What Is a Substitute For Madeira Wine? (Quick Alternatives)

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Have you ever cooked a dish that called for Madeira wine, only to realize you don’t have any in your kitchen? Don’t panic! While there’s nothing quite like the unique flavor of Madeira, there are several alternative wines you can use as a substitute for Madeira.

Helpful tip to remember:

When selecting a substitute for Madeira wine, remember that it’s all about balance – choose something whose flavor won’t overpower your dish! Experimenting with different types of wines will help you find the right match every time. Enjoy cooking with Madeira wine substitutes!


Before anything else, what’s Madeira wine anyway?

What’s Madeira Wine Exactly?

This is a Portuguese fortified wine made from the Madeira Islands, located off the coast of Africa. (*)

Madeira wines have a unique process, including heating, oxidizing, and aging in oak casks for over four years. With the special processing, unopened bottles can last for over a century.

Expect Madeira to have different tastes depending on its age and variety. It can taste like peach, orange peel, walnut oil, burnt sugar, caramel, or hazelnut.

There are four primary types of Madeira, ranging from very dry to sweet:

  • Sercial is very dry and acidic with a nutty flavor
  • Verdelho is a smoky wine with a slightly sweeter flavor than Sercial, but still acidic and dry
  • Bual is dark, rich, and sweet Madeira wine tasting like a raisin
  • Malvasia is the sweetest wine among the four, having coffee and caramel flavor notes.

Where to buy Madeira cooking wine

There are actually a few different places you can find this delicious cooking wine.
One option is to check your local liquor stores, as many will carry a selection of fortified wines like Madeira.
You can also check specialty food stores or online retailers. Some grocery stores may also carry it, so be sure to check the wine section next time you’re shopping.

The 5 Best Alcoholic Madeira Wine Substitutes For Cooking

If you can’t find Madeira wine or want to try something different, here’s a comparison table with alternative fortified wines and their unique characteristics:

Wine AlternativeFlavor ProfileBest Used ForRecommended Usage
Port WineSweet, fruity, and richDesserts, sauces, and reductionsUse in similar amounts as Madeira wine; adjust sweetness and acidity accordingly
Sherry WineNutty, dry to sweet, and complexSoups, stews, and saucesUse dry sherry for savory dishes, sweet sherry for desserts; adjust as needed
Marsala WineSweet or dry, with caramel and vanilla notesMeat dishes, sauces, and dessertsUse sweet Marsala for desserts, dry Marsala for savory dishes; adjust as needed
VermouthHerbal, aromatic, and bittersweetMarinades, braising liquids, and cocktailsUse less vermouth than Madeira wine due to strong flavors; dilute if necessary
Ice WineExtremely sweet, fruity, and concentratedDesserts and sweet saucesUse sparingly because of high sugar content; mix with other wines if needed
Keep in mind that each of these wines has unique characteristics, so it’s essential to taste and adjust your recipes accordingly. Remember to store opened fortified wines in the refrigerator to preserve their flavors, and use them within a few weeks for optimal taste.

1. Port Wine

Port wine comes from the Portuguese mainland, produced similarly to Madeira wine. This means that the wine is fortified using grape brandy. While this wine has a fantastic aroma and flavor, it slightly lacks the oxidized flavor you can find in Madeira wine.

  • We recommend dry, aged white Port or red Tawny if you choose Port wine.
  • We recommend red Tawny wine when cooking stew with beef or game meat.

Another huge plus is that Port wine is the easiest and most accessible Madeira wine substitute; you can find it in most supermarkets.

Substitute quantity: You can replace one tablespoon of Madeira wine with 1 tablespoon of the port wine in your recipe.

Learn more: What Can I Substitute for Port Wine in Cooking?

2. Sherry Wine

Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine coming from Jerez in southern Spain. This is different from other fortified wines because Sherry is made exclusively of white grapes.

There are two kinds of sherry wines:

  • Fino (dry wine)
  • and Cream (sweet wine).

They all have nutty, saline, and dried fruit tastes, and depending on the kind of wine you’ll get, you can expect them to have distinctive flavors like almonds, caramel, fig, toffee, molasses, or walnuts.

We recommend only using dry Sherry to substitute for Madeira wine, though you will not achieve the exact same taste.

Substitute quantity: you can replace one tablespoon of Madeira wine with 1 tablespoon of dry sherry in your recipe.

Learn more:

3. Marsala Wine

Marsala wine is a top-rated fortified wine coming from Sicily. While we love using it for cooking, we also enjoy having it as an aperitif.

You probably know Marsala wine from dishes like chicken Marsala from the name. However, you can also use this for desserts, like the fantastic Italian classic tiramisu.

Expect flavors like toffee, vanilla, brown sugar, licorice, tobacco, and nuttiness with hints of dried fruit, depending on the aging time and sweetness.

