Red Wine Is The Best Substitute For Stout In Hearty Soups

As its name implies, stouts are strong, dark beers offering robust flavors and a thick, ultra-rich mouthfeel. While their primary use is as a tasty beverage, stouts are also wonderful additions to a wide range of equally robust stews, soups, and sauces; you'll find them as a key ingredient in Irish beef stew, beer cheese fondue, and creamy potato soup.

But if you don't have any stout on hand and still want to achieve the same depth of flavor in your soups, red wine can work as a substitute. Stouts come in numerous varieties — from milk and chocolate to Imperial and oyster — but they all offer a yeasty, earthy creaminess with sweet notes and a characteristically bitter finish. Red wines similarly come in plenty of varieties and work well in savory cooking.

Because stout is a heavy beer, the best substitute would be a heavy red wine like cabernet, malbec, shiraz, or port. The bitter finish in a stout that works so well with umami, dairy, or earthy ingredients is also present in the dry finish of a tannin-rich red wine. Furthermore, red wine will reduce as it bubbles away in soup, delivering a concentrated sweetness and intensifying underlying earthy-tasting notes. While not a perfect match, red wine comes the closest to the sweet, yeasty flavors that surface when reducing stout.

How to add red wine to soups and flavor pairings

For any recipe that requires stout, substituting red wine is an easy one-to-one ratio; you can easily swap one cup of stout for one cup of heavy red wine. (Most soup and stew recipes use stout in conjunction with a broth or other cooking liquid, anyway.) Ideally, when subbing red wine into a meaty stew, you'll add it to the pan as a deglazer to absorb any bits left over after searing meat. You can then add aromatic veggies to cook with the wine, letting the alcohol cook off while creating a rich balance of strong flavors to infuse the broth and hearty vegetables before simmering the soup as a whole. For creamy soups, add wine as you saute the aromatic base.

Both stout and red wine would complement umami-rich beef broth or mushroom broth, like those used in beef stew, chili, cream of mushroom, and mushroom and barley soups. You can also use it interchangeably with stout to amplify cheesy, creamy, savory soups like cheddar and broccoli, bacon and potato, or a gruyere-topped French onion soup.

Still, if the nuances of red wine aren't to your taste or you'd like to avoid an alcoholic ingredient altogether, coffee and caramel or molasses would also give you a sweet, bitter, and rich substitute for stout. Coffee is a popular ingredient for red meat rubs, beef and bean chilis, black bean soup, and mole, standing up to strong flavors as easily as stout and red wine.