The Best Substitutes For Cooking Sherry

If your recipe calls for cooking sherry and you don't have any on hand, these substitutes will save the day.

We've all been there. You're knee-deep in a recipe like chicken-mushroom-sage casserole when you realize you're missing one of the ingredients. It always has a funny way of happening when there's no time to run to the store, too. Well, if that missing ingredient is cooking sherry, you're in luck, because there are many other options you're likely to have in your pantry or your liquor cabinet. We went to Taylor Griffin, executive chef for Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, to find out the best substitutes for cooking sherry.

Cooking Sherry
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What is Cooking Sherry?

Cooking sherry is wine fortified with brandy. It's used to impart a nutty, sweet taste to food, although the drier the sherry, the less sweet it will be. Since it's made for cooking and not for drinking, salt and preservatives are added to extend its shelf life—which also means it's not going to be a good choice for sipping along with your meal. In fact, while you can use a dry sipping sherry for cooking if you don't have cooking sherry, you'll likely need to add salt to your dish to get the same flavor.

Cooking sherry tends to be relatively inexpensive, so it's a good thing to have on hand for when you need to deglaze a pan, add flavor to a marinade, or enrich a savory cream sauce. But if you don't have a bottle around when a recipe calls for it, there are other options. Just refer to the list of substitutes for cooking sherry below.

Cooking Sherry Substitues
Kailey Whitman

Substitutions for Cooking Sherry

1. Dry Vermouth

Griffin says dry vermouth is the best direct substitute for cooking sherry because it mimics the flavor of sherry better than other options without the need for extra salt. Vermouth is a fortified white wine flavored with aromatic herbs, bitters, and spices, so it will add a ton of character to your dish. And it also works great in martinis!

2. Dry White Wine

According to Griffin, dry white wine is another terrific substitute for cooking sherry, especially when it comes to deglazing the pan for chicken and seafood dishes. Be sure to perform a taste test, though. "You may have to add a touch more salt to match the seasoning of the cooking sherry," Griffin says. You don't have to get too fancy with the wine you use, either. While Griffin says they use Chablis at Calibogue Club, Haig Point's high-end, white table cloth restaurant, he admits he uses boxed sauvignon blanc at home.

3. Chicken Stock and Lemon

If you don't have dry vermouth or dry white wine on hand, or if you're looking for the best non-alcoholic substitute for cooking sherry, Griffin says "you could use a small amount of chicken stock with a squeeze of lemon juice for acidity." Once again, be sure to perform a taste test in case extra salt is required. If you don't want to cut up a lemon just to get a little squeeze, you can learn how to juice a lemon without cutting it for this substitution. And if you don't have a lemon, a splash of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar will do in a pinch.

4. Dry Marsala

Marsala is another fortified wine with a rich, nutty flavor⁠—but specifically made with Sicilian grapes from around the town of Marsala. You may know it from the popular Italian dish chicken Marsala (or the less famous chicken Lombardy). Marsala can run from dry to syrupy sweet, so make certain you are selecting a bottle that is appropriate for your recipe. The flavor profile can range from brown sugar to dried fruit or licorice. A dry Marsala will work with any savory recipe, while sweet Marsala is typically used in desserts.

5. Dry Madeira

Madeira is very similar to Marsala, but originates from the Portuguese island of Madeira. This brandy-fortified wine also comes in sweet and dry versions. Unlike other fortified wines, Madeira is intentionally exposed to heat during the aging process, which gives it a very long shelf life. You can crack open a bottle to use in cooking, reseal it, and it will still be good weeks or even months later.

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