. Brandy

For a fruity bourbon replacement, try brandy.

Brandy, made from distilling wine in wooden oak casks, is excellent cooking alcohol famed for its delicate flavor and natural fruity scent.

Since brandy is made from distilling wines, it imparts a sweet, savory, fruity taste to your dishes, making it the perfect ingredient for sweet and savory desserts and sauces.

Kitchen brandy is used to flambé desserts, deglaze pans, and braise meat cuts.

Some popular brandy dishes include the delectable banana foster, apple brandy cheesecake, marinated chicken wings, crepes Suzette, cherries jubilee, and brandy cherry balls.

Some high-quality cooking brandy to use in your next culinary dish include Hennessey, Martell, Courvoisier, and E & J.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting bourbon with brandy, i.e., one tablespoon of brandy for one tablespoon of bourbon.

5. Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Bourbon vanilla extract fits the bill if you’re looking for an excellent non-alcoholic bourbon substitute.

Bourbon vanilla extract is a rich, flavorful extract made by soaking vanilla beans in a dash of bourbon for up to six months.

Much like bourbon, this vanilla extract will give your dishes a rich, smoky, and sweet caramel flavor.

Bourbon vanilla extract is perfect in baked dishes, puddings, soups, pastries, desserts, and soups.

The best part about using bourbon vanilla extract is that you’ll get rich, rounded bourbon flavors with a strong vanilla undertone without the alcohol content of pure bourbon.

Popular bourbon vanilla extract dishes include vanilla ice cream, vanilla meringue cookies, sugar cream pie, bourbon vanilla cranberry sauce, and poached pears with vanilla sauce.

And although vanilla extract can be made using vanilla beans and any spirit, making vanilla extract with bourbon is the perfect replacement for bourbon in your recipes.

Original bourbon vanilla extract is quite expensive due to the long preparation process, and it will be a good idea to prepare some at home for your domestic uses.

How To Make Bourbon Vanilla Extract At Home

  • Prepare all your ingredients and equipment beforehand (vanilla beans, vanilla extract bottle)
  • Sterilize everything before starting
  • Slice the bourbon (Madagascar) vanilla bean right in the middle from end to end
  • Scrape the seeds out for grade-A vanilla beans
  • Chop the vanilla beans into 1-2 inch sections
  • Add the vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean sections into a glass jar
  • Add bourbon depending on your recipe requirements
  • Shake the mixture and store in a dark place for between six to twelve months
  • Strain out the bourbon vanilla extract and use it in your recipes

How To Substitute

There is no fixed bourbon-vanilla extract substitution ratio. For a start, substitute half a tablespoon of vanilla extract for every tablespoon of bourbon and adjust the taste accordingly.

6. Ginger Beer

Although not widely used, ginger beer is an excellent bourbon replacement, especially for dishes that call for spicy flavors.

Ginger beer, traditionally a mildly alcoholic drink made by fermenting cream of tartar, sugar, ginger, water, and yeast, has a pronounced ginger flavor.

Commercial ginger beer is usually non-alcoholic and delivers a strong ginger-vanilla flavor, perfect for baking, dipping sauces, and spicy fruit dishes.

The best part of using ginger beer is that it will make your dish sweeter while infusing a satisfying kick that goes well in spicy and savory recipes.

Popular ginger beer recipes include ginger and pear muffins, lime and ginger beer-brined pork ribeye chop, grilled ginger beer chicken, pumpkin and gingerbread scones, beef lasagna, and cod with ginger beer and bok choy.

How To Substitute

Substitute bourbon with ginger beer on a 1:1 ratio, i.e., one tablespoon of ginger beer for every one tablespoon of bourbon.

7. Rum

Rum is a honey-colored alcoholic beverage widely used in cooking.

Due to its inherent natural sweetness, rum is a suitable bourbon substitute, especially for dishes that require sweet and spicy flavors.

Rum is made from distilling molasses or sugarcane juice and aging the distillate in oak barrels, which gives this spirit a distinctly sweet flavor with fruity undertones perfect for meat dishes, desserts, and sweet sauces and puddings.

Popular rum-inspired dishes that you can try at home include the chilled rum and raisin pudding, rum and pineapple upside down cake, peppermint rum truffles, date, banana, and rum loaf.

For best results, it’s critical to identify the particular rum flavor profile before including it in your recipe.

Popular rum flavors to use in cooking include lemon, coconut, pineapple, dragon berry, coffee, cherry, banana, peach, and chocolate.

When choosing rum for cooking, consider these high-quality rum brands; Captain Morgan, Bacardi, Tortuga, sailor jerry, and Cruzan blackstrap rum.

How To Substitute

To replace the bourbon with rum, use a 1:1 substitution ratio, i.e., one glass of rum for every glass of bourbon.

8. Almond Extract

The non-alcoholic almond extract is a popular bourbon substitute favored due to its solid nutty taste and excellent aroma.

Almond extracts made by soaking bitter almond seeds in vodka for up to six weeks work well in nutty pastries, desserts, puddings, and sauces.

Some popular almond extract recipes include cream lemon almond pastries, raspberry stars, cranberry almond pound cake, almond cookies, and cherry almond fudge.

Preparing Almond Extract At Home

  • Blanch almonds in boiling water for sixty seconds
  • Remove the hard outer almond covers
  • Chop the almond nuts and soak them in a jar with vodka
  • Shake the mixture and ensure the vodka covers the top of the almonds
  • Store the almond-alcohol mixture for up to six weeks in a cool, dark place
  • Shake the almond-alcohol jar every few weeks
  • After six weeks, strain the almond extract out and use it in your recipes

How To Substitute

For best results, it’s advisable to substitute bourbon with almond extract on a 1:1 ratio. Conversely, you can mix one part of almond extract with an equal part of water before substituting it with bourbon.

