Best Substitutes for Marsala Wine

A classic Italian dish

Getty Images/smpics

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Best known for creating the delicious sauce for veal and chicken, Marsala wine is a versatile cooking liquid that adds a sweet, nutty, fruity flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. 

Though popular in Italian kitchens, Marsala wine may not be a staple item in your house. If you are making a dish that calls for this popular cooking wine and you do not have any or you cannot use it, you may be searching for some alternatives. 

Cooks like using marsala wine because of its flavor profile, but there are many suitable substitutes you can use instead. Here is what you need to know about Marsala wine and its alternatives.

About Marsala Wine

Marsala wine is an Italian wine made from a mixture of green and red grapes grown In Sicily. After an aging process, winemakers mix the wine with brandy, creating a fortified wine. Fortified wine is a wine that has added spirits to increase the alcohol content. Sherry and Madeira are also fortified wines.

The color and flavor of Marsala wine vary depending on the balance of red and green grapes used to make the wine, as well as the aging process. Marsala wine may be gold, amber, or ruby as well as dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. 

Sweet wines have more sugar than dry wines. When making a savory dish, you may prefer a dry Marsala wine while with desserts, you may prefer a sweet one.

Marsala Wine Nutrition Facts

Marsala wine is not a significant source of any essential nutrients but is high in sodium. Nutrition information for a 100-milliliter serving (3.3 ounces) of Marsala cooking wine is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 117
  • Fat: 0
  • Sodium: 633mg
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 0
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Protein: 0

The sodium in the Marsala wine comes from added salt. Most cooking wines contain salt and other preservatives to prolong shelf-life. Sodium is an essential nutrient, but you only need it in small amounts.

Getting too much sodium in your diet puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure and increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. In general, you should limit your daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day.

One serving of Marsala cooking wine provides more than 25% of the daily value for sodium. Though you may not drink cooking wine, you can find Marsala wine to drink in the wine aisle of your grocery or liquor store, which has significantly less sodium than the cooking wine.

Why Use a Substitute

There are many reasons why you might be searching for a substitute for Marsala wine. Maybe you do not have any of the cooking wine in your kitchen and you cannot find it at your local grocery store.

Of course, you may also be looking for a substitute if you want to avoid alcohol. However, the amount of alcohol burned depends on cooking method, temperature, and length of cooking.

You may also be searching for a substitute for Marsala wine if you have an allergy, hypersensitivity, or intolerance to wine or alcohol. Wine allergies are common, especially red wine, and may cause a range of symptoms, including life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Hypersensitivity or intolerance to wine or alcohol may not cause life-threatening symptoms, but can be uncomfortable. Avoiding any food or drink that makes you feel sick is always your best bet. If you follow a low-sodium diet, you may also need to substitute the high-sodium cooking wine with a lower sodium option.

Best Substitutes for Marsala Wine

Marsala cooking wine has a rich flavor that is hard to replicate. However, if you are out or cannot use this wine, there are substitutes that can help you get close to the flavor you are looking for. 

Madeira Wine

If you are searching for a Marsala wine substitute that most closely matches the flavor of the Italian cooking wine, then Madeira is your best choice. Madeira is a fortified wine and has a similar color and flavor to Marsala wine and makes a good one-to-one substitute. The USDA classifies Madeira as a dessert wine, grouping it with other sweet wines, including Marsala wine.

Dry Sherry

Though not as flavorful as Marsala wine, sherry makes a good one-to-one substitute. To get the most flavor in your dish, use the drinking sherry and not the cooking sherry. 

Dry sherry is significantly lower in sodium than Marsala cooking wine. It is also lower in carbs and sugar, which may be preferable for those following a keto diet.

White Grape Juice

If you need to avoid alcohol, white grape juice makes a suitable substitute for Marsala wine. However, to get the right flavor profile when using juice, you need to mix it with sherry vinegar and vanilla extract.

For every 1/2 cup of Marsala wine, use 1/4 cup of white grape juice mixed with 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. White grape juice also makes a good substitute for those looking for a lower sodium option for their recipe. However, the juice is high in carbohydrates and sugar. 

Chicken Stock

For savory dishes that require a long cooking time, chicken stock makes a good substitute for Marsala wine. Use the same amount of chicken stock as Marsala wine in your recipe. Like the cooking wine, chicken stock is high in sodium, but low in calories, carbs, and sugar. 

A Word From Verywell

If you are looking for a substitute for Marsala wine, there are a number of options at your disposal. From chicken stock and white grape juice to Madiera wine and dry sherry, you have a number of flavorful options at your disposal. This is especially useful if you cannot have wine or need to reduce your sodium intake.

Plus, many of these alternatives can be substituted on a one-to-one basis. Go slow with your substitution amounts, though, in case you want a different flavor profile than what your substitute can provide.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Making various types of wines.

  2. USDA, FoodData Central. Marsala cooking wine, Marsala.

  3. Food and Drug Administration. Sodium in your diet.

  4. USDA, FoodData Central. Wine, dessert, sweet.

  5. Snitkjær P, Ryapushkina J, Skovenborg E, et al. Fate of ethanol during cooking of liquid foods prepared with alcoholic beverages: Theory and experimental studies. Food Chemistry. 2017;230:234-240. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.03.034

  6. Wüthrich B. Allergic and intolerance reactions to wine. ALS. 2018;2(01):80-88. doi:10.5414/ALX01420E 

By Jill Corleone, RD
Jill is a registered dietitian who's been learning and writing about nutrition for more than 20 years.