Can Recovering Alcoholics Eat Food Cooked with Alcohol?

April 13, 2015 Kira Lesley

Alcoholics often wonder if it's safe to eat food cooked with alcohol. After all, alcohol is used to cook many foods: pasta sauces, chocolates, jams and even cakes. Recovering alcoholics are often faced with the question, is it safe for me to consume this food or not?

Cooking Food With Alcohol and Temperature

We've all heard people say that the alcohol itself cooks off during heating and therefore it will not have a chemical effect on you if you eat, for example, fish with a sherry-based sauce. But alcohol does not all cook off: the alcohol retention in food depends on the method in which it is cooked and the type and amount of alcohol used. Of course, some recipes, such as certain salad dressing recipes, don't involve heating at all, and then the alcohol content is unaffected.

Even Cooked Alcohol Can Be Triggering for Recovering Alcoholics

Some foods can be addiction triggers for recovering alcoholics even if they have negligible alcohol content. I try to avoid foods and beverages that remind me of alcohol. Slight fermentation can be enough for me to have a visceral memory of drinking alcohol--and that's not something I want to encourage. Of course, ultimately everyone must decide for themselves what does and does not cause a problem for them when it comes to cooking with alcohol or alcoholic beverage-flavored food.

Certain foods I will eat at certain times but not others. For example, many recipes I like call for rice wine vinegar. It smells strongly alcoholic and I will not consume it raw, but I will use it for some cooked recipes. Even at that, I reduce the amount that the recipe calls for.

Foods Cooked With Alcohol You May Not Know About

Here is a list of foods, cooked and uncooked, with alcohol that we, as recovering alcoholics, may wish to be cautious about:

  • Kombucha
  • All wine vinegars
  • Cooking wines
  • Sauces: bearnaise, bordelaise, many pasta sauces and some barbecue sauces
  • Dessert glazes and compotes
  • Tiramisu, bananas foster, cherries jubilee
  • Beer bread, beer-battered fish and chips
  • Liquor-filled chocolates
  • Fondue
  • Champagne-flavored jams
  • "Non-alcoholic" beer and wine (which contains trace amounts of alcohol)


Video About Eating Foods Cooked With Alcohol

What are your experiences with eating foods cooked with alcohol in alcoholism recovery?

APA Reference
Lesley, K. (2015, April 13). Can Recovering Alcoholics Eat Food Cooked with Alcohol?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kira Lesley

June, 7 2023 at 7:58 pm

is it ok to use toner that has denatured alcohol in it?

June, 12 2023 at 6:45 am

Hi Adrianne, thanks for your comment/question. To note - I'm one of the current authors that cover addiction on HealthyPlace, not the original author of this article.
First off, this is a great question - it's never easy to work out what products contain alcohol and whether it's possible to continue using things if they do. Even as I approach ten years sober, it crops us more often than expected.
This is my opinion (not fact) - but these questions are often a gut feeling. If you're worried about using toner that contains denatured alcohol, it might be better to find an alternative. Everyone has different triggers; it's usually better to err on the side of caution if you're even the slightest bit concerned.
Hope this helps - feel free to comment again if this didn't answer your question correctly.

