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If your Tiramisu recipe requires rum and you don’t have any, fear not, there are lots of great alternatives for rum in Tiramisu, including alcohol-free alternatives.

In this article, you will learn the best alternatives to rum for Tiramisu.

Key takeaways:

  • Marsala wine is a fantastic alternative for rum in Tiramisu. In fact, classic tiramisu recipes use Marsala wine rather than rum.
  • Madeira and Port wine, Kahlua, brandy, whiskey and Amaretto can also be used instead of rum for Tiramisu.
  • For an alcohol-free Tiramisu, use alcohol-free amaretto or add a teaspoon of vanilla.

Role of rum in Tiramisu

Tiramisu is a coffee-flavored Italian cake made with layers of ladyfingers soaked in coffee and mascarpone cheese.

It usually also has an alcohol component which plays an important role in the overall flavor of the cake.

Flavor enhancer: Dark rum in Tiramisu doesn’t just give it a nice boozy kick. The flavors in dark rum – caramel, toffee, chocolate, spices and vanilla – mingle well with and enhance the other ingredients in the cake giving it more dept and complexity.

Balance: The alcohol helps to balance out the flavors, ensuring it doesn’t taste too sweet or rich.

Moisture: The amount of liquid in a cake is important because it ensures that the cake stays moist by holding the moisture during baking, thus preventing it from becoming dry.

Tenderizer: Alcohol added to a cake recipe can tenderize the cake crumb, making it softer and easier to eat, although this is more important for dense fruit cakes, like Christmas cake.

Rum substitutes for Tiramisu

Marsala wine

Marsala wine is a fortified wine from Sicily, Italy that comes in a range of styles from sweet to dry. It has either brandy or a neutral grape spirit added to a base wine to fortify it.

It can range in color (golden, amber, ruby) depending on how it was made and aged. Typical flavors include apricot, brown sugar, tobacco and vanilla.

Marsala is traditional in a classic Tiramisu recipe, so it is an excellent substitute for rum.



Kahlúa is a Mexican coffee liqueur. It contains rum, sugar and coffee.

The rich coffee and roasted chestnut flavors of Kahlúa work well with Tiramisu. So, it makes another excellent substitute for rum.


Amaretto is a sweet Italian liqueur with an almond-like flavor. It is often used in cooking for desserts and its nutty flavor works well in Tiramisu.

An alcohol-free Amaretto can be used to make an alcohol-free Tiramisu.

Disaronno, a leading Amaretto brand

Madeira wine

Madeira is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

It is made in a range of styles from dry to sweet. As a fortified wine, it is very similar to Marsala, so it works well in Tiramisu.


Tawny Port wine

Port wine is made from black grapes grown in the upper Douro in Portugal. It is also a fortified wine, which means that additional alcohol is added to the wine.

There are many different types of Port. Tawny Port wine can be used to substitute rum in Tiramisu.

Tawny Ports are gold to brown in color, so they make a better substitute than Ruby Port. The red color of a Ruby Port may negatively impact the color of your Tiramisu.

Tawny Port wine


Brandy is distilled wine, specifically wine made with fermented whole, fresh grapes. Most brandy is either aged in oak or colored with caramel before bottling, giving it an amber or brown color.

You can substitute rum with brandy for Tiramisu. It won’t have the exact flavor profile of rum, but it will give your Tiramisu a nice boozy kick.

For more information about brandy and baking, see our article on best brandy in cooking and baking.



Whiskey is alcohol distilled from various grains.

It is often used in cooking and baking, especially for Christmas cakes. It can be used instead of rum for Tiramisu. It, however, will not have the sweetness of rum.

Traditional tiramisu.

Alcohol-free alternatives to rum in Tiramisu

For an alcohol-free Tiramisu, you can add the following ingredients instead:

Alcohol-free Amaretto

If you can get your hands on it, non-alcoholic Amaretto is a great substitute for making Tiramisu without alcohol. It will add the same nutty sweetness of a regular Amaretto.

A teaspoon of vanilla

A non-alcoholic vanilla extract or vanilla pod will add dept of flavor to replace the flavors of rum.

Flavored syrups

Flavored syrups like almond, coffee or chocolate syrups can be used in lieu of rum to add complimentary flavors and sweetness to your recipe.

White grape juice

Grape juice is a good non-alcohol alternative in recipes in general.

Avoid red grape juice for Tiramisu as it may negatively alter the color of your recipe.

Practical tips for making substitutes in baking

Unlike with cooking, which is more forgiving when the chef alters the recipe, baking is more of a science and requires precision.

As an experienced cook and baker, I can atest that baking requires more precision and adherence to recipes.

It is also more difficult to “save” a bake from disaster. Collapsed banana bread is hard to uncollapse, for example!

So, following a recipe to the letter is the best way to ensure a successful bake.

The acclaimed baker and cookbook author Dorie Greenspan says, “When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.”

So, when you can’t follow the recipe exactly, it is important to try to replace like with like as much as possible.

Here are some practical tips to help ensure your bake is a success when you need to substitute the recipe.

Liquid quantities: In general, you want the substituted liquid amount to be the same.

So, if you are substituting Rum for Marsala wine, use the same amount specified in the recipe. That being said, there are scenarios where this will not be the case; for example, extracts like vanilla need to be used in small amounts e.g., a teaspoon.

The other consideration with liquids is viscosity or density. Whole milk, for example, is richer and denser than skim milk.

Sweetness levels: If the substitute you use is sweeter or not quite as sweet as the original ingredient, you will need to take this into account. Try to adjust the sweetness levels to avoid ending up with a bland or cloying cake.

Texture: Substitutes can have an impact on the texture of your cake.

Alcohol, as previously mentioned, can have an impact on the crumb texture, making it softer. So, you might not get as soft a cake if you use a non-alcoholic substitute.

Flavor match: Choose substitutes that compliment the flavors in your recipe. Try to stick to classic flavor combinations in order to avoid disappointing results.

Read with confidence: I am WSET L2 Award in Spirits & Diagio Bar Academy certified.