The 7 Best Kahlua Substitutes

Kahlua is a type of alcohol that is typically made with rum and coffee beans. In fact, kahlua is the world’s most popular coffee liqueur. Because of the coffee element, it can make a good refreshment with any meal.

Kahlua is available at many stores that sell alcoholic beverages, but there are a few reasons someone might want to try something different. Maybe there isn’t any kahlua near you, and you’re looking for a more accessible option. It can also be pretty pricey. Or, maybe you just want to switch things up. 

Either way, there are plenty of substitutes for kahlua to choose from. These include kamora, Tia Maria, Mr. Black, Caffè Borghetti, Sheridan’s Coffee Liqueur, and Bailey’s. If you’re up for it, you could even try making your own kahlua. There are also non-alcoholic options available.

What is Kahlua?

Kahlua originated in Veracruz, Mexico in 1936. It is made with rum and Arabica coffee beans. It contains less caffeine than regular coffee, about 5 mg in a one ounce drink. For comparison, one ounce of coffee contains around 25 mg of caffeine. 

The coffee taste is still prominent in Kahlua, though. Coffee is probably the most prominent taste in Kahlua, even considering that it’s an alcoholic drink. This makes it ideal for all sorts of cocktails, as it offers something unique. It also has hints of caramel and vanilla.

As far as mixers, the brand recommends Absolut vodka, ginger ale, tonic water, milk, coffee, or club soda.

How Much Alcohol is in a Shot of Kahlua?

Kahlua original typically contains 16% ABV (alcohol by volume). This number used to be 20%, and it still may be found in variations with 20% ABV. In recent years, the demand for drinks with lower alcohol contents has become more popular, so Kahlua listened.

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What Is A Good Substitute For Kahlua?

While Kahlua is a drink beloved by many for its unique flavor profile, it is not the only option for those who enjoy the combination of liqueur and coffee. Here are some other choices:

1. Kamora

Kamora is sometimes mistaken for being the same thing as Kahlua because of the striking similarities. They are both coffee liqueurs produced in Mexico, and both known for having notes of sweetness. But, Kamora can be bought for a fraction of Kahlua’s price ($22 vs. $33.)

Kamora does taste slightly less sweet than Kahlua, likely because its alcohol content is 20% ABV. Many consider it to be just as good as Kahlua though, with a more satisfying price tag. The taste of Kamora is described as chocolatey. 

2. Tia Maria

Tia Maria first came about in the 1940s in Jamaica. Like Kahlua, it is also made with Arabica coffee. The flavor of Tia Maria is pretty similar to that of Kahlua, but Tia Maria has some citrus notes. It can be drunk on its own or as part of a cocktail.

Its alcohol content is slightly higher than the other two contenders so far, sitting at 26.5%, and made with Jamaican rum. This is still considerably lower than traditional liqueurs like vodka, tequila, and rum; which are all around 40%. 

3. Mr. Black

The Mr. Black brand was first founded in 2013 in Australia. In Australia, coffee is considered an essential part of daily life. The founders of Mr. Black wanted to make coffee liqueur just as culturally relevant as a regular cup of coffee.

They take pride in ethical sourcing and production, and also use Arabica coffee beans for their drinks. Mr. Black has an alcohol content of 25%, and most versions of it are made with Australian wheat vodka. But, there is also a special edition Mr. Black which is made with rum.

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This brand has an impressive lineup of products, ranging from varieties of the drink itself to kits for making martinis and merch like flasks and tote bags. Another plus about Mr. Black is that it’s completely gluten free. These perks do come with a higher price tag, though; the cheapest option available (traditional Mr. Black with vodka) is around $40.

4. Caffè Borghetti

This coffee liqueur was first created in Italy circa 1860 by a man named Ugo Borghetti, who was the owner of a sports bar. The same recipe he used during its invention is still used today. Caffè Borghetti is also the most popular coffee liqueur in Italy. 

It is sold in containers of 70cl, or around 700ml. There is also an “on the go” variety available, which is 33.5ml. The ABV of Caffè Borghetti is 25%, and it is made with both Arabica and Robusta beans. Its taste is complex and rather bitter.

5. Sheridan’s Coffee Liqueur

This Kahlua substitute is one of the most expensive of the bunch. It will run you anywhere from $150 and $300, depending on the size you purchase and your location. It can be purchased online from anywhere in the US, but physical locations that sell this drink are sparse.

It is made with Irish whiskey, sugar, and coffee extracts and flavorings, and its ABV is about 15%. Sheridan’s Coffee Liqueur is available in two varieties; white and black. The white variety tastes of white chocolate, while the dark variety is nutty and more resemblant of coffee.

6. Baileys

Bailey’s Irish Cream is made from Irish whiskey, and was first created in 1973 in Ireland. In 2019, it became the world’s highest selling liqueur brand. In December of that same year, the brand reached two billion sales.

It is described as sweet and creamy, and simple to drink. It has a 17% ABV content and tastes of chocolate and vanilla, plus the citrus notes in the Irish whiskey.

7. Homemade Kahlua

All of these options to choose from may be overwhelming, but if you’re up for it, you can also make Kahlua at home. It can be the sort of thing you only drink on special occasions, so you might be wondering if, or when, you would finish an entire bottle of Kahlua or one of its substitutes. 

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Luckily, it is pretty easy to achieve a similar taste from Kahlua all at home.

How to Make Homemade Kahlúa

Ingredients 

  • Two cups of vodka
  • Two cups of white sugar
  • One cup of water
  • One tablespoon of vanilla
  • ½ cup instant coffee crystals (any brand)
  1. Let the water simmer and stir in coffee crystals, vanilla, and sugar. Keep it simmering at a medium heat for around ten minutes until it makes a syrup.
  2. Let the syrup cool, then pour vodka into any container of your liking. Stir in the syrup, and you’ve got homemade Kahlua!

FAQs

Should you refrigerate Kahlua?

After opening, it is not recommended to refrigerate Kahlua. There is still a proper way to store it though. Kahlua should be kept in a dry, cool place.

Does Kahlua go bad after opening?

The Kahlua brand suggests four years as an estimate for its shelf life. The liqueur will actually last for much longer, it’s just a matter of the coffee flavor dissipating.

Is there a non-alcoholic Kahlua?

There isn’t an official Kahlua that doesn’t contain alcohol, but on the brand’s website they have many different types of mocktail recipes. In baking, vanilla extract makes for a sufficient non-alcoholic Kahlua replacement.

Final Thoughts

Kahlua is an immensely popular coffee liqueur. It can get expensive, though, which may leave some wondering if there are any other drinks that compare. The good news is that yes, there are many substitutes for Kahlua at varying price points and alcohol contents.