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What To Use As Marsala Wine Substitute


Have you ever decided to make chicken marsala, veal marsala, or a marsala sauce? Here’s a marsala wine substitute list for you to look through, whether you don’t enjoy the taste or have an alcohol sensitivity, there are a few non-acholic options as well that you can select instead of marsala wine.

bottle of marsala wine on the counter

What is marsala wine?

Marsala wine is a fortified wine meaning it’s processed with an additional alcohol source (in this case, brandy) to produce a wine that has a higher alcohol content. Because of this, you’ll find any fortified wine to have more alcohol than standard wine. This wine can be used in savory dishes and sweet recipes, depending on the present flavor notes.

Chicken, rice dishes, and desserts like tiramisu are typical dishes that include marsala wine in them. This wine is not only used for cooking, but some people also enjoy drinking it as well. When used as a drink, you’ll find marsala wine typically consumed with cheese and crackers.

Marsala Wine varieties

There are multiple varieties of marsala wine available as well as different grades. You’ll find both sweet and dry marsala wines to purchase at the supermarket. The differences between these lie in taste and usage.

Dry marsala wines are used in savory dishes. This type of wine is known for having a more complex flavor. Beyond being used in risotto, it is also commonly drunk before meals to encourage hunger.

Sweet marsala wines have a more subtle and sweet flavor. These wines are what one would use when cooking desserts. You’ll find that more recipes call for dry Marsala than sweet Marsala wine, and it’s typically the default option chosen.

Besides being split into savory versus sweet, marsala wines are differentiated based on their color and age. The aging process affects both the taste and the amount of alcohol that is present in the wine.

Best Substitute For Marsala wine

1.Red Grape Juice

Red grape juice works as a substitute for marsala wine in dessert recipes. It does not have the complex flavors that Marsala wine provides. However, it does add both sweetness and a grape flavor to recipes.

Opt for red grape juice that is sweetened to provide a more similar flavor. If you only have unsweetened red grape juice on hand, you can add some sugar to it before incorporating it into your desserts.

You can also use red grape juice in savory recipes, though you’ll want to add vanilla extract and sherry vinegar as a way to match the dry Marsala taste more closely.

Cranberry juice can also be used as one of the Marsala wine substitutes if no red grape juice is available.

Pros
Red grape juice can be used without modifications (unless using an unsweetened version, as noted above), making it an easy alternative. With slight tweaks, this substitution works in most marsala wine dishes.

Cons
You’ll notice that red grape juice is missing many of the flavors that Marsala presents in recipes. It takes a few steps to create a somewhat similar taste when used in savory meals adding onto the recipe timeline.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio for flavoring your dishes.

2. Prunes + Balsamic Vinegar

In general, balsamic vinegar and dried sweet fruits work well as a sweet marsala wine substitute. The vinegar adds some complexity to the taste, while the dried fruit, in this case, prunes, adds sweetness and additional flavor.

Using this option as a swap entails additional steps. You will need to simmer the fruit, strain it, and add in the balsamic vinegar. It can take a while for the fruit to soften so that you will need more patience and time for this option.

Pros
Use prunes and balsamic vinegar both for sweet and savory recipes. While the flavor does not match perfectly, it does provide a more similar taste to Marsala than red grape juice.

Cons
As noted above, this swap does add time to the recipe. If you’re in a rush, this is not the best ingredient substitution for you. The flavor profile, while similar, does vary from Marsala wine which may be noticeable in certain dishes.

Cooking Tip:
Substitute Marsala by using a 1:1 ratio of this mixture.

3. White Grape Juice + Sherry Vinegar

White grape juice and sherry vinegar also work as a Marsala wine alternative. The taste will differ as Marsala uses red grapes, and it lacks the additional flavors that Marsala provides.

Similar to red grape juice, white grape juice can be used both in savory and sweet recipes. Use the same rule as above – white grape juice alone for desserts and white grape juice with sherry vinegar when you’re recreating items like risotto.

Pros
White grape juice and sherry vinegar are easy to find in supermarkets. Or, you may already have both ingredients at home. Either way, they are easily accessible. This option is versatile and can be used in most recipes that call for masala wine.

Cons
The final flavor of any dish that uses this combo will vary from the original dish. The color of your dish will be lighter as well since the juice mellows the color of the sherry vinegar.

Cooking Tip:
Mix 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar together with ¼ cup of white grape juice. Use this ratio for ¼ cup of marsala wine in your favorite recipes.

4. Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is the most accessible marsala substitute. It can be purchased directly from the grocery store and is readily available. Stock is best used in soups and stews, where you would include Marsala wine.

Of course, you can make your homemade version so that you can add your favorite seasonings. However, store-bought will be sufficient for tasty recipes. There is a flavor difference as stock does not have vanilla, tobacco, or brown sugar notes. You can add a dash of balsamic vinegar to this swap to adjust the taste slightly.

If your stock is missing some flavor, you can add additional seasoning like marjoram, black pepper, and celery seed.

Pros
Using chicken stock as a substitution saves time – it’s quicker than some of the other listed options as a replacement for Marsala. Stock is easy to find in grocery stores and naturally has a slight sweetness when carrots are included. It also adds a good amount of flavor to the recipes.

Cons
This option can not be used in dessert recipes, so you’ll need to use another option if you plan to do any baking. Chicken stock does not match the taste of Marsala and lacks many of the flavor notes present.

