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Substitute for Red Wine in Beef Stew


Red wine is an alcoholic beverage best enjoyed with cheese and red meat dishes. It’s also an essential ingredient in beef stews. If you don’t have it in your pantry, there are many ways to substitute red wine in beef stew.

Served bowl with hearty beef stew with thick sauce.

Why Use Red Wine in Cooking?

Red wine is an alcoholic drink made from red or purple grapes. The wine owes its color to the grape skin and a compound known as anthocyanin. The color also determines its age-depth. Wines with deep hues signify a young wine, while older red wines will have a distinct red color.

Red wine has a complex flavor profile and may taste differently depending on the wine type. There are many ways to describe a red wine’s flavor. But the drink is notable for its fruity yet tart flavor.

There are many reasons red wine pairs perfectly with red meat. The overall impression is that red wine helps soften the meat through marination. In turn, the tender beef becomes more fragrant, rich, and delicious.

A more detailed answer is that red wine and meat are opposites in the culinary world. When you combine the two ingredients together, they bring out each other’s flavors. The tannins in red wine tenderize the meat and help release its earthy and meaty flavors. Meanwhile, the beef’s rich flavor mellows out the wine and brings out its fruitiness.

This is why when you’re dining out, it’s best to pair red wine with red meat. When it comes to dishes like chicken, we recommend pairing them with white wine. Fish and seafood also taste delicious with dry white wine.

Substitute for Red Wine in Beef Stew

There is no shortage of places to buy red wine. In Western cuisine, it’s also considered a cooking staple. If your beef stew calls for red wine, but you’re all out, there are other options you can use.

Here’s our ultimate list of the best red wine substitutes for beef stew recipes.

1. Broth

Broth, specifically beef broth, is the best substitute for red wine. Most beef stew recipes already call for broth, so you only need to replace red wine with more beef broth. When substituting, use equal amounts of broth as you would with red wine.

What’s excellent about beef broth is that it won’t alter your stew’s overall taste. There are many types of broth that you can use. There’s homemade broth or store-bought broth.

You can make your own broth using cheap cuts or bones. You can also buy broth in concentrated liquid sachets. We recommend using this type of broth as it contains the most flavor.

Only use beef broth and never fish broth, as the latter fits seafood dishes better. If beef is unavailable, vegetable or chicken broth will work too. Both broths have subtle flavors that won’t affect the recipe.

The disadvantage to using broth is that it doesn’t contain the same acidity as red wine. Acidity is important because it tenderizes the beef as it cooks.

One way to replicate the acidity in red wine is to add lemon juice. Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of broth, then add the mixture to the stew.

Another downside is that broth doesn’t add color to the stew. But there’s a quick solution to achieve that delectable red color. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste or 1 cup of tomato juice.

Despite the cons, beef broth is the best substitute for red wine. It enhances the beef’s meaty taste and brings new depths to the stew. Plus, the broth is available almost anywhere, so it’s easy to buy.

2. Non-Alcoholic Red Wine

What if you don’t have broth? You can always use non-alcoholic red wine. It’s a great option if you also want to avoid adding alcohol to your beef stew.

This type of wine mirrors red wine in everything except alcohol content. Most brands that sell red wine also sell non-alcoholic versions.

For example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir have non-alcoholic versions. These wines typically fall under “skinny red wine” or “almost-zero red wine.”

The most significant difference between the two types of wines is their sweetness. Non-alcoholic red wine is notably sweeter to compensate for its lack of alcohol. Keep this in mind when using this as an alternative.

To substitute, use an equal amount of non-alcoholic red wine in beef stew.

3. Red Grape Juice

Unsweetened red grape juice is another excellent substitute for red wine. Since red wine comes from red grapes, it’s only natural to use red grape juice as an alternative. You can also use other kinds of fruit juices with similar flavors.

When using red grape juice, you’ll notice that it’s sweeter than red wine. To balance out the sweetness, we recommend adding some acid. You can use tomato juice or white vinegar.

4. Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice is also a good substitute for red wine in beef stew. Its fruity flavor balances out the meaty and earthy tastes of the beef. But it can be too sweet for some, especially if you are using a sweetened cranberry juice.

There are many ways to fix an overly sweet beef stew. You can add vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or tomato juice.

If you don’t like the sweet flavor, you can use unsweetened cranberry juice. To substitute for red wine, use 1 cup of cranberry juice and one tablespoon of vinegar for every 1 cup of red wine.

5. Canned Tomatoes

Some pantry staples could also work as quick red wine substitutes. If you have canned diced tomatoes, you can mix these ingredients to replace red wine. Add at least 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and 1 canned diced tomato.

This mixture adds the needed acidity to mellow down the strong beefy flavor of the stew. We recommend adding a tablespoon of sugar to the stew if it’s too tangy. You can also use tomato juice in place of canned tomatoes.

6. Liquid From Canned Mushrooms

Did you know that you can also use canned mushroom brine? It may sound like an unconventional choice, but it’s a worthy alternative to red wine.

Mushroom brine contains similar tangy and earthy flavors as wines.

