Last Updated on September 18, 2021 by April
Marsala wine is a sweet fortified wine that originates from Sicily, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Marsala wines are generally made of grapes ranging in color from light- to dark amber.
Marsala wines are often used for cooking purposes, which is why it’s important to note some substitutes you can use while cooking recipes calling for marsala wine if you do not have any readily available.
About Cooking Substitutions
Cooking substitutions are used in cases where specific ingredients are either not available or are unavailable in the necessary quantity. Cooking substitutions can be one-for-one, i.e., each ingredient can be traded with equal amounts of another, or they can use different quantities of cooking ingredients that have similar functions to provide a good outcome for people following recipes that call for specific ingredients. Because using certain substitutes will change the overall outcome of your dish (including taste, texture, etc.), it’s best to experiment with small batches at first and make adjustments according to your own needs before presenting your final product to others.
Marsala Wine Substitutes for Cooking
One great substitute for marsala wine is Madeira wine. Madeira wines originate from the Madeira Islands off the coast of Portugal.
Madeira wines also have a strong flavor and are usually served as dessert wines. One noteworthy example of a Madeira wine is Verdelho, which has a golden hue similar to that of golden raisins.
One substitute for marsala wine is dry sherry. Dry sherry is a fortified wine that originates from Spain and can be served as an aperitif, as well as an ingredient in cooking.
Sherry wines are often made with grapes such as Palomino and Pedro Ximinez. A notable brand of dry sherry wine is oloroso, which has the same color as marsala wine and has a sweet flavor reminiscent of figs, raisins, and dates.
Sherry Wine and Sweet Vermouth
Sherry wine and sweet vermouth can be used as substitutes for marsala wine. Sherry wine is a type of fortified wine that originated in Spain, while sweet vermouth is an aromatic, sweet, fortified wine originated in Italy.
When substituting for marsala wine, mix equal parts sherry and sweet vermouth.
Pinot Noir is a type of wine that is made from the pinot noir grape. Pinot Noir wines are generally light-bodied red wines, so they are usually paired with foods that have some spice to them. You can add a bit of sugar to your wine to get it closer to the intended marsala flavor.
White Wine and Brandy
Another substitute for marsala wine is white wine and brandy. Generally, white wine and brandy are mixed together (50% each) with a little sugar added to the mixture. A good substitute for marsala wine in pasta dishes is white wine and brandy.
Non-Alcoholic Cooking Substitute for Marsala Wine
White Grape Juice
White grape juice is a popular substitute for marsala wine. It has a sweet flavor that can be used in dishes such as meatballs and pasta. White grape juice is often paired with herbs such as thyme and sage to give it a more robust flavor.
White grape juice is also great for using in mushroom dishes.
Grape juice and sugar (and other fruit juices)
One other substitute for marsala wine is grape juice and sugar. For one cup of marsala, add three tablespoons of grape juice to a saucepan with one tablespoon of sugar. Boil the mixture until it reduces to half (one cup).
Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and you’ve got your very own homemade Marsala!
Fruit juices such as apple or pineapple juices can be substituted for marsala wine in some recipes, but because these juices are weaker than marsala wine, they will not impart as much flavor into your dish. However, any desserts that call for marsala may turn out better if fruit juices are used instead.
Another substitute for marsala wine is chicken stock. Many recipes that call for marsala wine also call for white wine or brandy and can be substituted with chicken stock. It is worth noting, however, that the substitution will change the flavor and consistency of the finished dish.
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
One substitute for marsala wine is balsamic vinegar reduction. This can be used in any dish that asks for marsala wine. It’s perfect for dishes such as beef stew, which is very hearty and thick. To prepare just deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar and pour it over your meal to impart a sweet flavor reminiscent of figs, raisins, and dates.
Drinking Wine Alternatives for Marsala Wine
In general, you can substitute any fortified wine for marsala and have a good time. Here are the types of fortified wines.
Port wine is a fortified wine dedicated to the city of Porto in Portugal, which was formerly known as Port.
The production process for port includes fermenting the grape juice with yeast and adding sugar so that it can be aged in wooden barrels for around five years.
The sweetness of the wine is due to the fact that it is initially made from white grapes, but then slow fermentation turns it into red wine.
Sherry is a type of wine that originates from Spain. Sherry wines can be served as an aperitif, as well as an ingredient in cooking. One notable dry sherry wine is oloroso, which has the same color as marsala wine and has a sweet flavor reminiscent of figs, raisins, and dates.
Madeira is a fortified wine that originates from Portugal. It’s light-bodied and is best served as an after-dinner drink or after-dinner dessert wine.
The production process for Madeira includes the use of white grapes, although they are very different types of grapes than those used to make Marsala. The grapes are boiled to concentrate their flavors, they are then fermented in stainless steel vats for about four months.
Muscat is a type of wine that originates from the Eastern Mediterranean. Muscat wines are typically made with white grapes, which are boiled to concentrate their flavors before fermentation. They are often fortified with sugar to increase the alcohol content and they normally have an alcohol content between 15-22%.
The taste of muscat wine is sweet and has notes of honey, dried apricots, raisins, figs, and dates.
Vermouth is a fortified wine that originated in Italy. Vermouth was originally intended to be used to mask the taste of medicinal ingredients. Today, there are many different types of vermouths that serve different purposes such as Martini and Negroni. The flavor of vermouth will vary depending on what type of wine was used for its initial fermentation process.
FAQ About Marsala Wine Substitutions
Can merlot be used as a marsala wine substitute?
Marsala wine is not similar to merlot, and would not be a good alternative. Merlot is usually made with red grapes, while marsala wine is made with white grapes. For example, the flavor of merlot will be more fruity because it is made with red grape juice, while the flavor of marsala wine will be sweeter because it’s made with white grape juice.
Is marsala white or red?
Marsala is an Italian wine made with white grapes. The color ranges from the palest to deep blood-red, depending on how long it has been aged in oak barrels.
Is marsala served chilled?
It’s typically served slightly chilled around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However, how your wine is served is mainly preference. Experiment a bit and see what you enjoy the most.
Can you use red wine instead of marsala wine?
No. Marsala wine is not similar to red wine, and would not be a good alternative. Red wine is usually made with red grapes, while marsala wine is made with white grapes. For example, the flavor of red wine will be more fruity because it’s made with red grape juice, while the flavor of marsala wine will be sweeter because it’s made with white grape juice.
What can I use in tiramisu instead of marsala?
One thing you can do instead of using marsala wine in tiramisu is to use liquor. For example, if you’re using marsala wine in a marsala chicken dish, you could replace it with rum.
Ensure that the replacement liquor has a similar consistency to that of the original wine before adding it to the dish.
Does cooking wine get rid of the alcohol?
No, cooking wine does not fully remove the alcohol. However, only a small amount of alcohol will remain. If you have been advised by a medical professional to avoid alcohol, you should not cook with any kind of wine.
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