We love to cook with wine; it works well with so many dishes! Whether we use it as a cooking liquid, flavoring, as a marinade, or even in desserts, wine is so versatile and has numerous purposes in the culinary world.
One famous wine we use for cooking is port wine, which can intensify a dish’s flavor and aroma. But there’s one downside – Not every cook can use port wine, or they may not have it on hand!
If you’re one of those cooks, you most likely have access to alternatives to provide the features port wine offers. Read on to discover the best port wine substitutes for your dishes!
The Best Ruby Port Substitute
Ruby Port wine is basically red wine, and if this is what your recipe calls for, we recommend replacing it with any of these:
This is one of the most popular Italian wines worldwide, a red blend from Tuscany. It tastes similar to cherries and strawberries, which is why many people use it as a substitute for port wine.
However, note that Chianti might be too dry for certain dishes but works well with poultry. Furthermore, Chianti has high acidity levels, so it may cut through any fat in dishes, so be wary of how much you add.
This wine is an excellent replacement for Port wine is the flavor and medium acidity levels. It is more on the fruity side, which we like in cooking and drinking!
But we don’t recommend using it in sauces. Since Zinfandel has a low alcohol content, it can change your dish’s texture, so it may not bring out your desired aroma. However, you can try it in desserts for its fruity flavors.
If you’re making a sauce, then we highly recommend using Syrah. Its alcoholic content is 14-20%, so it can provide the similar, if not the same, texture Port wine could. Plus, it has a dark, fruity flavor, kind of like blackberries and blueberries.
Many people confuse Shiraz with Syrah. These two wines are made from the same grape, so we can’t blame people for interchanging them. Shiraz is darker and has spicy overtones so that you can detect fruit flavors with a hint of black pepper and wood because of the aging process.
Even with the minor differences, you can use both wines as substitutes for Port wine. Shiraz has a deep, dark fruity flavor with spicy overtones for various recipes.
If you are cooking beef, steak, or lamb, then Merlot is one of the perfect substitutes. You don’t even need to use it for cooking; we pair it for drinking with our dishes.
If a recipe requires Ruby Port, it’s looking for a characteristic fruity flavor, with Merlot offering a velvety texture. We believe this is an ideal substitute for Ruby Port wine, and it’s more likely accessible in your local supermarket or liquor store!
The Best Tawny Port Substitute
You should replace tawny Port wine with white wine because of the dry, oaky flavor notes. Fruity wines aren’t an option, which are the ones I mentioned above for Ruby Port since your dishes’ flavors end up completely altering.
1. White Zinfandel
White Zinfandel isn’t ideal, but it works well if you have no other option.
Why isn’t it the best option?
While it’s called White Zinfandel, it isn’t white. It’s just a drier version of Red Zinfandel. It also has a lingering fruity flavor which can make or break your recipes if you aren’t careful.
If you have a recipe calling for Tawny Port, Riesling is another good option. You probably know about this aromatic wine, but in terms of cooking, we recommend getting a late-harvest Riesling because it has a sweet flavor.
Chardonnay is one of the most famous white wines available. It has an oaky flavor, medium alcohol content, and high acidity levels, making it suitable for seafood, poultry, and heavy cream dishes that ask for Tawny Port.
So, let’s say you’re preparing a salmon dish and need a white wine to replace Port, then go for Chardonnay.
4. Dry Marsala
Marsala is a fortified wine. While sweet marsala works as a substitute for Port wine, Dry Marsala works for Tawny Port.
Dry Marsala has a sweet, caramel flavor and a hint of nuttiness you can find in Tawny Port. Furthermore, it has high alcohol content and acidity levels.
We recommend using this for savory recipes that call for Tawny Port. The acidity of the wine cuts through fat amazingly, particularly in beef and poultry dishes. We also like using this in creamy dishes.
Other Port Wine Substitutes (Alcohol and Non-Alcohol Replacements)
There are also more port wine substitutes you can use other than the ones mentioned above. These may not be the absolute best, but they do just the trick.
Plus, some of these options are non-alcoholic if you cannot consume alcohol for any reason. Check out the following substitutes for Port wine:
Madeira is another type of fortified wine that comes in various styles. As long as you choose the right one for your recipe, we believe that it will make an excellent substitute for port wine, especially with Ruby Port. It has a similar texture and alcohol content, working well with acidic recipes, poultry dishes, and sauces.
While Madeira can be pretty sweet, there are different types to choose from, so you can select the degree of sweetness based on your personal taste.
2. Dry Vermouth
Like Madeira, Vermouth is a fortified wine and a good substitute for Port Wine. However, it contains high alcohol levels and intense flavors, so go easy on how much you add to your dish to prevent altering the taste.
