Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by Claire
For one reason or the other, you need the best available marsala wine substitute. Marsala wine is a fortified wine that contains a mix of distilled spirits.
Marsala wine has earned a reputation for being one of the most revered cooking wines in many kitchens around the world, it has been found in many dishes and recipes all through the years.
Now, what if you simply can’t use the Marsala wine in your favorite Italian dish or you simply don’t have any available? How do you cope without it?
Fortunately, there are perfect Marsala wine substitutes you can use in place of the real thing that will give you the same flavor as this distinct wine, regardless of what type of dish you’re trying to prepare.
Keep on reading to find out what Marsala wine substitutes are available for your use, and a few other need-to-know stuff about Marsala wine.
Marsala wine substitute
Depending on your cooking needs and type of dish, below are Marsala wine substitutes divided into two main categories: alcoholic and non-alcoholic substitutes.
Madeira wine is one of the most common and similar-tasting alcoholic substitutes for Marsala wine. It is a fortified wine that has been classified as a dessert wine by the USDA.
It has an almost identical taste profile and can be easily sourced from most stores in your local area. Just make sure you’re careful to choose the right type of Madeira, as some bottles have a better quality than others.
1 cup of Marsala = 1 cup of Madeira
Dry Sherry is a common off-the-shelf alcoholic wine that has an identical taste profile to Marsala wine.
Although some chefs recommend adding sweet vermouth to dry sherry to get a closer taste profile to Marsala, I’d avoid using cooking sherry as it contains too many additives which might take away many of the distinct flavors associated with Marsala.
It’s important to mention that you need to use the actual Sherry wine, and not the cooking Sherry wine because cooking Sherry wine contains a high volume of sodium which can drastically change the flavor of your dish.
1 cup of Marsala = 1 cup of dry sherry
Vermouth is a type of fortified wine well-known for its staggering range of aromas and is commonly used as a base in cocktails.
It can be easily sourced from local wine shops around you.
1 Cup of Marsala = 1/2 Cup of Dry Sherry + 1/2 Cup of Vermouth
Pedro Ximenez is a variety of Spanish cherry wine which can be used to replace sweet Marsala in recipes.
Just like Pedro Ximenez, Amontillado is also a variety of Spanish cherry wine that can be used to replace dry Marsala in recipes.
Dry white wine
By adding a little cognac or brandy to dry white wine before adding it to any recipes, Dry white wine is a very good alternative to dry Marsala when making savory dishes.
Sweet Riesling and Moscato
These are a variety of sweet white wines that are a very good substitute for Marsala wine when added to desserts.
Port wine is an absolutely fantastic although pricey substitute for Marsala when it comes to preparing desserts and other delicious dishes.
While most people know Port as a sweet red wine, it comes in a variety of flavors such as dry, semi-dry, rose, and even white variants, with each having its own distinct flavor profile.
Although Port wine is best used as a base for many sweet desserts, you can also add dry, semi-dry, or white port wine to savory dishes as a replacement for Marsala.
1 cup of Marsala = 1 cup of port
Brandy and White Grape Juice
In the absence of Marsala wine, a combination of white grape juice and Brandy or cognac is a viable substitute for it. Alternatively, you can use white wine instead of white grape juice.
1 Cup of Marsala = ¼ Cup of grape juice + 1 Teaspoon of Cognac or Brandy
Although Pinot Noir is a good substitute for Marsala, it only has a similar taste profile when added to some dishes with meats like chicken and pork.
However, you can add a little bit of sugar to the Pinot Noir wine to counterbalance it so you can get a similar sweet taste as with Marsala wine.
1 cup of Marsala = 1 cup of Pinot Noir
Sherry Vinegar, White Grape Juice, and Vanilla extracts
As previously stated, white grape juice is an excellent substitute for Marsala wine, especially when combined with either brandy or cognac.
However, in cases where you can’t use alcoholic substitutes, you can add a mixture of sherry vinegar and vanilla extracts to the white grape juice and then add them to your recipe.
1 Cup of Marsala = ¼ Cup of white grape juice + 2 Tablespoons of Sherry vinegar + 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract
Sage, Rosemary and Figs
It might seem a little odd, but a combination of Sage and Rosemary with nicely cooked figs (Puree) is actually an excellent Marsala substitute.
You just have to make sure you don’t add too many herbs to the figs as you might end up losing the subtle flavors associated with Marsala.
A little bit of ingenuity is needed when doing this, although a teaspoon of puree is enough for most dishes, you can simply add the Puree in teaspoonfuls until you’re satisfied with how your dish tastes.
1 Cup of Marsala = 1 teaspoon of Puree
Balsamic Vinegar and Sugar
The fact is that although balsamic vinegar is a reliable, quick, and affordable substitute for Marsala wine, you should be careful when using it for sweet desserts, recipes, or savory dishes as it can actually change the taste.