Another advantage of using mushroom brine is that you can add the mushrooms to the stew. Mushroom and beef pair perfectly together and a depth of flavor to the dish. Add 1 can of mushroom brine for every 1/2 cup of red wine when using it as a substitute.

7. Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice is a quick replacement for red wine in beef stew. It has the zesty quality of red wine minus the alcohol. Plus, it lends beef stews a dark red color.

To replace red wine, use 1 cup of pomegranate juice for 1 cup of red wine. We also recommend adding vinegar for acidity. You can also use unsweetened pomegranate juice and sweeten the stew to your liking.

8. Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a convenient red wine alternative. It’s a pantry staple that’s quick to use if you’re short on time. Tomato paste has a thick consistency, so you’ll need to pair it with another liquid.

When using tomato paste, we recommend adding it to the pot first to create a base.

Stir the mixture in the pot until it forms a liquid with a slightly thick consistency. Tomato paste can be sour so add sugar to even out the flavors.

9. Red Wine Vinegar

Red wine vinegar is the closest substitute for red wine in terms of acidity. Since they are essentially made of the same ingredients, they share core flavors. Add at least 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar to the stew to substitute red wine.

What makes beef stew delicious is its complex flavor profile. It’s best to add the acid at the end of the cooking process rather than at the beginning. This is so the acid doesn’t lose its potency.

10. White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar is also a good alternative to red wine. But using this instead of red wine could result in a pale-looking stew. To fix this, we recommend pairing white wine vinegar with tomato paste.

You’ll need 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar for it to impart a tart flavor to your stew. If you want a richer consistency, feel free to add at least 1/2 cup of broth or tomato paste. Remember that it’s all about achieving harmony of flavors.

11. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a bit different than other types of vinegar. But as a substitute for red wine, it works excellently. Balsamic vinegar comes from unfermented grape juice.

Balsamic is also known for its sweet and sharp acidic flavor. It’s more pungent than red or white wine vinegar. When using it as a substitute, you’ll need 1 to 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar with 3/4 cup of broth.

12. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another pantry staple that you can use in beef stew. It’s also a surprising stand-in for red wine. It’s milder compared to balsamic vinegar but is adequately acidic.

You can’t use apple cider vinegar entirely, so we recommend pairing it with another liquid. Beef broth, tomato paste, and mushroom brine pair well with this vinegar. To substitute, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 3/4 cup of another liquid for every 1 cup of red wine.

Other Uses of Red Wine in Recipes

Red wine is a common sight on dinner tables, especially in gourmet settings. It’s often paired with roast beef, steak, and venison. Red wine also tastes excellent with appetizers like bruschetta, charcuterie, or cheeses.

But did you know that red wine is also used in the cooking process? In fact, wine is a common addition to recipes like pasta sauce, beef stew, and casseroles. The best cooking wines are Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Two recipes known for their use of red wine are coq au vin and beef bourguignon.

The first recipe is a French dish that literally translates to “chicken cooked in wine.” It consists of chicken braised in red wine with mushrooms and garlic.

Beef bourguignon is a similar dish, but the recipe opts for red meat instead of chicken. It’s a type of stew flavored with red Burgundy wine and beef stock. It’s known for its rich, hearty flavor that’s best paired with boiled potatoes.

Red Wine Health Benefits

Like all foods, everything is good in moderation. Red wine, in healthy amounts, may have benefits.

Most red wines contain high amounts of melatonin. This helps regulate your natural body clock and promotes better sleep. Some prefer drinking a glass of wine at least an hour before bed.

Wines may also contain antioxidants. These nutrients help boost your immune system. Antioxidants are also known to help in skin cell renewal and prevent skin aging.

How to Choose the Best Substitute For Red Wine In Beef Stew?

The best substitute for red wine should enhance the beef’s meaty and earthy flavors. It shouldn’t be too sweet or too acidic. Choose a red wine alternative that boosts the stew’s hearty and savory taste.

What Is The Healthiest Substitute For Red Wine In Beef Stew?

The broth is the healthiest substitute for red wine. This is especially true if the broth is homemade and not store-bought. The broth has many essential nutrients, fatty acids, and protein.

Can I Use Sherry Instead Of Red Wine In A Recipe?

Yes, you can use sherry instead of red wine in a recipe. But know that sherry has more alcohol content. This will thicken the sauce faster and cause it to burn faster. We recommend adding chicken broth to balance out the sherry.

Summary

Red wine is an essential ingredient in beef stew. It tenderizes the beef and balances the meaty taste with its acidity. It’s also a must-have for roast beef, coq au vin, and beef bourguignon. But red wine may not always be the best option for some. Having no wine in your pantry also shouldn’t stop you from satisfying your beef stew craving.

If you need a substitute for red wine in beef stew, opt for broth or non-alcoholic red wine. If you are using broth as an alternative, we recommend using beef, chicken, or vegetable broth. You can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to make up for the broth’s lack of acidity. When using non-alcoholic red wine, use it in equal amounts as you would with regular red wine.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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