Dry white wine is a classic ingredient in cuisines of wine-growing regions like Italy and France. And adding it gives food flavor and complexity, says Palak Patel, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education. But if you don't drink alcohol — or have an open bottle on hand — there are many alternatives that'll lend your dish all the residual sugars, flavors and complexity that dry white wine adds.
Next time your recipe calls for dry marsala or chardonnay, but you'd rather (or have to) omit it, try these five white wine substitutes that don't compromise on flavor.
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One easy substitution for dry white wine is white wine vinegar. Made from dry white wines, this type of vinegar has many of the same flavor characteristics as white wine — sans the alcohol. You can also use other light-colored vinegar such as white vinegar, rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Always remember to dilute the vinegar, using one part vinegar to one part water, to ensure your recipe doesn't end up too acidic.
Looking to add some of the sweetness that wine lends? "You can use honey or maple in addition to the vinegar," says Patel. That'll also render the same thick, syrup-like consistency you'd achieve if you were reducing down a glug of wine, she notes.
Cooking dry white wine creates tangy flavors that are especially well-suited for fish or as a sauce over delicate meats like chicken breast. If you're looking for a substitute for wine in a chicken or fish dish, turn to lemon. Dilute the lemon juice by half to mitigate its tart flavor. Opt for fresh-squeezed lemon juice — it tastes much better than bottled — if possible. Patel sometimes uses vinegar along with a bit of lemon.
Although many recipes employ dry white wine for its tangy flavor, some recipes — especially slow-simmered soups and stews — use dry white wine for the depth of flavor it adds. Don't fret; replicating vino isn't difficult!
Chicken broth, which is made from the richest cuts of chicken and a variety of vegetables, herbs and spices, works well as a white wine substitute. But vegetable or beef stock can also work in recipes that call for reducing the wine. If you reduce down a stock, you can get the same flavors as in wine, says Patel. For the best results, simmer the ingredients in the broth and use a low-sodium broth to avoid making your soup or stew too salty.
Water and Herbs
Water is the simplest and most readily available substitute for liquid ingredients like dry white wine. However, as we know, it doesn't contribute any flavor. Pro tip: Overcome water's flavor limitations by adding herbs.
"The addition of an herb — dry or fresh — will round out the flavor of whatever it is you're cooking," says Patel. For savory soups and stews, drop in a bay leaf (just remember to remove it before serving your dish!). For sauces, try fresh herbs. Parsley works best with chicken while dill works well with fish. Lightly crushed rosemary also works in a wide variety of recipes, but, as with bay leaves, you'll need to remove the sprigs after cooking. Plus, adding liquid helps you get those delicious charred bits at the bottom of the pan, says Patel.
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Wine is made from grapes, so when it really comes down to it, using wine in recipes is a way of adding sugar, says Patel. If you're making pork chops or any other dish where you want a sweet deglazed sauce, just use fruit juice and reduce it down, says Patel. This is a one-to-one substitution — if the recipe calls for one cup of dry white wine, use one cup of fruit juice instead.