For many, brandy is a comforting, soothing alcoholic beverage. For others, it’s a flavor-enhancing cooking or baking ingredient. Of course, in your household, brandy may serve both purposes or be completely outlawed.
Whether you don’t use brandy for personal reasons or simply don’t have any available, you may find yourself in need of a suitable substitute for the recipe you want to create.
So, what is the best substitute for brandy? The best alcoholic substitute for brandy is whiskey due to the similarity in flavor profile and alcohol content. The best non-alcoholic substitute is fruit extract due to brandy’s fruity flavor, with apple, grape, apricot, and peach flavors yielding the best results.
However, there are many other solutions that might work for you based on availability or personal preference, and we’ll cover a wide variety that is particularly well suited for cooking, baking, and some specific recipes.
What is Brandy?
Brandy is not the most common drinking alcohol, but it is one of the most popular alcohols used in cooking and baking.
Many recipes, ranging from desserts to savory sauces, call for this premium ingredient and even sometimes use it as a signature flavor.
If you don’t use alcohol in your household or simply don’t have this particular bottle in your liquor cabinet, many substitutes can be used in a pinch.
What you are cooking or baking should influence your choice of substitute, as subtle differences in flavor can impact how a recipe develops.
Whenever you’re substituting any ingredient, you should be quite familiar with the various responsibilities of that ingredient in your recipe.
Brandy does add flavor, but it also enhances cooking and baking in other ways.
How to Cook with Brandy
Alcohol in general improves the aromas and flavors in many recipes as well as adding its own signature taste and fragrance.
In most cases, if alcohol is called for in a recipe it’s best to try to follow the instructions as closely as possible, especially if it’s a new recipe or you’re not used to cooking with alcohol.
It can take some practice to fully understand how the recipe will be impacted.
For instance, using alcohol in a meat-based recipe helps the flavors of all the ingredients in penetrating the meat. This is why using brandy in a marinade will result in better flavor and seasoning of your meat.
Using brandy in cooking, rather than any other alcohol, has some added benefits. Brandy is made from fermented fruit, similar wine, though it is noticeably stronger.
The flavor profile matches well with nearly all foods, including seafood, poultry, pork, vegetables, pasta, and even sauces and soups that combine many different flavor profiles.
Brandy is also one of the most popular alcohols used to flambé foods.
How to Bake with Brandy
Baking with brandy is more strategic than just adding flavor as well. Similar to cooking, using any type of alcohol in baking will intensify and improve the overall flavor of your ingredients.
Brandy in particular adds a sweetness to your baking that has wine-like notes, pairing perfectly with spices like ginger. It can also bring more depth to a chocolate dessert or glaze.
Perhaps even more important than the flavor benefits, the actual addition of alcohol to your baking can improve the moisture and crumb of your desserts and pastries.
If this is the primary reason you’re using brandy in your baking, the best substitute will always be another type of alcohol as non-alcoholic options won’t have the same quality necessary to create the perfect flaky crust or light cake texture.
Now that you have a better understanding of how and why brandy is used in cooking and baking, it’s time to consider a few reliable substitutes.
Whether you prefer a non-alcoholic option or you want to use what you have in your liquor cabinet, we have a few great solutions for you to try.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Brandy
There are many reasons you may not want to use alcohol in a recipe and, luckily, when it comes to flavor there are many reasonable substitutes for you.
It should be noted that flavor substitutes will not have the texture and consistency benefits of using alcohol in your baking, so you may see some differences in how the final result presents.
Before you question your wisdom, it’s also important to note that the conventional belief that cooking or baking alcohol will cause the alcohol itself to completely evaporate is not entirely true in most cases.
A dish would have to be cooked for a minimum of 3 hours before the alcohol would be completely gone. Just boiling the liquid in a sauce, for example, can allow up to 75% of the alcohol to remain.
If you don’t want alcohol in your cooking, even though it may alter the texture, don’t use alcohol.
Brandy is made from fermented fruit, so substituting it with a concentrated fruit extract should provide a great flavor substitute.
You can also choose a fruit extract based on the flavor profile you’re trying to achieve. The closest to brandy would be apple, grape, apricot, peach, or even cherry.
For every 2 tablespoons of brandy your recipe calls for, use 1 teaspoon of fruit extract.
You could also use fruit juice in the same quantity as the recipe calls for brandy.
Brandy extract was designed to give the flavor of brandy without the alcohol; however, many extracts will contain trace amounts of alcohol, though heavily diluted.
If you are avoiding alcohol for religious reasons or another strongly non-alcoholic preference, this may not be the solution for you.
For many, it is considered a non-alcoholic substitution because the amount is minor and you don’t actually have to have liquor on hand to use it.
The flavor will be the best match for any recipe, however, just like fruit juice, it won’t have the texture and consistency benefits in baking.
To substitute brandy with brandy extract use 2 teaspoons of extract for every 3 tablespoons of brandy the recipe calls for.
The Best Alcoholic Substitutes for Brandy
If you don’t have a problem using alcohol in your cooking and baking but simply don’t have any brandy or don’t like the taste, there are plenty of other alcohols that will work in the same way, though they may create a new flavor profile.
Overall, whether your cooking or baking, whiskey will make a great substitute for brandy.
You may have expected wine, which can work, but whiskey has a closer alcohol content which will keep the feel and results more in line with what you would expect from brandy.
Whiskey does have a different flavor profile and may have a slightly more alcoholic taste, but there are many varieties that you can work with to achieve the effect you’re looking for.
For example, bourbon is a type of whiskey that will bring more sweetness to your recipe. Scotch, which is not a true whiskey but often confused for one, will add a smokey depth to your recipe.
If you have a bottle of your favorite whiskey on hand you’re probably already familiar with the flavor, so you can choose the type that seems to fit your recipes best.
Brandy is in the same family as wine, being made from fermented fruits. However, brandy is distilled making it a spirit and increasing the alcohol content. In terms of flavor, however, wine will be a great stand-in to enrich the flavors of your dish.
Red wines typically have fuller, more complex flavors compared to white wine, which may be sweeter or more tart depending. However, white wine is a better choice for cream sauces that you don’t want to discolor.
If you have a sweet wine that you want to use, you may need to balance it with a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice to maintain the proper balance.
Gin is not a suitable substitute for brandy in all recipes, but it works fantastically well with meat, especially poultry or game meat.
The flavor is clean and crisp, woody and herbal, which isn’t the same as brandy, but if your goal is to enhance the seasoning of your meat, you cannot go wrong with gin.
It can be used in the same quantities as brandy.
Rum is one of the sweetest alcohols you can buy, so it makes sense that it would be appealing in baked goods and desserts. Even though it’s sweeter than brandy, it will balance your baking flavors together rather than turning too sickly sweet.
If you’re concerned about the sweetness you can add water to dilute it, but do so sparingly or risk altering the texture and consistency of your recipe.
Rum will also bring out a heavenly aroma that many people use an extract to achieve, even when the recipe doesn’t call for it.
Use equal quantities of rum as the recipe calls for in brandy.
If the flavor profile of your baking is absolutely perfect as is and you don’t want to alter it, you can use vodka in your recipe to enhance the flavors without adding to them.
Vodka is also odorless in your baking and colorless, so it will not affect your recipe in any way beyond the benefits of improving the texture and moisture and bringing out the naturally occurring flavors.
You can substitute vodka in equal quantities for brandy.
Substitute for Brandy in Cooking
If you’re cooking a meal, a small amount of alcohol can go a long way to enhancing the flavor of your dish.
Brandy has rich, concentrated flavors that intensify the flavor of all your ingredients and add a deep complexity to meat dishes and sauces while adding a mouthwatering fragrance to cream-based dishes.
If you don’t have brandy, the best substitutes for cooking savory dishes are either wine or gin, unless otherwise specified by your recipe.
Substitute For Brandy In Peppercorn Sauce
Peppercorn sauce is known for its kick. Whether this kick comes from alcohol or pepper most people probably don’t even know, but many recipes call for brandy.
With this particular recipe, a major reason alcohol is used is to flambé the sauce, giving it a gorgeous, syrupy gloss. How you substitute for brandy depends on whether you’re going to flambé your meal or not.
If you are not planning on lighting your food on fire at any point during the serving process, you can substitute the brandy for fruit juice, simply to add a bit of sweetness to the sauce.
If you need to balance with an acid, try apple cider vinegar.
If you are interested in adding some flame to your dish, you will need to use some type of alcohol. Whiskey will provide a close flavor match whereas vodka will not alter the flavor at all if that’s your preference.
Substitute For Brandy In Coq Au Vin
Coq au Vin is a decadent recipe for slow cooking rooster in wine, hence the name. Most people now use chicken, but the vin (or wine) is still a requirement, often further enhanced by brandy.
The wine is really the star of the dish so, in this recipe, if you don’t have brandy, you can usually just skip it without noticing much of a difference.
There is already alcohol in the wine that serves to bring out all the flavors, so no more is needed unless you want a more complex flavor profile.
If that’s the case, use the alcohol that has a flavor that most appeals to you. Whiskey, bourbon or gin would all be great choices.
Substitute for Brandy in Baking
Using brandy in baking not only enhances the flavor of your favorite recipe but also improves the texture and moisture content of your baking.
If you don’t have brandy, it is best to substitute it with another alcohol with a similar alcohol content to maintain the proper balance that the recipe developer no doubt did a lot of experimentation to perfect.
Substitute for Brandy in Fruitcake
Brandy is very commonly used in desserts and fruitcake often calls for this fruit-based alcohol to make the cake irresistible.
Fruit juice or extracts are a good substitute in fruitcake as it enhances the fruit-forward flavor profile.
Fruitcake, however, can be difficult to get just right in terms of texture and consistency, so using alcohol may be a priority for you. In this case, rum or bourbon will be the best options to use as a substitute.
Substitute for Brandy in Drinks
Some drink recipes call for brandy specifically, almost always as the signature flavor. This can be trickier to substitute for; however, we certainly have a few suggestions and solutions.
Substitute For Brandy In Sangria
Not all sangria calls for brandy and therefore doesn’t need brandy. It will add sweetness, kick, and a great aroma to your sangria, but you can substitute it well with another alcohol.
Using an orange-flavored liquor like triple sec or Grand Marnier are popular choices for sangria.
Substitute For Brandy In Mulled Wine
Mulled wine is more than just wine and spices. It’s also often made with brandy, which has a similar flavor profile to wine but with more alcohol and concentrated flavor.
If you don’t have brandy and your recipe calls for it, try port instead. It has a higher alcohol content than wine but isn’t as high as brandy. It lives in the same flavor family so the taste won’t be off by much.
If you’re feeling experimental, rum might also yield delicious results.
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