What can I sub for Amber Ale?

Joined Jan 29, 2010
Hello - I am a novice cook, but have entered a chili contest for our church. It is a fellowship more than anything, but we have a good time with the "competition".

Anyways, I like Black eyed peas and I wanted to make a chili with that instead of the traditional beans. Found a very cool recipe by Michael Symon that I would like to try. It calls for Amber Ale. Well, for one I do not drink alcohol and second its for church. Not a good fit:)

So would any of you experienced cooks have an idea of what I could use to sub for this? It calls for 12 oz. I will include the recipe, so you can see what is included - Thanks in advance!

1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 pounds cleaned and trimmed pork cheeks (see Note)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded and very finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, finely diced
One 12-ounce bottle amber ale or porter
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 cups canned whole Italian tomatoes, crushed
2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
1 small cinnamon stick
Joined Oct 11, 2006
I'm another novice and think this is a great challenge... that said, I'm confused on a couple things. If you don't drink, fine, but does that stop you from using beer in a recipe? Further, does your church frown on using an alcoholic beverage for this purpose, when most people wouldn't know it was there if you didn't tell them? It seems to me that the beer in this case is just a carrier for another ingredient, not to add drunken pleasure to a recipe.

Anyway, I suspect the ale is there to get malt and yeast into the recipe, but I don't know if a non-alcoholic brew would have the same ingredients. If you wait a minute, someone will be along here to refine my neophyte answer.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
About substituting for amber ale: In some ways the closest you're going to get is a non-alcoholic beer -- of which there are several.

Even though it's a very different flavor profile, you'd probably be better off with beef or chicken stock, or a mixture of the two. If you're willing to go to what might be a lot of trouble, you could even add a little hops to your mix. In any case, chili accepts variatons gladly, and at the end of the day it will be that much more yours, instead of Michael Symon's.

About why not use beer (or wine, or booze) since the alcholol cooks off anyway: Some people just don't. There all sorts of reasons which don't allow any compromise whatsoever. Some people don't want to talk some of those reasons -- addicition, for instance; and it's bad manners to pry. Furthermore, the alcohol never actually completely cooks off -- so if there's an allergy or religious principle of total abstinence, better safe than sorry.

Joined Feb 13, 2008
If you like it, I like it. That said, Coca Cola's bubbles aren't really going to recreate the missing beer. To my taste, coke seems way too sweet for chili and wouldn't use it in my own red. But there are lots of things I don't put in mine which are a big part of yours; vice versa; and that makes for a wonderful variety which is a very good thing.

Bottom line: If you want sweetness in your chili, why not?

Good luck in the cook-off,
Joined Mar 21, 2008
Beef stock and use some masa flour in a slurry to thicken. The masa will add the sweet component beer gives.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Was thinking beef stock and some non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider - that would give some sweetness. Have never made it that way- just thought it may work- any comments anyone reading?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I vote with BDL on this: coke will make it far too sweet. Were it me I would either substitute non-alcoholic beer (my first choice), or replace it with about 2 cups of beef stock.

Given the amount of liquid in the original recipe, I think I'd pre-cook the peas before adding them. Or at least partially cook them.
Joined Nov 5, 2007
Gee, no comments about beans in chili?

Anyway, I'd go with a beef broth substitution and add a tablespoon or two of dark molasses.

Joined Feb 1, 2010
O'douls makes an Amber Ale non-alchoholic beer. It is not bad, but it is not very complex tasting. Good luck.

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