Bourbon Substitute for Cooking, Baking, and More!

Published Categorized as Journal, Baking, Ingredients Tagged

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that has a unique and delicious flavor that is often used to make baked goods and various foods. When looking for a bourbon substitute, you’ll be looking for something that mimics bourbon’s unique flavor.

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So, what options do you have?

Thankfully, there are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic alternatives that you can use for this particular whiskey, some of which you probably already have on hand.

Let’s dive in to see what substitutes you can use for bourbon in your next recipe.

Table of Contents

What Can I Substitute For Bourbon?

You have many options when substituting ingredients in foods and baked goods for bourbon. But keep in mind that not all substitutes will work for all purposes.

Bourbon is a highly versatile ingredient that is used in both cooking and baking. As such, some substitutions will work readily in some dishes while others may not. Use your own discretion about what types of substitutions for bourbon will work well for you and your particular recipe.

The following are the most common bourbon substitutes:

  • Rum
  • Scotch
  • Brandy
  • Cognac
  • Dark Beer
  • Apple Cider Vinegar + Brown Sugar
  • Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • Plain Vanilla Extract
clear drinking glass filled with bourbon

Can I Substitute Whiskey For Bourbon in a Recipe?

Can You Substitute Whiskey for Bourbon?

Yes! Whiskey can be substituted for bourbon in a recipe as bourbon is a type of American distilled whiskey. When doing so, substitute the other type of whiskey that you are subbing in for bourbon at a 1:1 ratio. This works well with both cooked and baked goods.

Substitute For Bourbon in Cocktails

A cocktail is several alcoholic beverages mixed together with added ingredients and flavors, like fruit and cream. When substituting bourbon in cocktails, you can use vanilla extract and a little vinegar, or you can substitute the bourbon with rum. Of course, neither option will have your cocktail tasting exactly the same, however, either option can work when you’re in a pinch.

Common cocktails that include bourbon are:

Can You Substitute Brandy For Bourbon?

Brandy is an excellent substitution for bourbon. It is an aged wine that is made in oak barrels. Still, brandy tends to be a bit on the sweeter side. To make a substitution of brandy for bourbon, you’ll want to use only half the amount of brandy you’d use for bourbon, as using too much brandy would assuredly overpower your dish or drink.

Can I Substitute Scotch For Bourbon?

Scotch is another great replacement for bourbon as it has a similar flavor profile, though it tends to be a bit smokier (and scotch is a bit more expensive than bourbon). It is very rich and complex tasting, but typically, you can add scotch at a 1:1 ratio for bourbon and have the dish, drink, or baked good tasting great!

Chivas Regal premium Scotch Whisky

Can I Substitute Cooking Wine For Bourbon

You may be able to substitute cooking wine for bourbon, but know the flavor profile won’t be the same. In many cooked dishes and baked goods, the need for bourbon is more for flavor than it is for the alcohol itself. As such, you’d be better off attempting to mimic the flavor of bourbon in the baked good or food rather than replacing the bourbon with another alcohol that doesn’t taste like bourbon.

Instead of replacing the bourbon in your recipe with cooking wine, try using vanilla extract at a 1:1 ratio for the bourbon.

Note: Vanilla extract will yield a much sweeter taste than would bourbon, and for this reason, we recommend you add a splash of additional vinegar to cut the sweetness.

Can I Substitute Beer For Bourbon?

Not all beers will be a feasible substitute for bourbon, but dark beer may be. They often add the intense color and flavor that adding bourbon would, and may be more readily available (and better priced) than your typical bourbon drink would be.

Can I Substitute Rum For Bourbon?

Rum can be substituted for bourbon and, in most cases, it is an amazing substitution. Rum is distilled from sugar unlike bourbon, which is distilled from corn. Rum has a slightly deep molasses taste that makes it good for substituting in dishes and baked goods that call for bourbon.

Bourbon Substitute For Baking

Bourbon can add a great flavor and color to baked goods, however, it may be out of your price range or may not be something you have on hand when it is time to whip up something tasty. Because of this, it can be helpful to use some other items that you might have in your pantry to substitute in the place of bourbon instead.

Some common substitutes for baking that you may already have on hand include:

  • Rum
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vanilla Extract and Vinegar (for Less Sweetness)
  • A Blend of Apple Cider Vinegar and Brown Sugar

Bourbon Substitute in Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a baked good that commonly has bourbon incorporated into the ingredients. When substituting your bourbon in pecan pie, you may wish to try the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar method mentioned above, or you may wish to try the same measurements but with apple cider vinegar and peach nectar instead.

To do this, simply mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with ⅔ teaspoons of brown sugar or peach nectar. Both of these substitutions work well for mimicking bourbon flavor in pecan pie and other baked goods so you don’t have to skimp on flavor.

Bourbon Substitute Non Alcoholic

Some people may desire bourbon flavor when cooking but may be cooking for young children or those who don’t wish to consume alcohol. In this case, it is fine to substitute a non-alcoholic ingredient to mimic the flavor of bourbon.

Non-alcoholic substitutes for bourbon include:

  • Vanilla Extract
  • Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • Apple Cider Vinegar and Brown Sugar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar and Peach Nectar

If you still aren’t able to swap bourbon for any of the above substitutions, you can simply add in the same amount of water that you would bourbon, and, in most cases, have your dish turn out fine. Of course, your dish will be lacking bourbon flavor which may render it plain compared to the way it was supposed to taste, but at least you’ll have the proper liquid to dry ingredient ratio to keep the recipe somewhat intact.

If you were to leave out the bourbon without replacing it with a liquid of some sort, you run the risk of ruining the recipe completely by altering the texture of the dish.

Bourbon Substitute For Cooking

There are many instances in which you may have to substitute your bourbon in a recipe if you have none on hand. The following recipes are popular recipes that typically include bourbon:

  • Wings
  • Dressings
  • BBQ
  • Marinades
  • Pecan Pie
  • Bourbon Chicken
  • Meatballs
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Ham
  • Bread Pudding

Bourbon Substitute for Bourbon Chicken

A real crowd-pleaser, the deliciously sweet and smokey taste of bourbon chicken may not seem complete without the addition of true bourbon. Still, if you wish to make bourbon chicken at home you can do so with apple juice and brown sugar!

See the below recipe adapted from Cookies and Cups for ideas on how to make bourbon chicken without the bourbon!


  • ⅔ cups soy sauce
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of ACV
  • ⅔ cups light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 pounds of chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • a handful of green onions (optional)


Brown chicken

Cook your chicken in the oil over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through.

Mix and cook

In a separate bowl, mix the first seven ingredients and pour it onto the cooked chicken. Allow it to cook for about 20-25 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.

Make thickener

Mix the cornstarch with 6 tablespoons of cold water until fully combined.


Pour the cornstarch mixture onto the chicken mixture and cook until the sauce is thickened. 

Cool, garnish, and serve

Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with green onions if using, then serve. 

bourbon chicken

Substitute For Bourbon in BBQ Sauce

Many tasty barbecue sauces have bourbon or other types of whiskey in them to add a sweet and tangy flavor. If you wish to achieve this without the use of bourbon in a bbq sauce, you may wish to try adding another type of whisky, a rum, or trying out the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar hack to achieve the same flavor without the alcohol.

Some have even seen great results by adding non-alcoholic ginger beer to their bbq sauce! Play around with these substitutes to see which works best for you.

grilled bourbon meat on brown wooden chopping board

Bourbon Substitutes Are Easy to Find!

All in all, bourbon substitutes are out there and they come in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. Depending on the dish or the drink, some substitutions may turn out better than others. We hope you’ve found this helpful!

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By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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