I personally taste-tested a variety of Kitchen Bouquet substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitutes for Kitchen Bouquet are Gravy Master and Baker’s Caramel. You can also use soy sauce, Maggi liquid seasoning, or Worcestershire sauce, but they all have a more potent flavor, so don’t use too much. If you’re just after color, food coloring will work.
I made small batches of gravy to put different Kitchen Bouquet substitutes to the test.
Kitchen Bouquet adds a rich brown color to gravies, soups, and stews. It’s great if your gravy turned out lighter than expected! You can also use it in marinades to add extra color to proteins. The flavor is relatively mild, but it will still impart a subtle savory taste to your dish that will help enhance the other ingredients.
Here are the substitutes I tested and the verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Gravy Master||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Baker’s Caramel||Replace with 1/2 the amount||10/10|
|Soy Sauce||Replace with 1/4 the amount||9/10|
|Maggi Liquid Seasoning||Replace with 1/4 the amount||9/10|
|Homemade Browning Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Worcestershire Sauce||Replace with 1/4 the amount||8/10|
|Food Coloring||Replace with a few drops||7/10|
|Mushroom Stock||Replace liquid in recipe with an equal amount of mushroom stock||7/10|
Gravy Master is another brand of browning sauce making it a really easy alternative to Kitchen Bouquet. The main difference is that gravy master is seasoned with apple cider vinegar, which adds a subtle but noticeable tang. I was a fan of the added acidity though because I thought it helped balance the other flavors in my gravy.
It worked like a charm to bring that gorgeous brown color to my gravy, and you can use it in all the same ways you would use Kitchen Bouquet.
A fun fact about Gravy Master: did you know that it’s been around for a whopping 88 years? It was invented in 1935 and has been a kitchen staple ever since.
How to Substitute: Replace Kitchen Bouquet in a 1:1 ratio with Gravy Master.
If you’re into baking and you’ve got some Baker’s Caramel in your cupboard, you’re in luck – you can use it to replace Kitchen Bouquet.
Baker’s Caramel is made from sugar that’s been caramelized until it takes on a deep brown color. I know what you’re thinking (because I was thinking it too when I first saw this as a suggestion), won’t it be super sweet?
But it’s not. The longer the sugar is heated, the less sweet it becomes, and if it’s heated for long enough it actually starts to take on a bitter flavor. The overall taste of Baker’s Caramel is generally mild and won’t make much of an impact on your dishes.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet with ½ tsp Baker’s Caramel.
Everyone will have a bottle of soy sauce in their cupboard, which makes this a really accessible alternative for Kitchen Bouquet. It’s super dark brown, almost black, so you’ll only need a few drops to darken your dish.
This is lucky because soy sauce has a much more potent flavor than Kitchen Bouquet. It’s umami-rich and salty. If you have a choice, go for the low-salt option so you can add a bit more.
Pro tip: If you’re gluten-free, don’t worry. Tamari or liquid aminos will work just as well as a Kitchen Bouquet substitute. Coconut aminos is another gluten-free option that’s also soy-free.
How to Substitute: Replace Kitchen Bouquet with 1/4 the amount of soy sauce.
Maggi Liquid Seasoning
Maggi liquid seasoning is another excellent substitute for Kitchen Bouquet you can use if you have it to hand.
This condiment has a deep, brown color like Kitchen Bouquet, but again it’s much more flavorful. It’s savory, rich, and full of umami with subtle hints of celery, parsley, and fennel. It gave my gravy a deliciously complex taste, although it wasn’t as brown as I’d have liked because I didn’t want to over-flavor my dish.
I also recommend not adding any additional salt to the gravy until you’ve added the Maggi seasoning.
How to Substitute: Replace Kitchen Bouquet with 1/4 the amount of Maggi liquid seasoning.
Homemade Browning Sauce
If you’re up for a DIY project, you can make Kitchen Bouquet from scratch. My go-to recipe is from A Younique Journey and you only need – brown sugar and boiling water. You’ll need 1/2 a cup of water for every cup of sugar.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- Heat the brown sugar over a medium-low heat.
- Stir the mixture, the sugar should start to melt and take on a syrupy consistency. If it begins to smoke, it’s getting too hot. Take the pan off the heat for a few seconds to let it cool down.
