Substitutes for sherry – what can I use instead?

Though sherry can make for a fantastic aperitif, it does also have several applications in cooking. However, given that sherry has seen a marked decline in popularity over the last few decades, the chances are slim that you happen to have some lying in wait. So, what do you do? Do you discard the recipe entirely and go for something else, or can it be saved using something else? Thankfully, we have good news for you!

There are several viable substitutes for sherry in cooking that you may already have in your home. For example, depending on the dish, certain things like a simple white wine or even vinegar can fill in the gaps in your recipe. In this article, we will show you the best substitutes for sherry for any conceivable occasion. We will also show you how to use them. If this is the info you were looking for, you’ve come to the right place!

What makes sherry different from other wines?

The question often comes up; is sherry a wine or a liquor? Really, it isn’t either one or the other. Instead, it is best to consider it as a fortified wine. That is, it is a wine that also contains a small amount of grape spirit, brandy. Adding this bit of brandy means that the alcohol content jumps up from standard wine percentages up to roughly 17% alcohol by volume. It also adds quite a bit of jazz to the flavor, which can make it an excellent ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes. In fact, it performs so well in either of these capacities that we often forget that it is also a delicious little sipping drink. We’ll get into that in greater detail later on in this article.

Common uses for sherry

One of the best uses for sherry out there is to deglaze a pan. Naturally, any alcohol will work better than water will for this purpose, but sherry just adds that certain something. It is impossible to describe adequately, other than it has a sweet and nutty note, with an undertone of spice. Truly, it is one of the best aromas that can be found in the kitchen. However, there are also plenty more uses for it out there; for example…

·         Sherry trifle

·         Lobster bisque

·         Slow-cooked beef or venison dishes

·         French onion soup

·         Sherry cream chicken

The list is seemingly endless, but every dish that successfully incorporates sherry benefits from an added decadence and richness of flavor.

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The best substitutes for sherry

Given that sherry has literally millions of uses in the culinary world, it is quite the task to try and touch all possible bases with such a short list of substitutes. Nevertheless, each option that we have selected below will fill in for sherry in most cases with relative ease. Some will work better for some uses than others. To try and give you a well-rounded selection, we will elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of each one as we go. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 best substitutes for sherry that money can buy!

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1. Marsala

Marsala, the famous Sicilian wine, is pretty much as close as you are going to get to replicating the flavors of cooking sherry. We love this stuff as it often has really nutty and sweet tones to it and it is excellent for use in savory dishes, sweets, and as a nice aperitif. It really does seem to have an endless list of uses in the kitchen. Whether you are making a ricotta cheesecake, a delectably rich chocolate cake, or simply frying up some pork chops for dinner, Marsala can improve it! It is also incredibly easy to use in place of sherry. All you need to do is use one cup for every one cup of sherry. Perhaps the only thing that lets Marsala down as a substitute is that it isn’t the easiest to come by in some regions. It can also be a bit expensive.

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2. Apple cider vinegar

If we were to choose the best substitutes based only on how easily attained and cheap they were, this would come in way ahead of the rest. And the best bit is that you don’t have to use much at a time! To use this substitute, it must first be diluted with water 1:1. If you want to add an extra bit of sweetness, simply stir in a spoonful of sugar to this concoction. And that’s it! A fully functional substitute for sherry at a fraction of the cost! This will then work in stocks, soups, stews, marinades, and savory sauces. However, it absolutely does not work in desserts! In addition to this, it is probably not the best idea to serve it as an aperitif either! Still, this substitute works perfectly well in more than enough situations for us to consider it a viable back-up option.

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3. Port

Port and Madeira wines are quite close to sherry in quite a few regards. Though you will notice the difference in flavor if you are merely drinking them, the flavor levels out somewhat during cooking. After the alcohol has been cooked off, you will begin to notice that the same rich and almost nutty notes are present in your recipe. So, if you are looking for a quick replacement that can dazzle your guests, this substitute is a step in the right direction. Simply use one cup of port for every cup of sherry that your recipe requires. The two best ports to cook with are either the ruby or tawny port varieties. A vintage port is best enjoyed by itself or with a cheeseboard. In general, port is best substituted into savory dishes rather than sweets, as it pairs excellently with red meats in particular.

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4. Brandy

Brandy is a pretty broad term, considering that it can be made from pretty much any fruit. This will mean that the flavor profile will vary somewhat, but not really so much that one could ruin a dish. The vast majority of brandies have the same semi-sweet notes of flavor. And, these notes will still be apparent when they are introduced into your recipe. It is also a pretty versatile ingredient. Brandy works excellently well with chicken, pork, and seafood dishes if you use it correctly. The main tip that we have for doing this is to use far less of it than you would use sherry. You will also need to cook it for longer to make sure that all of the alcohol evaporated from the liquid. The reasoning behind this is that brandy has a much higher alcohol content than sherry, and so it behaves slightly differently.

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5. A dry wine (either red or white)

Don’t be fooled by the fact that this substitute comes in at the end of our list. This by no means equates to it being the worst substitute. In fact, in many regards, it could well be considered to be the best! For example, a dry red or white wine will deglaze a pan nearly as well as sherry will. They also work fantastically in slow-cooked meat dishes. Another benefit of using this replacement is that it is just so easy to get your hands on. If you don’t already have some, there will definitely be some at your local store. It is also really easy to substitute in the place of sherry. No complicated calculations will need to be done! Simply use the exact same amount of dry wine as you would have used sherry.

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How to substitute sherry with other ingredients?

In most cases, substituting for sherry is relatively simple and doesn’t require you to perform any complex calculations. With Marsala, Port, and dry red and white wines, all you have to do is to use one cup for every cup of sherry that your recipe requires. Brandy has a much stronger alcohol content, so the key is to use considerably less – less than half even. When using apple cider vinegar as a substitute, remember to dilute it by half with water and to stir in a tablespoon of sugar. Otherwise, the bitterness of the vinegar will be too much to the fore in the finished product. It is also worth noting that not all of these substitutes will work in every dish. Some will only work for savory dishes, for example. Perhaps the most versatile of the bunch is the Marsala.

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