17 Best Rum Substitutes for Cooking and Cocktails

Rum is a spirit that has been around for centuries. It’s used in cooking, cocktails, and even desserts. It’s a popular ingredient in multitudes of recipes. 

Its unique flavor adds to desserts, savory dishes, and drinks in a way that’s incredibly tasty. Even better is knowing how to replace the rum in your recipes. That will open up so much more to your taste buds.

If you don’t have any rum in your home or bar, what can you use as a substitute? In this article, we are going to go over some of the best rum substitutes and how they work with different types of recipes and cocktails.

While there’s no perfect substitute to really bring the complexity of flavor that rum offers, there are some that offer a great deal, sometimes even more. 

If you want to replace the rum in your recipe try brandy, bourbon, rum extract, and apple cider as a handful of alternatives.

How is Rum Different from Other Alcohol?

Rum is a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice, molasses, or other sweeteners. It’s produced in a process that involves fermenting and distilling the liquid, which can be done in one step or separately.

Originating in the Caribbean in the 17th century, the heart of the sugarcane industry, rum is enjoyed worldwide and for quite some time now. 

Because of the different styles of rum, you can have sweeter flavors like banana and tangy flavors with tropical fruits. You’ll find darker rum with notes of oak, almonds, and other spices. 

What Can I Use Instead of Rum for Cooking and Cocktail Use?

With Alcohol

There are many options out there to use instead of rum. As such, we’re breaking them down into two categories: those options with alcohol content and those substitutes that contain no alcohol. 

If you desire the continued addition of alcohol, try one of these tasty options. 

1. Brandy

Brandy is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from wine. It’s usually aged in oak casks, and it’s often consumed as an after-dinner drink.

Brandy can be used in cooking and cocktails because of its sweet flavor, which makes it similar to rum in that respect.

You’ll find similar oak and almond flavors like the darker rum varieties, but still with the fruity flavors of cherry.

If you want a tarter addition to your cocktails, brandy would be a great rum substitute. It’s also a great substitute in savory sauces and desserts to get that deep complex flavor.

2. Cognac

Cognac is a brandy made from grapes grown in the Cognac region of France. It’s aged in oak barrels for at least two years, and you’ll notice that it has a higher alcohol content than rum. 

You can substitute this spirit for rum in most cases, but it’s best used when you want to add some extra flavor to your dish (or cocktail).

Its complex flavor carries a hint of sweet alongside a slightly nutty flavor.

Substitute it for rum in cocktails and you’ll find an interesting cooling effect that still carries those deep flavors that you love in rum. 

Roasts especially benefit from using cognac as a rum substitute. It lends well to hearty meat dishes that will make you salivate. 

3. Bourbon

This corn whiskey made in Kentucky has a very distinct flavor. This substitute will be most similar to the darker varieties of rum with notes of oak, and warmer tones like vanilla and caramel. 

Bourbon’s sweetness often causes people to mistake it for rum, so why not use it in your cocktails? Any recipe you’d use dark rum in will lend well to bourbon. Try it with your favorite Jamaican Jerk chicken recipe or even a holiday fruitcake. 

4. Marsala

This Italian fortified wine made in Sicily is often used in cooking already. 

Its subtly sweet and fruity flavor lends well to cooking especially, but don’t count out some cocktails. 

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It tends to be more complex in the flavor department than rum which could knock your next Old Fashioned or Manhattan out of the park.

5. Tequila

You wouldn’t think of tequila to replace rum, but its warmth and earthy around lend well to a lot of recipes. 

It carries notes of citrus and herbs that will mix well with cocktails and in some cooking recipes. 

The flavor is intense though, so make sure that you watch the amount you put in. Add a little and taste to make sure it balances out. 

6. Gin

This alcohol is great in cooking and cocktails, but especially in savory dishes with pasta or fish.

Gin is a distillation of mixed spirits. Combined with juniper berries and other extracts and infusions, gin is considered to be a great rum substitute. 

While it’s great for savory dishes with light meats, it’s also a good substitute in desserts and other sweet treats. 

7. Sherry

This Spanish fortified wine is a great rum replacement in desserts. Not that sherry isn’t great in cooking too

Sherry possesses an excellent combination of acidity and sweetness much like your lighter tropical rums. 

Without Alcohol

Whether you don’t like alcohol or have someone who can’t have it, there are plenty of substitutes that will make your recipe delish without the alcohol. 

8. Rum Extract

Rum extract is a flavoring made from rum. It can be used in baking and cooking, as well as cocktails. Rum extract can also be added to ice cream or whipped cream for some extra flavor!

For every tablespoon of rum required for your recipe, you can substitute 1 ½ teaspoons of rum extract. If you’re using light rum, try a ½ teaspoon of rum extract for the lighter flavors.

Mind you, the rum extract from most companies, including McCormick, do contain some alcohol. Not as much as straight rum, but it’s still there. If you’re looking for a completely alcohol-free substitute for rum, then try one of our other recommended substitutes. 

