Fear not if you are mid recipe and realize that you need white wine for your dish and don’t have it, or don’t wish to use it, there are lots of great substitutes that you can use instead.
Adding wine to a dish can add acidity, sweetness and depth of flavor. It also adds moisture, and is often used to de-glaze (remove the sticky bits stuck to the pan). So, finding a good alternative can be important to maintain the balance and flavor of a particular recipe.
When wine is added to a recipe, such as soups, stews, pasta sauces and risottos, it is typically added to the pan and then reduced by at least half (if not more) by boiling, with additional ingredients added later. This process of reducing the wine down burns off the alcohol while concentrating the wine’s rich flavors. This enhances the overall dish by adding an extra layer of flavor.
Substitute white wine by adding acidity
One good substitute for white wine is to use another acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Light-colored vinegars, such as white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar will work well. Avoid more astringent vinegars, like distilled white vinegar, if possible, as they may add too much acidity.
Most vinegars will be excellent substitutes, but do take the color of the vinegar into account. Vinegars that are dark in color, such as a dark balsamic or sherry vinegar could affect the final color of the dish.
It is also worth noting that the acidity levels in vinegar and lemons are much higher than that of wine. So, when substituting vinegar or lemon for white wine, you will need to take the acidity into account by using at least half or less vinegar or lemon (than the recipe requires in wine), with the rest of the liquid made up with water.
Substitute with another alcohol
Another great substitute for wine in cooking is a different type of alcohol. Where possible, use something with an equivalent amount of alcohol to that of wine. A fortified white wine, like Vermouth, is a great option if you have some. Champagne or any sparkling white or rosé wine can also be used as a substitute (personally, I would prefer to drink the Champagne and make do with vinegar). A lightly colored rosé can also make a good substitute for white wine.
Just add water … or stock/broth with some acidity
Another option is to swap in water or stock/broth, with a squeeze of lemon or dash of vinegar to add some acidity. This option works particularly well where the recipe doesn’t require reducing the wine, but where you need to have the liquid. Add one part water and one part broth in lieu of wine. Use low-sodium broth if possible or your dish may taste too salty.
Water alone will work if you are really in a pinch, but broth is preferable as it will add both liquid and flavor.
Fruit juice with some acidity
A final option is to use grape juice or apple juice. Cranberry juice can also be used, but this is a better swap for red wine rather than white wine as it may unfavorably change the colour of the dish. Again, add a dash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon for acidity if possible.