Marsala wine is a fortified wine, which includes distilled spirits in its mixture. Generally, the spirit used in this wine is brandy. But mostly fortified wines are made from Madeira, Commandaria, port, sherry, and vermouth.
The Marsala wine originated in the village of Marsala, located in Sicily, Italy. It is made from different kinds of grapes and has an alcohol content between 15% and 20%. This fortified wine is used in many recipes. But if you don’t happen to have Marsala wine with you, there are many substitutes that you can try. Before we check out the substitutes, let’s look into the various types of Marsala wine.
Marsala comes in different varieties and is categorized by age and color. Here is a breakdown of the same:
- Doce: This is the sweetest wine with over 100 grams of residual sugar per liter.
- Secco: It is the driest variant of Marsala, which has less than 40 grams of sugar in one liter.
- Semi-Secco: A semi-sweet variant, this form contains between 50 grams and 100 grams of sugar per liter.
Color is the main factor of Marsala wine. Below is a rundown of the different colors of Marsala wine:
- Gold or Oro: This wine is produced with white grapes and has a rich golden color. You can expect flavors of licorice, hazelnuts, and vanilla.
- Ruby or Rubino: The beautiful ruby hue of this wine is derived from red grapes like nerello mascalese, Perricone, and Pignatello. This form of wine offers a fruity flavor and scent.
- Amber or Ambra: It is an amber-colored Marsala wine made using white grapes and has a dried fruit nutty taste.
Finally, the Marsala wine is classified based on its age.
- Stravecchio: Aged for at least 10 years without adding sugar.
- Soleras or Vergine: Aged between 5 and 7 years
- Superiore Riserva: Aged between 4 and 6 years
- Superiore: Aged for at least two years but not over three years
- Fine: Aged for a minimum of one year
The Marsala Wine Substitutes List
The following are the best substitutes for Marsala Wine:
Madeira is among the best alternatives for Marsala wine. In terms of flavor and color, both these wines are quite identical. Madeira is popularly enjoyed as an aperitif. In fact, some restaurants also serve as a dessert. Authentic Madeira is a concoction of five different kinds of grapes and has a strong flavor. Similar to Marsala, Madeira tends to become stronger with age.
Another great alternative for Marsala wine is dry sherry. While Marsala has added more complex flavor to dishes, you can achieve similar results with dry sherry. Make sure that you use actual sherry wine to get the Marsala flavor rather than cooking sherry wine. This is because cooking sherry has a high content of sodium that alters the taste of the recipe. For better results, use equal parts of dry sherry and vermouth while cooking.
White Grape Juice With Brandy
If you have white grape juice, then you can make Marsala substitute easily by mixing it with brandy. If you don’t have a brand, cognac will also do a great job. For 1/4th cup of white grape juice, you need to add one teaspoon of brandy or cognac.
Dry White Wine
If you cannot find Marsala wine, consider adding dry white wine to your recipe. It is a great and more easily accessible substitute for Marsala. For a better result, you can mix a dash of brandy to enhance the flavor.
Port can also work as a good substitute for Marsala wine, particularly if you are making desserts or sweet recipes. It works great as a base for many desserts. Port wine comes in different varieties, such as rose, white, dry, and semi-dry. And you can use these varieties in savory recipes to substitute Marsala.
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
If you are looking for a non-alcoholic substitute for Marsala wine in your savory dishes, consider vegetable or chicken stock. These stock work great in recipes that need to be cooked or simmered for a long time.
Rosemary, Figs, and Sage
A puree of rosemary, figs, and sage can be used as a Marsala substitute. You can use this pure as it is or add water to make it looser. Moreover, add one teaspoon of the puree at a time. Mix it well, taste, and add another spoon if needed.
Cranberry Juice or Red Grape Juice
If you are making any baked goods, you can use cranberry juice or red grape juice. While the flavor does not match exactly, it is somewhat closer to Marsala wine. Grape juice is a great non-alcoholic substitute that contains a lot of healthy nutrients.
Amontillado wines are the kind that taste like sherry and are highly popular in Spain. It is a good replacement of Marsala wines for both savory and sweet cooking. In fact, it’s not as dry as Marsala, which is what some recipes need. All kinds of Amontillado wines can be used as Marsala substitutes, such as Pedro Ximenez.
Pinot Noir is a kind of red wine that is mainly derived from the Pinot noir grapes. Similar to Marsala, it has a bit of a sweet flavor, and you can easily find it in the liquor and grocery stores near you. If you want the flavor to resemble Marsala exactly, add a bit of sugar to the recipe.
Cooking with various ingredients is a skill that you have to continue to fine-tune. There is always something more to be explored in a recipe. Cooking allows you the flexibility to experiment with various ingredients and bring a new twist to the overall flavor.
Marsala wine is a great ingredient that is used in many recipes, but you can choose a substitute and still cook a great dish. Above are some of the best substitutes for Marsala wines that you can choose. If one does not work for you, there are so many more to try it with.