9. Pineapple juice

Pineapple juice is a great substitute for rum in cooking and cocktails. It has a sweet flavor that works well with the taste of rum, so it doesn’t take much to get the job done. 

Pineapple juice also makes a good choice for substitutes without alcohol because it adds flavor without adding any other ingredients that might make your drink too strong or bitter. The sweet citrusy flavor with hints of vanilla lends well to recipes that ask for light rum.

If you’re looking for an alternative to using actual rum in your recipes and drinks, then pineapple juice is definitely worth giving a try!

10. Coconut milk

Made from the flesh of coconuts, coconut milk is a creamy rum substitute without the alcohol. 

The sweet, tropical flavor is similar to rum and some rum comes with a coconut flavor. Coconut milk is excellent for substituting rum in cooking, in equal amounts.

11. Apple cider

If you need to replace rum in a cocktail, apple cider is an excellent alternative. 

Apple cider has a similar flavor profile to rum and can be used in place of it in many recipes. The sweetness of the apple cider will also help temper any harshness that might come from using a different spirit like vodka or gin instead of rum.

Apple juice is also great for cooking! If your recipe calls for rum, subbing apple cider instead won’t affect how things taste too much–it’s sweet enough to stand up against spices like cinnamon or nutmeg without overpowering them with its own flavor profile.

12. Vanilla Extract

While, again, not completely alcohol-free, vanilla extract made from an infusion of vanilla beans, can be a great rum substitute. 

The sweet and aromatic flavors of vanilla are similar enough to rum. Vanilla extract has a slightly stronger flavor, so you’ll want to use a little less vanilla than rum.

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13. Almond Extract

This flavoring is made from almond oil. You’ll find it tastes slightly sweet and nutty, similar to some varieties of darker rum. 

Almond extract, like other extracts, has a strong flavor. If you’re substituting rum in your recipe, use a little less of the extract to balance out the heavier flavor.

14. Orange juice

Orange juice is another great substitute for rum. If you want to make a rum punch, use orange juice as your base spirit instead of rum. 

You can also use orange juice in place of white or dark rums in your favorite cocktail recipes–it works well in daiquiris and mojitos, too!

The natural and balanced sweetness of orange juice, combined with its acidity matches rum nicely. 

Orange juice can replace rum in marinades and dipping sauces. You’ll want to add ½ cup of orange juice for every tablespoon of rum that your recipe calls for. 

15. Cherry juice

Cherry juice is a good substitute for rum in some recipes. It can be used in cocktails, cooking, and baking. Cherry juice is also a great way to substitute rum in your favorite desserts.

For example, cherry juice makes a delicious drink when mixed with sparkling water or club soda and ice cubes. You can use this mixture as the base of your favorite cocktail recipe by adding lime juice, pineapple juice, and orange liqueur (such as triple sec). 

If you’re looking for something sweet but not too strong on the alcohol content try adding some sugar syrup along with some crushed ice before topping off with more cherry flavored soda water mix!

16. White Grape Juice

The refreshing, light and sweet taste of white grape juice is another excellent option to replace your rum with something non-alcoholic. 

This can be used as a rum replacement in most recipes, both sweet and savory. Even beverages.

For every tablespoon of rum required, add a ½ cup of white grape juice. 

17. Homemade substitute

You can make a substitute with the same depth of flavors in your favorite rum. 

By combining ⅔ cup of boiling water with ¼ cup of raisins, 2 tablespoons butter, and 4 teaspoons of molasses with a pinch of salt you’ll achieve the same complexity of flavors without the alcohol. Add in a black tea bag and let this mixture steep for 4 minutes. Once the tea has steeped, refrigerate your mixture for 1 hour to really let the flavors blend. 

You’re going to want to strain it after an hour, but you now have a great homemade substitute for rum in all your recipes. 

Tips When Choosing a Rum Substitute

  • Use a substitute that has the same flavor profile. If you’re trying to recreate a rum-based cocktail, for example, use another spirit with similar characteristics–for example, an aged tequila or bourbon. The same goes for desserts: if you’re making a sweet dessert and want to use rum as an ingredient (say, in a pie), try using something like vanilla extract or coconut milk instead of brandy or whiskey. In savory dishes like soups and stews where saltiness is important, try substituting one of these five substitutes instead: Worcestershire Sauce; Soy Sauce; Vinegar (e.g., apple cider vinegar); Lemon Juice/Lime Juice
  • Pay attention to the flavor notes in the rum you should use. Darker rums have warmer flavors and your substitute should have the same. Lighter rums are fruitier and lighter and again your chosen substitute should have the same.


With these tasty rum substitutes, you can still enjoy all the flavors of your favorite cocktail. You can also use some of them in cooking or even baking! 

We hope this article has given you some new ideas for how to substitute your favorite alcohol in recipes or cocktails without losing any flavor.

Whether you’re out of rum or want something without the added alcohol the options are endless. Start experimenting in your kitchen today!