I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different beer substitutes for cooking to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding beer is and whatever dish you’re cooking. I tried alternative alcohols, non-alcoholic, and gluten-free options.
Here’s the quick answer.
The most similar substitute to beer is a non-alcoholic beer. But to avoid beer completely, try replacing light beer with chicken broth, white wine, ginger ale, or white grape juice. For dark beers, try root beer, red wine, apple juice, coke, or beef broth. In a pinch, you can use water mixed with marmite.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a classic beef stew to put twelve beer substitutes to the test.
Beer is a superb drink for winding down, but it’s also a versatile ingredient you can use for cooking, baking, and frying.
Specific flavors will vary depending on your beer, but it’ll generally bring a malty, earthy note to your food. In some recipes the carbonation will act as a leavening agent too.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Substitutes||Substitute directions||When to use|
|Non-alcoholic beer||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||all applications|
|Beef or chicken broth||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Wine (red or white)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Water + marmite / yeast||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Brewed coffee||Replace in a 1:1 ratio|
|Mushroom stock||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Juice (white grape, apple, pomegranaite)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Soda (cola, root beer, ginger ale)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio|
|Apple cider||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Hard cider||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Tomato juice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Sake||Replace in a 1:1 ratio|
You can always mix and match these substitutes.
For example if you like the sound of coffee, but think replacing it in a 1:1 ratio might be too much, you can mix it with stock to dilute it.
Or you can mix a fruit juice with soda water to give it carbonation.
And be prepared to adjust the seasoning a bit. For example, have lemon juice on hand for if the dish ends up sweeter than you were expecting.
Most of these substitutes will be suitable for a gluten-free diet. But always check the label to make sure!
Read next: the best alternatives to ginger beer.
Common uses for beer in cooking and what substitutes to use
Here are some common use cases for beer in cooking and the best substitutes for those situations:
- In marinades and brines (to tenderize meat): non-alcoholic beer, cola, root beer, ginger ale, an acidic fruit juice, a mild vinegar, soda water
- For braising or in stews: apple cider, wine, stock, juice
- In batters: seltzer, ginger ale, non alcoholic beers
- In baking and breads: non-alcoholic beer, soda,
- For poaching: wine, stock, apple cider, hard cider
- For sauces: wine, non-alcoholic beer, mushroom broth
- For drinking: non-alcoholic beer, hard cider, root beer, ginger ale
This may be an obvious choice, but I had to include it in this list because it’s the perfect substitute!
Non-alcoholic beer goes through the same brewing process as regular beer, so your dishes will still have that classic yeasty kick.
There are so many brands and types to choose from, you’ll can easily be able to find a good flavor match for your dish. I opted for a non-alcoholic stout for this test’s beef stew, which worked wonders in enhancing the dish’s richness.
But you should go with a lighter brew for lighter dishes – a non-alcoholic pale ale would go nicely with shrimp scampi!
Non-alcoholic beer will also work well to tenderize meat, in batters, and in bread.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with non-alcoholic beer. It will work in all recipes to replace beer.
Beef or chicken broth
Beef or chicken broth is a reliable substitute for beer in cooking, and everyone will have some lying around.
It may not bring the familiar malty twist, but it’s chock-full of umami flavors that’ll elevate your dishes’ savory notes the same way beer does.
Both broths can be used for any dish, but beef broth is especially good excellent for rich stews, while chicken broth is better suited to more delicate dishes.
Pro-tip: add a squeeze of lemon juice or a bit of apple cider vinegar to the broth to mimic beer’s acidity. Or if you’re replacing a sweeter beer, add some brown sugar. And make sure you use a low sodium version!
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with beef or chicken broth. Works best as a substitute for beer in stews and sauces.
Red or white wine
Don’t have a can of beer? Pop open a bottle of wine instead!
Its natural acidity helps balance flavors in a similar way to beer.
White wine will replace light beer and is delicious is dishes with dairy, or light proteins like chicken and fish. I once made cheese fondue with white wine and it was exquisite!
Red wine is a better replacement for dark beer. It’s superb with robust proteins like beef and veal. Go for a full bodied wine like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Psst… most wines are gluten-free but not all, so check the labels.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with red or white wine. Works best as a substitute for beer in marinades, sauces, stews, or poaching.
Water/seltzer and yeast
Water may sound boring, but it’s the easiest and most accessible substitute for beer in your cooking.
Its alcohol free and it has zero calories, so it’s great if you’re on a diet.
And to get round the lack of flavor try this nifty hack from Reddit – add Vegemite (marmite for our British readers) or nutritional yeast!
These additions add a bit of the yeasty flavor you’d usually get with beer. If you don’t have those, go for something like soy sauce, Maggi seasoning, or Worcestershire sauce to replicate beers savory flavor.
Or some juice for a lighter flavor.
Pro-tip: start adding the Vegemite or nutritional yeast in small amounts. Taste and adjust as you go to achieve your desired flavor.
If you want some carbonation in your dish, use soda water (i.e in batters). And for baking you can also consider milk.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with water mixed with Vegemite or nutritional yeast. Works as a substitute for beer in most recipes.
