7 Easy Substitutes for Marsala Wine

Is Marsala absent from your pantry? Don't pack up your dishes just yet. Here are some substitutes to turn to.

Updated January 31, 2024
cook with wine

If you're making a Marsala sauce or another recipe that calls for Marsala wine and find that you've run out of this ingredient (or never had it in the first place), you may be able to substitute it with another wine, sherry, or even brandy. The key is knowing when and how to substitute and how to mix the ingredients so they can best mimic the flavors of this distinctive wine.

Cooking With a Substitute for Marsala Wine

Marsala has a unique flavor, so many traditional cooks could feel that substituting another wine or combination of ingredients can change the flavor of a dish.

But you might not always have Marsala wine on hand, and there are times you just need a quick alternative. If that's the case, you can turn to one of these recipes for a substitute.

chicken marsala

Non-Alcoholic Marsala Substitute

Although most of the alcohol evaporates during cooking, some people prefer to cook without using Marsala because of its alcohol content. Try this non-alcoholic substitute:

  • ¼ cup white grape juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Grape Juice and Brandy

If you have white grape juice and any type of brandy around your kitchen, you can rely on this easy substitution.

For every ¼ cup of Marsala wine you need in your recipe, substitute the following:

  • ¼ cup white grape juice
  • 1 teaspoon brandy

Mix the ingredients thoroughly before adding and then continue making your dish per the instructions.

Related: Guide to Marsala Wine

White Wine and Brandy

If you're more likely to have some dry white wine — or another white wine substitute — on hand, that also makes a good alternative to Marsala. Since Marsala is actually a brandy-fortified wine, this substitution comes pretty darn close to the original.

Mix these two ingredients together and add them to your recipe:

Dry Sherry

The flavors in sherry aren't nearly as complex as Marsala, but it will do as long as Marsala isn't a main ingredient for the recipe. If you're substituting with sherry, ensure it is actual sherry and not cooking sherry (which has salt added).

If you taste the sherry and find that it isn't quite right on its own, mix it with an equal part of sweet vermouth to create a substitution.

Quick Tip

Cooking sherry has too many additives and a high sodium content that drastically affects the flavors of the dish, which is why you'll want to skip that as a substitute. 

Other Substitutions

Here are some other substitutions for Marsala that you can use in a pinch:

  • Madeira: This fortified wine has a lot of the same flavor characteristics as Marsala, so it will taste similar, though not quite the same.
  • Port: Depending on the type of port you buy, this substitution could be good but a bit pricey.
  • Pinot noir: Pinot noir can also make a good Marsala substitute.

Drinking Wines Similar to Marsala

Although Marsala is especially popular as a cooking wine, some people also like to drink it as a dessert wine. It pairs especially well with goat cheese, chocolate, nuts, and, of course, chicken or veal Marsala.

If you're serving one of these dishes but don't have any Marsala wine on hand, you could try port wine, sherry, or Madeira. These wines display a similar sweetness and complement some of the same foods.

Long Shelf Life

Although there are many good substitutes for Marsala wine, you may find that you can tell the difference in the flavor of your dish. If you find that you make Marsala chicken or another Italian dish often enough, it might be worth getting a bottle of Marsala to keep on hand. Because this wine is fortified, it has a higher alcohol content than non-fortified wines, giving it a longer shelf life and making it ideal for storage and cooking. We can that a win, win, win for keeping this wine on hand. 

7 Easy Substitutes for Marsala Wine