3 November 2022

The 18 best Calvados substitutes for your recipes

By Killian

Calvados is a specific type of brandy that can only be distilled in NormandyFrance, as the ingredients it uses only grow there.

Although it can essentially be thought of as apple cider that is further distilled into brandy, the breeds of apples he uses are very region specific in which they are grown.

Given such a rigid production process, sometimes it can be hard to get them. This can be problematic as there are many good recipes that call for a really good brandy like Calvados.

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The best Calvados substitutes

Fortunately, the nature of cooking with liquor tends to reduce the strength of the flavor quite a bit. This makes it much more feasible to use cheaper or more common types of spirits instead.

And not only that, but they can often put an interesting twist on a recipe that would otherwise be set in stone.

The main thing is to take into account what type of recipe you are going to use it with. If you’re making something like a cocktail that clearly calls for alcohol, then you can simply switch to a cheaper alternative.

But if it’s used in the kitchen, you have even more options with cheaper and more accessible ingredients, like apple juice.

1. Cheap “own brand” spirits

Any type of apple brandy, such as Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, Cedar Ridge Apple Brandy, and Black Star Farms Spirit of Apple, works great for any recipe that calls for a decent amount of alcohol.

However, if your recipe only calls for less than 1/2 cup of brandy, it may not be worth buying a whole bottle just for that dish. In that case, we have many more options listed below that are perfect for those “small quantity” one-off recipes.

2. Hard apple cider

In general, apple juice is slightly sweeter than brandy, causing it to alter the flavor of the recipe in which it is used. However, there is something we can do about it.

If you use an apple cider that preserves the alcohol content (also called “hard cider”), it will reproduce very well the flavor elements that the Calvados brings to the recipe.

Even if you’re not a big fan of hard cider, don’t worry! The cooking process predominantly removes strong alcohol flavors, leaving you with a remarkably similar finish to what you would have if you had used Calvados in the first place.

3. Apple juice concentrate without sugar

Although it lacks the alcoholic element that hard apple cider offers, there’s nothing stopping you from adding a little cheap brandy, or any regular liquor like vodka works great if the recipe calls for something alcoholic.

Plain apple juice is cheap, easily accessible in most grocery stores, and as long as it’s unsweetened, it will go a long way to enhance any dish that calls for Calvados in a similar way.

It’s great for things like flavoring sauces, drinks, and a host of frozen desserts. Anything that calls for little (less than 1/2 cup) of cognac presents a scenario where it’s probably best to use a non-alcoholic juice rather than an alcoholic substitute.

4. Apple butter

Apple butter can be a great substitute, as there are usually some additional flavorings added to it. This can include things like a little hint of cinnamon.

You wouldn’t just use it to mix a cocktail, but in cooking, such as cakes or puddings, it’s absolutely fantastic. It boosts the flavor and adds that delicious buttery feel to it.

5. Pear Brandy

So far we have only covered alternatives that essentially act as apple flavor substitutes. But if you fancy trying something a little different, any type of pear brandy can also work as a delicious alternative.

It works especially well in desserts like Christmas pudding, or any kind of mixable drink.

Some good brands you can try are Poire William and Mirabelle, from France and Germany respectively. Fortunately, you’ll find they’re much more common and affordable than Calvados (and usually quite a bit cheaper).

Although the flavor is not as refined as that of the prestigious Calvados, we believe that you will still enjoy it.

6. Apple essence

This is another great option if you’re looking for something that’s alcohol-free, but can add a little fruity flavor to your kitchen.

Due to its non-alcoholic content, it’s a little less ideal for mixing drinks, although you can add some unflavored spirits, like vodka, to help.

In general, it is a substitute used in cooking.

Essentially, during the production of fruit juice using real apples, the liquid is collected during the refining process due to evaporation. It is highly aromatic and imparts a strong apple flavor to whatever is used.

This apple evaporated (or essence) is not wasted and is sold for the preparation of cakes and desserts. It works great on things like apple flavored pies and fillings, and even complements sweet things like ice cream or frosting.