Although you can use sugar to counteract the taste and acidity of the balsamic vinegar depending on your preferences, it’s actually more advisable for you to use honey in place of sugar as it’s more natural. Alternatively, you can buy and use commonly available Balsamic reduction products which are gluten-free.
1 Cup of Marsala = 1 Cup of Balsamic Vinegar + ½ Tablespoon of sugar
Red Grape Juice and Cranberry Juice
When it comes to desserts, cakes, and baked dishes, Red Grape Juice is an excellent non-alcoholic alternative to sweet Marsala.
Whatever type of Red Juice is used or If Cranberry juice is used is mostly dependent on individual needs and preferences.
1 Cup of Marsala = 1 Cup of Red Juice
Figs and Balsamic Vinegar, Prunes or Plums
Here’s a little secret! A combination of Balsamic Vinegar with fruits such as figs, prunes, or plums can actually pass off as Marsala wine. Here’s how to do it:
Simply simmer the fruits over low heat, and then strain them using a mesh sieve. Add some Balsamic Vinegar to the fruit juice before using it as a substitute for Marsala wine in any of your dishes.
1 Cup of Marsala = ½ Cup of Figs or ½ Cup of Plums or ½ Cup of Prunes
Homemade Vegetable Broth or Chicken Stock
Homemade Vegetable Broth or Chicken Stock is actually a very good substitute for Marsala Wine when it comes to meaty recipes, especially cooked or simmered dishes.
They’re really not suited to sweet recipes or desserts, however, you can add a little bit of Balsamic Vinegar to it to improve the flavor and give it a taste profile similar to Marsala.
1 Cup of Marsala = ½ Cup of Vegetable or ½ Cup of Chicken Stock.
Where is Marsala wine produced?
Marsala wine is produced in the Sicily region of Italy, and it’s named after a small Italian town named Marsala which is located on the border of this wine-producing region.
Marsala wine possesses intriguing flavors such as stewed apricot, brown sugar, tamarind, and a little taste of vanilla. It has a taste ranging from a nearly dry taste to sappy sweet. The most common flavors are vanilla, tamarind, stewed apricot, and brown sugar. It’s best served slightly cool at a temperature of about 55° F.
What is Marsala made out of?
All Marsala wines are fortified with brandy or other neutrally distilled spirits and made out of a combination of locally produced white grape varieties such as Grillo, Damaschino, Catarratto, and Inzolia using a complex production process. It’s worth noting that Red grapes are also added to the blend sometimes.
It undergoes a unique labor-intensive aging process known as ‘Solera’.
The color and flavor of Marsala wine depend on the balance of red and green grapes used to make it and the aging process also. Marsala wine can be gold, amber or ruby in color. It may also be dry or sappy sweet in taste.
The popular amber color of the Marsala wine is simply a result of a cooked grape ‘must’ known as “Mosto Cotto”
Marsala Wine nutrition facts:
Although Marsala wine is high in sodium, it’s not a notable source of any essential nutrients.
According to the USDA, listed below is the nutritional information for a 100-millimeter (3.3 ounces) serving of Marsala cooking wine:
- Energy: 117 kcal
- Fat: 0
- Sodium: 633 mg
- Fiber: 0
- Sugar: 10g
- Protein: 0
- Carbohydrates: 10g
Why do I need Marsala wine substitutes?
If you have allergies, intolerance or hypersensitivity to alcohol, it’s best to avoid any food or drinks that contain noticeable levels of alcohol. So in this case, it’s best to look for alternatives to Marsala wine.
It’s also worth mentioning that the amount of alcohol burned when cooking with Marsala wine depends on the cooking method, temperature and duration.
Getting the most appropriate Marsala wine substitute depends on the taste or flavor profile and the type of dish you are making.
Generally, only similarly fortified wines are likely to be closest in taste to Marsala wine and often make the best substitutes. Red wine, Madeira wine, port wine, and red wine vinegar are examples of excellent alternatives.
The key is knowing when and how to substitute and how to mix the ingredients so they can excellently mimic the luscious flavors of this distinctive wine.
Is Marsala Wine the same as red wine?
Marsala wine has a significantly sweeter flavor that is very distinctive from that of red wine, and it also doesn’t have the tannins that red wine has.
There are also a variety of Marsala wines such as red and white, and sweet and dry Marsala. However, it is the most popular and commonly used sweet red Marsala that is commonly used in cooking.
Marsala wine has a nutty, brown sugar flavor with notes of dried fruit and with tastes ranging from dry (lightly sweet) to very sweet. It also contains a higher volume of alcohol compared to most red wines, especially when aged for a long time.
There are a lot of great options you can use to substitute for Marsala depending on your needs and purposes.
Alcoholic or non-alcoholic options, from Madeira and Dry Sherry to Vegetable broth or Chicken stock, you have a wide range of options to choose from.
All you have to do is make sure you actually pick one that best suits your cooking or drinking needs.