Marsala wine substitutes are important, because while this cooking wine is readily available in Italian markets and specialty grocery stores, it may be difficult to find in a regular supermarket. Also, some people may not want to consume alcohol for religious or personal reasons. Knowing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic marsala wine substitutes can help complete a recipe when this Italian cooking wine is hard to find.
Named after the region in Italy where it is produced, Marsala is a wine that is available in both dry and sweet varieties. Marsala is “fortified,” meaning that it has additional alcohol added to it, usually brandy. While it can be served as a beverage, this wine is most commonly used in cooking and baking. The dry type is used in many Italian dishes, including chicken or veal marsala and risotto, as well as in sauces. The sweet variety features in Italian desserts and baked goods such as tiramisu, zabaione, and cakes.
While marsala wine has a unique flavor profile, there are several replacements that come close to replicating the taste, these include other fortified wines, non-fortified wines, grape juice, and brandy, white grape juice, and chicken or vegetable stock among others.
Other Fortified Wines
If you can’t find Marsala, try using Madeira, a Portuguese fortified wine with a similar taste. Port or sherry are two other fortified wine options.
Use a dry white wine for cooking or sweet white wine for baking. Mixing in a bit of brandy will help approximate the flavor of marsala more closely.
Grape Juice and Brandy
Stir a teaspoon of brandy into 1/4 cup of white grape juice for a marsala substitute without wine.
White Grape Juice
While it will be less flavorful than other substitutes, replacing marsala wine with grape juice is an easy non-alcoholic option.
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
In savory recipes, such as chicken marsala, substituting chicken or vegetable stock for the Italian cooking wine will eliminate the alcohol, while still resulting in a tasty dish.
Make Your Own
To most closely match the flavor of marsala without the alcohol, mix 1/4 cup of white grape juice with 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. In terms of mimicking flavor in a delicate recipe, this is likely the wisest choice.
Word of Caution: Cooking with alcoholic beverages results in only some loss of alcohol content. Foods baked or simmered in alcohol can retain anywhere from 4 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab.