The Best Bourbon Substitute in Cooking, Baking and Cocktails!

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Bourbon isn’t only something we enjoy on the rocks. It’s also an amazing ingredient when cooking, bringing out aromatic flavors.

We just love that special kick bourbon adds to both sweet and savory dishes. It feels warm, satisfying, and most especially, delicious!

But we understand that not everyone can have alcohol in their dishes or, you may have run out of Bourbon and need a quick fix.

Either way, don’t fret.

You can definitely find a suitable bourbon substitute here with us, so read on!

Short Answer:

You can replace bourbon with scotch, whiskey, brandy, cognac, rum, vanilla extract, almond extract, peach nectar, or apple cider vinegar.

What Is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a type of American distilled whiskey made from corn. The name Bourbon came from where it was made, which was in Bourbon County, Kentucky. (*)

Today, it’s an extremely popular alcoholic drink that we also use in cooking for flavoring dishes.

So, what does bourbon do in cooking?

You can use it in sauces, meats, desserts, and more because it has such complex flavors, usually having a smoky caramel and vanilla taste to it.

There are different types of Bourbon that work excellently for specific recipes.

  • Wheat bourbon is suitable for sweet fishes.
  • Spicy high-rye Bourbon is suitable for fruit-based recipes and dressings
  • Malted barley bourbon is used for bread

We found it important to take note of this because the kind of Bourbon a recipe requires can help you know what the best substitute for bourbon is.

You can use Bourbon in savory dishes like bourbon chicken and other meat recipes, or even desserts like ice cream or pie!

the 5 closest things to bourbon

Let’s get started with the top alcohol substitutes for Bourbon:

1. Scotch

image of scotch and bourbon

Both Bourbon and scotch are extremely similar alcoholic drinks. In fact, a lot of connoisseurs claim that there is only one difference between Bourbon and scotch: Where they were made!

While Bourbon is from the United States and uses more corn, scotch is from Scotland made of malted barley mash.

You can expect them to taste almost the same, which is why scotch is a great substitute for bourbon.

However, this depends on the dish you’re making because you need to find the appropriate flavor to complement whatever you’re cooking. Because scotch is made of malted barley, we recommend using this on bread recipes or dishes.

If you plan on using scotch to substitute Bourbon, use an equal 1:1 ratio.

2. Whiskey

As we mentioned, Bourbon is a kind of American whiskey, which is a specialized form of drink.

So, it’s no wonder why whiskey will make a suitable bourbon alternative, too.

What makes it different is that Bourbon is aged in oak barrels and needs to use more than half of the corn mash.

Their similarities make whiskey a suitable substitute for bourbon. While some flavors might be a tad different, it will still work!

We recommend using wheat whiskey for sweet dishes, while rye whiskey tastes great with dressings and fruit-based recipes.

Like scotch, you can use an equal 1:1 ratio when using whiskey to replace Bourbon.

3. Brandy

image of brandy and bourbon

Brandy is a kind of wine aged in oak barrels, which gives it a distinct brown color. Since both Bourbon and brandy were aged in oak barrels, they have similar flavor notes.

However, take note that brandy doesn’t have much of the caramel flavor compared to Bourbon, so you’re better off using this alternative with savory recipes than sweet ones. When you use brandy, do a 1:1 ratio to replace Bourbon with brandy.

Learn: Does Brandy Go Bad? How To Tell For Sure…

4. Cognac

Cognac is a kind of brandy from France, aged in oak barrels for two years or longer. Because of the extra time spent in oak barrels, cognac shares similar flavor profiles as Bourbon, making it a fine alternative.

That said, cognac has a bit more caramel flavor compared to brandy, which assists in achieving Bourbon’s flavor notes. It’s the reason why cognac works as a bourbon substitute in almost all kinds of dishes that call for Bourbon.

As with all the alcoholic options we mentioned above, you can use a 1:1 ratio when replacing cognac with Bourbon.

5. Rum

image of Rum and bourbon

Rum is made of distilled sugar, with the ability to capture various flavors. Because rum also contains spices, you can also use this as a bourbon replacement if you need more vanilla.

Rum has a molasses taste, which can replace Bourbon’s caramel one. Granted, it isn’t the exact and perfect substitute, but it still works in a lot of recipes.

Just make sure you look for the appropriate flavor combinations in rum so you can replace it with Bourbon successfully.

We recommend using it on dipping sauces or sweet dishes, but not so much in savory recipes as it doesn’t add smokey flavors to them.

The Most Suitable Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Bourbon

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If you are making a kid-friendly dish or can’t have alcohol, don’t worry!

Here are non-alcoholic substitutes for bourbon in cooking and drinking that work just as well:

1. Non-Alcoholic Vanilla Extract or Almond Extract

Most recipes requiring Bourbon use it because it adds more vanilla flavor. That’s why using non-alcoholic vanilla extract is a no-brainer!

This is an easy and popular alternative, to the point you can find bourbon vanilla extract for sale!

Bourbon vanilla extract provides a more authentic flavor as it adds a bit of smokiness to vanilla.

A few people have suggested using a 1:1 ratio when replacing Bourbon with this extract. However, others recommend diluting it with a bit of water to lessen the vanilla taste.

If you prefer stronger vanilla flavors, this is a good choice.

But if you don’t want too much of the vanilla flavor, then use only half the extract the recipe calls for and mix it with half parts water.

Besides vanilla extract, you can use the non-alcoholic almond extract as well.

The almond extract works best for baked goods or recipes that have heavy nuts. The almond flavor from the extract works well with the other nut flavors, bringing out more walnuts and pecans in any dish.

Like vanilla extract, you can either use a 1:1 ratio or mix half parts extract with half parts water.

You may even combine both almond and vanilla to mix things up a bit and achieve an almost perfect alternative to Bourbon!

Learn: Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad or Expire?

2. Peach Nectar and Apple Cider Vinegar Mixture

image of Peach Nectar

When creating a fruit-based dish, the peach nectar and apple cider vinegar mixture work excellently. The peach nectar has a sweeter flavor, while the apple cider vinegar can add a bit of the kick you get from Bourbon.

You can also experiment with other nectars or juices (like apple juice), so you can find an excellent flavor combination that works for your tastebuds.

Make this mixture by mixing three parts peach nectar and one part apple cider vinegar.

You can use a 1:1 ratio or add a bit more for better consistency.

We only recommend this for fruit-based dishes that don’t require any baking, though! If you only need to find the kick bourbon adds to dishes, then you can use apple cider vinegar on its own.

The vinegar is great as a replacement for Bourbon in pork or meat recipes, but you should only use 1/3 of the amount the recipe calls for.

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Wrapping It Up

We hope you found the suitable Bourbon substitute you need.

Try any of these substitutions in your recipe and let us know which ones worked the best.

We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

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