January, 28 2023 at 2:31 pm

Most of my drinking was done underage: OTC sleeping pills and drinking binges involved cough syrup, mouth wash and any kind of extract. Later it was doctor shopping and coming up with symptoms so I could aquire anything that would numb me, particularly things like Ativan.
I raided anyone's medicine cabinet or liquor supply, adding water, thinking I was so slick. I bounced in and out of the rooms of recovery, for a few years, thinking it was a joke, not taking it seriously whatsoever. Then I was bone dry and absolutely miserable, hateful and it was only a matter of time before I picked up again and was off to the races.I went out and stayed out for just under a year. My sobriety & clean time is the most precious thing I have and if I didn't have it and HP of my understanding, I'd absolutely have NOTHING. I still have panic disorder and severe chronic depression which started not to long before I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I love to cook and bake and eat but I have to remember that I have a mental obsession coupled with a physical craving and I avoid alcohol and drugs like a moth avoiding a flame. I also have to take Rx that are prescribed for certain health conditions and Iam an open book to my Dr's: They know I am a recovering alcoholic and addict, who my Dr's are ( I have two ), what medicines I am on and the dosages. I also refuse to take any medicine that is habit forming and / or makes me feel woozy. I approach food the same way:
First, I have read about alcohol sugars; found out they are NOT alcohol at all. Xylitol and Malitol are example found in sugar free diet and diabetic candies.
As for food made with alcohol: For years I made items without alcohol and when it came to something like cooking or baking, I found vanilla powder for baked goods and could use juice or water in place of alcohol.
I avoided chocolate truffles because they were filled with things like vodka, whiskey or wine.
I loved mixed drinks the best and could not for the longest time drink 7UP because I loved 7&7's. What a blessing it was when I found out that I didn't have to take that first drink or drug. I didn't have to go where I felt uncomfortable. And that I didn't have to eat or drink anything with alcohol in it. Not to mention how thrilled I was that toothpaste, cough syrup and mouth wash FINALLY came in no alcohol formulas. :-) But I also realized that I am not perfect and never will be. Unless I am in the mindset that I think I'm getting away with something, that my intention is to get drunk and that no one would ever know ( like eating pot brownies or eating polish chocolate or Kentucky
Bourbon cake ), guess what? My HP would know and I"d I know. However, unknowingly eating something like contains alcohol I don't believe that person loses their sobriety and clean time. I believe that is between you, your HP and your sponsor. I believe it is helpful to know your triggers ( including people, places, things and situations ) and to share your experience strength and hope particularly with newcomers and those coming back from relapse. It clears your conscience and at the same time warns others of possible pitfalls. And really, it's a judgement call, too. If you don't want to cook or bake with alcohol, then don't. If you don't want to eat something made with alcohol, then don't. And if you don't feel going someplace, then don't. Not everyone understands our illness and there are some who just don't care. My sobriety and clean time and serenity are too precious to me to jeopardize what I have worked so hard for, let alone give power to someone else because I'm worried about offending them or not wanting a confrontation of some kind. Just please, stop beating yourself up about this and take it as a learning experience that you can share with others.
Thanks for letting me share.
Have a great weekend everyone! :-)
Still sober and clean March 8, 1996.

Richard Viets
May, 6 2021 at 8:24 pm

Well this is all rather silly.. I cook with alcohol all the time and I am a recovering alcoholic. Last night I made Beer battered onion rings.. People forget that alcohol distills at around 198°F. You drop an item of food dipped in beer laced batter and drop it into a deep fryer that is running at 375°F. The alcohol cooks out in a flash. GONE!!.. I also have a large bottle of Cooking Saki in the cupboard.. It for one is way too salty to drink. However does wonders for your stir fry. I also splash it into my steak juices in the frying pan after my steak is done. Makes a great sauce. Cooking with alcohol is safe as long as your problem is not psychological. I think that is the problem with most people that avoid cooking with alcohol. The psychological triggers..
There should be no physical triggers at all when cooking with alcohol. On many occasions I have made my corned beef briskets using grocery store 42 Proof Whiskey.. I dump the entire bottle into it.. It never sent me to the liquor store.. But then again I play pool in the bar next door. I just have seltzer water with Lemon or Lime. I beat up my body for 20 years with alcohol.. At one point I suffered from Acute Liver failure. The bottom line is.. Unless you "want" to drink.. You are not going to.
If you are having urges.. Simple... Breath in, Breath out, Pray. and don't pick up. Now in the back of your mind if you "want" to drink.. Then perhaps alcohol cooked food might not be the best thing for you. but with that being the case... Are you sure you are even ready to quit?

Frenchie Brooks
March, 13 2022 at 11:36 am

Thank you. My wonderful husband used to be a binge drinker. Went to rehab. …Sober now. And I do cook with wines and sometimes liquor. No problem. Thank you again for explaining how the person chooses.

March, 27 2019 at 1:18 am

What about folks with nepotism c? Is alcohol cooked in sauces dangerous for them?

