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The Best Substitutes For Cooking Sherry

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If you don’t have cooking sherry at hand and the recipe calls for it, don’t panic! Luckily, there are a number of cooking sherry substitutes. 

What are the best substitutes for cooking sherry? There are many alternatives to cooking sherry. For alcohol-based substitutes, you can go with dry red or white wine, dry vermouth, brandy, Marsala, and Shaoxing cooking wine. For non-alcoholic substitutes, the best options are apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white vinegar, vanilla extract, and fruit juices. 

In this article, you will learn how to choose a cooking sherry substitute and how to use them to replicate the flavor that this ingredient delivers to dishes. 

What Is Cooking Sherry and How Is It Used?

If you have never used cooking sherry, you might be surprised to find it on the ingredient list of a dish you are trying to cook. Is cooking sherry the same sherry that you enjoy drinking after dinner with a sweet treat?

Cooking sherry is actually different from drinking sherry. As the name implies, it is meant to be used for cooking purposes only

My favorite cooking sherry you can actually pick up on Amazon.

You can use cooking sherry in soups, sauces, stews, and other long-cooking dishes. Cooking sherry is also often used to deglaze the pans.

The alcohol content in cooking sherry, which ranges from 14 to 17%, works perfectly in getting up all the goodness stuck to the pan.  

As cooking sherry is meant only for cooking and one should never drink it, the manufacturers don’t feel the need to use top-quality sherry wine to make it. You are going to boil off the alcohol anyway. And the taste will mix with the rest of the ingredients. 

Additionally, cooking sherry contains salt and preservatives. 

Can You Use Drinking Sherry Instead of Cooking Sherry?

If cooking sherry is made of regular sherry with a few added ingredients, does that mean that you can use both interchangeably in cooking? Yes, it does. 

In fact, using drinking sherry instead of cooking sherry will make your dish taste even better. It should be noted, however, that pouring your expensive bottle of sherry into a stew is certainly not recommended. 

What we do recommend is buying a cheaper bottle of sherry as a substitute for cooking sherry.

This way you will skip on the sodium and preservatives added to cooking sherry. In addition to this, you will get a better-tasting drink that will do your dish more justice. 

If you decide to buy a bottle of sherry for cooking purposes, go with dry varieties. Dry sherry works well in stews and soups.

One of the dishes cooking sherry is used most often is lobster bisque. It is a popular seafood soup with a creamy consistency. 

You can use dry drinking sherry or Marsala as a substitute for cooking sherry in lobster bisque. 

If you happen to have an opened bottle of sherry at home, cook with it. Otherwise, it will go bad in 20 days. 

How to Choose a Substitute for Cooking Sherry

If you don’t have cooking sherry at hand and don’t know what to use instead, here are a few things to consider. Once you get some answers for yourself, it will be much easier to narrow down the list of options and pick one as a substitute for cooking sherry. 

Alcohol or No Alcohol?

When cooking with alcoholic beverages almost all of the alcohol boils away. What is left behind is the concentrated flavor of the drink. 

While many people don’t care whether alcohol cooks out of food entirely or if a small amount of it remains in food, others do. It is quite a responsibility to cook food for children, you know. 

Whether it is a personal preference or erring on the safe side, you get to decide whether you want to use cooking sherry in your dishes or you want to go the non-alcoholic route. 

One thing you should pay attention to when deciding between alcohol-based and non-alcoholic substitutes is how cooking sherry is used in a dish. 

If it is used for deglazing, choose an alcohol-based substitute as an alternative. It is alcohol that is capable of getting up the deliciousness stuck to the pan and reincorporating it into the dish. 

Sodium Content

As mentioned, cooking sherry contains a lot of salt. In fact, 2 tablespoons of cooking sherry contain 190 mg of sodium.

If you are trying to avoid high-sodium food and this is why you are on the hunt for cooking sherry substitutes, pick one that won’t cause you any problems. 

