I personally taste-tested a variety of vodka substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or cocktail-making occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, need a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitutes for vodka are gin, white rum, or Blanco tequila. For an alcohol-free option, go with sparkling water or a mix of white grape juice and lime juice. These options will work for cocktails as well as recipes like vodka sauce.
I made small batches of vodka cranberry cocktails to put different vodka substitutes to the test, but most of these options will also work in vodka sauce!
Vodka is a neutral spirit typically made from grains or potatoes. It’s a hard liquor, boasting a 40-50% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) or 80-100 proof. But what makes it a must-have in the mini-bar is its neutral taste – this makes it the perfect base for lots of recipes.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Gin, white rum, tequila||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|White wine||Replace with half the amount||7/10|
|Soju or sake||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|White grape juice + lime juice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Water||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
Gin, White Rum, or Tequila
If you don’t have any vodka, the most similar replacement is another 80% proof, clear alcohol like gin, white rum, and tequila. You just need to be aware of the flavor differences.
Vodka is a very neutral alcohol and often isn’t the main flavor in a dish or cocktail. White rum is generally pretty neutral as well but tends to be slightly sweeter than vodka because it’s derived from sugar cane.
When it comes to tequila, you want to use Blanco tequila to replace vodka. It’s slightly more strongly flavored than vodka, with grassy, peppery notes. But it isn’t so strong that it will overpower other flavors in your recipe. It pairs really nicely with citrus flavors.
Gin is the strongest tasting of all these alcohol options, with a potent piney, herbal flavor. Not everyone likes gin, so if your recipe calls for a lot of vodka – check that your guest like gin before using it! You can also dilute the gin with water to mellow out the flavor.
How to substitute: Replace vodka in a 1:1 ratio with another clear liquor like gin, rum, or tequila.
White wine is a good option if you’re looking for a vodka substitute that isn’t as alcoholic. Its ABV ranges from 10-13% compared to vodkas 40%.
The trick with wine is to consider the other flavors in your dish. I like pairing a sweeter white wine with more acidic ingredients (think citrus fruits) to create a balanced flavor profile. While dry white wine goes better with sweet elements like grenadine or honey. I recommend starting with half the amount of wine to replace vodka because it has a more potent flavor.
Pro tip: vodka has a distinct peppery flavor that wine doesn’t have. So consider adding a pinch of black pepper to your recipe along with the wine.
How to substitute: Replace vodka in your recipe with half the amount of wine and add more to taste.
Soju or Sake
Soju is a Korean clear spirit made from different starches including sweet potatoes and tapioca. It’s got a similar crisp, neutral taste to vodka and is sometimes referred to as “Korean vodka”.
However, because soju has a lower ABV, it’s less harsh than vodka with a smoother, lighter body. Soju also has a slight sweetness to it. Sounds delicious right? I absolutely loved my soju-cranberry cocktail and I can see this sub working really well in cooking applications too. Just avoid anything with extra sweeteners or flavorings.
Sake is another lower-alcohol option from Japan. It has a more complex flavor profile than soju and vodka, with fruity overtones and lots of umami. As long as you don’t mind these extra flavor dimensions, it can be an amazing vodka replacement.
How to substitute: Replace vodka in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with soju or sake.
White Grape Juice + Lime juice
If you want a non-alcoholic vodka substitute try white grape juice mixed with lime juice. White grape juice is sweet and refreshing, and the lime juice makes sure the sweetness doesn’t get overwhelming. The lime also adds acidity, which you need if you’re planning on deglazing a pan or emulsifying a sauce.
You’ll be able to taste the difference between vodka and this substitute, but your recipe will still be delicious (as long as you don’t use too much). Another option is to use apple cider instead of white grape juice.
Apple cider has a stronger, bolder flavor and tends to be more tart ( so you won’t need to add as much lime juice). The exact ratio of juice to lime juice is up to you, but you can start with 50/50 mixture and adjust from there.
How to substitute: Replace vodka in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of white grape juice and lime.
In a pinch, you can substitute water for vodka. As I’ve said before, vodka has a neutral taste so you don’t lose too much flavor by swapping it out for water. And using water doesn’t mean your cocktail has to be boring.
Try using club soda, sparkling water, or tonic water for some fizz. Tonic water has a sharp, bitter edge to it which I found pretty similar to vodka, while club soda has a slight salty flavor that works well in sweet cocktails. If you’re using plain water, you can also add some flavor to it yourself with a splash of lemon juice or a very small amount of black pepper.
Psst… sparkling water would make a great replacement for vodka in batters.
How to substitute: Replace vodka in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with some water.
Substitutes To Avoid
I came across loads of suggestions during my research for vodka substitutes, but not all of them worked out.
Schnapps was a popular suggestion I saw on several websites, but it’s generally flavored with some kind of fruit and it’s much sweeter. I found it too fruity to work well as a substitute.
Some fruit juices like orange juice or apple also appeared frequently during my search, but I’d suggest sticking with water if you prefer a non-alcoholic alternative. These fruit juices are already sweetened and had too much of a distinct flavor to replace vodka.
What can you use to substitute vodka in penne alla vodka?
The vodka in vodka sauce helps enhance the other flavors in the sauce and adds a touch of sharpness to balance out the richness of the cream. It also helps emulsify the sauce and develop its characteristically creamy texture.
However, while vodka is an important ingredient in vodka sauce, it’s not essential. If you need to omit it completely you can, adding a little extra black pepper for flavor). You can also substitute it for another hard liquor like gin, white rum, or tequila.
If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, chicken broth or pasta water mixed with lemon juice or vinegar will work to replace vodka. The lemon juice or vinegar helps replicate the sharpness of vodka.
What can you use to substitute vodka in pie crusts?
Vodka is a popular ingredient in baking because it prevents the gluten in the flour from binding to the butter, which will keep your pie crusts tender and flaky. But if you don’t have vodka, any other 80-proof liquor work. For a non-alcoholic option, use white vinegar or lemon juice.
Cooks illustrated did a test and made pie crusts with vodka, rum, whiskey, and gin. They said their taste testers couldn’t distinguish between the different pie crusts in terms of flavor, so don’t worry about your chicken pie tasting of gin!
Although if you can match the liquor with the pie flavor, it’s never going to be a bad thing. Think rum and peach or bourbon and apple. Yum.
Best Vodka Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- 1 oz gin brushed not peeled
- 1 oz white rum
- 1 oz tequila
- 1/2 oz white wine
- 1 oz soju
- 1 oz white grape juice + lime juice
- 1 oz water sparkling, still, tonic
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen vodka substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.