Apple cider is an important ingredient for several recipes, going all the way from donuts to dumplings. Its uses go beyond just being a beverage. There are times when you want a substitute for apple cider.
It’s not very popular as a beverage and not many people keep bottles of cider at home. You may not like the taste or there could be several other reasons why you want a substitute. In any case, when a recipe calls for apple cider, there are options and alternatives to look at.
Top Substitutes For Apple Cider
1. Apple Juice
When you need a replacement for apple cider the natural choice is apple juice. They could practically be twins, it’s just a small change in manufacturing that differentiates cider from the juice. Simply put, cider contains pulp and sediment, while juice gets filtration to remove these.
It’s a small change, but also a big difference in taste and texture. That’s something to keep in mind when you try a substitution with apple juice.
Apple juice is the sweeter option. That stands true for unsweetened apple juice too. Even when using the unsweetened version, allowances will be necessary to offset the sweetness. In many cases, you can reduce the sugar content of the recipe to achieve this.
This setup will work for sugary or sweet dishes, but it isn’t that successful for other options. For example, pork chops and glazed ham won’t benefit from the use of apple juice in place of apple cider. The sweetness can be distracting in these recipes, so use another alternative for these dishes.
2. Hard Cider
Hard cider is very similar to apple cider, except this one utilizes fermented apples, so it gets some alcohol as well. It has a strong taste and acidic flavor, which makes it a useful substitute.
It’s not overly sweet like apple juice, but you may want to make allowances for the alcohol content. Avoid the use of dry cider, as it has a substantial alcohol content. Others could work as substitutes without the need for adjustment.
3. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is an option in very specific cases. The distinct taste, flavor, and acidity of lemon juice mean that it can’t be used interchangeably with apple cider. Lemon juice isn’t the best pick for dishes that need baking or cooking for a long time. On the other hand, it fits in nicely with salad dressing recipes.
4. White Wine Vinegar
Wine vinegars like this one have a strong taste. It also lacks the fruitiness you get by using apple cider, but it can come in handy for some recipes. Choosing white wine vinegar as a substitute will require some cooking skills and careful management of the amount.
Start with only a small amount of white wine vinegar. Add more only if you think it’s necessary and keep an eye out on the taste and balance.
5. Red Wine Vinegar
If your choice of alternative must have some fruitiness, look at red wine vinegar. It can work as a substitute, but don’t forget that it has a sharp and distinct taste. The way to go about using it is to add red wine vinegar in small quantities. Then check if the taste is right and add more vinegar if necessary.
Another thing to watch out for with the strong flavor is the color. Red wine vinegar will add a tinge of red color to the dish. Use this option only when necessary, since it will affect the flavor and color of the dish.
6. White Wine
Getting white wine to play the substitute is an interesting choice. It has its benefits; it won’t affect the color of the recipe. Besides, the sugar content of white wine is very similar to that of apple cider. Of course, there will have to be adjustments to suit the texture and alcohol content of the wine.
7. Sherry Vinegar
Using sherry vinegar is much like the use of other alcohol-derived vinegars listed here. Make allowances for the sharp taste and use only in small quantities. The acidity in apple cider matches with sherry vinegar, so it can be a passable substitute in a pinch.
8. Rice Wine Vinegar
Using rice wine vinegar in place of apple cider will take away the fruity flavor of the dish. In many cases, this problem is fixed by adding a few drops of lemon juice. Yet, it is a remarkable option with a very good match to acidic flavors. Use it sparingly and only when necessary.
9. Honey Cider
A conventional honey cider involves adding honey to apple cider. This gives it a better taste and adds sweetness to the beverage. Many commercially available honey ciders undergo fermentation and have some alcohol content. While this may not necessarily be the same as mead, it is pretty close to it.
Clearing The Confusion – Apple Cider vs Apple Cider Vinegar vs Apple Juice
The line between apple cider, juice, and vinegar can get blurry. In some places, apple cider is simply called unfiltered apple juice. Similarly, some see cider as necessarily containing alcohol, while others differentiate between apple cider and hard cider, with the latter having alcohol content.
Let’s try to unravel this setup with an understanding of what these apple products involve.
