I admit it, if I open a bottle of wine to cook with, I am very happy to drink the rest and I need to not do that, but still make my Kümmelfleisch and risotto.

Wine does affect proteins - pork, beef, egg, differently than does lemon juice, sauerkraut juice and other acids based on acetic or lactic acids. My anecdotal experience is that wine softens and disconnects collagen, etc more efficiently, and I read that it contains more heat stable acids. And that of course is also one reason to use wine and not lemon juice in making a risotto. (Yes I am ignoring any other flavor that wine imparts)

I looked up the acids in wine and saw that it is basically tartaric acid, malic acid and acetic acid. Tartaric acid is heat stable, so it seems that is what is doing the trick.

Buying tartaric acid here, in Germany, is expensive and difficult, but I can now get cream of tartar. I am aware that this is a somewhat neutralized form, but I currently imagine that in fact I could use a gram or two to substitute for half a cup of wine in a braise.

Is there some other factor I am not considering?

  • @PLL, to go along with your comment, I avoid using alcohol because I just don't like the taste of most of it. I've yet to find a wine that doesn't taste like vinegar to me. It really doesn't matter the alcohol content, the flavor is just not good. And that includes wine others love. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 20:33
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    The Community edit for the title to this question needs to be reverted. Based on the text, the original phrasing "substitute cream of tartar for wine" was correct; alternatively consider using "use cream of tartar in place of wine". english.stackexchange.com/questions/23360/substitute-x-for-y
    – Gossar
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 1:45
  • I really am interested in comments pertaining to using cream of tartar as an acid in cooking. It gets used in baking, but not in cooking, although I don't see why not, if one happens to have it on hand. Is there a reason not to? I probably should have expressed it all as simply as that. Sorry. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 13:34
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    Hi everyone, I had to clean up this question. Most answerers seemed to interpret it as a broad request for alternatives to wine in a risotto, or for alternatives to opening a whole bottle of wine. Under this interpretation, we would have to close the question as a duplicate. Please only answer the specific question as asked - does cream of tartar work as a substitute.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


There's a few misconceptions there. Tartaric acid, malic acid, acetic acid, and citric acid are all "heat stable" in the sense that they won't boil or decompose at the temperature of boiling water. They'll evaporate over time, just like the water will, but if you take a bunch of lemon juice and boil it down, you'll eventually be left with a precipitate of mostly citric acid.

(Note that lemon juice itself is not 'heat stable', because other flavor compounds in it undergo hydrolysis and oxidation at cooking temperatures.)

The reason wine is used instead of lemon juice in risotto is for the taste; different acids taste different, there are flavors in wine other than acids, and the taste of classic risotto is derived from the flavors in wine.

Finally, while acidity does affect the rate of hydrolysis of collagen, as far as I know this effect is entirely dependent on pH, rather than on the specific acid used.

Tartaric acid, or cream of tartar, can be used as a substitute for wine if you're just relying on the acidity of wine, but other, more readily available acids will work just as well.

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    Tartaric acid and cream of tartar are not interchangeable. They're different ingredients. Cream of tartar is a weak salt of tartaric acid and potassium hydroxide, and has a significantly higher pH. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 10:45
  • wineperspective.com/wine-acidity :"The principal acids found in grapes, and therefore wine, are tartaric acid, potassium hydrogen tartrate (cream of tartar), malic acid and potassium hydrogen malate. Tartaric acid and potassium hydrogen tartrate predominant in wine." Food cooked with wine tastes and behaves differently than food cooked with lemon juice or vinegar. I see it and I taste it - and I taste the different acid flavor itself. My interest is in is there something about cream of tartar, which dissolved in water tastes similiar, that I am not taking into account. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 11:21

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