Kath conway
December, 24 2018 at 4:37 am

I’m very very worried now after 9 years of sobriety we visited friends last night who had mad beef in red wine- apparently over a bottle or more of red - I worried while I ate this - there was no alternative for me - they know I don’t drink - have I ruined my 9 year alcohol free time by eating this -? I’m disappointed- please can someone answer my dilemma

December, 28 2018 at 8:53 am

Hi Kath,
Thank you for your comment and question. No, I don't think you have ruined the length of your sobriety, but I understand your concern. I've had experiences that are similar. What I've learned is that it's okay to ask how things are made and politely decline them if they are made with alcohol. Most people who are not in recovery don't even think about the fact that eating foods that contain alcohol can be risky for those of us who are in recovery, it's something that isn't even on their radar.
I would let the situation you experienced go and just be aware in case it ever happens again.
I hope you have a safe, sober New Year!

Kathy Terrell
September, 17 2021 at 9:40 am

Omg I am 2.5 yrs sober & ate a piece of tiramasu.
I went back & asked about the alcohol & was told 1/3 cup in whole pan.
What now???

Lauren K
November, 18 2021 at 12:13 pm

Were you triggered? Did you want to go out and buy two bottles of wine to take home to continue your evening? If not, stop worrying. You cannot change history, and now you know something you did not before: tiramisu is a non-issue for you.
If you were, you also learned something good: stay away from ALL foods with alcohol, cooked or not.
If it triggered you, and active addiction got it’s claws into you once again, then here is what you know: you did this once. You are strong. You can do it again. Never quit quitting. It takes many of us 100’s of tries, over and over and over to reach serenity and consistent sobriety. You are not alone.

October, 8 2022 at 1:32 pm

Hit a meeting and pick up a white chip. It’s black and white this issue, no grey. Unfortunately but you will be stronger for going through it. You know inside yourself if it was right or wrong. Messaging here was looking for validation of your rationalization. This is a life taking disease. It must be treated and respected as such. Completely disagree w first reply. She seems lovely but difficult for her to give the unvarnished truth. You slipped. Get back up, go to a meeting, get a white chip, share if fell the pull to
God Bless

October, 3 2018 at 9:07 pm

Ate some candy on Maui that had chocolate liquor I didn't know two small pieces 24 yrs ten months clean from drugs and alcohol is drug will read the labels every time from now on I will not risk my clean time in NA

October, 2 2018 at 12:15 pm

When I hear something along the lines of "can" a sober alcoholic eat food with alcohol ? etc . I'm always amazed at the question .
Well of course I "can"...but I know where I've been.
I've been as low as I ever want to go ; .... lonely, demoralized, isolated and totally utterly hopeless.
I've never met a food that was so important that I'd risk my years of sobriety to eat it . I have no idea what teeny tiny cells in my brain chemistry would be triggered - we know that alcoholics have altered brain patterns.
Years ago, my sister in law who I'd never met brought Tiramiso to our gathering. I mulled it over a moment ...oh no, what if she's insulted that I'm not having her dessert ?!... then I remembered I'm raising 2 children as a clean and sober mom...among a million other gifts of sobriety ....who the heck cares about a serving of dessert !!!
Congratulations Kira !

October, 2 2018 at 3:20 pm

Hi Kate,
I don't write for HealthyPlace anymore, but I still received a notification that someone had commented on this post. Thank you for your thoughts. I agree that phrasing the question with "can" is a bit beside the point. Perhaps I should have said "should," but that word has its own problems too. Some comments on here mention fruit juice and dijon mustard. I did not know about dijon mustard, but I tend to go with whether I find something triggering or not. I don't really care for mustard often, so that's not a big problem for me. I have run into a tiramisu issue before though, because sometimes it's made with alcohol and sometimes it isn't! I think you were wise to realize your sobriety is so much more important than perhaps accidentally hurting someone's feelings. It feels so hard in the moment to do that though sometimes. I still eat things that involve vinegar, but I avoid wine and beer sauces. I've also found it's popular to put alcohol into ice creams, and I avoid those too because I do, in fact, find it triggering. I don't know whether any brain chemical is altered or not, but if I taste something that reminds me of drinking alcoholic beverages, it disturbs me, so I avoid it. Congratulations to you as well!

August, 5 2021 at 9:42 am

I have found, after 30 plus year of sobriety, that I can just tell people "I'm allergic to alcohol" So far, no one has taken it beyond that.