Brewed coffee may sound like an odd option, but it’s actually a pretty decent substitute for dark beer like stouts or porters.
Its bitterness reminds me of beer, and will add depth and complexity to your dishes.
It’s also naturally acidic, so can help cut through fatty components and offset rich flavors. And this means it will work as a tenderizer in marinades.
I used coffee in a chili once and got lots of rave reviews! To go even further with this substitute, consider adding in some chocolate or molasses for more complexity.
Prp tip: I’d look at other substitutes if you’re making a seafood or chicken dish, the coffee flavor will be too strong.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with brewed coffee. Works best to replace beer in marinades, sauces and stews.
Mushroom stock is an excellent non-alcoholic alternative to dark beer if you’re following a vegan diet.
Its deep, earthy flavors remind me of beer, minus the hint of yeast.
And it’s chock full of meaty, umami goodness that’ll take your dish to the next level.
Ready-to-use mushroom stock in cartons is available in most major grocery stores, but making it from scratch is easy and the results are so much better.
I can get it made in about 30 minutes, and you can choose which mushrooms to use to customize your stock. I like using a mix of dried shitake and porcini mushrooms.
Just like with chicken and beef stock, you can add a splash of lemon or vinegar for some acidity.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with mushroom stock. Works best as a substitute for beer in stews and sauces.
Soda (cola, root beer, or ginger ale)
That can of soda in your fridge will save you from buying a can of beer just for cooking.
Sodas are carbonated and acidic which makes them great for tenderizing meat, using in batters, baking with, and adding to stews.
Different sodas will work for different dishes.
Cola is acidic, and has deep caramel notes so is a good substitute for dark beers. But it’s very sweet. Root beer is a better idea if you want to avoid too much sweetness.
Ginger ale is a good option if you’re replacing a light beer, or feel like the ginger flavor will work well with your meal. It’s also a great replacement for beer in baking or batters.
Psst… to balance out sweetness, you can add a squeeze of lemon juice.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with cola or root beer. Will work to replace beer in all recipes.
Juice (white grape, apple, pomegranate)
Another alcoholic option for replacing beer in cooking is to use juice.
Different juices will work depending on your dish.
To replace light beer in chicken or pork dishes try white grape juice. For medium beers apple juice is great. And for really dark beers, try something richer like pomegranate juice.
These juices won’t have any carbonation, but you can always mix them with some soda water to fix that!
Like cola, juices will add a lot more sweetness than beer to your recipe, so you’ll need to be aware of this and potentially balance it out with something more sour.
Or dilute the juice with some water before using it.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your chosen juice. Works best as a substitute for beer in marinades, sauces, stews, or poaching. Can work in batters and baking too if sparkling.
Apple cider is a fantastic substitute for beer if you’re cooking pork or sausages.
The apple flavor works well with meat, and it’s got more of a tangy taste than apple juice so it’s ideal for those not wanting too much sweetness.
The acidity and strong flavor also makes this drink great for baking.
Psst… if you have another flavor cider, this will work too! But apple is by far the most common.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with apple cider. Works best as a substitute for beer in marinades, sauces, stews, or poaching.
Another alcoholic beverage you can use instead of beer is apple cider (it’s best for replacing light beer).
It’s a fermented drink, so it has acidic yeasty notes similar to beer. And it will adds a fruity sweetness that works fantastically in hearty stews, gravies, baking, and even desserts.
Like the apple cider above, It’s amazing with pork.
Pro tip: f you don’t want the end dish to be too sweet, add a splash of apple cider vinegar.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with hard cider. Works best as a substitute for beer in marinades, sauces, stews, or poaching.
Tomato juice may not seem like the most obvious choice as a substitute for beer in cooking, but its flavor-enhancing properties make it a decent option for certain dishes (ones where a tomato flavor would go!).
It has natural umami compounds that bring a depth of flavor similar to what beer adds to a recipe – all while being alcohol-free.
Plus, tomato juice is healthier than beer. It has fewer calories and provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that’ll increase your dish’s nutritional value.
(psst… watch the salt content, most shop-bought tomato juices will have added salt)
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tomato juice. Works best as a substitute for beer in sauces and stews.
Sake (or Japanese rice wine) is less bitter than beer, with a slight sweetness to it and a lighter body.
It will work great is any Asian style dishes to enhance the other flavors, but wasn’t the best pairing for a heavy chili!
The alcohol content in sake means it’s good for tenderizing meat in marinades.
How to substitute: replace beer in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with sake. Works best as a substitute for beer in sauces and marinades.
Read next: substitutes for beer in chili
Best Beer Substitutes For Cooking [Tried And Tested]
- 1 cup non-alcoholic beer
- 1 cup beef/chicken broth
- 1 cup wine red or white
- 1 cup juice apple, white grape, pomegranate
- 1 cup mushroom stock
- 1 cup hard cider
- 1 cup cola
- 1 cup water + marmite, yeast, or juice
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 cup sake
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen beer substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.