Marsala wine is a type of wine that originates from Italy. It comes with dry and sweet varieties, and it provides optimal versatility.
Thanks to its versatile operation, Marsala wine has become a famous wine variant across the world. However, you could be looking to get your hands on some substitutes sometimes.
So, what is the best substitute for Marsala wine? Among the many substitute options, Madeira is the best substitute for several reasons. Beyond its taste and flavor similarities to Marsala wine, Madeira is a great substitute because it works for pretty much the same dishes. You can use it in dishes and for drinking, and it has an impressive shelf life.
An Overview of Marsala Wine
Marsala wine originates from Marsala in Sicily, Italy. The wine became popular in the late 17th century, and it soon became popular among different countries and their militaries. Marsala wine is usually made of three grape variants – Catarratto, Grillo, and Insolia. This intricate combination provides the wine’s characteristically reddish-black color.
A fortified wine, Marsala wine is made of a mixture of distilled spirits. Usually, the spirit used here is brandy.
As for functions, Marsala is also pretty versatile. It works for drinking, and you can also use it for cooking sweet and savory dishes, like chicken marsala. With sweet and dry variants available, you can be free to choose what you want at any point. You can use the wine as a palate cleanser following a first or second dish. It also works as a dessert wine if you think you’re in the mood for that.
Why Replace Marsala Wine?
- Alcohol content: Marsala wine comes with 17 to 20 percent alcohol. If that seems too large or small for you, some substitutes could provide more or less alcohol. It’s all your choice.
- Taste differences: If you don’t like how Marsala wine tastes, you can find substitutes that will work much better for you.
Options for Marsala Wine Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Marsala Wine: Madeira
Madeira is your ideal substitute for Marsala wine for several reasons. For one, it shares a similar flavor and color with Marsala wine. So, in terms of the most critical physical characteristics, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to substitute these two. You get pretty much the same physical characteristics, and you can use Madeira as you like.
Like Marsala wine, Madeira is a fortified wine – essentially, a wine whose taste and texture have been improved with some distilled spirit (usually brandy). Fortified wines are especially famous when cooking as they provide a lot of benefits for sweet and savory dishes. So, if you’re looking to use wine to savor your dish, Madeira can step in to substitute for Marsala wine.
Also like Marsala wine, Madeira gets even more robust as it gets older. Thanks to the different grape varieties used in making it, Madeira is quite complex. However, you can always work your way around this complexity and apply the Madira carefully.
You should also keep in mind that authentic Madeira has a more robust flavor – another consequence of the many grape variants used to make it. So, you might want to take precautions when using it. Most experts will suggest adding it in small quantities and increasing its volume based on your taste.
Best Substitute for Cooking: Dry Sherry
To be clear, dry sherry doesn’t have the type of complex flavors you would get in Marsala wine. However, if you’re cooking and Marsala wine isn’t your main ingredient, you will find that dry sherry can work relatively well.
Dry sherry is excellent when substituting for Marsala wine as an alcoholic undertone. Also, some experts will recommend that you use drinking sherry for this – not cooking sherry. This choice is mostly because cooking sherry comes with a lot of sodium content and other additives. So, if you’re making a dish with several flavors and need an alcoholic undertone to bring them all together, cooking sherry might not be the best for you.
You can also try some modifications if you taste the sherry and find that it doesn’t taste right on its own. Experts recommend using some additives, including and especially sweet vermouth. The latter will provide another taste profile that you will most likely prefer, and it won’t interfere with your dish or its flavor tone.
If you’re looking to replace your Marsala wine with dry sherry, mix ⅛ of a cup of dry sherry with equal parts of sweet vermouth, and you’re ready to go.
Most Versatile Substitute: Brandy
Brandy is especially great as a substitute for Madeira wine because you can find it everywhere. Just step into an alcohol store, and you’ve got brandy available. However, you will need to take some precautions when using it.
One of brandy’s biggest benefits is that it can blend well with several components to provide a versatile operation. For instance, you can combine it with grape juice if you find that your dish has an excessive amount of alcohol. Since both are readily available around you, there won’t be much of a problem.
Just get ¼ of a cup of grape juice with one teaspoon of brandy, and you’ll be able to use them as a replacement for ¼ of a cup of Marsala wine.
You could also get a bottle of white wine and combine it with your brandy. White wine and Marsala wine actually taste relatively similarly, so you have an excellent base to start from. Combine one teaspoon of brandy with ¼ cup of white wine, and the mixture will work well as a substitute for ¼ cup of Marsala wine.
However, if you will be using dry white wine, be sure to add a pinch of sugar or two to mimic the same taste of Marsala wine.