What Is A Good Substitute For Brandy In Cooking? (Simple)

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We consider brandy as a nice alcoholic beverage to consume after work or during social events for many of us. Others use the beverage to enhance their dishes or baked goods.

If you ask us, we love brandy’s versatility and use it for whatever purpose, from an excellent drink to making delicious food! But we know that brandy isn’t always available in your household, with some disallowing alcohol at home.

Regardless of why you have no brandy at the moment, there are suitable substitutes, so you can still create the recipes calling for it. Read on to learn more about the best brand substitute, alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

What Exactly Is Brandy?

Brandy is not the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage, but it is widely used in cooking and baking. It is a distilled spirit produced by fermenting fruits or starchy vegetables, although grapes are the most commonly used ingredient for distilling brandy

Distilling concentrated will purify the ethanol made through fermentation. When creating brandy, people mash grapes with other starchy or sugary products left to ferment.

During the fermentation process, natural sugars convert into alcohol, like wine. It then goes through more distillation for a stronger spirit.

The Top 6 Alcoholic Substitutes for Brandy

Brandy possesses a distinct flavor, which explains its widespread use in various recipes. In the absence of brandy, there are several alternative options that can successfully replicate the desired aroma and flavors, including the following:

Alcoholic Substitutes for BrandyFlavor ProfileBest Used In
WhiskeySimilar to brandy with slight differencesCooking, baking, and mixed drinks
WineSimilar to brandy with variationsCooking, sauces, and flavor enhancement
GinCrisp and herbalMeat dishes, marinades, and seasoning
RumSweet with a pleasant aromaBaked goods, desserts, and flavor balancing
VodkaOdorless and colorlessFlavor enhancement without altering taste
CognacSimilar to brandyCooking, baking, and flavor enhancement

1. Whiskey

Whether cooking or baking, whiskey makes an excellent substitute for brandy. That’s because a whiskey has a similar alcohol content, so it retains the texture and results you’d expect from brandy.

However, whiskey has a slightly different flavor profile and might have a more alcoholic taste, though you can try certain varieties to achieve the results you want.

For instance, bourbon is a whiskey that brings more sweetness to a recipe, while scotch adds smokey depth to dishes. You can use the same whiskey as the recipe calls for with brandy.

2. Wine

Brandy comes from the same family as wine since it’s a drink made from fermented fruit. However, brandy is distilled to become a spirit with higher alcohol content.

That said, wine has a similar flavor profile and can enhance the flavors of dishes if you have no brandy.

Red wine has fuller and complex flavors than white wine, making it sweeter or tarter, depending on the variety. You may want to use white wine if you’re making cream sauces to avoid discoloration, though.

You’ll have to balance the flavor out with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar for those with sweet wines.

3. Gin

Gin isn’t the most suitable substitute for brandy in every recipe, but it works amazingly with meat dishes, particularly game meat or poultry.

It has a clean, crisp flavor with woody and herbal notes. While it isn’t similar to brandy, it makes an excellent seasoning enhancer for meats. You can use an equal amount when substituting brandy with gin in meat marinades or other dishes.

4. Rum

Rum is one of the sweetest alcohols available, which is why it works well for baked goods and desserts. While rum tastes sweeter than brandy, it balances the flavors of baked goods without it being overly sweet.

If you’re worried about the sweetness in dessert recipes, simply add some water to dilute the flavors. But only add a bit of water to avoid altering the recipe’s texture and consistency.

Rum also offers a heavenly aroma, so it’s as if you added some extract to your recipe! Like the other alcoholic substitute mentioned, you can use equal amounts of rum when substituting brandy.

5. Vodka

If you believe that your dish’s flavor profile is perfect as it is and don’t want to change it, then use vodka as a brandy substitute. It enhances your dish’s flavor without adding any taste or odor.

Vodka is odorless and colorless and won’t affect your recipe in any way, except for improving the moisture and texture while bringing out the flavors of every ingredient.

6. Cognac 

Cognac is very similar to brandy in various ways. The significant difference between both alcoholic beverages is that cognac comes exclusively from grapes in Cognac, a French region.

That said, you can use cognac if your recipe calls for brandy. You might want to dilute cognac with just a bit of water and be wary with the quantities to prevent totally altering your dish’s distinct taste.

The Top 8 Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Brandy

It is understandable that not everyone can consume alcohol or chooses not to do so.

After all, cooking dishes with brandy typically requires a minimum of three hours to completely evaporate the alcohol. Even when boiling alcoholic liquids in a sauce, a significant percentage of alcohol may still remain.

Whether you are looking for alternatives suitable for children, recovering alcoholics, or individuals who cannot consume alcohol, worry not. Non-alcoholic substitutes exist for recipes that call for brandy.

Here are the best substitutes for brandy that offer excellent flavor and consistency without the presence of alcohol:”

Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for BrandyFlavor ProfileBest Used In
Brandy ExtractBrandy flavor without alcoholBaking and cooking recipes
White Grape Juice, Apple Juice, or Other Fruit Juice OptionsSweet and fruityPoultry, pork, sauces, and desserts
Fruit ExtractsConcentrated fruit flavorsBaking, sauces, and flavor enhancement
Apple Cider VinegarSourness similar to brandySalads, pork dishes, marinades, and sauces
BrothAdds moisture and flavorStews, soups, sauces, and vegetable dishes
Vanilla ExtractStrong vanilla flavorBaking and flavor enhancement
Apple ButterApple-brandy-like flavorCakes, muffins, and buttery dishes
WaterNo flavor, adds moistureLast resort when no other substitutes available

1. Brandy Extract

Brandy extract provides the flavor of brandy without any alcohol. However, various extracts will still contain trace amounts of alcohol, but it’s already heavily diluted.