9. Peach Nectar And Apple Cider Vinegar

Peach nectar and apple cider vinegar are common ingredients in many gourmet dishes.

This unique sweet-and-sour combo of the peach nectar and apple cider mix makes it an excellent bourbon replacement.

The sweet peach nectar combines beautifully with the acidic apple cider vinegar to create a magical flavor that works best with fruity sauces, marinades, and puddings.

Some famous peach and apple cider vinegar recipes include ribs with peach BBQ sauce, roast pork shoulders, roast chicken wings, and peach salsa with pickled red onions and Serrano chilies.

To make this peach nectar and apple cider vinegar mix, add three parts of peach nectar to one part of apple cider or a 50/50 mix, depending on your recipe requirements.

How To Substitute

For fruit recipes, substitute bourbon with a 50/50 peach nectar and apple cider mix in a 1:1 ratio. For meat dishes, replace one part of bourbon with a third of apple cider vinegar, i.e., replace three tablespoons of bourbon with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

10. Apple, Orange, And Grape Juice

A mix of apple, orange, and grape juice is an excellent bourbon substitute providing a unique fruity flavor to your dishes.

This interesting juice mix pairs perfectly with sweet, fruity desserts, marinades, and sauces and is integral in imparting a unique character to meat dishes.

Popular dishes you can prepare with the apple, orange, and grape juice mix include fruity muffins, orange cake, creamy fruit salad, orange chicken, and fruity pork roast with fruit BBQ sauce.

The best part about apple, orange, and grape juices is that the juices can be used either individually or as a mixture.

For best results, ensure that you match your recipes’ flavor profile with the juice you intend to use. 

How To Substitute

Mix equal parts of an apple, orange, and grape juice and replace this mix with bourbon in a 1:1 ratio.

11. Dark Beer

Though not extensively used, dark beer is a good bourbon substitute that will provide a unique flavor to your dishes.

As the name suggests, dark beer is a coffee-colored fermented grain beverage widely used for cooking and drinking.

Dark beers such as stouts and porters work great in meat dishes, stews, decadent chocolate desserts, and savory sauces.

Popular dark beer recipes include swiss beer bread, beer braised stew, broccoli beer cheese soup, beer and cheddar fondue, and Guinness beer brats. 

If you desire the strong, bitter taste of hops but without the high alcoholic percentage of bourbon, try a dark beer in your next recipe. 

How To Substitute

Since dark beer has a less pronounced flavor compared to bourbon, replace one part of bourbon with two parts of dark beer. Note that you’ll need to cook your dish longer to eliminate the extra moisture that beer introduces to your dish.

12. Water

It sounds controversial, but water is a solid bourbon substitute.

Apart from being cheap and widely available, water helps retain the flavor and the right amount of moisture for your dish.

When using water instead of bourbon for cooking, ensure that you use slightly more water than the bourbon required to maintain the consistency and texture balance of the dish.

Please note that substituting bourbon for water only works where the amount of bourbon needed is minimal.

Use other bourbon substitutes for recipes that require higher amounts of bourbon.

How To Substitute

Since water has no flavor, use water as a substitute in recipes that require little amounts of bourbon. A good water-bourbon substitution ratio is a 1.5:1 ratio, i.e., one and a half teaspoons of water for every teaspoon of bourbon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Are The Best Bourbon Substitutes To Use In Cooking?

The best bourbon cooking substitutes include brandy, Amarula, cognac, vanilla extract, scotch whisky, almond extract, water, peach nectar & apple cider vinegar, and apple, orange & grape juice.

Why Is Bourbon A Good Cooking Ingredient?

Bourbon is a versatile cooking ingredient with solid, distinct flavors used in grilling, frying, baking, and smoking dishes. Bourbon is used to tenderize meats, caramelize desserts, soften veggies, spice sauces and prepare tasty mustards.

Will Cooking With Bourbon Make You Drunk?

How much alcohol content is left in cooked foods depends on the amount of bourbon used and the cooking method used. On average, it will take 3 hours of cooking to eliminate any traces of alcohol.

What Are The Best Bourbon Food Recipes?

Popular bourbon food recipes include vanilla-bourbon milkshakes, bourbon scallops, smoked bourbon-honey chicken wings, bourbon meatballs, bourbon chocolate pecan pie, mint julep, bagel bread pudding with bourbon sauce, and bourbon slash.

What’s The Best Bourbon Substitute For Pecan Pie?

Pecan pie is a sweet, savory kitchen delight that derives most of its flavor from bourbon. If you don’t wish to use bourbon in this treat, replace it with a few tablespoons of rum, brandy, scotch, or cognac.

Does Bourbon Tenderize Meat?

Bourbon is a fast-acting meat tenderizer that breaks down the complex enzymes in the meat, making them soft. Use a bourbon marinade with olive oil, vinegar, and spice mix for best results.

12 High-Quality Bourbon Substitutes To Use In Your Cooking

5 from 5 votes
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

minutes
Total time

5

minutes

Bourbon Substitutes are a delicious replacement for your whiskey drink. With notes of essence, it’s sure to be a favorite for your whiskey drinks.

Ingredients

  • Cognac

  • Scotch whisky

  • Amarula

  • Brandy

  • Bourbon vanilla extract

  • Ginger beer

  • Rum

  • Almond extract

  • Peach nectar and apple cider vinegar

  • Apple, orange, and grape juice

  • Dark beer

  • Water

Directions

  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith