Is Cooking with Alcohol Acceptable For Those in Recovery?

Alcohol is a core ingredient in many food recipes. It can be used to add certain flavors or as part of an ingredient, like extracts. If you are one of many alcoholics in recovery and have noticed that certain foods are cooked with alcohol, you might be confused on how to proceed from here and may find yourself asking “Is is cooking with alcohol acceptable for those in recovery?” It is by no means an odd observation or question, it just means that you are fully vested in your commitment to stay sober. 

Can cooking with alcohol be triggering?

Every person will have their own set of triggers and vulnerabilities to examine, especially when it comes to potential relapse. Alcoholics in recovery could be set off even from the smallest amounts of exposure to alcohol, alcohol-related cues, and environmental contexts and stress. If you are a recovering alcoholic or cooking for someone who is in recovery, it might be best to play it safe. Consider the following for why this is important:

  • Triggers from taste: If you see and understand that addiction is a disease, the answer to your question will become immediately clear. If you or a friend of yours were deathly allergic to tomatoes, you would not cook with them as trace amounts could incite a negative reaction. For alcoholics whether recovered or in recovery, the taste of alcohol is triggering enough on its own. It may heighten cravings and spell doom for your recovery efforts up until this point.
  • The myth of alcohol “burning off”: You have probably heard the old wives tale that the potency of alcohol will “burn off” when you cook it down. But this is simply not the case. A dish would need to bake or simmer for up to 2 hours to bring the alcohol content down to 10%. The average dish will call for alcohol to be added to boiling liquids, which can still hold about 85% of the alcohol content.

Cravings will always be an ongoing challenge for alcoholics in recovery. Certain infusions of alcohol may not cause a trigger (e.g., if someone was a prodigious wine drinker, and their food was being cooked with vodka), it may not do anything. Regardless, if you or anyone else is abstaining from alcohol consumption, their wishes must be respected as cooking with alcohol could undermine the progress they have made and will continue to make.

Foods to be cautious of

Spotting alcoholic beverages is simple, but the same can’t be said for foods. Some have addiction triggers even if the alcohol content is limited or negligible. The following is a list of foods to be cognizant of if you have struggled with the depths of alcoholism:

  • Every type of wine vinegar
  • Bananas Foster
  • Beer-battered foods or beer bread
  • Champagne-flavored jams
  • Cherries Jubilee
  • Cooking wines
  • Compotes and dessert glazes
  • Fondue
  • Kombucha
  • Liquor-flavored chocolates
  • Non-alcoholic beverages and wine (which still has traces of alcohol)
  • Tiramisu

Being aware of these foods and your recipe choices is important. Despite them not knowing about the alcohol being present in the food before eating, in their minds, they may view consumption of these foods as a relapse. 

Cooking with non-alcoholic options

For those firmly planted in their sobriety, there are viable, non-alcoholic opinions when preparing food. All of this can be achieved without sacrificing on taste or quality. Here are some alternatives that alcoholics in recovery could use in their dishes. 

#1- Alternatives to wine

  • Port wine: Swap out port wine for concord grape juice with a tinge of lime zest or try cranberry juice with lemon juice added in. 
  • Red wine: Substitute red wine with red grape juice, cranberry juice, beef/chicken/vegetable broths, flavored vinegar, or clam juice.
  • Sweet white wine: Try subbing out equal parts of liquid with grape juice and a tablespoon of corn syrup.

#2- Alternatives to whiskey, rum and other spirits

  • Champagne: Sparkling fruit juices, ciders or ginger ale
  • Brandy: Substitute equal amounts of liquid with water, apple cider, apple juice, white grape juice, peach syrup, or diluted apricot
  • Rums: Can be subbed out for water, pineapple juice, apple juice, apple cider, and white grape juice.
  • Sake-Go for rice vinegar instead.
  • Vermouth: You can use white grape juice or non-alcoholic white wine. For something sweeter, apple juice, grape juice, balsamic vinegar, or non-alcoholic sweet wine will suffice.
  • Vodka: White grape juice or apple cider mixed with lime juice. Lime water also works well.
  • Kirsch: Substitute equal amounts of liquid from cherry, blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, or ciders of any of these fruits. 

#3- Alternatives to beer, ale, and other extracts

Most beers, ales and extracts have non-alcoholic substitutions that are packed with flavor. These can include:

  • Ales or beers: Use chicken/beef broth, mushroom broth, white grape juice, or ginger ale.
  • Peppermint schnapps: Try non-alcoholic extracts, mint leaves and mint Italian soda syrup.
  • Coffee Liqueur: For every two teaspoons of liquor used, you must also use ½ to 1 teaspoon of chocolate extract paired with a teaspoon of instant coffee or espresso.
  • Non-alcoholic extracts: Many extracts come from alcohol, but non-alcoholic versions are always available. 

Alcoholics: Avoid Cooking with Alcohol in Recovery

Anyone in recovery is methodically taking the steps to the life they know they deserve. At North Jersey Rehabs we understand how important it is to keep your environments trigger-free. Cooking with alcohol in recovery is not a sound idea, by any stretch of the imagination, and it could undo all the progress you have made. We will always be here if you need continuous support in your recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs.




Get in touch with North Jersey Rehabs

Please complete the form below to contact North Jersey Rehabs. If You need immediate assistance, please call (201) 928-5822. We’re waiting to hear from you!