Many dishes call for the use of red wine in cooking, so let’s take a look at the finer points of cooking with red wine!

Below we talk about the ins and outs of cooking with red wine and its importance in developing the flavor of a dish.

pouring wine into bowl to make Beef Bourguignon

The Best Red Wines for Cooking

Red wine has long been recorded in history as not only being served with food but as an important part of the cooking process.

In general, only cook with a wine you would drink.

The lighter and medium reds for most recipes will result in dishes that are rich and deep in savory flavor.

The dryer varieties are not only excellent for cooking roast beef or lamb, but can be excellent paired for drinking with the finished result! So stock up on dry reds for yourself and your guests!

Good choices for tomato-based recipes are the medium reds like the ones that go with chicken, fish, and seafood. They are Chianti, Burgundy, Merlot, Malbec, Red Zinfandel, and some darker Pinot Noir.

Heavier-based reds that are great for extended braising and roasting recipes like Coq au Vin and Beef Bourguignon, would be a good Barolo, Syrah, or Cabernet.

In general, stay away from cheap cooking sherry, it’s usually loaded with sodium, and for the same price, a decent bottle of dry red sherry can be found.

bottles of Red Wine for Cooking

How to Use Red Wine in Cooking

Deglazing a pan: Once onions, garlic, or meat has been browned, remove and add red wine to the bottom of the pan. Using the end of a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the bits of caramelized food from the bottom of the pan and continue to make the recipe. Homemade Bolognese uses the deglazing technique with red wine. Or test it out with this delicious Chicken Cacciatore recipe.

Add a splash to simple recipes: Even a simple Easy Meat Sauce recipe benefits from the rustic and hearty flavor that only a red can produce. Just add it to the sauce. The alcohol will burn off, but not entirely as it will with white wine, that’s why portioning is important. Red wine is delicious simply added to Beef Stew!

Red wine in dessert? You betcha! Try making this delicious Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Butter Cream or red sangria & mulled wine for the adults!

How to Use Red Wine as a Marinade or Sauce

Reds were originally made from rice and fruits before they were made from grapes and used to temper the gamey flavors of elk, boar, and even whale meat. Nowadays, red wine is used much the same way; as a marinade for a variety of proteins, a deglazing agent, a broth or stock base, and an accent to many hearty stews, soups, and sauces.

A red wine marinade is super easy to make, just use wine in place of (or in addition to) vinegar or lemon juice to marinate steaks or pork.

  1. Whisk red wine with desired seasonings or herbs and pour into an airtight container or a zippered bag.
  2. Add protein and allow the meat to marinate as little as 30 minutes, but no more than 4 hours. Marinating meat for too long can make it mushy.
  3. Drain and prepare meat per recipe.

PRO TIP: Leftover marinade can be simmered down into a sauce if desired. Simply simmer leftover marinade in a skillet scraping up any fond (or brown bits in the pan), whisk in some cream and let it simmer until it is thickened. Adjust seasonings and serve as a sauce or a gravy over the meat or over Mashed Potatoes, or a savory Rice Pilaf.

Warning: Do not use marinade that’s had raw meat in it as a dressing; it needs to be cooked to be safe to consume.

Can You Swap White for Red Wine?

  • It’s important to note that unlike white wines, the tannins in red wine will concentrate during cooking, so care should be taken using proper amounts. Although they behave chemically in the same way, the flavors will be different, with red being more tannic for a more robust flavor and white with a more delicate balance.
  • The exception to this very loose “rule” is mushrooms, which work very well with white or red wine, or for the famous Coq au Vin, which occasionally uses white wine, but in general, is made using red. It can taste fabulous with either kind! Bolognese also can use either type with the preference often being for white wine. And Chicken Cacciatore? It’s definitely a dish that can use either white or red wine.

Substitutes for Red Wine

The best way to use a substitute for red wine in a recipe is to add a little at a time! Then adjust the flavors with water or seasoning, or more red wine substitute as you go until a good balance is achieved. Though the recipe will not have exactly the same flavor, here are some acceptable substitutes that can make a good liquid ratio substitute for red wine and also provide excellent flavor.

  • Beef or mushroom stock can usually be used in a 1:1 ratio.
  • Red wine vinegar: depending on the recipe, mix with water or broth. Straight vinegar may overpower the other flavors with its higher acid content. Accidentally added too much? Try balancing it with a bit of sugar.
  • Lemon juice or tomato sauce or tomato juice will often provide the needed acidity in a dish.
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About the author

Holly Nilsson is the creator of Spend With Pennies, where she creates easy, comforting recipes made for real life. With a passion for nostalgic flavors and simplified techniques, Holly helps busy home cooks create delicious meals that always work. She is also the author of “Everyday Comfort,” which promises to inspire even more hearty, home-cooked meals.
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  1. Hello,
    I am an 81 yr young Italian retired 30 yr military vet. You are a heaven sent special ANGEL. Are there anymore UNMARRIED ANGELS in the world. If you know any let me know. Love your recipes.