Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily, Italy that comes in a range of styles from sweet to dry. It is commonly used in cooking adding depth to sauces and a kick to your favorite desserts.
It can be difficult to get hold of or perhaps you are mid recipe and don’t have Marsala handy for that Chicken Marsala or Tiramisu recipe. So, let’s talk about what you can use instead.
What is fortified wine?
Fortified wine is when additional alcohol is added to wine. Marsala has either brandy or a neutral grape spirit added to a base wine to fortify it. It can range in color (golden, amber, ruby) depending on how it was made and aged. Typical flavors include apricot, brown sugar, tobacco and vanilla.
Marsala contains about 15–20% alcohol by volume (ABV)
Marsala wine and cooking
Dry Marsala is more versatile for cooking. You can substitute Dry Marsala for Sweet Marsala in a recipe, but, generally, it doesn’t work the other way around.
Best Marsala wine substitutes
Other fortified wine
Given that Marsala is a fortified wine, it makes sense that the best substitute is another fortified wine. Other fortified wines to substitute for Marsala:
- Any Port
- Any Sherry
Aromatised fortified wines
Aromatised fortified wines can also be a good substitute for Marsala depending on what you are making and your flavor preferences. Most have some elements of fruits, peels, bark, herbs or spices added. So, you will need to determine if the combination works with your recipe and preferences.
- Vermouth – aromatized fortified wine flavored with botanicals
- Lillet – a French fortified wine made with fruits, peels, and barks
- Dubonnet – a French fortified wine with herbs and spices
White or red wine and a neutral spirit
In the absence of a fortified wine, use a mixture of wine (preferable white) and a neutral spirit, such as vodka. Use a 2:1 ratio, with twice as much wine as spirit.
Sweet wines like Tokaj, Sauternes or a sweet Riesling with a neutral spirit can be used to replace a sweet Marsala for a dessert recipe.
Wine and brandy
As previously mentioned, Marsala is fortified with brandy sometimes, so mixing wine and brandy is another good substitute. Use a 2:1 ratio of wine and brandy. If you don’t have any wine, brandy and grape juice will work in a pinch.
If you are making Tiramisu with Marsala, there are lots of recipes that use sherry or just brandy, often Cognac, instead.
Likewise, if your Tiramisu recipe calls for Cognac or brandy, you can substitute it with Marsala wine.
Non alcoholic Marsala wine substitute
Fruit juice, particularly white and red grape juice can be used as an alternative to Marsala wine. It won’t be an exact replacement, but it will replace the fruity sweet element of Marsala.