How To Substitute Kahlúa With Instant Coffee

If your drink of choice happens to be mudslides, espresso martinis, or white Russians, or you have a penchant for whipping up desserts spiked with coffee liqueur, chances are you can never have enough Kahlúa at home. But, if you run out, it's easy enough to swap in a good substitute. In most cases, you can get away with using a far more convenient and affordable option: instant coffee. All you have to do is dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee into two tablespoons of water for every two tablespoons of Kahlúa that you want to replace in your recipe.

Made from coffee beans that have been brewed and dehydrated into soluble granules, instant coffee isn't just a more handy and inexpensive substitute for Kahlúa, but a non-alcoholic one, too. So if you'd like to scale back on the amount of booze in your drinks or add a dash of that sweet coffee flavor in your desserts without the alcohol, instant coffee is all you need. 

The only thing to bear in mind is that Kahlúa also contains sugar besides its other main ingredients of rum and coffee, so consider stirring in a few spoonfuls of that sweetener to your instant coffee brew before using it in a cocktail. Additionally, Kahlúa has a thick and syrupy consistency that instant coffee does not. If that's a deal breaker, you can always up the amount of sugar to thicken the brew or add some cornstarch for more texture.

More Kahlúa substitutes to use in a pinch

Although Kahlúa may seem synonymous with coffee liqueur, it certainly isn't the only one that exists. If you'd like an alternative that still packs a boozy punch and has a similar flavor profile, consider swapping Kahlúa with other coffee liqueurs such as the comparatively cheaper Mexican spirit Kamora or the more intense and citrusy Tia Maria. Though creamy liqueurs such as Baileys can be popular Kahlúa substitutes too — and can swapped in equal proportions — there are noticeable differences between the two. Baileys has a more chocolate-forward taste, a creamier consistency, and doesn't fare well in acid-based recipes thanks to its dairy content.

If it's Kahlúa's boozy potency that you'd like to replace, without compromising on flavor, there are several non-alcoholic alternatives that can be used besides instant coffee. Instant espresso powder is another robust alternative and one that can be used in much the same way as instant coffee. Even a tablespoon of coffee extract can do the job when whisked into hot water with sugar, as can a dash of rum extract mixed with the bitterness of cocoa powder. A drizzle of vanilla extract can work in a pinch too, as it brings a sweet depth reminiscent of Kahlúa.

You can even make your own Kahlúa

Whether it's Kahlúa's price tag, alcohol content, or purely personal preference that has you looking for alternatives, there is no lack of substitutes. But let's be honest, even the best swaps can sometimes have you missing the liqueur's deep coffee flavor with hints of vanilla, caramel, sweet butter, and nuts. Thankfully, it's entirely possible to make a DIY homemade version of Kahlúa that can closely replicate all those wonderful flavors.

All you need to do is make a coffee and sugar syrup, and then whisk it into a spirit, letting the concoction sit for anywhere between a few minutes to a week or a month for all the flavors to come together. The key here, however, is the ingredients. The spirit that you use as the base can be either vodka, rum, or Everclear depending on your taste and preference, and the coffee that you use can be either freshly brewed for a deeper flavor or the instant kind. While white sugar works just as fine, you could also swap it with a mix of light and dark brown sugar, which will add that rich color and notes of caramel that Kahlúa is famous for. 

You could even upgrade your homemade Kahlúa by adding fresh vanilla pods or extract as well as things like cinnamon sticks and orange peels to the mix for something totally original.