Donald Scott
December, 24 2017 at 3:19 pm

I have 27 years and ten months continuous sobriety and I sometimes wonder about Dijon mustard, which is made with white wine. If I do happen to buy it I never think about the alcohol while eating my hotdogs and it's never really been a problem. But I still hesitate every time at the market. I've always tried to error on the side of caution. Sometimes I stiil get it sometimes I pass. I remind myself that fruit juices contain a certain amount of alcohol as a result of natural fermentation, the highest, I've learned, being 0.09% by volume. Fresh fruit also contains alcohol.

December, 23 2017 at 3:43 am

I am three years sober and just ate a mince pie with ale in it. I finished the mince pie and then looked at the box which said each one had a generous glue of al in it. I can taste the booze now...not pleasant

iPhone user
June, 1 2017 at 7:25 pm

Glad to find this site. I'm technically not labeled as an alcoholic, yet my first & last encounter with liquor left me so disoriented that I could barely stagger down the sidewalk after my friends. Then and there I said, If this is what drinking is supposed to be all about, forget it. Haven't touched a drop since and hope I never do.

September, 12 2016 at 9:36 pm

Having read this I believed it was rather informative.
I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this information together.
I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and
commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

July, 6 2016 at 11:35 am

I recently purchased rum raisin ice cream a made dish of it and then decided to look at the container to find ethyl alchol as part of the content I did not eat it but decided to look up if it is ok. Everything I have toothpaste mouthwash cough syrup is alchol free I guess in making choices this is a no no. I don't want to risk 7 plus yes of sobriety

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kira Lesley
July, 22 2016 at 7:42 am

Hi John, thanks for your comments. I know people's opinions differ on this topic. For me, I just don't need the taste of alcohol in my mouth, I find it triggering. In addition, my body does not react well to alcohol so if there is any chance that it could have an active effect on me, I want to avoid it. Good luck going forward!

May, 29 2016 at 10:49 am

I have just discovered that Tesco's caramel panna cotta contains alcohol; I tasted it as soon as I had the first teaspoon! It is listed as an ingredient but I did not check first as I stupidly assumed it would not contain any alcohol. There are many desserts that I like that I cannot have as I cannot have alcohol in my diet. I am aware of some such as tiramisu, which I cannot understand as it is not necessary; in fact, I don't think the "original" Italian version even contained marsala wine, something added years later (I may be wrong!) It's very annoying, but, not the end of the world; just have to be vigilant!
Why can't manufacturers of these desserts use flavourings instead? Not just for the benefit of recovering alcoholics and those with allergic reactions to it but in the case of children who like these desserts and anyone who cannot have alcohol for any other reason such as religious beliefs?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kira Lesley
May, 30 2016 at 6:29 am

Thank you for your comments Jackie. I'm with you, if it were a desert like tiramisu I probably would have checked the label, but not panna cotta. The labeling regulations in the UK and the US are different--from what I understand, in the UK, food and beverages can contain up to 1.2% alcohol (I have not verified this information to see if it is current) without being regulated. In the US, it's 0.5 %. Either way, it is a problem for me. You do raise a good point about the flavorings. I also notice that in the UK food with genetically modified organisms is labeled. When I go to the store, I can check the label and right on the front the companies frequently put "contains wheat, soy, milk, carageenan, phenylketunorics" etc. Perhaps they could go one step further and list whether it has any alcohol.
I looked up the label online for Tesco's caramel panna cotta, but I don't know how high the alcohol content is. One thing you hear frequently is that it does not matter if the alcohol is cooked off and rendered ineffective. For me, this is not true. I find the smell of alcohol to trigger some sort of memory, if not craving, so why would the taste be any different?
Thank you for your comments. I am especially interested in how different countries handle these things. Traveling abroad can be particularly tricky. A few years ago my family traveled to Ukraine, and there the sale of fermented drinks that we Americans would consider alcoholic is legal for all ages.

