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12 Best Bourbon Substitutes for Cooking/Baking in Recipe

Food is a tasty hug and you can always savor the flavor. When it comes to flavors, a “go-to” ingredient is usually bourbon, it’s a great way to spice up your meal.

But what happens when bourbon is unavailable or you want a substitute for bourbon?

Well, this article would discuss bourbon substitutes for cooking and non-alcoholic bourbon substitutes, that still give your meal that exquisite taste.

Here are 13 of the best substitutes for bourbon in a recipe. We would discuss 6 alcoholic and 6 non-alcoholic substitutes.

1/4 Cup Bourbon Substitute

You can substitute for 1/4 cup bourbon with the following options:

  • 1/4 cup Bourbon = 1/4 cup Cognac
  • 1/4 cup Bourbon = 1/4 cup Scotch
  • 1/4 cup Bourbon = 1/4 cup Brandy
  • 1/4 cup Bourbon = 1/4 cup Whiskey
  • 1/4 cup Bourbon = 1 cup Dark Beer

Top 6 Alcoholic Bourbon Substitutes

Let’s introduce the alcoholic substitutes first.

#1 Cognac


Cognac and Bourbon are interchangeable. This is a type of brandy made in France. It’s derived from a distinct mix of grapes left in a French oak barrel for two or more years.

If you want to create sweet and flavoured meals this is your best choice of substitute for bourbon.

Cognac is great for crémé brulée, shrimps and chocolate cake recipes. Always remember to substitute the same amount of Cognac for bourbon as specified in the recipe.

#2 Scotch


This is a whisky with a special smoky flavour, it’s derived from water and malted barley heated over a peat flame. It’s called Scotch only if it’s made in Scotland.

Scotch is a perfect substitute for bourbon in bread recipes, due to its malted barley origin. It can also add flavor to sponge cake recipes, pancakes and even shrimp sauce and briskets.

Scotch can also be used to prepare cocktails and sweet drinks. Like Cognac, match the same amount of scotch for bourbon as specified in the recipe.

#3 Brandy


Brandy is a distilled wine derived from fermented fruits, it could be from grapes, apricots, oranges or apples. Note that, all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac.

Brandy is the best bourbon substitute when dessert is the desired dish. Its sweetened fruity undertow makes it perfect!

Brandy can be used in desserts like mince pies or chocolate mousse cakes. Like the others mentioned earlier, substitute the same amount of brandy for bourbon as directed in the recipe.

Except for bourbon, Brandy can also be a great substitute for Benedictine.

#4 Whiskey


This is the fourth bourbon substitute, it is a distilled dark spirit obtained from grains like rye, corn, barley or wheat. It is usually stored in wooden casks to age, usually, this is where pure whiskey gets its flavour from.

Whiskey is quite flavourful and can be used for sweet-tasting dishes, hence why it is a perfect substitute for bourbon flavoring in cooking. It’s mostly used in sauces and condiments like barbecue sauce and in meat marinades to give a delightful taste.

Whiskey can be integrated into deviled eggs, salad vinaigrette, puddings, cake or in toppings like caramel cream.

Add the same amount of Whiskey to the recipe as you substitute it for bourbon when cooking.

#5 Rum


Rum is created from fermented and distilled sugarcane juice or molasses and then it’s kept in oak barrels to age.

It has a sweet, toasted sugar undertone, it’s a perfect replacement for bourbon if you are looking to create a sweetened meal.

Use the same amount for rum as you substitute it for bourbon when cooking.

#6 Dark Beer

dark beer

Some other substitutes for bourbon include Dark beer, which is easier to find compared to other alcohol kinds.

Dark beer is a nice substitute because it can contain traces of caramel or coffee, thus giving a sweeter and different taste to your dish.

It can be used for ribs, cheese dips or fried chicken.

Top 6 Non-alcoholic Bourbon Substitutes

This section, you’ll find 6 non-alcoholic alternatives to bourbon.

#1 Peach Nectar and Apple Cider Vinegar Mixture

peach nectar and apple cider vinegar mixture

When people use Bourbon for their meals they want to taste that extra bite, an easy non-alcoholic bourbon substitute is peach nectar and apple cider vinegar mixture.

This mixture is best used for fruit-based dishes, the vinegar adds the bite they want and the peach nectar gives the fruity sweet taste.

The good thing about this is, you can play around with the juice and nectar substitute to find the perfect combination and create an amazing sensation.

In this mixture, use three parts of nectar to one part vinegar. Depending on what flavour you want to dominate the dish you can use apple cider vinegar on its own to give that extra bite.