The mix is ​​quite concentrated, so you may need to compensate by adding some additional liquid in the form of milk or oil (or alcohol, depending on the application) to bring the volume to what you would normally use with the Calvados.

7. Apple juice

It is difficult to find a more accessible and cheaper solution than this.

But keep in mind that there are many types of apple juice, some of which are loaded with sugar intended for children’s drinks, while others are much cleaner and less loaded with sugar, which can help give a little bit of a kick. delicious apple flavor to your kitchen.

So choosing the right one is the key. Be sure to choose a brand that is low in sugar and generally considered to be of good quality.

Especially useful if you plan on making something non-alcoholic, you can also pair it with a teaspoon of brandy extract to impart some of that slightly alcoholic flavor to the dish without actually turning it into an alcoholic meal.

It’s great for things like Christmas puddings or parfaits.

8. White wine (or red wine)

It’s not something I would actively look for as an ideal Calvados substitute, but it’s worth mentioning because if you find yourself stuck and only have wine on hand, it can serve as a suitable substitute.

The taste will certainly be clearly without apple flavor, but if you can find a wine with a similar strength and alcohol content to Calvados, it can at least satiate that part of the recipe.

It will still taste great, just missing the apple flavor.

9. Simple apple cider vinegar

Although absolutely too flavorful to use in desserts like puddings or ice cream, plain apple cider vinegar works great for any type of savory/savoury dish.

They can be things like salads, non-sweet soups, or any sauce that doesn’t have sweet elements.

Due to the general strength of apple cider vinegar, you will need to use it at a much lower concentration than normal. A good rule of thumb is to use 1 tablespoon instead of half a cup of Calvados.

10. Featured Mentions

Here are other suggestions that, while they may not be as ideal as the above, can certainly help you in a pinch:

  • Rum or rum extract
  • apple brandy
  • Apple cider
  • Mixture of apple juice and cognac
  • brandy extract
  • apple extract
  • Smoke flavored apple butter
  • Lambig cider
  • sight brandy

How to choose the best Calvados substitute

Although we have listed quite a few great substitutes, they all serve different purposes.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what you’re making, whether it’s a drink, dessert, soup, cake, etc., and then it’s simply a matter of choosing the most appropriate substitute for that particular dish.

Here’s a quick breakdown, or cheat sheet, to help you choose the right Calvados substitute for your meal.


For any type of salad, vegetable or vegetable-based dish, we recommend natural apple cider vinegar. In this context, there isn’t much use for alcohol-based ingredients (only for some very specific recipes).

Usually what you are looking for is just that hint of apple flavor. The only thing to keep in mind is that he is quite strong and focused. So you can use it sparingly or pair it with some apple cider or apple juice to help balance things out a bit.


For soups, we recommend apple butter. Although many of the substitutes on the list can provide that necessary apple flavor, what makes apple butter so great for soups is the consistency.

If you melt it quickly on the stove and mix it into the soup, it will not only taste delicious, but it will also provide that all-important thick, creamy texture that something like apple cider vinegar (which has a tendency to separate anyway) won’t. can get.


Here are a few options. In general, when we think of rich desserts like a Christmas pudding, the alcohol content is quite important.

So for that reason we recommend red/white wine or another type of brandy (cheaper). Pick one that has the intensity and flavor palette that matches the type of dessert you want to make and roll with it.

It will add that hint of alcohol flavor without taking away from the character of the dessert.


Apple essence is your preferred option in this case. It’s the simplest and easiest way to incorporate some apple flavor in a cheap and easily accessible way.


We recommend any cheap alternative brandy; you can often do without apple flavor, so having a cheaper brandy on hand for those occasions is perfect.

Meat/chicken based dishes

The acidity of the apple and the alcohol are really vital to breaking down the meat and making it as tender as possible. So here we recommend pear cider, as no other substitute can satisfy both.

Sure the flavor will be pear instead of apple, but that’s a small price to pay to get that melt-in-your-mouth quality of meat.