As alcohol can be regularly used in cooking a variety of dishes, recovering alcoholics may often wonder whether it’s safe for them to eat foods cooked with alcohol. This is a challenging subject as we’ve all heard people say that the small amount of alcohol cooks off during heating, however, the alcohol content within these dishes doesn’t all cook-off and is entirely dependent on the amount and type of alcohol used and the method in which it was cooked.

Absolute advocacy (2022) explains that a dish needs to bake or simmer for up to 2 hours to reduce the alcohol to 10%. The average dish calls for alcohol to be added to boiling liquid which can retain up to 85% of the alcohol – this means that adding any amount of alcohol to your cooking for a recovering alcoholic can be very dangerous.


Is cooked alcohol triggering?

Each person will have their own triggers and their own vulnerability levels to determine when it comes to a potential relapse. Alcohol relapse triggers can be caused by exposure to small amounts of alcohol, exposure to alcohol-related cues or environmental contexts and stress.

If someone who is struggling to overcome alcohol addiction is exposed to even a small amount of alcohol through cooking, puts them at risk of being triggered which could lead to potential alcohol relapse.

If a person with alcohol dependency issues has a taste of alcohol in their food, this can lead to cravings and an increased desire to consume alcohol again. This is why addiction specialists will strongly advise against cooking with any alcohol content, the risk is just too high.

When you’re cooking for someone who is a recovering alcoholic, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It may help to think of alcohol addiction as a disease or an allergy. If someone was highly allergic to nuts, you wouldn’t cook with them anywhere near your kitchen because even a trace could trigger a negative response.

This is the same scenario with foods cooked with alcohol, even a small amount could trigger cravings, setting them up for failure.


Foods cooked with alcohol you may not know

Knowing which foods or dishes are cooked with alcohol can be very difficult, especially if you’re eating out. If you’re recovering from alcohol addiction, you should certainly familiarise yourself and your loved ones with the below list of food that contains alcohol content – wine vinegar, beer batter, dessert glazes and compotes, fondue, kombucha, liquor-flavoured chocolates, non-alcoholic beer and wine (some contain traces of alcohol), sauces like bearnaise, bordelaise, and barbecue, and tiramisu; it’s also common for pasta dishes to include alcohol content.

Many dishes call for red wine or white wine to be used in which case, it’s essential that these have plenty of time to reduce during the cooking process however, the alcohol won’t completely burn off so we recommend reducing the amount of red wine or white wine that the recipe suggests; this is if you’re comfortable using this amount of alcohol within your cooking at all.


Cooking for someone in sobriety

When you’re cooking for someone who has struggled with alcohol addiction in the past, it’s important to be conscious of anything you’re putting in the dishes. Familiarise yourself with the ingredients that contain alcohol to ensure you’re not putting them at risk.

Be aware that alcohol doesn’t burn off during cooking, this is a common mistake. Even the smallest amounts of food with alcohol can adversely affect someone who is recovering from alcoholism, even if it’s consumed accidentally.

It’s certainly a good idea to ask for their input as to whether they’re comfortable with alcohol content in their food; it’s likely they’ll appreciate your consideration. If it’s a difficult topic to approach, steer on the safe side and simply choose a recipe that doesn’t call for alcohol content.


Can an alcoholic cook with alcohol?

If you’re currently going through rehabilitation to recover from alcohol addiction, you’ve already recovered from alcoholism or you’re suffering from existing alcohol addiction, then cooking with alcohol or eating out can be quite a challenge.

It’s important to educate yourself on which foods may contain alcohol so that you can avoid these foods. It’s also important to understand your limits and what your personal triggers are. Just a taste of alcohol can trigger uncontrollable cravings for alcohol consumption or cause an alcohol relapse in those who are recovering alcoholics.

Many people are concerned that even a small amount of alcohol in their food can cause huge setbacks, resulting in temptations to drink straight away. As we said, you’ll need to understand what your limits and your triggers are.

Some recovering alcoholics might be able to consume food with alcohol and experience little to no side effects. However, others can suffer from severe side effects, resorting back to alcohol consumption on an unhealthy level.

If you’re the one cooking with alcohol, you must ask yourself if you’ll be able to adhere to a small amount of alcohol within your cooking and refrain from consuming it outside of your food. It’s a good idea to set yourself strict limits when cooking with alcohol and to stick to these limits.

If you’re cooking for yourself or for other people, it’s a good idea to always let everyone know that you plan to cook with alcohol so that they can make their own decision. If you know or suspect someone who is choosing to remain alcohol-free, it’s best to adjust your recipe accordingly to ensure that it definitely is alcohol-free.

Perhaps you’re struggling to find alternatives to the alcohol recommended within certain recipes. In this case, you can take it as a good opportunity to expand your cooking skills and learn new techniques and ingredients you can incorporate into your cooking to avoid using any alcohol.


John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 1 April 2022

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

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