Best Madeira Wine Substitute (Including Non-Alcoholic)

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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.

Short answer:

  • Sherry is a good choice for dishes with strong flavors and rich sauces, as both wines are fortified and similar in taste.
  • Port is a great addition to dark sauces, while white wine and Marsala make excellent alternatives for fish or egg dishes.
  • For sweetening up savory dishes or replacing dessert wines, Sauternes is an aged French wine made from Semillon grapes with a distinct honeyed sweetness.

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!

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The 5 Best Alcoholic Madeira Wine Substitutes

Before anything else, what’s Madeira wine anyway?

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
image of Port Wine as a perfect substitute for madeira wine

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 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:

image of Vermouth as a substitute for Madeira wine

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 Best Non-Alcoholic Madeira Wine Substitutes

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.

Here are the best non-alcoholic Madeira wine substitutes to try:

image of Fruit Juice use in substitute for Madeira wine

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.

image of Balsamic Vinegar a great substitute for Madeira wine

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.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, our list of the best substitutes for Madeira wine 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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