I love the flavor of bourbon, but that is not true with all of my family members, and some of them even avoid alcohol altogether. I could not prepare a meal or a dessert for them with bourbon as an ingredient in good conscious, so I started using bourbon substitution options when I cook for the entire family.

I realized that I actually did not know a lot of other options when it came to a good substitute for bourbon that would not change the flavor of the recipe that I was planning to create, so after a bit of research, I decided to make this list so that you can easily make bourbon substitutions when you need.

Bourbon Substitutes

Of course, you can always substitute another alcohol for bourbon in a drink or a dish that you are preparing. Rum, brandy, and cognac will taste great in a sauce that you are creating, but I was looking for a non-alcoholic substitute for bourbon in cooking that I could use. Let’s take a look at some of the options that I found to work well in these dishes.

  • Vanilla extract – This is a great substitution to try, especially if you are baking something, because the recipe will maintain the same flavor, but have an additional hint of vanilla, which can be great in a cake or a pie.
  • Peach nectar and apple cider vinegar mixture – If you are planning to make something that is fruity, then this is a great option to try. The apple cider vinegar will give the dish the same type of tang that the bourbon would, and the peach nectar will add a touch of sweetness. You can also use other fruit juices if you prefer another flavor in your dish. I find that pineapple and apple cider vinegar work well in chicken dishes.
  • Almond extract – Almond extract will work great as a substitution in baked goods, especially those that contain nuts. I love how the almond extract combines with the flavor of the pecans in a pecan pie.
  • Hot cocoa and warm eggnog mixture – This may seem like an unlikely substitution, but as I was baking a chocolate cake one day, I decided to try it because I typically eat the cake with eggnog around the holidays. To my surprise, the cake turned out great, and it even had a touch of the eggnog spices that I love to enjoy with the cake already baked into it.
  • Ginger beer – Ginger is an excellent substitute for bourbon. It does have a slight fizz, but that is often not noticeable in meals that you prepare. I find that this is a great substitution to try in savory dishes.
  • Apple cider – If you are looking for another fruit option to try, apple cider is a great option, especially if you are preparing a pork dish.
  • Water – For recipes that call for very little bourbon, you can simply add a bit of water in its place to maintain the moisture that the recipe requires.

Bourbon Substitute Recipes for Dinner

Let’s start with a classic bourbon recipe that many people have tried: bourbon chicken. For this recipe, you will need:

  • About two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast (chicken tenderloins will also work well in this recipe)
  • Two tablespoons of oil (vegetable or canola oil work best)
  • One teaspoon of freshly minced garlic
  • ¼ of a cup of apple juice (for a more citrus flavor, add pineapple juice instead)
  • 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar
  • Two tablespoons of ketchup
  • One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (you can add chicken broth if you do not have apple cider vinegar)
  • ½ of a cup of water
  • 1/3 of a cup of soy sauce
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • One tablespoon of cornstarch

To prepare the dish, you will need to:

Start by cutting the chicken into bite-size pieces. This can be done with a knife, but if you have kitchen scissors, they will make the process much simpler. Then, in a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the chicken into the skillet, and cook it for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook the chicken because it will become rubbery, which will not be good for the texture of the dish.

When the chicken is fully cooked, drain the juices from the pan. Continue to cook the chicken so that the outside edges can brown a bit. In the meantime, combine the garlic, the apple juice, the brown sugar, the ketchup, the vinegar, the water, the red pepper flakes, and the cornstarch in a medium bowl. If you want more spice in the dish, add more red pepper flakes at this point. When the sauce is well mixed and the chicken is browned, pour the sauce into the skillet.

Coat all of the chicken with the sauce, and lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the chicken to simmer for about 20 minutes as the sauce thickens. If the sauce is not thick enough, add a bit more cornstarch to it, if it is too thick, you can thin it out with water or chicken broth. When the sauce is the right consistency, serve the chicken over rice and enjoy.

Bourbon Substitute Recipes for Dessert

The next recipe that you should take the time to create is a dessert that your entire family will love, and since it is made without the alcohol, you can even make an extra so that the kids can enjoy it as well.

One of the reasons that I love this southern pecan pie recipe so much is that it is made in a cast iron skillet, which gives the bottom of the pie a delicious crust that will go great with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I prefer to make the crust from the pie from scratch, but purchasing a refrigerated pie crust will work well if you have limited time to bake the pie. For this recipe you will need:


  • 1 ¼ cups of flour
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of salt
  • ½ of a cup of chilled butter that has been cut into cubes
  • ¼ of a cup of ice cold water


  • One tablespoon of powdered sugar
  • Four large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups of brown sugar
  • ½ of a cup of melted butter that has been cooled to room temperature
  • ½ of a cup of sugar
  • ½ of a cup of chopped pecans
  • Two tablespoons of flour
  • Two tablespoons of milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups of pecan halves

To prepare this pie:


To prepare the crust for this pie, you will need to start with a large mixing bowl. Combine the salt and the flour, and then cut in the butter. When the ingredients are properly mixed, the dough will look like small crumbs. Slowly add the water to the dough; stirring between each tablespoon of water that is added. Continue doing this until a ball of dough can be formed.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and then allow it to chill overnight in the refrigerator. Realistically, the dough does not need to be chilled for more than three to four hours, but since this is a long process, I prefer letting it chill overnight so that I can finish the pie in the morning.


When you are ready to continue making the pie, you should preheat the oven to 325 degrees. If you made the dough, roll it out to fit into a 10-inch skillet. Place the pie crust in the skillet, and trim it if needed.

Once the dough is in position, lightly sprinkle it with powdered sugar. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until they are foamy. Then, add in the brown sugar, the butter, the sugar, the chopped pecans, the flour, the milk, and the extract that you have chosen to use.

Once the ingredients are well mixed, you can pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust. Top the pie with the pecan halves, and then bake it for 30 minutes. Once the time is up, lower the temperature in the oven to 300 degrees, and bake the pie for another 30 minutes. When the time has passed, turn the oven off, and allow the pie to rest in the closed oven for three hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a non-alcoholic bourbon substitution for a recipe that you have, hopefully, one of the alternatives that I have listed above will give you the flavor that you are trying to create. The flavor of bourbon is great, but there are plenty of ways to create delicious dishes like bourbon chicken without adding alcohol to the dish. If you don’t have your own bourbon-flavored recipes, try some of the ones that are posted in this guide.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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