If you are avoiding alcohol for religion or other personal reasons, you may want to try the next option. We, like other people, consider brandy extract as a non-alcoholic substitute since it contains minimal amounts of alcohol.

However, note that extracting extract won’t achieve the benefits of baked goods’ texture and consistency. If you’ll still use brandy extract, use two teaspoons of it for every three tablespoons of brandy required.

2. White Grape Juice, Apple Juice, or Other Fruit Juice Options

White grape juice is considered an all-purpose substitute in numerous poultry or pork recipes. Just make sure you use 100% natural juices to prevent adding more sugar to your dish, making it overly sweet.

We recommend white grape juice in dishes like mussel stew, apricot turkey, bean salad, and the like.

Besides white grape juice, you can use fruit juice, using equal amounts. One of the best fruit juices to use is apple juice, though you may need to mix it with water when you need larger quantities of brandy in a recipe. But if you want an alternative to pear or orange brandy, you can use pear juice or orange juice, too.

You can also try unsweetened apple juice concentrate, a suitable substitute, especially when needing apple brandy. It’s a versatile ingredient with a neutral color and apple concentrated flavor, which you can use as a sweetener in fruit snacks, beverages, and sauces.

Apple juice concentrate won’t give that extra punch we associate with brandy, but it replicates the apple brandy flavor!

You can also use other juice concentrates, depending on the brandy you use. If you need a good substitute for orange brandy, there’s orange juice concentrate available, too.

3. Fruit Extracts

Brandy comes from fermented fruit, so a concentrated fruit extract is a great option. You can choose different fruit extracts based on what flavor profile you want to achieve.

The fruit extracts tasting closer to brandy are apple, apricot, cherry, grape, and peach. When using fruit extract, use one teaspoon of it for every two tablespoons of brandy needed.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is actually one of the best substitutes. It adds a brandy-like sourness to dishes and has enough versatility in using in hundreds of recipes.

You can use apple cider vinegar as a great substitute in dishes like:

  • Cucumber salad
  • Pork dishes
  • Honey garlic chicken
  • Tofu salad
  • Cider beans
  • Among many other recipes!

5. Broth

Sometimes, the goal of brandy in dishes is to just add some moisture to the food, such as stews and vegetables. If so, then you can use broth of your desired flavor, which makes stews, soups, sauces, and vegetable dishes thicker.

There are vegetable, chicken, and beef stocks to choose from, depending on what you want. Compared to water, the broth adds more flavor to food!

6. Vanilla Extract

We’ve been using vanilla extract in numerous recipes, especially when baking. So, if you have no brandy or other mentioned substitutes above, you can try using vanilla extract instead.

This ingredient offers a strong vanilla flavor, so you’ll have to mix it with water to prevent an overwhelming taste. There are also other extracts you can use, as we mentioned.

7. Apple Butter

If you don’t like apple juice, you may want to try apple butter. You can’t use this to substitute brandy in cocktails, but it’s a great alternative when baking cakes or muffins, as it adds an apple-brandy-like flavor with a buttery mouthfeel.

8. Water

Water is a universal solvent you can use as a substitute for brandy when all else fails, and you have none of the substitutes for brandy listed above. Obviously, it has no flavor, but it provides moisture brandy gives its recipes.

Avoid adding too much water as this can make any meal too runny. Again, we don’t recommend this as your first substitute for brandy, only as a last resort when you have no other choice!.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can learn more about brandy and its applications in cooking or baking here with our frequently asked questions: 

1. What happens when I cook or bake with brandy?

Using brandy in cooking improves the quality of dishes, bringing out the aroma and flavors from the recipe.

For instance, brandy in a marinade helps the meat and seasoning mix taste excellently together. Or when you make a sauce, it makes food smell and tastes even more impressive.

When using brandy for baking, it brings out the sweetness in your baked dishes. Since brandy tastes similar to wine, it fits best when making chocolate cake, glazes, or gingerbread. It’s also a primary ingredient in fruitcake!

3. What can I make with brandy?

We use brandy in many different kinds of recipes, such as:

  • Desserts like brandy snaps, whole cranberry sauce, cinnamon apple
  • Vegetable dishes such as squash with brandy glaze or Spanish potatoes with garlic and brandy
  • Meat and seafood dishes like mushroom chicken, steak, or as brandy marinate
  • Mix it with certain drinks to create a cocktail
  • Flambe dishes

While the taste of brandy depends on its age and the fruits it’s made from, it generally has a sweet flavor, tasting of flowers with fresh and dried fruit. Its texture is similar to water, being smooth and flowy.

4. What’s the best substitute for brandy when making fruitcakes?

One of the best substitutes for fruitcakes is 2-3 tablespoons of brandy extract. You can also try using bourbon, rum, or apple juice if you need a non-alcoholic option.

Wrapping It Up

We hope that our list of great alternatives to brandy gave you an idea of what to use for cooking or baking. Whether you’re making desserts, dairy foods, savory dishes, or the like, experiment with any of these ingredients and see which works best for you.

Happy cooking! If you want to know more about cooking many recipes, check out our blog, where we talk about many substitutes for dishes and how to become a better chef at home.

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