Grand Marnier is an absolute kitchen classic, adding its magic touch to glazes, marinades, cocktails and sauces. That deep orange flavor with a little brandy kick provides depth and citrus warmth to a whole host of dishes, but what do you do if you’ve got a recipe that calls for a dash of it and you don’t have any in the cupboard?
It’s a fairly pricey ingredient to pick up for just one dish, but you don’t want your recipe to be lacking in such a key component. Don’t fret, because here are seven great substitutes for Grand Marnier that will save your bacon, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
We’ll kick things off with the liqueurs first.
A Dutch liqueur legend, Curacao is traditionally flavored with the oils of oranges that grow on the island that gives the drink its name. Curacao turns up in a lot of cocktail and baking recipes to add warm citrus sweetness.
There are various types of Curacao available, most based on a neutral spirit but some on a rum base, and not forgetting the ‘80s cocktail staple that is Blue Curacao, which is simply Curacao with blue food color added to it. You may not want to turn your cakes blue, but it looks sharp in mixed drinks!
Rum-based Curacao offers some of the same complexity as the brandy-backed Grand Marnier, but with a gentle tropical twist. You’ll generally find that Curacao is lower-proof than Grand Marnier’s hearty 80 proof, but flavor-wise it is a good replacement, particularly in lighter, more delicate recipes.
Grand Marnier’s old French rival for the orange liqueur crown, Cointreau is a great blow-for-blow replacement. Its flavor profile is much more straightforward than Grand Marnier’s, carrying mostly punchy, clear orange, a hefty whack of sweetness, and a warm alcoholic backbone.
In cocktail making you may find that Cointreau is a little too clear and direct, and doesn’t add the woody complexity of Grand Marnier, but it’s a back-bar staple for a good reason and bartenders the world over swear by it. In cooking it’s a fantastic swap.
Cointreau is perfect for sweet baking, with that big, singing orange flavor coming through brilliantly in any recipe, but it also performs well in sweeter glazes for savory dishes.
There are a range of other orange liqueurs available that fall under the broad umbrella of triple sec. Technically, Cointreau and Grand Marnier are both triple sec variants, so it makes sense that another drink from the same family would be a good replacement for Grand Marnier in your kitchen.
Triple sec is simply a liqueur made from a neutral base, in which dried orange skins are macerated. The sec in the name means both dry and distilled in French, and it is the second meaning which matters here; triple sec is distilled three times, rather than being three times as dry as other spirits.
In fact, triple sec is almost always pretty sweet. Classic triple sec is relatively neutral in flavor apart from the big hit of orange, so it makes a good substitute in any recipe where that is the main thing that Grand Marnier is adding.
Moving on to non-alcoholic substitutes for Grand Marnier, let’s start with a pretty obvious one. Grand Marnier is principally used to add an orange flavor, and nothing tastes as much like an orange as orange juice!
The other great thing about substituting OJ for Grand Marnier is that you’re far more likely to find orange juice in your refrigerator than many of the other options in this article. Orange juice is a great all-rounder that works well in glazes, sauces, and marinades, where its natural acidity works brilliantly to tenderize meat.
In desserts, orange juice brings a big sweetness and citrus flavor to the party. Orange juice naturally shines in drinks, but it doesn’t work as a direct switch for Grand Marnier in a lot of cocktails due to its thinner mouthfeel. In mocktails, however, it’s a great choice that makes for fresh, fruity drinks.
Orange Juice Concentrate
Orange juice concentrate is, as the name suggests, a less dilute form of orange juice. It is made by taking orange juice and removing a large part of the water content, usually through heating.
This leaves you with a strong orange flavor that doesn’t thin out the mixture you’re adding it to as much as orange juice would. Orange juice concentrate is relatively easy to find, is less expensive than Grand Marnier, and doesn’t add any alcohol to your recipe which makes it perfect for mocktails, cold sauces, and creams.
You can add a similar amount of orange juice concentrate to your recipe as you would Grand Marnier for a strong, sweet orange kick.
Taking things a step further, you can use orange extract as a replacement for Grand Marnier too. Orange extract is a super-concentrated liquid, where orange peels are steeped in an alcohol base.
The resulting fluid is then diluted for use in cooking. Orange extract has a very strong orange flavor, far stronger than any of the other alternatives to Grand Marnier listed here. You only need to use a couple of drops to add serious citrus notes to your recipes.
It can even be used in low doses to bring out sweetness and aroma in places where you wouldn’t expect orange to crop up, such as ice cream and baked goods. Adding a tiny bit of orange extract to a sweet dish can make it taste sweeter without imparting any citrus flavor at all.
Also, don’t be perturbed by the fact that orange extract has an alcoholic base. You’ll use so little of it that it won’t add any alcoholic dimension to your dish or drink, and when cooked that little bit of alcohol burns right off before you’re ready to eat.
Orange Flower Water
From the super-strong to the subtle! Orange flower water is also an extract of sorts, in which water is infused with bitter orange blossoms to make a non-alcoholic flavoring that’s fragrant, light, and delicate.
Orange flower water isn’t going to hold up in a rich glaze or marinade as it’s not as robust as the other alternatives we’ve discussed, and it doesn’t taste strongly of oranges either. At this point, you may be asking why it’s even in this article, but the aroma of orange flower water is amazing.
It floats deliciously out of baked goods and cold desserts, adding a gorgeous fragrance to creams and custards. In drinks, that scent rises first, providing a citrus element that complements other flavors beautifully without being overpowering.
If you’re looking for a sophisticated and almost mystical way to add a twist of orange to your recipe, orange flower water might just be your dream come true.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now you have an idea of a range of different alternatives to Grand Marnier that you can use in various food and drink recipes, from hearty meat glazes to delicate desserts, intense classic cocktails to refreshing non-alcoholic drinks.
There are a few questions that people often ask about substituting for Grand Marnier, so we’ve answered some of them here.
Is Grand Marnier a Substitute For Triple Sec?
Grand Marnier is technically a form of triple sec, but it stands alone in the sense that it has a brandy base rather than neutral alcohol.
However, the two can be substituted for each other so long as you recognize the differences between them; they are more similar than they are different, after all!
Can I Use Rum Instead Of Grand Marnier?
If you’re looking to replace an alcoholic component of a recipe, then yes you can! However, rum doesn’t add the same citrus flavor that Grand Marnier does.
Nothing is stopping you from experimenting with using rum in place of Grand Marnier in any recipe, and you might find that the result you get is a gateway to a whole new world of flavor.
Why Is Grand Marnier So Expensive?
Grand Marnier is a high-quality liqueur based on cognac, and is subject to the same rules as cognac production; you can’t make an orange liqueur based on just any brandy and call it Grand Marnier. This raises the price of Grand Marnier.
That doesn’t mean that other less-expensive orange liqueurs are lower-quality by default though. It’s really the fact that Grand Marnier is quite a singular and special product that makes it that much more costly.