Whether it is due to health reasons, religious beliefs, you ran out or that you just don’t like red wine, there are tons of reasons that people don’t want to add it to their stews anymore.
However, the reason it was added in the first place was to add depth to your stew. It incorporates sweetness, acidity and richness that few other ingredients can. Thus, when you want to substitute it, you will need to use ingredients that will provide the same benefits.
Luckily, there are tons of substitutes and replacements you can try!
Substitutes For Red Wine in Beef Stew
Broth, in my opinion, is the best substitute for red wine, especially in stews. It will not affect change the flavor, texture or color of your broth.
The majority of stews would already call for a certain amount of broth that goes with the red wine. This means that substituting the red wine with the even more broth, won’t add any additional flavors (like the other substitutes would) that might or might not fit the flavor profile of this broth.
Broth can be made at home using bones and offcuts or can be bought in store. The best type of broth to buy is the concentrated liquid sachets. These have the best and most authentic flavor that will elevate your stew.
If you are making a fish stew, substitute it with fish broth. The same principle applies to chicken, beef or vegetable broths.
To substitute the red wine with broth, replace the wine with an equal amount of broth. One sachet will be enough for 1 cup boiling water – you can calculate what the wine substitute of this is. Follow the instructions for any other forms of broth.
Broth isn’t nearly as acidic as red wine, so if you need the acid to tenderize your meat or you want to replicate the flavor as close as possible, you will need to add vinegar or lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to the measuring cup and fill the rest of the amount needed with broth.
2. Non-alcoholic red wine
This is such an obvious substitute, but it really works great. What makes this substitute better than, for example, grape juice is that some of the non-alcoholic red wines taste just like normal wine does. All the flavor queues are very similar to each other and will make your stew taste virtually the same.
However, there are very few non-alcoholic wines that truly have zero percent alcohol in them. Some countries have passed new laws that state, wines that have more than 0% alcohol in them, must be labeled as “almost-zero” or “skinny”.
Thus, if you are not allowed to have any alcohol, make sure to check the labels and bottles.
3. Red grape juice
Red grape juice is a delicious substitute to use if you like a sweeter-tasting stew. It will give you a similar grape taste than the red wine would and also adds a deep red color.
You can substitute the wine and juice in equal parts. If you’ve added the juice to your stew and feel that it is too sweet, you can simply add 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar at a time to balance it out.
Try using unsweetened red grape juice as it will reduce the need for sugar and be much better tasting.
4. Cranberry juice
There are better substitutes than cranberry juice, but if you cannot find anything else to use, it will work perfectly. But, try to use the unsweetened version (meaning pure 100% cranberry juice), as sweetened cranberry juice is incredibly sweet and vinegar will only help so much.
You do also get cranberry-grape juice that is a mixture of the two juices. It will be less sweet and you will get the grape flavor coming through as well.
As with all the other substitutes so far, you can add the cranberry juice in equal amounts and you can add a tablespoon of vinegar to try balance out the unsweetened juice.
5. Tomato paste and tins
Tomato is an ingredient that can do wonders for stews. Most beef stews already contain some form of tomatoes. It adds color, acidity and by adding a spoon or two of sugar, sweetness.
Add 1-2 teaspoons tomato paste and 1 tin of diced tomatoes and continue the cooking process as per usual. It the stew tastes too tart, add a tablespoon of sugar at a time to correct the taste.
If you don’t have either of those, you can also use tomato juice in equal amounts. You can add sugar to adjust the flavor.
6. Liquid from canned mushrooms
This one might sound a bit strange and far-fetched, but canned mushroom brine has an amazingly close flavor profile to red wine. Both of them are tart and vinegary but slightly sweet. There are also distinctive mushroom flavors, but these add a similar woody flavor than some red wines do.
Another bonus about using canned mushrooms is that you can also add the mushrooms! Stews are very forgiving, so the addition of mushrooms will only improve it.
For every ½ cup red wine, you can add the liquid of 1 tin of mushrooms (and the mushrooms themselves).
If you are in a real pinch and don’t have any of these ingredients, you can replace the wine with water. Although it might sound boring – it’s an option nevertheless.
You absolutely have to adjust the seasoning as water dilutes flavors a lot. You can add more salt, spices or any other flavorings.
Your stew won’t come out the same as when using a flavored ingredient, but it will still come out delicious.
As you can see, your hands are definitely not tied when it comes to finding a good substitute. A lot of these options you will probably already have in your home.
If not, they are all easy to find and also very budget-friendly.