May, 13 2016 at 2:26 pm

In the Doctor's Opinion chapter in the AA Big Book, it explains that for certain people who are alcoholics, the body has an allergy or abnormal reaction to alcohol that results in a craving for more. After many attempts to get sober and many failures, I came to the understanding that I have this allergy. I'd rather not tempt fate eating something that may prompt a craving for alcohol. I avoid sugar alcohols too just to be safe!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kira Lesley
May, 14 2016 at 8:53 pm

Hi Ruby, thanks for this insight. I prefer to play it safe, too, although I usually don't think of it in allergic terms. Though it does make sense; the book talks about "the phenomenon of craving," and for some reason I've always just kind of accepted craving as part of human existence, without thinking too much about the chemistry that might be behind it.

March, 14 2016 at 7:51 am

I have been insanely obsessive about not ingesting any speck of alcohol since my hard road to sobriety. the method or cooking beer battered fish, or making Beurre Blanc sauce, would clearly cook off the alcohol; but I still will have no part of them. For me, my body and brain, I treat alcohol as a poison. This has allowed me to be around it and feel secure, for I know it will kill me. That may well be a somewhat overkill way of dealing with it, but it has worked for me for the last 495 days.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kira Lesley
March, 21 2016 at 7:02 am

Hi Bill, thank you for sharing your experience. From my perspective, if it's working for you, then stick with it! I mean, this IS a serious thing that people die of. So you do what works for you! I have to admit that I am a little more relaxed about some things now than I was in my first couple years (as I've written about, I take decongestant occasionally, something I avoided for six years) but I still avoid alcohol-flavored food. That's just me though. Sometimes that's tricky because certain restaurants have wine in nearly every sauce, but to me, ordering a hamburger or avoiding that type of restaurant is not a big deal. Congratulations on 495 days of sobriety!

August, 21 2015 at 7:11 pm

I have had alcohol based sauces and desserts, also used mouthwash and I sometimes drink bitters in lemon and lime in the summer. I have had no negative reactions at all. I must add I drink both tea and coffee very strong too. From my many past relapses before true recovery, for me, one unit of alcohol was necessary to set off further drinking. I am pretty sure that any association with alcohol, pubs, clubs etc would have been hard to handle in the early days though. I think we all react differently but awareness is crucial. I describe my alcoholism as the Alc Demon, and I am on the look out for the sneaky liar all the time. That's absurd of course, but alcohol is the enemy, and naming it thus is good shorthand for what goes on in my mind and body.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kira Lesley
August, 23 2015 at 9:44 am

Thanks for your comment Alayna. I have used both "normal" and alcohol free mouthwash and I prefer the alcohol free kind for myself. I'm not really familiar with bitters so I did a quick google search and it appears that the alcohol content varies dramatically among different types. Just wondering, what do you mean when you say a "unit" of alcohol?

Kira Lesley
May, 10 2015 at 7:39 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience Betsy. That is so fascinating, but I'm sorry you had to go through it! I LOVE coffee ice cream, it's probably my favorite flavor, although I don't think I've had the Trader Joe's variety and now won't have it. This is very valuable information. Cough medicines I always watch out for but not for the alcohol so much as the dextromethorphan. I've also used alcohol-free mouth wash for the most part since getting sober. I have also tried mouth wash with alcohol but I don't think it works better and it's not a good idea for me.

May, 7 2015 at 10:59 am

I recently discovered Trader Joe's Coffee Bean Blast premium ice cream. I quickly glanced at the ingredients, but not to determine whether there was any alcohol. Alcohol in ice cream? I found myself quickly craving the ice cream. Last night I did not like the addicted feeling I was getting when I contemplated another serving of the ice cream. I checked the ingredients again, and there it was - coffee extract. I have also researched extracts on Google, and most of them do contain a small amount of alcohol. It is the alcohol that provides the added bite to the flavor. For me, any amount is too much. I had been eating this ice cream over a two-week period. I have written to Trader Joe's for information and brought this serious-matter-for alcoholics to the attention of the store. I will be returning the container of ice cream for credit.
It is important to check medications as well. Many cough medicines have alcohol. I found that Kroger produces one that contains no alcohol. Watch out even for cold remedies, Zicam, for example. There it was. ALWAYS ask a pharamcist if you are concerned.
Since I had not intended to ingest alcohol, I am not going to reset my sobriety date or worry about this. I am not happy, for sure, but it happened and I am now making the right decisions.

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