3. Black Muscat
Black Muscat tastes sweet and fruity, like Port wine. However, it’s a bit sweeter, so it’s a good substitute only when used in small amounts.
Since it has a 15% alcohol content, we recommend using this when making sauces so you can have a fine texture.
We consider Sherry as Port wine’s cousin since they have similar tastes. While Port comes from Portugal, Sherry comes from Spain. And since they are closely located regions, that makes them more related to one another.
However, Port has more berry flavors, whereas Sherry does not. Furthermore, Sherry has lower sugar levels than Port.
5. Sweet Red Wine Blend
All types of Port wine are sweet to an extent, so you can try using sweet red wine. You most likely have this in your kitchen if you enjoy an aperitif with desserts or toasts.
Sweet red wines are popular and accessible substitutes for Port wine! If you only have dry red wine, then that works fine, too. Mix two parts dry bold red wine, ¼ part pure cane sugar, and 1 part vodka or brandy to fortify the wine.
6. Fruit Juice
If you need to make desserts with alcohol, the best non-alcoholic option is unsweetened fruit juice. We highly recommend cranberry juice with a dash of lemon, but if you want something lighter, you can opt for apple or orange juice, too.
Don’t opt for sweetened fruit juice because the added sugars can alter the dish’s flavor. Also, note that the lack of alcohol content can affect the dish’s texture.
7. Chicken, Beef, or Vegetable Stock
If you’re preparing a meat dish and need a non-alcoholic option, then you can use an equal amount of your chosen broth. You can either purchase stock or make your own. We prefer making it on our own, but we understand that it’s more convenient buying your own.
If you’re a vegetarian, you can opt for vegetable stock instead! You can make your own by using leftover vegetable trimmings.
Another option would be bouillon cubes, but this is your last resort if there’s nothing left in the kitchen!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are more insightful questions from our readers to learn more about port wine and how to replace it in cooking.
1. Is Port wine a fortified wine?
Yes, port wine is a kind of fortified wine originating from Portugal. The name derives from Porto, a coastal city, while Douro Valley produces authentic port wines. There are many styles of Port wine, two of which are Ruby and Tawny port wine. (*)
What makes port wine special is how manufacturers use a one-of-a-kind blend of Portuguese grapes, giving the wine a unique flavor!
We commonly use this as a dessert wine and drink it with various dishes and baked goods, particularly cheesecakes, pies, chocolate truffles, and soft cheeses. However, there are many uses to this wine, and we use it on dishes like:
- Port wine marinade or sauce
- Chocolate cake and brownies
- French onion soup
2. What’s the difference between Tawny and Ruby Port wine?
You may have come across Tawny Port and Ruby Port wine. These are two kinds of Port wine with a few differences in their flavor, color, and the aging process.
We also call Ruby Port “Red Port,” while Tawny Port is otherwise known as “White Port.” As their names suggest, Ruby Port has a deep red color, while Tawny is light pale orange.
Furthermore, Ruby Port is a young wine aged in huge oak barrels for years, having a sweeter and fruity flavor. We use Ruby port for beef dishes, stews, or drinks alongside cheese boards.
Tawny Port is aged for even longer in smaller oak barrels. As a result, this wine has a nuttier and oaky caramel flavor. We would use this wine in poultry or seafood dishes.
3. Can I omit Port Wine and its substitutes?
Port wine can add a unique flavor profile to whatever dish you’re cooking. However, if you don’t want to add Port Wine or have none of the alternatives mentioned above, you can always remove it from your recipe.
You won’t do any harm when leaving it out of the dish. Your dish will stay the same, and though the flavors may be less intense or pronounced, it will most likely still taste great.
4. How can I choose the best port wine substitute?
Here are a few tips to consider when selecting a proper substitute for port wine:
- Find out whether the recipe calls for red or white wine or any specific Port wine variety. This will help narrow down your options. If the recipe doesn’t mention it, make an educated guess based on what wine you would pair with the finished dish.
- We don’t recommend purchasing a wine you don’t like drinking and only use once for cooking. If you don’t want to drink it, you shouldn’t be cooking with it.
- Like cooking and drinking port wine, your substitute should be high quality. You don’t need to purchase the most expensive bottle, but make sure you don’t scrimp, which can negatively affect the dish’s flavor.
Wrapping It Up
We hope you found the best substitute for Port on this list. Whether you’ll use fortified wines or beef broth, we’re sure you’ll nail your recipe. Good luck and happy cooking!
If you’d like to learn more about cooking or substituting certain ingredients, check out what we have to offer on our other blogs!