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What Can You Substitute For Beer In Cooking and Baking

What Can You Substitute For Beer In Cooking and Baking

Beer is amongst the most popular beverages in the world. As popular as it is for drinking, it’s also remarkably popular and useful in cooking. Its popularity in cooking has increased in recent years, no doubt fueled by the ever-increasing popularity of beer itself. But what if you need a substitute for beer in cooking?

You might have run out of beer (gasp!), or might have dietary or personal preferences preventing its use in a recipe. Thankfully, there are a few versatile substitutes for beer in frying, cooking, and baking. Some non-alcoholic options work magnificently too, which is great if you’re avoiding alcohol in your food.

Can You Use Malt Liquor Instead Of Beer In Cooking Or Baking?

Before we talk about all these substitutes, some of you may wonder: can I use malt liquor instead? 

As we know, malt liquor is (loosely) a type of beer, so it’s natural to expect it to be an alternative for beer in cooking and baking. As we see, that’s not the case.

The key here is to understand that beer and malt liquor are different, even if they have a supposedly close relation. 

There is a good difference between the ingredients of malt liquor and beer. Conventionally, malt liquor gets a hint of sweetness during the brewing process by the addition of ingredients like rice, corn, or just plain sugar. This gives it sweet undertones that are missing in beer. 

Malt liquor also gets a higher alcohol content, usually at least twice that of beer. Its carbonation is weaker and its pH value is higher. Beer, on the other hand, is very acidic and carbonated. 

As we see, malt liquor doesn’t quite fit into the profiles of flavor, alcohol content, acidity, or carbonation. The most important aspect is flavor – malt liquor isn’t really known for its fine taste and flavor!

So, let’s dive in and take a look at a few substitutes for beer you can use.

Best Substitutes For Beer In Cooking And Baking

1. Chicken Broth – Ideal Option For Cooking

Chicken broth is a surprisingly good alternative for beer in cooking. It works nearly as well as beer, and in most cases, is superior to the alcoholic substitutes for beer in cooking. Chicken broth is an easily available ingredient in most kitchens, so the substitution is usually convenient. 

It’s great for cooking and flavor, but chicken broth isn’t the ideal substitute if your intended recipe is for meat tenderizing or marinating. The flavors of chicken broth and its fat content work wonders as a beer replacement, especially for light beer. 

If the recipe calls for dark beer, it is better to use beef broth in place of chicken broth. Whatever type of broth (or stock) you use, watch out for the salt content. 

Commercially available broth can have quite a bit of salt. When choosing a commercial broth, choose a salt-free version or adjust the salt in the recipe. If you’re making broth at home, it’s easy to manage the salt content so it shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Root Beer – Good Choice For Tenderizing Meat

Does your recipe call for beer to tenderize meat? Using root beer should provide a good substitution. A soft drink (soda) could have worked as well, but these drinks tend to have a whole lot of sugar, which might bring some unwanted sweetness to the meat. 

So, in this scenario, root beer works well. It also brings nice flavor undertones to the meat, which adds to the overall dish. If you don’t have root beer at hand either, plain soda water will work too. However, it’s generally a better idea to go with root beer or even ginger ale. 

3. Ginger Ale – Good Substitute For Beer In Baking

When used for baking, beer doesn’t just add flavor. It's great for giving baked goods a rise because of its fizziness. Although that’s not the only reason. Many recipes depend on the acidity and carbonation of beer to activate the yeast. So, you need a substitute that can provide these qualities.

Again, soft drinks (soda) can work, but they might be too sweet. This makes ginger ale a very good substitute for beer in baking. It doesn’t add sweetness like soda, but brings the same acidity and carbonation as beer. Also, the touch of flavor is rather remarkable. Root beer is another good alternative you can try.

4. Soda Or Soft Drinks – Sugary Alternatives To Beer

In some recipes, the key responsibility of beer is to provide acidity and carbonation. As you can well imagine, these qualities are the highlights of soda. Although, as everyone knows, soda has a lot of sugar. Even if you choose to go with sugar-free and low-calories soda, the sweetness is unavoidable.

If soda is the only available option, you can try neutralizing the sweetness with some vinegar or lemon juice. There’s no straight fix here, so you’ll have to add small quantities to the recipe and taste it a few times until it feels right.

Cola can be a good choice for recipes that call for dark beer. It often makes a good substitute for color and flavor.

5. More Substitution Options

Liquids like apple cider, milk, and water can work as beer substitutions in a pinch. They’re not ideal choices, but they can help if you’re all out of options.

Apple cider or sparkling apple cider can work in a stew or cooking. Though the flavor and effect here are much weaker. Milk and water can be beer substitutes in baking to add moisture or fat. Again, you might need something else to bring the acidity and carbonation.


Beer is ever popular, whether as a beverage or as an ingredient for cooking and baking. It brings a nice depth of flavor and its acidity and carbonation can be put to good use in several recipes. 

Occasionally, you might find yourself in a situation where there’s no beer or you might want to avoid using this ingredient for a recipe. In such a case, give a shot to the substitutes for beer in cooking listed here. 

Making these small adjustments can save your recipe, while also maintaining a good connection with the original flavor and expectations.