Why Cook With White Wine at All?
To find a suitable substitute for white wine, it helps to have a sense of what role it plays in the recipe you’re using. According to Wine Enthusiast, vino can wear many hats when it comes to cooking. For example, when used in cream-based sauces, wine “adds depth and cuts the richness.” In many dishes, white wine also functions as a “supplement to citrus” given its fruit-driven, high-acid character. Of course, just a splash of the stuff also does a bang-up job of deglazing a pan, so you can scrape up the good stuff (aka fond) after browning meat.
The bottom line: If the meal you have in mind calls for white wine, you definitely don’t want to just omit the ingredient and move to the next step. Instead, refer to the list below for pinch-hitters to serve whatever purpose the wine was meant for in your meal.
The Best Substitutes for White Wine:
If you’re looking for an alcohol-free substitute for white wine, keep scrolling. That said, if you have some vermouth hanging around from your last cocktail party, put it to use by substituting with an equal measure in any recipe that calls for ¼ cup of white wine or less (more and the booze might overwhelm the other flavors in your meal). Just be sure the vermouth you use is the dry kind, as the sweet stuff—while a fine substitute for marsala wine—is likely to change the profile of a dish that calls for a dry white.
2. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is an impressively versatile substitute that can be used to approximate almost any role played by regular white wine. If your recipe calls for just a splash of vino to deglaze a pan, add ½ tablespoon of white wine vinegar and call it a day.
For cooking that requires more significant amounts of white wine, dilute the vinegar with broth. For example, ½ cup of white wine can be replaced with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, diluted with broth. If the acidity isn’t coming through enough at the end, just add a squeeze of lemon—it’s best to air on the side of caution when it comes to vinegar.
3. Chicken Broth
If your recipe requires wine in a sauce, chicken broth is a reliable substitute. Broth will offer neither the complexity nor acidity of white wine, though, but it does boast more flavor than water and will maintain the proper ratio of liquid in your dish. For an even better result, add a tablespoon of lemon juice to ½ cup of chicken broth as a stand-in for the same amount of white wine.
4. White Grape Juice
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the unfermented form of white wine ranks among the best substitutes for the boozy stuff. The only catch is that white grape juice is far sweeter than a dry white wine and will turn your savory dinner into a dessert course unless you use it wisely. For a recipe that calls for ½ cup of dry white wine, dilute ¼ cup of white grape juice with the same amount of water, and add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice for acidity, if you have either handy.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
As mentioned earlier, you should usually proceed with caution when it comes to vinegar...but apple cider vinegar is the exception. Substitute this vinegar in equal parts for a white wine imposter that boasts acidity, subtle sweetness and complex flavor that’s impressively similar to the real thing.
6. Ginger Ale
Ginger ale, with its touch of dryness and tinge of spice, is a surprising yet suitable white wine substitute. This is especially true for recipes that call for a sweet wine, in which case you can add an equal amount of ginger ale. That said, it will be far too sweet in savory dishes that benefit from a dry white unless you dilute it by half with water or broth, and add a tablespoon of lemon or vinegar.
Yep, you can still pull off dinner even if your cupboards (and mini-bar) are bare. Obviously, water won’t enhance the flavor of your dish in the way that white wine—or any of the other aforementioned substitutions can—but it can be used to deglaze a pan. And if you’re hoping to turn out a nice sauce, it will keep your ratios in order and produce a fine product, assuming the other ingredients in the mix pack a punch.