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Best White Wine for Cooking & Substitute In Cooking

By
Joshua Weatherwax
Table of Contents

Whether you're a Michelin-star chef, trained sommelier, or just a wine enthusiast, you probably know that wine is an invaluable ingredient in many recipes. Pasta sauce, chicken, fish, and more all benefit from a splash or two of a wine pairing.

But, most recipes tend to call for red drinking or cooking wine. So, does that mean you can't use white wine types, or are there exceptions to the rule?

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Keep reading to learn the best white wine for cooking, white wine suggestions for different dishes, and even some white wine substitutes for cooking.

Best White Wine For Cooking

Though most chefs prefer to use red wine, the best white wine for cooking is a dry, crisp white wine. This is because sweeter white wines can easily caramelize during cooking adding unintended flavors to a dish. They may even burn more easily ruining the dish entirely. However, if you stick to dry white wines, you'll be able to avoid these issues while still adding a little bit of flavor to the dish. If you're not sure what level of dryness your favorite wine has, you can consult our handy wine types chart.

You should also avoid using white cooking wines. Cooking wine is a kind of wine specifically formulated for cooking, so both the wine alcohol content and salt content are moderately high.

What White Wine Is Good For Cooking?

White wines are often overlooked in cooking, but there are actually far more options than you may think. That's because the wine you use for cooking relies less on the color and tannins in wine, and more on the sugar in wine. The lower the sugar content, the dryer the wine, and the better it will be for cooking without the risk of caramelization.

With that in mind, here are the best white wine varietals for cooking:

  • Sauvignon Blanc. One of the most versatile white wines, sauvignon blanc has a high amount of acid in wine making it comparable to a red. However, what really makes it a prime choice is the herbaceous flavors. This makes it good for everything from pasta dishes to fish to glazes.
  • Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a medium-to-full-bodied wine used in cooking to imbue rich dishes with additional flavor. It has strong fruity notes ranging from apple to papaya with hints of oak and vanilla. This means it's used often for sauces and other creamy dishes. The complexity of the wine is also good for learning the ins and outs of smelling wine.
  • Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio is a very light, zesty, and refreshing white wine. It has a citrus taste with salty undertones and a honey-like aroma. These flavors lend themselves well to lighter dishes like pasta without creamy sauces or glazing veggies. This also makes it one of the go-to summer wines, so you can often find this on menus alongside summer cocktails.

Best White Wine For Cooking Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi is a dish that can easily become overpowered by a sweet wine, so dry wines like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio are the best options. They both help keep the dish from becoming too rich and have a low chance of caramelizing during the cooking process.

Here are our selections for the best white wine for cooking shrimp scampi:

  • Matua Sauvignon Blanc
  • Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc
  • Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
  • Cavit Pinot Grigio
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Best White Wine For Cooking Chicken

Chicken dishes tend to be more subtle in flavor than red meat or pasta. This means the wine you use when cooking them can be fuller-bodied to help balance the dish. That's why the best white wine for cooking chicken tends to be a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. The dryness of these wines also makes them a great choice for wine pairing with chicken.

With that in mind, here are our picks for the best white wine for cooking chicken:

  • Raeburn Chardonnay
  • MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
  • Starborough Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
  • KONO Sauvignon Blanc

Best White Wine For Cooking Seafood

Unlike the other dishes we've gone through, seafood generally calls for a wine with lower acidity and a higher citrus flavor. This means the best white wines are pinot grigio and muscadet. Muscadet in particular has notes of lemon and lime, which are perfect for elevating a seafood dish.

These are our picks for the best white wine for cooking seafood:

  • Donini Pinot Grigio
  • Ziobaffa Organic Pinot Grigio
  • Band de Louve Muscadet
  • Chereau Carre Chateau de la Chesnaie Muscadet Sevre Et Maine

Substitute For White Wine In Cooking

The best substitute for white wine in cooking is red wine types, but if you don't have white wine on hand, or have a wine allergy, there are a few other replacements. There are two reasons to use wine in cooking, and these can help you find a suitable replacement. The biggest reason chefs use wine in their cooking is that the sugar in wine breaks down during cooking and sweetens a dish without being overwhelming. The less important reason is that it is used to add flavors. However, by using a mix of herbs, spices, broth, and stock you can easily supplement the flavor of a dish.

Replacement For White Wine In Cooking

If you're looking for a sub for white wine in cooking, your best options are apple juice, vinegar, or ginger ale. Apple juice and ginger ale are good choices because they are both sugary and have a light citrus-like flavor that can still add a bit of fun to a dish without the need for a crisp white wine. They’re particularly good for sauces and marinades, where acidity and flavors are key. Vinegar is a good replacement when the flavor isn't the goal. It's highly acidic and must be mixed with water in a 1:1 ratio, but is a great replacement when the flavor of the wine wouldn't have made it through the cooking process.

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Now We're Cooking!

Though white wines tend to be used less often in cooking, there are still many recipes that they can be used for. Whether you're looking to increase restaurant sales or just cooking at home, try out different types of wine and find the flavor profiles you enjoy most.

Whether you're using a white wine or red wine in cooking, you might want to also learn how to remove red wine stains and pick up one of the best red wine stain removers so you’re prepared for the eventual cooking mishaps.