- Once it’s reached your desired color, take it off the heat and slowly start pouring in the boiling water. Continue to stir.
- When you’ve added all the water, allow it to cool and keep it in the fridge.
The key is to simmer the mixture over low heat to avoid burning the sugar and turning your homemade Kitchen Bouquet bitter. And once your mixture has that deep black color, I recommend adding a pinch of salt or MSG (this is what I use). This gives your homemade Kitchen Bouquet the same salty kick as the commercial version, and will also help enhance your dish’s flavor.
How to Substitute: Replace Kitchen Bouquet in a 1:1 ratio with the homemade version.
Worcestershire sauce is usually used for steak marinades, but it also makes for a great Kitchen Bouquet substitute.
One of its ingredients is Molasses, which gives it a similar dark color as Kitchen Bouquet. But added ingredients like vinegar, anchovies, and tamarind give this condiment a more complex taste. It’s great for enhancing your dish’s flavor profile, but as with the other more flavorsome options, you won’t want to use too much.
Psst… this is a great option for replacing Kitchen Bouquet in marinades.
How to Substitute: Replace Kitchen Bouquet with 1/4 the amount of Worcestershire sauce.
If all you care about is getting that perfect brown color for your gravy, you can stick with food coloring. It doesn’t have any of the flavor-enhancing properties of Kitchen Bouquet, but you can always add something else to make up for this.
Sadly, brown isn’t a standard food coloring option, so I had to mix red and green in a 1:1 ratio to get the right color. If after doing that you think the brown is too dark, add more red. If you want it more brown, add more green.
Pro-tip: add an extra pinch of salt or MSG powder to your dish to make up for the flavor loss.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp of Kitchen Bouquet with a mix of red and green food coloring.
This may sound odd, but coffee can add color and depth to stews and soup, and like soy sauce, most households will have some coffee on hand so it’s an easy option.
You can dissolve a little instant coffee straight in hot water and then add this to your dish. Or go with brewed coffee. The color of brewed coffee isn’t as strong, so you’ll need to add more to get the same color brown. If you find the gravy is a bit thin after adding your coffee, you can thicken it with cornstarch.
Pro tip: The roasted, bitter flavors work best with more robust meats like beef or lamb.
How to Substitute: Replace Kitchen Bouquet with an equal amount of instant coffee mixed with water.
Mushroom stock is a different kind of alternative from the previous substitutes because you’re not just swapping out the Kitchen Bouquet, but you’ll also need to tweak the recipe a bit.
Mushroom stock offers a richer, deeper color than plain water or chicken broth so using it as a base will give your dish a darker appearance. Plus, it’s chock-full of umami goodness that will enhance the flavor of your dishes. I love mushrooms, so I loved the earthy notes the stock added to my gravy, but be careful using it if you have a mushroom hater as a guest.
Pro-tip: Combine this substitute with soy sauce, Maggi, or Worcestershire for an even more flavorful punch.
How to Substitute: Replace the water/stock/liquid in your recipe with an equal amount of mushroom stock.
Other Substitute Options
The options above are my top substitutes for Kitchen Bouquet, but here are some more options you can consider.
- Dark beer: This substitute can work with gravies, but is especially great in stews. The beer will add color and deepen the savory flavors, making each bite an absolute delight.
- Dark roux: This is more of a ‘for next time’ substitute, but one way to guarantee a dark color sauce is to start with a dark roux. Cooking the roux until it’s dark brown will also give a richer flavor to your food.
- Steak sauce: Similar to Worcestershire and Maggi liquid seasoning, this dark sauce will color your dish but also add lots of flavor, so you don’t want to use too much.
Substitute To Avoid – Molasses
I saw some websites recommending molasses as a substitute for Kitchen Bouquet but I wasn’t a fan when I tested it. Molasses has a much sweeter taste than Kitchen Bouquet, and I could taste this sweetness in the gravy (it wasn’t great).
BEST Kitchen Bouquet Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup boiling water
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar. Stir until the sugar melts and turns into a dark, syrupy consistency. Once it darkens, remove from the heat.
- Slowly add the boiling water little by little. Continue stirring as you add the water.
- Allow to cool before transferring into a jar or bottle.