Red & White Wine Substitutes for cooking

What to substitute for Wine in Cooking?

South Africa is facing yet another ban on alcohol sales due to the lockdown created by COVID-19. This is right in the middle of the cold, wintery month where we enjoy hearty winter foods like potjie, stews, coq au vin and other favourites. That has left us wondering, ‘When a recipe calls for wine, what do I use?”

Wine is a popular cooking ingredient used to enhance the flavour, tenderise meat or to add to a glaze. Wine has a depth in flavour brought across by the fruits, the aging, and the barrels. But what if you don’t have any wine, or you do not consume alcohol at all? We’ve got a tasty substitute that will introduce these subtle, yet deep flavours to rival wine.

What can I substitute for red wine in cooking?

  • Red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar:

Vinegar is a good substitute for wine as it is also fermented adding the umami flavours. Red wine and balsamic vinegars specific have a sugar content that will add the sweetness and the acid, that can work towards tenderising the meat. Wine vinegars care also best when substituted into a sauce or dressing served cold. NOTE: If you do not consume alcohol it is best to check the vinegars don’t contain any alcohol that occurs in the fermentation process.

  • Tinned tomatoes and a dash of Worcestershire sauce:

Tinned tomatoes can introduce similar flavour, but obviously to note it is not something to add if you do not enjoy tomatoes as the flavour will come through in your dishes. It can be bitter on its own, so a teaspoon of sugar can be added. Again, the acids are present to improve flavour and tenderise. The Worcestershire sauce adds the savoury depth. Tomato sauce is also packed with Vitamin C and Vitamin A and is low in kilojoules. ** TOP TIP: only add tomato after your potatoes, carrots and other vegetables are cooked, as it retards to cooking and softening.

  • Beef stock:

Beef stock or broth will add flavour and liquid. Just remember the flavour is milder and it will not introduce any acidity to your dish. If you are vegan or vegetarian, check the ingredients in the beef stock – many of them are in fact vegan-friendly!

  • Beetroot or Carrot veggie extract:

Rugani vegetable extract offers rich flavours and sweetness of the vegetables and is a great substitute for red wine. It also will ramp up the health benefits of your meal and add a rich colour.

  • Dealcoholized Red wine:

Dealcoholized red wine can still be found on the shelves during this time and is a great way to support our local wineries during this difficult time. This will offer the closest match to colour, flavour, acidity, and sweetness.

What can I substitute for white wine in cooking?

  • White Grape juice:

White grape juice will match the colour and add the rich flavour profile found in white wines. It can be substituted 1:1 but as it is a sweeter product, we recommend a tablespoon of vinegar to balance the flavours. This also makes a lovely marinade to soak meats in before cooking


  • Cloudy apple juice:

Rugani Cloudy apple juice is a great substitute for white wine, especially in pork dishes as pork and apple are a famous combination. To cut the sweetness in this substitute, apple cider vinegar would be very complimentary. If a recipe calls for a large amount of wine, note like tomatoes, you might taste the apple flavour coming through in your dish. A mixture of chicken stock and apple juice could combat this.


  • Chicken or Vegetable stock/broth:

To add liquid and flavour to your dish, stock can be a suitable substitute. But as mentioned above, the flavour is not as rich so we do recommend a little vinegar or lemon juice to add more depth.


  • Lemon juice:

Lemon juice can add the flavour and acidity the recipe calls for, but it is famously sour! To make sure it does not overpower your dish, it is best served is a mix of stock with a ratio of half lemon juice, half stock (or water)

Here are some recipes you might like to try with your new knowledge of wine substitutes:

White Wine Pork Belly

Red Wine Chicken Potjie

Do you have any great substitutes for wine when cooking? Let us know on Facebook. Our customers are looking for great substitutions!