Vinegar, for example, is a low-sodium alternative. Later in this article, you will learn how it works as a cooking sherry substitute. 


Let’s get one thing straight. You can’t find an exact cooking sherry substitute unless you use drinking sherry itself. In this case, too you may not end up with the same flavor.

Dishes with drinking sherry turn out better and it is only natural as you are using a higher quality beverage. 

But this is not what it is all about. Keep in mind that with certain cooking sherry substitutes you may get a different aftertaste. Nothing major, only slight notes of other flavors. 

Red wine, for example, is one of the cooking sherry substitutes with an easily detectable residual flavor. 

The Best Cooking Sherry Substitutes

One thing you should know when substituting cooking sherry with something else is that you will have to add more salt to the dish.

As there is salt in cooking sherry, the recipe will naturally call for a lesser amount of salt as a seasoning. 

Once you leave out the cooking sherry and opt for another ingredient, try it first before using it. This way you will get an idea of how much salt you will need to bring your dish to a perfect balance. 

Here are five alcohol-based and five non-alcoholic substitutes for cooking sherry: 

5 Alcohol-Based Substitutes

There are a number of alcohol-based substitutes for cooking sherry. If you are missing cooking sherry but have a nice collection of alcoholic beverages at home, you will certainly find an alternative to sherry. 

While it will be hard to replicate the flavor sherry gives to the dish, you can get quite close to it with some of these drinks. Aside from that, it is better to use something else with slightly different flavor notes than leave the drink out completely. 

Here are the 5 best alcohol-based substitutes for cooking sherry:

  1. Dry Red or White Wine
  2. Dry Vermouth
  3. Brandy
  4. Marsala
  5. Shaoxing Cooking Wine

No matter which option you will pick, remember that you need to cook the dish long enough to burn the alcohol off. Only it this case the beverage will leave behind the concentrated flavor that gives the dish richness and depth. 

1. Dry Red or White Wine

Dry red and white wines are great substitutes for cooking sherry. From slow-cooked chicken and meat dishes to deglazing the pan, these sherry substitutes will provide delicious results. 

You can also use any cooking wine instead of cooking sherry. Red cooking wine is one of the options you can easily find in stores. 

How to use: Dry red and white wines are probably the easiest substitutes for cooking sherry. Not only are they widely available and almost always at hand but you also don’t need to make complicated calculations when using these wines. 

Simply substitute one part of cooking sherry with one part of dry red or white wine. 

2. Dry Vermouth

Dry vermouth is one of the best cooking sherry substitutes. You can use this sweet and floral beverage in chicken and seafood dishes that call for sherry. It is also ideal for stews. 

When picking dry vermouth to use instead of cooking sherry, avoid overly sweet varieties. 

How to use: You can use an equal amount of dry vermouth to replace cooking sherry. 

3. Brandy

The flavor profile of brandy varies depending on its variety. It largely depends on the type of fruit it is made from. But brandy is generally sweet, with floral and fruity hints. 

Brandy works well with poultry, seafood, and pork. It is also great in sauces. 

How to use: When using brandy as a cooking sherry substitute, make sure to cook the dish longer. As the alcohol content in brandy is higher, it needs more time to evaporate.

Also, use brandy in a smaller amount than you would use wine. This beverage is much stronger. 

4. Marsala 

Marsala, the famous Italian fermented wine, can be quite similar to cooking sherry in terms of flavor notes. Like sherry, it often has nutty, sweet, and fruity notes. 

Use Marsala as a cooking sherry substitute in sauces and sweet dishes. Port and Madeira will also work if they are what you have in your collection. 

How to use: If the recipe calls for a cup of cooking sherry, use a cup of Marsala instead.

5. Shaoxing Cooking Wine

If you are into cooking Chinese dishes, you may be familiar with Shaoxing cooking wine

Shaoxing wine is fermented rice wine. It has caramel notes and people often describe it as somewhat spicy and vinegary. Shaoxing cooking wine, unlike Shaoxing wine, contains added salt and preservatives. 