Cooking Tip:
Use the same amount of chicken stock that the recipe requires.

5. Madeira Wine

Madeira wine is the top-recommended Marsala wine substitute and hails from Spain. It offers the same beautiful amber color to dishes and a very similar flavor as it’s a fortified wine. This wine is created from five different grape varieties and can be purchased in various flavors ranging from sweet to dry.

This wine is also similar to marsala wine in that the longer it ages, the stronger the flavor is. It can be used for salad dressings, desserts, and sauces. Opt for blended Madeira wine varieties for cooking as they are less expensive yet very flavorful.

Pros
Using Madeira wine substitute option works the best in terms of flavor and color. You can purchase Madeira wine with different flavor notes that pair well with your intended dish. This sub is available in most liquor shops, making it reasonably easy to find.

Cons
If you are unable to find a Madeira blend, other varieties can be used. However, depending on the brand found, they can become pricey quickly.

Cooking Tip:
Use Madeira wine in a 1:1 ratio when using instead of marsala wine.

6. Port Wine

If you already have port wine in your kitchen, it can be an excellent swap for Marsala wine recipes. Specifically, it works well in sweet recipes like desserts due to its decadent flavor. Port is Portugal-originating wine that typically offers chocolate, berry, and caramel tastes to dishes.

There are four varieties of port wine, each with its flavor profiles. The most commonly used types include red port and tawny port. The Red port provides a less sweet berry flavor, while the tawny port gives recipes a sweeter, caramel taste.

Pros
Port wine works excellently in dessert recipes by providing a complex, sweet flavor. With the multiple available varieties, it’s easy to customize the taste to work with your recipe. Port is also reasonably easy to find in grocery stores or liquor stores.

Cons
As with Madeira wine, port wine can be pricey, reaching hundreds of dollars per bottle. Of course, there are reasonably priced bottles. However, if your local store does not carry any, it may be best to opt for a different marsala wine swap.

Port wine typically works best with dessert dishes, limiting the recipes it can be used in.

Cooking Tip:
When using port wine, swap it in a 1:1 ratio for marsala wine.

7. Dry Sherry

Dry sherry wine is another excellent choice for a substitute. It provides a similar alcohol taste to dishes that marsala wine does. However, it does lack additional flavor notes creating a less complex flavor in dishes. Sherry wine should work well with most dishes that use marsala wine.

When using dry sherry as a swap, you’ll need to purchase drinking sherry instead of cooking sherry. Cooking sherry often includes other flavorings along with salt, which could change the taste of your dish.

Pros
Dry sherry is versatile and can be used in most recipes that call for marsala wine. It is not overly sweet, making it work well for savory and sweet dishes. Sherry wine provides a similar alcohol taste to recipes.

Cons
As sherry does not have the same flavor complexity as marsala wine, some dishes may require additional seasoning. Without extra seasoning, the recipe can taste flat or lacking.

Cooking Tip:
Use dry sherry in a 1:1 ratio as a substitution.

8. Pinot Noir

When searching for an ingredient to use instead of marsala wine, pinot noir can work well in many recipes. It also adds the alcohol flavor to dishes that Marsala typically does. Beyond that, pinot provides complex flavors as well.

This dry, fruity wine comes with a variety of flavor notes similar to port wine. However, you’ll note that pinot has a dry, less sweet flavor. It’s best used for savory dishes like meat dishes and sauces. If your recipe requires sweetness, you can combine a small amount of sweetener with pinot noir.
Pros
Most people have pinot noir already available in their kitchen as it’s a commonly consumed wine. If you don’t have a bottle, you can very easily find it at any grocery store nearby. Pinot provides a complex flavor similar to marsala wine to recipes. It works well in savory recipes.

Cons
The flavor is not an exact match for marsala wine, so the finished dish will have a slight taste difference. It provides a less sweet flavor which may not work well with all recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use pinot noir in a 1:1 ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Marsala taste like?

Marsala wine does not have one specific taste. The flavor varies depending on whether you opt for sweet or dry Marsala. Other taste differences are affected by the grade and how long it has been aged. Generally, you can find flavors like vanilla, tobacco, brown sugar, anise, and raisin in the available varieties.

Is there a substitute for marsala wine in chicken marsala?

Is there a substitute for marsala wine in chicken marsala?
While there is no perfect match, you can use the above as a sub for marsala wine. For this particular dish, you’ll want to proceed with using prunes and balsamic vinegar as an alternative. You’ll find the flavor matches the closest when cooking chicken marsala.

Is there a difference between marsala wine and marsala cooking wine?

No, there is not a difference between the two. Marsala wine and marsala cooking wine are the same liquid. This wine can be used for drinking and cooking, making either name an acceptable choice to use.

Can you get marsala wine at the grocery store?

Yes, you can purchase marsala wine at the grocery store. It is usually in one of two places – the vinegar/cooking aisle or the alcohol section. Check both areas of your local store before trying a liquor store.

Summary

Try any of the above alternatives when you avoid using Marsala wine or don’t have any available. Red grape juice is a quick and easy way to substitute Marsala wine in desserts, while prunes and balsamic vinegar have the closest flavor profile.

When choosing from the list above, consider the application before cooking your meal, as some choices work better than others. Keep this tip in mind for the best-tasting recipes.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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