This mixture is great for pork dishes, barbecue sauce, eggnog and fruit-based dishes for that fruity undertone.

#2 Bourbon Vanilla Extract

bourbon vanilla extract

This is an easy non-alcoholic bourbon substitute in baking or cooking. Vanilla is a widely loved flavor, so replacing bourbon with this extract gives it a luxurious taste of both sweet and smokey.

If you would want the dish to have a strong vanilla flavor then replace the same amount of the extract for bourbon as stated in the recipe.

But if you would prefer a tingle of vanilla flavor then use a half measure of vanilla and half measure of water to replace bourbon.

This non-alcoholic substitute can be used in sauce, soup, pudding, ice cream or even pastries.

#3 Non-alcoholic Almond Extract

non-alcoholic almond extract

This is a non-alcoholic substitute for bourbon in dishes that are heavy on nuts.

Dishes that contain walnuts and or pecans make great combinations with Almonds as it brings out the taste of the other nuts.

When substituting this extract for bourbon in a recipe you can measure one for one, or use half of the extract and water to substitute or mix the extract with vanilla.

It can be used in muffins, pies, cakes, and French toast.

Don’t worry if you can’t find almond extract, here are 10 amazing almond extract substitutes for your choice.

#4 Ginger Beer

ginger beer

For spicy, savoury dishes, ginger beer is a great non-alcoholic substitute. Ginger has an added flavour it gives to your dish and additional sweetness.

If you decide to use ginger beer, ensure to reduce the extra moisture else your dish would have more moisture in it than you want.

You can substitute one measure of ginger beer for one measure of bourbon in your recipe.

It can be used in dishes like ginger snaps, cookies, and gingerbread.

#5 Water

The next non-alcoholic bourbon substitute is water. This is a very easy substitute, especially for recipes that require a little amount of bourbon.

Using water preserves the flavor of the dish and gives the right moisture.

If you are to replace the bourbon with water in your recipe, use a little more water than the bourbon in the recipe. This is important to achieve consistency and texture balance.

#6 Hot Cocoa and Warm Eggnog Mixture

hot cocoa and warm eggnog mixture

Hot cocoa and warm eggnog mixture is an unconventional but possible non-alcoholic bourbon replacement.

It gives an eggnog spice taste to the dish it’s used in. It can be used in cake recipes.

When it comes to bourbon substitutes, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, it’s best to determine the kind of flavour you wish to achieve, that way when you substitute for bourbon in a recipe you still achieve the desired results.

But why would anyone want to substitute bourbon in their cooking? Let’s find out why.

Why Substitute Bourbon in Your Recipe

Some of the reasons you might want to use bourbon substitutes are:

  1. You want a complete alcohol free diet. Persons who do not consume alcohol at all would prefer dishes that are free of it.
  2. Alcohol is expensive. Most brands of alcohol that are suitable for cooking might be pretty expensive, so buying them might be too much. So the alternative is better.
  3. Alcohol has a strong flavour. Although they evaporate during the cooking process, the flavour might be too strong for those eating your food.
  4. Unique flavour in sweet dishes. Sometimes the use of non-alcoholic substitutes for bourbon can give the meal a special taste.

Tips to Use Bourbon or Its Substitutes

When using bourbon or its substitutes, it’s best to be familiar with the characteristics of each brand, its sweetness, smokiness or even flavour strength, that way you can determine to right brandy and quantity to use.

Here are some tips:

  1. For an amazing flavoured meat dish, use bourbon to marinate your meat.
  2. If you use a sweet bourbon, like Maker’s Mark, you can use it with jam, sauce or desserts for incredible flavour.
  3. Balance the deep flavour of bourbon with an acidic ingredient.
  4. Bourbon is perfect for desserts. When used for cakes it gives it appealing flakiness.
  5. A mixture of equal parts of bourbon and water can rehydrate fruits
  6. Measure the quantity of bourbon accurately so you get the perfect taste.
  7. When you use bourbon to cook, make sure to use the one you can drink. Don’t use just any cheap bourbon you can find.
  8. Finally, do not place any form of alcohol over an open flame, it is dangerous. Be careful.

The Bottom Line

Finally, when it comes to substituting bourbon in cooking, it’s important to have a particular flavour you aim to achieve in mind, choose the right alcohol mixture or non-alcoholic blend, create a balance with the alcohol mix, and most importantly while using alcohol be careful and stay away from open flames.

Remember, that if you combine the right flavours food turns into an orchestra!

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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