Substitute quantity: Use this as a substitute for Madeira wine in sweet or savory dishes at the same amount the recipe calls for with Madeira.

Learn more:

4. Vermouth

You might be surprised to see vermouth on the list, but it actually works well as a substitute for Madeira wine! This drink starts as neutral grape wine fortified with more alcohol, then aromatized using different herbs.

There are two kinds of vermouth: Dry and sweet.

Dry vermouth offers more floral and dry flavors, while sweet vermouth has more herbal, spiced, and sweet flavors.

We recommend using dry, aromatic vermouth for savory recipes involving meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables.

You can also use vermouth in cocktails or as aperitifs.

Substitute quantity: you can replace one tablespoon of Madeira wine with 1 tablespoon of vermouth in your recipe.

Learn more:

5. Ice Wine

Ice wine, also called Eiswein, is a sweet dessert wine made from the liquid of frozen grapes from the vine, giving it rich sweetness and acidity.

It’s primarily produced in Austria and Germany, based on the sweet, yellow Muscat grape.

Since it’s a sweet wine, expect a sweet flavor with hints of honey, peach, dried apricot, mango, and citrus, tasting a bit acidic as well.

Ice wine pairs well with vanilla desserts, soft cheeses, coconut cheesecake, and panna cotta. Unfortunately, it’s a bit expensive and not usually sold just anywhere.

But in the off chance you have ice wine and no Madeira available, use it as a substitute for desserts, adding the same amount the recipe asks for with Madeira. 

The 3 Best Non-Alcoholic Madeira Wine Substitutes For Cooking

There are various reasons why you may need the best non-alcoholic substitute for Madeira wine. Whether for religious purposes, a dish for children, or other personal reasons, some alternatives still achieve the flavor and texture you desire without any alcohol included.

If you prefer non-alcoholic or more readily available alternatives to Madeira wine for cooking, here’s a comparison table with other options and their unique characteristics:

SubstituteFlavor ProfileBest Used ForRecommended Usage
Fruit JuiceSweet, fruity, and tangyDesserts, sauces, and reductionsUse equal parts fruit juice and water; adjust sweetness and acidity as needed
Chicken or Beef StockRich, savory, and umamiSoups, stews, braises, and saucesUse equal amounts of stock and a splash of vinegar for acidity; adjust as needed
Balsamic VinegarSweet, tangy, and slightly syrupyGlazes, dressings, and reductionsUse balsamic vinegar sparingly, mixed with water or stock, to avoid overpowering flavors
Keep in mind that each of these substitutes has unique characteristics, so it’s essential to taste and adjust your recipes accordingly.

You may need to experiment with different combinations and ratios to achieve the desired flavor profile when replacing Madeira wine in your dishes.

6. Fruit Juice

There are a variety of fruit juices you can use in exchange for Madeira wine, such as:

  • Berry juice works excellently in sweet dishes. We highly recommend cranberry juice for its sweet and refreshing taste. For every four tablespoons of Madeira wine needed, use three tablespoons of cranberry juice mixed with one tablespoon of water.
  • Apple juice or red grape juice is another suitable substitute for sweet recipes because of the bittersweet and tart flavor that pairs well with desserts. You can use an equal amount when you substitute Madeira wine.
  • Pomegranate juice has a sweet and sour flavor, pairing well with sweet dishes like cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and tarts, among other desserts. However, you can also use it in sauces, salad dressings, or meat marinades requiring Madeira wine, too! You can use an equal amount when you substitute Madeira wine.

Learn more:

7. Chicken or Beef Stock

Another option is to use stock as a Madeira wine substitute in savory dishes. They have savory flavors that work well as a base in dishes like stews, soups, or sauces.

Substitute quantity: You can use the same amount the recipe calls for with Madeira. We suggest adding ½ teaspoon of lemon juice for enhanced flavor.

8. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar tastes sweet and slightly acidic, and it can make a great substitute for Madeira wine if you’re in a pinch.

It works great in savory recipes like meat and seafood, though you can also sprinkle it on salads, berries, and fresh fruits.

Intensify the flavor of this ingredient further by boiling it in a saucepan, allowing it to simmer until it reduces and turns sweet and dense.

Substitute quantity: you can replace one tablespoon of Madeira wine with 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar in your recipe.

Bottom line: Can you substitute balsamic vinegar for Madeira wine?

Yes, you can substitute balsamic vinegar for Madeira wine in most recipes. Just be sure to use an equal amount of balsamic vinegar as you would do Madeira wine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Based on our readers’ queries, we answer frequently asked questions to learn more about Madeira wine and its uses! 

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, our list of the best Madeira wine substitutes helped you out!

Whether you’re preparing a savory or dessert recipe and ran out of Madeira wine, use any of these alternatives to enhance or add the perfect flavors you need.

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