17 Products That Will Easily Substitute For Port Wine
Port is a type of fortified wine. This means extra alcohol is added to it during fermentation. While most wines clock in with an alcohol content of around 12.5-14.5 percent, port contains around 17-20 percent alcohol.
As a result, port is generally sipped and served as an aperitif. But it's also used in many recipes for soups, marinades and desserts.
If you're not familiar with port but have a recipe that calls for it, don't fret. Just use one of the following substitutes.
1. Sherry - Cousin Of Port Wine
Sherry makes one of the best substitutes for port wine because the two drinks are actually cousins. Port is from Portugal, and sherry is from the Jerez region of neighboring Spain. Their closeness in region and taste mean that the two digestifs are often confused for one other.
All you need to remember about sherry is that it's slightly dryer and sharper than sweet port. That's because it contains none of the berry fruit flavors that port does.
The added fortification, or extra alcohol, is added once fermentation is complete with sherry, and this means it contains a lower overall sugar content.
2. Marsala - Italian Fortified Wine
This Italian fortified wine comes all the way from the southern island of Sicily. You'll find that recipes calling for Marsala often contain thick sauces that need to be caramelized.
There is a wide range of color classifications that Marsala can go into. These include Ambra, which is amber in color and created with white grapes, and Rubino, which is ruby in color and made with red grapes.
Marsala is a wonderful substitute for port because you can find it in any sweetness level. Basically, Marsala comes in three levels of sweetness: dry, semisweet and sweet.
- Dry Marsala has about 1 teaspoon of sugar per glass.
- Semisweet or amber Marsala has about 2 teaspoons of sugar per glass. Either of these will be a great substitute for a recipe that calls for tawny port.
- Sweet Marsala has about 4 teaspoons of sugar per glass and is an excellent substitute for ruby Port.
3. Madeira - Good Choice Of Chefs
Just like Marsala, Madeira is a fortified wine that offers many levels of sweetness. There is also a range of prices you can pay for various types of Madeira wine.
For example, single-varietal Madeira can cost a pretty penny, but it's of the highest quality. If you want to cook with and sip your Madeira, you should choose a single-varietal version, such as Boal, Verdelho or Sercial. All these types work well as port substitutes.
With that being said, most expert chefs will agree that cheap wine is just as good as expensive wine wine when you're cooking. So in this case, choosing a basic blended Madeira is a completely fine choice when you need a substitute for port in a recipe.
4. Vermouth - An Excellent Substitute
Some chefs will look down their noses at using vermouth for cooking and drinking, but there's no real reason for this. It makes an excellent substitute for basically any recipe that calls for port.
One reason is that vermouth is fortified just like port, so it has the right amount of alcohol. Secondly, there are 2 basic types of vermouth: dry and sweet.
This means you can match the sweetness you want to your recipe. One of the best things about vermouth is that it's usually inexpensive and works well in cooking.
Many people, however, don't take care of their vermouth. They just leave it in their cupboards for years as a backup, resulting in their vermouth spoiling quickly because it has a low alcohol content like wine.
In other words, neither a bottle of vermouth nor a bottle of wine is going to sit well for years in your cupboard after being opened. That's a job for whiskey.
You can use vermouth as a replacement for port if it's not old and spoiled, but if it's been in your cupboard for years, don't add it to your recipe. In fact, pitch it.
5. Sweet Red Wine Blend
If you enjoy sipping a glass of tasty fortified wine after dinner or as an aperitif with your toasts, you'll probably have at least one of the varieties listed above in your kitchen at any given time.
If that is the case, then substituting your port won't be hard at all. You won't even be able to detect the difference in your recipe. But if you've never even heard of a fortified wine, chances are you don't drink them regularly, and, as such, you're less likely to own one. Who buys Madeira on a whim?
In that case, don't worry. There are other equally good substitutes for port, one of which is any simple, sweet red wine blend.
In general, sweet red wines are the most popular substitutes for port when other fortified wines aren't available. Don't worry, we'll get to those specific varieties later.
For now, just know that if you have a basic red wine in your cupboard that's labeled with "red" and "blend," you should be good to go. If you are new to this wine, learn more at 5 Facts About Blended Wine For Beginers.
