Cooking With Wine


When and Why To Add Wine To Your Recipe

Here are some tips on how to use wine in cooking.  First you should understand why one might want to add wine to a specific sauce or dish.
  • To add acidity to the dish to create a flavor balance
  • To add a specific flavor to the dish
  • To enhance the flavor of other ingredients in the dish

Common Uses For Wine In Cooking 

  • Use wine for flavoring a marinade
  • Use to flavor a poaching liquid for fish, poultry or game
  • Deglaze a pan - Learn how.
  • Braise meats such as osso bucco or lamb shanks
  • Flavor a dessert such as Zabaglione, rum cake or poached pears in red wine
  • Use as a substitute for fat in recipes, including some desserts

Selecting The Right Wine

Typically your recipe will suggest the wine that should be used so it will compliment and not overwhelm the other ingredients.  If you don't know a dry white from a full-bodied red you can do a quick web search for suggestions or just go to your favorite wine shop and they will be happy to help you. 

Don't Select A Wine You Wouldn't Drink
You've probably read "never use a wine in cooking that you would not drink".   This advice includes the use of cooking wines.  Cooking wines have added salt and are not particularly high in quality so don't bother using them -- select a good drinking wine instead.  Good does not necessarily mean expensive.  Again, consult with your local wine shop if you don't already have your favorites.

What If You Don't Like Wine
Depending on the recipe, sometimes you can just leave the wine out, substitute some lemon juice, apple cider, chicken stock, water, or vinegar.  You can click this link to view a complete list of substitutions for alcohol in cooking.

Beware Of Substituting Red Wines For Whites
If you happen to prefer red wines and your recipe calls for a white wine, tread carefully.  Red wines (great in the right recipe) can be horribly overpowering and will also darken the color of the food which may not be desirable.

Cook With What You Will Be Serving
Many chefs suggest that you use the same wine in your recipe that you will be serving with the meal.  This can add a subtle consistency of flavors throughout the dining experience.

Which Wines Work With What Flavors And Cooking Preparations

The same principals apply whether you are cooking with wine or selecting a wine to enjoy with a meal.  Here are some suggestions.
FLAVORS Delicate Earthy; Hearty Meaty Pungent Spicy
WINE TYPE Riesling
Sauvignon Blanc
Pinot Noir
Cabernet Sauvignon
FOODS Salads/Vegetables Fish Poultry, Game Birds, Pork, Veal Beef, Offal
SAUCES Lemon based Butter; Cream Meat
Wine Demiglace
PREPARATION Poached/Steamed Sautéed Baked Roasted Grilled Braised

Cooking For Guests That Abstain From Alcohol Use

While it is suggested that the alcohol evaporates when heated it is difficult to be precise about how much alcohol really remains.  There are many factors such as what alcohol is used,  what other ingredients are in the preparation, how long the dish is cooked and even the size of the cooking vessel.

If possible you can ask your guests ahead of time if they will eat food prepared with alcohol.  If asking is not possible then just know that when cooking for guests that abstain from alcohol use it would be most respectful to always leave the alcohol out and don't' take chances with other peoples' life choices. 

How Much Alcohol Is Left After Cooking?

Cooking Method Residual Alcohol
Alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat  85%
Alcohol flamed;  85%
Alcohol added to food, not heated, stored overnight  70%
After baking 25minutes, not stirred  45%
 Foods Baked or Simmered, Alcohol Stirred In
15 minutes of cooking      40%
3o minutes  35%
1 hour  25%
1.5 hours  20%
2 hours  10%
2.5 hours  5%

Source USDA Food Composition Data

Cooking With Dealcoholized Wine

Dealcoholization changes the taste and "texture" of the wine and most of these wines tend to be sweeter.  They can not be used as a one to one substitute for alcohol in cooking. But remember, if you don't like the flavor of the wine you probably won't like a dish flavored with that wine.  If you find a dealcoholized  wine you like try experimenting with it in small amounts to see how affects the flavor of your dish.  First try a splash to deglaze a pan.  If you like the results try adding the wine to a sauce and expand from there.  Our tests with these wines have not been very successful.  We added a dealcoholized Cabernet to a spaghetti sauce and found it pretty objectionable.

One benefit of dealcoholized wines (if you do like them) is that they can be frozen in ice cube trays and used as needed. 

Wine Reductions

Boiling wine down will intensify the flavor of the wine and at the same time remove a lot of the alcohol.  Wine reductions can be used in sauces or added carefully to other dishes.  This works well with both white or red wines.  Reductions can be flavored with herbs or other aromatics but you can for the purpose of reducing the alcohol content and flavor enhancement you can simply boil down the wine and adjust your recipe accordingly.

For a basic reduction simply boil 1 cup of red or white wine in a small sauce pan and reduce it down to 1/3 cup.

When using this concentrated wine use about 1/3 of the amount called for in your recipe.

Nutrition Information For Cooking With Wine

Serving Size
1 serving 5 fl oz
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 7mg
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 1g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Replace Fats In Recipes With Wine

Here are a few of the tips from WebMD's Elaine Magee, MPH, RD for using wine instead of fat in cooking.

  • Saute vegetables in a small amount of oil and add wine for flavor and to replace some of the moisture excess oil would supply. Or use all wine by using 3 tablespoons of wine for every tablespoon of butter or oil required.
  • For oil based marinades; substitute 1/2 of the oil with an equal amount of wine.  Try white wines for fish and poultry or red wines for beef or lamb.
  • Use a sweet white wine or a dessert wine instead of oil in your cake mix.

Wine Selection Terms

Term Definition Examples
Dry white wine A not sweet wine which must have less than 0.2% natural sugar Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Dry red wine A not sweet wine which must have less than 0.2% natural sugar Barbera, Cabernet Franc
Full bodied red wine A wine that feels "weighty" in your mouth, typically with a higher alcohol content. Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera
Full bodied white wine A wine that feels "weighty" in your mouth, typically with a higher alcohol content. Viognier, Oaky Chardonnay
Sweet wine A wine with a high sugar content. Sauternes, some Rieslings, Gewurztraminer*, Vouvray
Dessert Wine Wines served as a dessert.  They can be dry or sweet with an alcohol content of 17% - 21%. Late harvest wines, Black Muscat, Muscat


The Sober Kitchen - Recipes and advice for a lifetime of sobriety.  Google Book.

WebMd - Article by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD.  Cooking with wine articles tips on how to use wine as a substitute for fats in cooking.


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.