Apple Cider vs Apple Juice
Generally speaking, apple cider is very similar to apple juice, but it doesn’t undergo filtration to remove pulp or sediment. This gives cider a very different taste and texture.
Where apple cider is made from fermented apples, it has some alcohol content and is termed hard cider.
However, these definitions are true only for the USA and (partly) Canada. This change is attributed to several factors ranging from prohibition to the rise of other popular drinks like beer and cola. In other countries, like the UK, the apple cider vs apple juice question is rather simple. Cider means a drink with alcohol content.
So, for most of the world, apple cider is made from fermented apples and has alcohol content. Everything else is apple juice. The “apple juice” without filtration is called cloudy, unfiltered, or unsweetened apple juice.
Apple Cider vs Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider, as we now know, is made by crushing apples without the filtration of pulp or sediment. Converting it into vinegar requires hard cider. This sees fermentation of the cider, followed by further processing.
The fermentation creates alcohol, which is then processed by bacteria to make acetic acid. Once acetic acid shows up, the cider (or juice for that matter), turns to vinegar. In the case of apple cider vinegar, some variants will have strands, which often look like threads.
Usually, these are prized. The strands are believed to be rich in proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria. Many believe this to be healthier. Many apple cider vinegars claim that they contain ‘the mother’. This term refers to the presence of these strands.
While apple cider and apple cider vinegar can both be murky in appearance, the cider (as made in the USA) contains no alcohol or acetic acid.
Homemade Apple Cider Recipe
Not in the mood for substitutes? You can make apple cider at home. The process will take more than three hours, but it will need manual attention for barely 10-15 minutes.
So let’s get cooking.
- 10 apples (or more, if you prefer)
- Half an orange
- Spices of your choice (cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg are popular options)
- 1 pack of brown sugar
- A large pot
- A potato masher and ladle
- A jar or pot to hold the cider
Add all the ingredients – apples, oranges, spices, and brown sugar in the pot. Fill it with enough water to cover the ingredients by at least 2-inches. Turn on the heat at medium and bring the mix to boil.
As it boils, reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 2 hours.
Uncover the pot and remove the oranges. Now, use a potato masher or ladle to mash apples. Being somewhat thorough is a good idea.
Let it simmer for another hour, this time, uncovered.
Place a strainer over an empty jar or pot and pass the mix through it. Some solids will get caught in the strainer, so use a ladle or big spoon to squeeze them. Continue until the mix has transferred to a new jar. Discard the solids and the apple cider is now ready.
Use this cider quickly. Don’t store it for too long, even in the freezer.
As it cools, the cider will begin to ferment and convert to hard cider. As soon as the alcohol shows up, bacteria will start processing it to acetic acid, thus forming apple cider vinegar. However, this isn’t the right way to make vinegar and there will be potentially harmful byproducts.
To cut a long story short, allowing the cider to stay for several days is more likely to spoil it rather than converting it to vinegar.
1. Can you use apple juice instead of apple cider in a recipe?
Yes, it is possible to use apple juice instead of apple cider for cooking. Keep in mind, apple juice, including unsweetened apple juice, is much sweeter than cider. If you’re making a sugary dish, adjust the amount of sugar to accommodate apple juice. For other dishes like baked ham, avoid the use of apple juice.
2. Are apple cider and juice the same?
Apple cider and juice are different things, but the difference depends on where you live. In the USA and Canada, the juice and cider follow (nearly) the same process. But apple juice is strained and filtered while the cider contains pulp and solids.
For most of the world, apple juice includes filtered and unfiltered versions. In such locations (like the UK), apple cider is almost exclusively made from fermented apples and has alcohol content. Apple cider with alcohol content is also known as hard cider.
3. Is drinking apple cider healthy?
It is healthy to drink apple cider. It has been a popular beverage through most of history. Apple cider contains polyphenols, which work as antioxidants. These fight against free radicals and help lower cell damage in the body. Conventional apple cider is unsweetened, so health risks are lowered further.
Finding The Right Apple Cider Substitute
I’ve listed several products that can work as a substitute for apple cider. Their use will depend on the recipe and how much change to the dish you’re willing to accept. Apple juice is an excellent substitute, but it is sweeter compared to juice. Use it with caution. For recipes that can do without the sweetness, consider other options like lemon juice and sherry vinegar.