Best 19 Kirsch Substitutes
Don’t have any Kirsch around? No need to try another recipe! Try a substitute!
Mostly used in trifles, clafoutis, cocktails, Swiss cheese fondue, and Black Forest Cake, Kirsch liqueur adds plenty of flavor. With notes of cherry and the taste of almond, with a mild, bitter undertone that offers depth and flavor, Kirsch can transform your recipe. What do you do when you’re out of it? Well, you can be prepared by knowing in advance what alternatives you can use. What are the best Kirsch substitutes? We’ve got them all!
Before you dig into how to substitute Kirsch depending on your recipe, it’s important to know that this liqueur is unlike other brandies and liqueurs since it doesn’t have a sweet flavor and a syrupy consistency. Kirsch is a Swiss drink. Mainly used to spice things up, it comes with a hint of cherry, a little of the exotic aroma of almond extract and some alcoholic hints, to make things interesting. If you find you have ran out of it while you’re preparing a dish that needs some Kirsch, you may want to check out the substitutes we tried!
Since it takes about 20-30 pounds of fruit to make a bottle of Kirsch, you’ll find this liqueur is on the pricey side. A bottle of Kirsch (usually of 750 ml) can cost up to $50 in the US—another reason you may want to choose an alternative! But first…
What is Kirsch liqueur and how is it used in cooking?
Made in Germany, Switzerland, and France and used in the Northern countries, Kirsch is a fruit liqueur. However, its texture is not creamy or syrupy as you’d expect for most fruit liqueurs. Kirsch is actually a clear liqueur (like vodka, for instance) and is not overly sweet. Its bitterness and rich taste are more accentuated, rather! Known as Kirschwassrer in German (aka, you’ve guessed it, cherry water), this liqueur is a clear, unaged brandy obtained from the double distillation of the fermented juice of black Morello cherries.
Kept in barrels, sometimes waxed, Kirsch is not pigmented. It has a high alcohol content (about 40 to 50%). It combines the sweet and slightly sour taste of cherries with the acidic aroma of fermentation and the pungent, intense aroma from the cherry pits, which are also included in the process of making this fruity brandy.
Before we dive in to the flavorsome world of Kirsch substitutes, we need to look at some important details about choosing your replacement. We encourage you to discover your own alternatives, just keep in mind Kirsch is different from schnapps and cherry puckers, mainly because they are syrupy with a sweet aroma. Kirsch is clear with the subtle yet intense flavor of fruit, but without an overpowering sweetness. Another important detail: don’t confuse Kirsch with Creme de Kirsch, which is a sweet and syrupy liqueur.
We’ve tried them! Check out these Kirsch substitutes
While you’d think its unique flavor would be hard to replicate, there are some amazing Kirsch alternatives out there. We’ve tried more than a couple of substitutes for Kirsch liqueur. While this liqueur is known for adding flavor to cocktails and desserts, making them richer and more profound, it’s also used to modify the texture and consistency of fondue.
When added to the sponge of a cake (Black Forest aka Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) and cocktails, its spicy-bitter-sweet mix of flavors adds a great aftertaste; it also cleanses the palate as well as boosting digestion—well, if you don’t have too many slices of cake, which wont be easy, trust us! Not that it’s any easier to resist gulping down fondue, for that matter! When added to cheese fondue, Kirsch improves the consistency, as well as modifying the flavor, and, yes, it “helps” you eat more of it.
We tried and tasted some alternatives. Some you’d probably choose yourself and others that are quite surprising. Some are ideal for altering the texture of fondue, so they’d have to be alcoholic or at least have an acidic base, Others are great for mimicking the flavor of Kirsch, so we also have some non-alcoholic choices. What can you replace Kirsch with? Without any further ado, here are some suggestions:
Kirsch substitutes for Fondue
Sure, it seems like a natural pair: alcoholic liqueurs to complete a cake, tasty cocktail, or punch. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Not even for the extraordinary Kirschwasser. But how about adding it to cheese fondue? Would you have thought of that?
Here’s what to use instead of Kirsch in your delicious, extra-creamy, decadent cheesy appetizer, if you run out of Kirsch:
Grappa is an Italian brandy. It is made from the remains of the grapes that are squeezed for winemaking. Grappa is a pomace brandy that has an alcohol content of from 30% to 60%. It has a fruity aroma and quite the punch, so it’s ideal in fondue for making the cheese mix creamier.
2. Țuică or Pălincă
Have you heard of țuică or pălincă? Well, this traditional Romanian drink can work. Made from plums or pears, its flavor is not so strong that it will overpower the cheeses. So, its main purpose in a fondue is to act as an emulsifier for the cheese fat content. Talk about exotic Kirsch substitutes!
3. Apple Cider, Apple Juice, or Lemon Juice, for a Fresh Kick
A good substitute for Kirsch in a cheese fondue is apple juice or apple cider. In fact, any fruit juice will do if it has a clear consistency. Mix it with a little lemon juice to cut into the fat of the cheese and you’ve got a perfect non-alcoholic fondue!
One of the best alternatives for Kirsch is Vermouth. We found this suggestion on Nigella’s advice page and, well, yes, we tried it. Works great in fondue, just like Poire Williams eau de vie, brandy and white wine, and some other options that the international cook recommends and which we found perfect for this combo as well.
