Pouring whiskey on a glass
The Best Substitutes For Bourbon When Cooking
Vanilla Extract
Despite its floral to caramelized sugar notes, vanilla extract actually works like salt or MSG, so it can be swapped in for a bourbon in a barbecue sauce recipe.
If you need to swap vanilla for bourbon in your barbecue sauce, use a one-to-one ratio and, in the words of Ina Garten, make sure it's the "good" vanilla.
Rum is a good bourbon substitute as they both contain similar notes of spice and sweetness. They are both aged in wooden barrels, so the oaky notes are present in both spirits.
In recipes, such as sticky Chinese bourbon chicken, you can easily swap 3 tablespoons of dark, spiced rum for the 3 tablespoons of bourbon called for in the recipe.
Brandy Or Cognac
The various sweet, spicy, slightly bitter, fruity, and oaky notes of a brandy are similar to bourbon, making brandy and its varieties a great substitute.
Brandy works best in recipes that don't count on the bourbon's spiciness, which brandy lacks. For example, swap in brandy in a 1:1 ratio in a bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
Peach Nectar/Apple Cider
A mixture of apple cider vinegar and peach nectar is a great bourbon substitute. These ingredients are also some of the most easily accessible options.
The peach nectar replicates bourbon's sweetness and sugar components while the apple cider vinegar ensures the combination isn't too saccharine and adds complexity.
Dark Beer
Dark beer, like a bottle of Guiness, can be swapped in for bourbon. However, it's still not a perfect swap despite dark beers being more flavorful than the average beer.
Cooking a dark beer will cause the alcohol and flavor to dissipate much faster than it would for bourbon, so you may need to use more than a one-to-one ratio for this swap.