How to use: You can use Shaoxing cooking wine to deglaze your pans. You can also add it to sauces and braises.  

As Shaoxing cooking wine contains salt just like cooking sherry does, you may not need to alter the amount of salt you put in the dish. 

Use Shaoxing cooking wine in small amounts as it has a strong alcoholic taste. Recipes generally call for only a tablespoon or two of this ingredient. 

5 Non-Alcoholic Substitutes 

If you don’t always have alcoholic beverages at home or simply want to substitute cooking sherry with something with no spirits, don’t worry.

Here are five non-alcoholic substitutes for cooking sherry:

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar
  2. Red Wine Vinegar
  3. White Vinegar
  4. Vanilla Extract
  5. Fruit Juice

Luckily, there are several options to choose from, and you are very likely to have one of these substitutes in your fridge.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple cider vinegar is probably one of the best non-alcoholic cooking sherry substitutes. It has the fruity notes reminiscent of sherry. 

Apple cider vinegar is also low in sodium. Thus, it is a great choice for those skipping cooking sherry because if its high sodium content. 

What makes things even better is that you are likely to have apple cider vinegar in your fridge at all times. Even you don’t have it at home, this product is widely available and very affordable. 

How to use: When using apple cider vinegar instead of cooking sherry, here is what you should do for the best results. 

As apple cider vinegar has quite a pronounced flavor, mix it with water to thin it out. Then, add a pinch of sugar. This way the tart flavor of apple cider vinegar will transform into the fruity flavor similar to that of cooking sherry. 

2. Red Wine Vinegar

Red wine vinegar has the best of both worlds. It tastes like red wine but lacks the high alcohol content. 

As red wine vinegar has red wine as its base ingredient, it also has fruity notes. This is certainly a plus when it comes to sherry substitutes as the drink itself has them. 

Red wine is a great substitute for sherry in meat dishes. Add a few sprigs of rosemary for a match made in heaven. 

How to use: Like with apple cider vinegar, it is good to dilute red wine vinegar with water. Also, don’t use it in the same amount as the recipe calls for cooking sherry. A small amount of red wine vinegar mixed with water will do. 

3. White Vinegar 

Another vinegar substitute for cooking sherry that will work well in many dishes. White vinegar is very aggressive. But when used right, it will save you a trip to the grocery store on the hunt for cooking sherry.  

How to Use: The best way to use white vinegar as a cooking sherry substitute is to mix it with chicken broth. 

One part of white vinegar mixed with one part of chicken broth will work wonders for many dishes that call for cooking sherry. You can also use water instead of chicken stock. 

4. Vanilla Extract

As alcohol is used to obtain flavor from vanilla beans, vanilla extract is not always alcohol-free. However, there are many brands on the market that carry alcohol-free vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract performs well in dishes that benefit from sweeter notes. The complexity of the flavor of vanilla extract doesn’t compare to anything else. It is fruity, spicy, and sweet at the same time. There are also delicate caramel notes in vanilla extract often found in sherry. 

How to Use: Vanilla extract is quite potent. Thus, you don’t need to use too much of it. If you overdo it, your dish will be completely out of balance. 

Use a teaspoon of vanilla extract for every tablespoon of cooking sherry. If you need more liquid, add water. 

5. Fruit Juice

When we said cooking sherry has a number of substitutes, we meant it. Although fruit juices won’t work as an alternative to sherry in all recipes, they certainly will in many of them. 

Here are some juice options as cooking sherry substitutes:

  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Apple juice
  • Apricot juice
  • Peach juice

When substituting sherry with juices, pay attention to the quality. You should either buy good quality fruit juices or make them yourself. 

How to use: Substitute one part of cooking sherry with one part of any of the abovementioned fruit juices. 

As apricot and peach juices have a thicker consistency, you may need to dilute them with water.

Up Next: The Absolute Best Cooking Sherry

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