5. Bourbon, Brandy or Cognac are great additions for fondue
We tried them all and it’s been good! Anything alcoholic with a liquid consistency, a hint of fruity flavor, and that doesn’t have too much of a sweet aroma is perfect for cheese melt heaven!
6. Fruit-based Eau de Vie
Kirsch is known as an eau de vie, which is a clear brandy distilled from fruit. So you can substitute it with any other fruit-based eau de vie. Your fondue will be great with Poire Williams, Quetsch (made from plums), slivovice or even a little fraise.
7. Good Ole White Wine and a Spritz of Lemon Juice
Kirsch will quickly become your favorite aperitif or after-dinner drink once you get into the habit of keeping a bottle in your pantry. If you’d rather not but do want a Kirsch flavor in a cocktail or fondue, a good replacement is a banal mix, one you probably have lying around as you read this. White wine mixed with lemon juice is ideal for making the fondue creamier and more interesting. The perfect white wine for fondue is a dry variety. Its alcohol content will smoothen the texture and the alcohol aroma will fade as it becomes overpowered by all that cheese. Yum!
8. Kriek Lambic, aka Cherry Beer
Well, the odds of having this Belgian type of beer lying around the house when you’ve run out of Kirsch are something to consider. Still, this beer, made from fermented lambic and sour cherries, can really hit the spot in your fondue if you’ve no Kirsch.
Since you’re here, check out our guide to the best fondue pots.
Kirsch substitutes for Black Forest cake, Cherry Jubilee, and other desserts and cakes
Kirsch is a great alcoholic drink to augment the flavor of fruity desserts and cocktails. It goes great with cherries (well, yeah!), but also pears, peaches, apples, apricots, nectarines and all the berries out there. You just need to use your imagination to come up with the perfect Kirsch substitutes for baking. We’re sure you’ll think of more, but first, get inspired by our experiments. This colorless liqueur is the star of the German Black Forest and the Swiss Zuger Kirschtorte, and we’re pretty sure you can find many other ways to include it in desserts; just like you can include these substitutes!
Calvados is another eau de vie that we tried in a fondue and desserts. Made from apples, Calvados can be a great substitute for all Kirsch-based recipes.
Chambord is a raspberry liqueur which can add a sweet and sour taste, with some alcohol notes and the freshness of berries to your gateaux.
11. Framboise or Cherry Liqueur
Framboise can be a great option to make your desserts flavorsome. Use it for a brandy-like taste, if you don’t have some cherry liqueur around the house.
12. Liqueur de Mirabelle
This drink is made in France and maybe you have it around the house rather than Kirsch. It’s more expensive than Kirsch but it works great in desserts, cakes, and cocktails. Being made from Mirabelle plums, this drink can be the perfect alternative to Kirschwasser. However, you should know that it’s sweeter than its Swiss cousin.
Some desserts are just better with a little taste of alcohol. So what can you use for these in place of Kirsch? Well, a “little bitter” liqueur can work wonders! Made from apricot kernels, bitter almonds, almond and peach stones, this drink has the pungent, intense flavor of Kirsch. It can even be more intense, so make sure to adjust your recipe accordingly. Extra hint: amaretto works wonders in meat dishes, as well as in sauces for fish and vegetables and, of course, in cocktails!
14. Hazelnut Liqueur
Hazelnut liqueur is made from hazelnuts combined with coffee, cocoa, and vanilla. It’s quite the dessert in itself, in truth. It has a rich texture yet a delicate, smooth aroma. It has a clear pale golden color and it can work instead of Kirsch in desserts and cakes.
15. Cherry Schnapps
Schnapps has an alcohol content of 20% and it can come in many flavors. If you want to maintain the Kirsch taste, go for cherry schnapps.
Peter Heering or the Danish Kirsberry are great substitutes for Kirsch in desserts and cocktails. So is creme de cassis, which is made from blackcurrants.
17. Cherry and Vodka or Cherry Essence & Vodka/Cherry Juice
Mix vodka and cherries (dry, frozen or fresh) in a food processor or blender until you get a smooth texture. You can also infuse the vodka with cherries (pits as well) for a couple of weeks to obtain a more Kirsch-like flavor. You can also add cherry essence to vodka to get the same result. Also, if you want a great alternative to replicate the Kirsch taste but without the alcohol, cherry juice is a great option. It works great in mocktails and cakes.
Try to find a low-sugar version to avoid making your dessert too sweet. Maraschino cherry juice is quite good, but you’d have to adapt the sugar content of the cake.
A classics in everyone’s bar. Rum can make a great Kirsch substitutes, especially in sweets and cocktails. It’s made from fermented and distilled sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. It has a rich flavor, with tones of caramelized or toasted sugar, so what could be better in desserts, right? Use it in Kirsch-based recipes as it is, or infuse it with fruit (cherries, for instance), just as we suggested for vodka.
19. Cherry Preserve
Sometimes Kirsch can be hard to find. And if you really want to make Black Forest Gateau or any other sweet delight, you might find that this backup version works a treat. If you are willing to forego the alcohol flavor, cherry preserve can hit the spot. Dilute it with some warm water, if necessary, to get a Kirsch-like consistency.
If you’ve now fallen in love with Kirsch, you need to treat yourself to a bottle and get experimenting with it. But if you don’t have it handy, try out the alternatives you suggest here. You might make a heavy, rich, comforting boozy stew, or maybe you’ll flavor some chocolate ganache or heavy-cream glaze—it’s all about exploring and having fun with it. The great taste is covered!