When you want to bake a decadent Black Forest cake or lovely savory cheese fondue, you’ve probably come across Kirsch as one of the main ingredients. While the hard-to-pronounce name sounds a bit intimidating, it’s a popular drink and cooking ingredient!
Many of you may have heard of it for the first time, while others who do know the drink don’t have it in their kitchen or local grocery store. That’s fine! There are ways to capture the cherry flavor kirsch offers in your favorite dishes, baked goods, or drinks.
Take a look at these kirsch substitutes to find the one most suited for you!
What is Kirsch? Is it alcohol?
Kirsch originated in Germany, initially named kirschwasser, meaning cherry water. It’s a clear and unaged brandy, colorless liquid with a 40-50% ABV. Since they are aged in ash or waxed barrels, the liquid doesn’t get pigmented from the wood, hence their clarity.
Kirsch was originally made of double-distilled morello cherries, but now, other cherries are used throughout production.
Cherries and their stones are fermented, so the brandy has a slightly bitter taste, an acidic aroma, and subtle cherry notes. It isn’t like other cherry liqueurs and brandies, having the opposite flavor profile to the syrupy and sweeter Crème de Kirsch.
Kirsch is considered an alcoholic drink with a fruity flavor from cherries and almonds. Expect the ABV to be 37-50%.
The Best Kirsch Substitutes
Kirsch is made from sour cherries, though other varieties are made of sweeter cherries. Expect a slightly bitter almond taste with a hint of cherry, a unique flavor that makes it suitable for a variety of drinks and dishes. (*)
If you have none at home or can’t find it in your local liquor store, you can always use any of these substitutes for Kirsch:
1. Fruit Brandies with Cherry Flavor
Another excellent substitute for Kirsch is fruit brandy, particularly for baking. It works well in desserts like fruit tarts and trifles. However, note that you’ll get a different flavor profile than Kirsch, depending on the base the fruit brandy is made with.
There are many fruit brandies to choose from, whether applejack, blueberries, apricots, peaches, raspberries, and more! Just make sure you select the suitable fruit liqueur that fits your recipe well.
2. Vodka and Cherries
A combination of vodka and cherries is a great option to retain alcohol and cherry flavor. Plus, it’s cheaper than purchasing a bottle of Kirsch.
You just need vodka with fresh or frozen cherries to make this combination. Use the same amount of vodka as Kirsch in the dish.
Blend the vodka and cherries in a blender until smooth and use it in baked recipes for the cherry flavor!
3. Liqueur de Mirabelle
This type of French liqueur is made of Mirabelle plums, costing more than Kirsch but still a good substitute for Kirsch if you happen to have it in your cellar or pantry. It’s suitable for baked recipes but sweeter than Kirsch, making it ideal for recipes like cherries jubilee, trifles, or black forest gateau.
While a suitable kirsch substitute, Liqueur de Mirabelle, is harder to find, this may not be the viable option for everyone.
Grappa is a kind of Italian brandy made from grapes, hence its name. It’s an excellent substitute for baking recipes with its fruity and aromatic flavor, though it would have a different taste.
Grappa is a pomace brandy made from pomace, which pertains to the grape’s solid remains that were squeezed for winemaking. It has a 30-65% alcohol content, bringing just as much alcohol to a recipe as Kirsch does.
5. Red Wine
Red wine is best suited for desserts and cocktail recipes. Simply replace Kirsch with a 1:1 ratio, and you’re good to go.
We like using red wine since it tastes less overwhelming than Kirsch, and it’s pretty accessible. In fact, we usually have a bottle or two at home!
You can use dry wine or other varieties you have right now, but choose one suitable for your recipe and ensure it’s high in quality. Yes, quality still matters!
6. Kriek Lambic
While you may not likely have Kriek Lambic in your kitchen, we never know that, and it’s worth nothing! It’s a Belgian beer made through fermenting sour cherries with lambic.
If there’s no Kriek Lambic, you can also use cherry or other fruit beer. Your area most likely has a local version or cherry of fruit beer, which will do just as excellently.
We recommend using beer as a kirsch substitute in cheese fondues, and instead of the bitter flavor from Kirsch, you receive a bit of sweet and sour with beer.
7. White Wine
You can use a banal mix like white wine and lemon juice if you don’t want the cherry flavor in cocktails or fondues that call for Kirsch. While an excellent kirsch substitute for baking, it’s not the best for baking or desserts.
The best white wine variety to use here is dry white wine mixed with a bit of lemon juice to make fondues creamier and taste more interesting. The alcohol in white wine smoothens the texture, and the alcohol aroma fades as the cheese overpowers it.
Non-Alcoholic Kirsch Substitutes
For those who can’t use alcohol in their recipes, you aren’t doomed! There are excellent non-alcoholic kirsch substitutes that will still give you that cherry flavor profile you want in your food or drinks.
Look into any of these non-alcoholic substitutes to see what works best for you:
1. Maraschino Cherry Juice
Maraschino cherry juice is an easy substitute for Kirsch, and it makes sense since Kirsch is made from cherries. This ingredient works excellently if you’re making a recipe that calls for the cherry flavor, but you don’t want any alcohol.
That said, do note that cherry juice is sweeter than Kirsch, so you may need to adjust the sugar content of your recipe. Better yet, look for reduced sugar or unsweetened cherry juice.
2. Cherry Preserve
We already use cherry preserve in many recipes that require baking, particularly for desserts. So, of course, cherry preserves make an excellent substitute for Kirsch since it already has the cherry flavor. However, it has a thicker texture, which you can remedy by mixing warm water to make the preserve’s texture thinner.
Also, note that cherry preserves are sweeter than Kirsch, but the additional water might bring it down. Even then, you may want to adjust the sugar levels of your recipe.
3. Apple Juice or Apple Cider
Other than cherry juice, you can use different kinds of juice varieties, from orange to grape juice. That said, apple juice is the next best bet as a substitute for Kirsch, especially in cheese fondue.
You can use either apple juice, apple cider, or any fruit juice with a clear consistency. We recommend mixing your juice or cider to reduce cheese’s fat for the perfect cheese fondue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hold up! Before you go, we’re leaving you with a bonus. Learn about Kirsch with these frequently asked questions:
What do you use this cherry liqueur for?
Kirsch is consumed as a drink or added to desserts and savory fondues. You can use it in cocktails like the Ladyfinger or Florida.
You can also use it in savory dishes, added to fondue to help with the digestion from the rich cheeses. Fortunately, the alcohol will burn off while cooking, though there may be a milk alcoholic taste.
We like using Kirsch in sweet dishes like Black Forest cakes, flambeed cherries jubilee, or chocolate filling.
Can I drink kirsch liqueur on its own?
You can serve Kirsch on its own as an aperitif or digestif. You can serve this drink in a small glass topped with ice for yourself or your guests and loved ones.
Wrapping It Up
Kirsch is such an exotic-sounding liquor, and we understand why it may not be the most accessible ingredient. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of options when making cheese fondue, black forest cake, or whatever recipe you fancy!
Finding a substitute for kirsch liqueur doesn’t need to be so difficult. Any cherry liqueur or juice will work excellently, as long as you make the right call based on your recipe and personal taste.