With more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, it’ll take even the most dedicated overeater several lifetimes of shameless self-indulgence to sample every type of halal food available. But sometimes, Muslims encounter dishes featuring decidedly non-halal ingredients. How do you replace red wine in Italian Bolognese? Mirin in miso marinated Japanese cod? And the big question–how do you substitute bacon?
With some elegant creativity and clever substitutions, halal consumers can tweak any recipe to suit their dietary needs. Below are five such examples.
Pork is one of the biggest challenges for halal diners. Certain Asian or European dishes rely heavily on salted or cured pork products for flavoring. Thankfully, halal consumers have plenty of alternatives to choose from. The big takeaway for strategic ingredient replacement is to focus not on the pork itself, but what the pork is trying to invoke. Salty pork products like pancetta, bacon or ham are used in dishes to create an umami flavor without large quantities of meat. If the cook can find a halal meat product that replicates that quality, the hard work is essentially over.
Some good replacements for bacon and ham include: duck prosciutto, Turkish sucuk sausage and smoked turkey breast. For more information on pork replacements, check out My Halal Kitchen.
- Red & White Wine
The use of wine is very common in many European and Latin American recipes. This presents a problem for halal consumers when replicating an Italian Bolognese recipe that calls for a glug of red wine. For those that haven’t tasted wine in savory dishes, the purpose of grape wine is to increase the complexity of the braising liquid or sauce. Wine mellows in alcohol content when cooked, resulting in a balanced and lacquered sauce.
A good substitution is high quality grape or cranberry juice and depending on the recipe, combine with a splash of white vinegar. Since wine is less sweet than pure grape or fruit juice, the vinegar will help mellow the sweetness depending on recipe.
- Sake & Mirin
Recently, halal certification has seen a growth in Japan. Japanese restaurants serving halal food are appearing in some the trendiest areas throughout the country. One the most common ingredients in Japanese cuisine is Mirin and Sake, both rice based wines. Sake is used to marinate and eliminate gaminess or unpleasant odors in seafood or meat. It’s fundamental part of East Asian culinary philosophy–the masking of gamey flavors. Many Japanese recipes features one or both types of rice wines.
Sake in marinades can be replaced with a very small splash of mild white vinegar. Mirin is a sweet rice wine with a syrupy consistency. Because of its sugar content, using a small amount of 100% natural maple syrup combined with other marinade ingredients, like soy sauce, will replicate some of its naturally sticky texture.
- Red Wine Vinegar, Rice Vinegar
Because of how its produced, certain vinegars can contain trace amounts of alcohol. For strict halal consumers, red wine vinegar can be substituted with apple cider or date vinegar.
A pivotal ingredient in sushi, Japanese rice vinegar can be imitated with a combination of mild white vinegar and sugar. Japanese rice vinegar has a sweetness different than most European vinegars. Because of the increasing halal certifications in Japan, it’s now possible to find halal certified rice vinegar.
- Baking Extracts (vanilla, almond, lemon etc.)
Flavored extracts, such as vanilla or almond, are used by bakers worldwide to give their pastries a concentrated flavor. However, many of these extracts contain alcohol. To replace this, use high quality real vanilla beans and other equivalent spices instead. But vanilla beans are expensive. To avoid breaking the bank every time you decide to make your favorite pound cake recipe, a great substitute for extracts is emulsions. Instead of an alcohol base, emulsions are flavors suspended in a base of water and unlike baking extracts, are not compromised by the presence of alcohol, producing a stronger flavor.
For some examples of emulsions, follow this link.
This list is what we think are the top 5 Halal ingredient replacements but we are curious, what ingredients do you think we left out?