Marsala Wine

Top 5 Alternatives To Marsala Wine For Your Favorite Italian Sauces

If you love Marsala chicken, then you have certainly cooked with Marsala wine before. This wine is common in Italian food and is often used to add flavor and thickness to sauces.

However, it is sometimes hard to find or expensive. So if you still want to cook some of these recipes, you may want to find a similar option.

Not every wine is the same, so don’t rush to get the first one you see in your pantry or wine bar. Take some time to taste the flavor and consider the consistency as well. Some of the substitutes out there are easy to get and use. 

What is Marsala Wine?

This form of fortified wine comes from Marsala, Sicily in Italy. It has a high level of alcohol at 17-20%, and it is considered to be a cousin of other wines, such as Port, Sherry, and Madeira. This wine is classified based on age, and the older the wine, the higher the alcohol content it has.

Marsala wine is made up of three types of grapes, namely, Catarratto, Grillo, and Insolia grapes, which give its signature dark red color. Marsala can be sweet or dry and sometimes used as a palate cleanser after a first or second dish. Other times it is considered a dessert wine to accompany a well-aged cheese. 

What Can You Replace Marsala Wine With?

Let’s cook! Here are the best substitutes for Marsala wine:

#1. Dry Sherry

While sherry has a bit of a milder flavor, it is a fairly similar wine in terms of cooking. Many grocery stores sell sherry, but this isn’t sherry wine, but rather a cooking mix that has additives and sodium, which could result in a change in the flavor of your recipe. 

You can find dry sherry in almost every liquor store, often with the sweet or dessert wines. This is a good option for color and texture. If you can only find sweet sherry, you can use it too, but consider adding a bit of vermouth for a similar taste to Marsala.

#2. Madeira

Since this is another fortified wine, it is a good alternative to Marsala that also has a similar color and flavor. Originally from the Madeira Portuguese islands, this wine is considered an aperitif by many and often found as a dessert in restaurants. 

You can find Madeira in the local liquor stores, but it is traditionally made with 5 types of grapes, which means that it has an intense flavor. Like Marsala, this wine also gets stronger as it ages more, so consider this when buying it and using it for cooking. 

#3. White Wine + Brandy

Since white wine is more commonly found everywhere, you may even have some at home already. You can use ½ cup of dry white wine and mix it with a teaspoon of brandy.

Dry white wine is not as sweet, that’s why brandy comes in handy to mimic the sweetness in Marsala, but if it doesn’t seem like enough, consider adding a pinch of brown sugar when you’re cooking. 

White wine is a good choice in many recipes. It is often used in white sauces from French to Italian cuisines, but you can use it instead of Marsala whenever you’re out of other options. 

Related: What Are The Best Substitutes For White Wine Vinegar?

#4. White Grape Juice

This non-alcoholic option is a good call if you’re trying to be booze-free or if you can’t run to the liquor store. Make sure it is white grape juice though, as the other kind tends to be too sweet and could damage the flavor of the end product. For better results, consider using ¼ cup of white grape juice and a teaspoon of brandy as well, which can yield similar results to Marsala. 

White grape juice is easily accessible everywhere, and it lasts longer than opened wine, so it’s the right choice if your recipe only calls for a little bit of Marsala wine.

#5. Pinot Noir

This red wine is light-bodied and a bit sweet, so it can be used instead of Marsala if you can’t seem to find any other ingredients. This wine is common in grocery stores and liquor stores everywhere, so it can be an easier option to buy. Pinot noir is also found to be a flexible wine in terms of flavor, and that’s why it can come from various regions of the world. 

This wine is often paired with a good steak, or used in cooking meals such as stews, but it can replace Marsala when in a pinch. You may have to add a bit of sugar too for extra sweetness.

When In Doubt, Go With What You Know

While all these substitutes make for good options, sometimes it can be overwhelming to pick just one. Trying the flavors helps, but if you still have doubts, then go with something in the family of fortified wines, such as Port, Madeira, or Sherry.

If the flavor still doesn’t feel right, consider mixing it with Brandy, or adding some brown sugar, as this can help create a very similar feel of mouth as Marsala.


Can you use red wine instead of marsala wine?

Using red wine can be tricky, especially because some red wines are more acidic and bitter, while Marsala is sweet. If you only have red wine in handy, you can try Pinot Noir for a flavor profile that comes close.

Can I use balsamic vinegar instead of marsala wine?

You can use balsamic vinegar if you want something non-alcoholic, but you should maybe mix it with sugar, as it is very acidic on its own. If you can find it, a balsamic reduction is much sweeter and could be used as a replacement for marsala wine in cooking.

Does marsala wine need to be refrigerated?

Marsala is a fortified wine so there isn’t a need to keep it inside a fridge. Just like other wines, you can simply store it in a cool, dry place.


These are just a few options for you to try instead of Marsala wine, but they all have a distinct flavor, so we recommend that you always taste before you use them.

You can mix choices to experiment, but consider sweetness and texture when cooking. Now, you are ready to make a delicious chicken marsala recipe!

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