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Bourbon Substitute for Cooking: Our 10 Picks (2024 Updated)

Bourbon Substitute for Cooking

Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Bourbon recipes are all over the internet and each recipe makes a great way of serving your favorite dishes with a twist. Whether you run out of bourbon or want to try a new liquor, it’s good to know that there are alcoholic and non-alcoholic substitutes you can use for cooking. 

Looking for the best bourbon substitute for cooking? We got you covered! 

Top 10 Bourbon Substitutes For Cooking

10. Rum

Wray & Nephew White Rum

Rum is one of the good substitutes for bourbon, and while it does not have that strong notes of vanilla and oak like bourbon, it could work in different recipes. Rum is a distilled liquor from sugarcane byproducts [1], and the distinctive taste of molasses can replace the smoky caramel flavor of bourbon. 

We recommend using rum as a bourbon substitute for sweet dishes and dipping sauces because it is rich in vanilla flavor. However, we don’t recommend rum as a substitute in savory dishes because it may lack the smokey flavor you can only find in bourbon whiskey

9. Amarula 


You can replace bourbon with a much sweeter flavor using Amarula. It is a South African liqueur with a blend of cream, chocolate, and other nut flavors. This bourbon replacement is among the ideal bourbon substitutes for desserts. 

You can swap 1 part Amarula with 1 part bourbon in a recipe. Also, since it has a smokey flavor, it may have a flavor profile ideal for some savory recipes. 

8. Brandy

Morpheus Brandy

Brandy is an aged wine with a distinct brown color that comes from the maturation of oak barrels. Since bourbon and brandy are aged in barrels, they may have similar flavor combinations that can be used when cooking. 

You can substitute brandy for bourbon, but it won’t give you that much caramel flavor like American whiskey. It is ideal to use brandy as a bourbon replacement for savory recipes. 

7. Cognac

Courvoisier V.S

Cognac is a type of brandy exclusively produced in the Cognac Region in France [2]. Like bourbon, it is aged in oak barrels for two years or more. Because of its maturation in oak barrels, its flavor profile makes it a fine bourbon alternative. 

Cognac can be more caramel-forward, which is why it is great for sweet dishes and fruit-based recipes. For liquor substitutes, one part cognac is equal to one part of bourbon. 

6. Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whisky

Scotch whisky brings a rounded, complex flavor to your BBQ sauce, fried chicken, bourbon chicken, and other pork dishes, making it one of the best alcohol substitutes for bourbon.

It also works well with desserts and other recipes that need floral, fruity, woody, and sweet notes. 

If you are planning to use Scotch as a replacement for the sweet bourbon, add the same amount of Scotch as the recipe needs. 

5. Almond Extract

Almond Extract

You may also replace bourbon with non-alcoholic almond extract. With its extremely nutty flavor, it is ideal for bread recipes or other food containing pecans or walnuts. 

It can also bring out the taste of other nuts. Substitute the same amount or use half extract and half water to replace the American distilled whiskey

4. Water


Water can be a non-alcoholic option for replacing bourbon, especially if the recipe requires little amount of whiskey. Water helps preserve the flavor of the dishes and gives the right amount of moisture. 

If you run out of bourbon during the cooking process, you can use a small amount of water for the recipe. However, make sure to adjust the quantity as it may ruin the consistency of the dishes.  

3. Apple, Orange & Grape juice 

Grape juice

If you want a fruity flavor alternative, substituting bourbon with orange, grape, and apple juice can be a good option. The sweet drinks can add character to your meat marinade and desserts. 

However, unlike bourbon, it won’t give you a smoky and woody flavor note. Mix the three juices and swap them to the 1:1 ratio to substitute the bourbon on the recipe. 

2. Peach Nectar & Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple Cider Vinegar

The bourbon flavor gives an extra bite to the recipe, so peach nectar and apple cider vinegar can be one of the most ideal non-alcoholic substitutes for bourbon.

The peach nectar gives a fruity sweet taste, while the sparkling apple cider vinegar adds a kick to the fruit-based dishes. 

The apple cider vinegar mixture is an easy non-alcoholic substitute for bourbon, so you can play around and find the perfect combination that suits your taste.

1. Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Non-alcoholic vanilla extract is an easy substitute for bourbon in cooking and baking. Vanilla extract is a widely loved flavor that gives the recipe a luxurious smokey, sweet, and caramel taste.

The bourbon vanilla extract can be a great substitute if you prefer a strong vanilla flavor. 

You can use this non-alcoholic bourbon substitute in sauces, puddings, pastries, and soups.

If you prefer a subtle hint, use half vanilla bourbon extract and half water as a replacement.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can you substitute for bourbon in pecan pie?

Non-alcoholic almond extract can be used as a substitute for bourbon in pecan pie. The extract has a rich nutty flavor that complements baked goods with heavy nuts well.   

Will bourbon dishes taste the same if you substitute bourbon?

It depends. Bourbon dishes may not taste exactly the same if you use a bourbon substitute, but they can have a similar taste. While bourbon gives a distinct flavor to the recipe, using a substitute may still help enhance the flavor.

What is a good replacement for bourbon in cooking?

A good replacement for bourbon in cooking depends on the desired flavor profile, but options like rye whiskey, Scotch whisky, or even non-alcoholic bourbon-flavored extracts can be suitable alternatives, preserving the essence of the dish while accommodating different preferences or dietary restrictions.

What can you substitute for bourbon in BBQ sauce?

When substituting for bourbon in BBQ sauce, options like apple juice, apple cider vinegar, or even non-alcoholic vanilla extract can impart depth and complexity without the alcohol content, ensuring a flavorful sauce suitable for various tastes and dietary considerations.

What is a whiskey alternative in cooking?

In cooking, a suitable whiskey alternative can include other types of whiskey like rye or Scotch, or even non-alcoholic whiskey-flavored extracts. These substitutes provide a comparable depth of flavor without the actual alcohol content, accommodating those who prefer to avoid or cannot consume alcoholic ingredients.

What does bourbon do in cooking?

Bourbon, when used in cooking, adds a distinctive depth, richness, and complexity to dishes. It enhances flavors, particularly in sauces, marinades, and desserts, providing a nuanced sweetness and a hint of smokiness. Bourbon’s alcohol content also aids in extracting and melding flavors, contributing to a well-rounded and flavorful culinary experience.

What is the same as bourbon?

While no spirit is precisely the same as bourbon due to its unique production requirements, certain whiskies, such as Tennessee whiskey or rye whiskey, share some similarities in flavor profiles. Additionally, some non-alcoholic bourbon-flavored extracts attempt to capture the essence of bourbon without the alcohol content, offering an alternative for those seeking a similar taste in non-alcoholic applications.

How do you imitate bourbon flavor?

Imitating bourbon flavor can be achieved by combining various ingredients to replicate its complex profile. A blend of vanilla extract, almond extract, a touch of maple syrup, and a smidgen of smoked paprika can mimic the sweetness, nuttiness, and smokiness characteristic of bourbon, offering a non-alcoholic alternative for those seeking a similar flavor in their culinary creations.

What is the closest thing to bourbon?

While nothing precisely replicates the unique characteristics of bourbon, other whiskies such as Tennessee whiskey or rye whiskey share some similarities in flavor profiles. These alternatives may offer a comparable experience, especially in cooking or cocktails where specific bourbon nuances are not crucial.

Can I use Jack Daniels instead of bourbon?

Jack Daniels, being a Tennessee whiskey, can serve as a substitute for bourbon in many recipes due to its similar flavor profile. However, it’s essential to note that there are distinctions between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, such as the charcoal filtering process known as the Lincoln County Process used in the production of Jack Daniels. While the difference might be subtle, it can impact the final taste in some applications.

What tastes similar to whiskey?

Several spirits taste similar to whiskey, including Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, and rye whiskey. Each type has its unique characteristics, but they share some commonalities in terms of the warming, complex, and sometimes smoky or peaty flavors associated with whiskey.

Can I use whisky instead of bourbon in cooking?

Yes, whisky can generally be used as a substitute for bourbon in cooking. While bourbon has specific production requirements and a unique flavor profile, whisky, whether Scotch, Irish, or rye, can bring depth, richness, and a touch of smokiness to various dishes, imparting similar complexities to the final culinary creation. Adjustments may be needed to account for the distinct characteristics of the chosen whisky in the recipe.

Final Verdict on Bourbon Substitute for Cooking

Bourbon is a versatile spirit that can improve the taste of your sweet and savory dishes.

Cooking does not need to be precise, so if you have a particular flavor in mind, you can use rum, cognac, or go for non-alcoholic alternatives like vanilla extract and fruit juices. 

Have you tried replacing bourbon with different ingredients when cooking? How did it go? Let us know by leaving a comment!


  1. rum-liqour
  2. A Field Guide to Cognac
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