6. Unsweetened Fruit Juice
Using some sort of fruit juice is an acceptable idea as a port substitute, especially if you want to make sure your recipe is nonalcoholic.
Fruit juice is best used as a substitute in dessert recipes, but it can be used with meat dishes as well. Don't use fruit juice as a substitute in soup recipes, and go light when using it for marinades.
Always remember that the fruit juice you use should be unsweetened, and you can tone down the sweetness even more by added citrus, which is acidic. For example, cranberry juice with a little added lemon juice works great.
You might also try a few shaves of lime zest mixed in with Concord grape juice. When a lighter port is called for, apple or orange juice works well. You may use equal parts fruit juice for port.
7. Dry Red Wine & Sugar Substitute
As mentioned before, all ports are sweet to an extent, so sweet red wine blends are the automatic answer for substitutions. With that being said, not everyone has a sweet red wine on hand, and, in that case, a substitute recipe may be made with other common ingredients.
Keep in mind that you will need to have red wine on hand, but in this case, a dry bold wine is what you want.
To create this concoction, which many say is better than simply subbing with sweet red wine. Start with two parts dry bold red wine and add 1/4-part cane pure sugar and 1-part vodka or brandy. The latter will act to fortify the port wine.
8. Merlot For Dark Meat Dishes
When your recipe calls for a ruby port, what it really needs is a young wine that has bright and fruity flavors. Merlot is a top-notch substitute for ruby port and is often regarded as the "comfort food of red wines."
Merlot has a plummy fruit flavor and a soft and velvety texture. It's a great wine to pair for drinking with dark meat dishes.
If your recipe is for beef, steak, duck or lamb, Merlot is a great sub for port. It reduces well, so it's also excellent for slow-cooking dishes. Merlot also pairs well with dishes that have a tomato sauce base.
9. Shiraz - The Fruity Wine
Shiraz is another red wine that excellently substitutes for ruby port. Shiraz is also known as syrah.
In fact, in Europe and especially in the Rhone Valley of France, this wine is only called syrah. It's a quality substitute for ruby port because it's an essentially fruity wine.
Wine experts say it has spicy overtones that hone in on black pepper notes, and for this reason, and its tendency toward wild black fruit flavors, shiraz or syrah is especially favored for dark meat dishes like stews and some casseroles.
Just like ruby ports, it's aged in wood barrels, so there are hearty, deep flavors in this elegant wine as well.
10. Chianti For Poultry Dishes
Chianti is the final type of sweet red wine you'll want to use as a substitution for ruby port. Chianti is a wine from the Tuscany region of Italy and is medium-bodied in flavor.
It's going to be lighter than other wine varietals like zinfandel or petite syrah, so it works especially well in poultry dishes.
Even though some cooks will say it's a bit dry to be substituted for the sweet ranges of flavor found in all ports, it can be a good substitute because of the heavy concentration of fruit flavors it possesses. Chianti often has notes of tart cherry and various other fruits.
11. Riesling For Dessert
When making a dessert that calls for port, go ahead and use a riesling. This is a favorite dessert wine and is often compared to a muscat or moscato, which is also a sweet variety that can be used as a port replacement.
Preferably, use a late season riesling for an even sweeter flavor. Since the grapes ripen later in the season, the fruity tones will be more like an apricot or pineapple and less like young riesling, which is acidic like a Meyer lemon or a lime.
You definitely want to stay sweet when it comes to choosing a substitute wine for port, especially when we're talking about desserts.
12. Zinfandel For Dessert & Casseroles
Wine lovers might put zinfandels in the same category as rieslings, except zinfandels are red and rieslings are white. For this reason, using a zin as a replacement for port may be even more useful than using a riesling because zin is red just like port, especially ruby port.
You can find zinfandels in a large array of flavors, but they all tend to be on the fruity side — think of sour cherries and overripe nectarines.
A raspberry flavor is often present in zins as well. If you're not using this substitute for a dessert dish, it can easily be used as a replacement for port in poultry dishes including casseroles.
13. Lambrusco - Various Choices
Lambrusco is not an ideal candidate for a port substitute, but it will do fine if it's all you have. The reason it's not the perfect replacement is that it falls on the light and fizzy side whereas port tends to be deeper and bolder, depending on your recipe.
The good news is that Lambrusco is sweet just like port, and there is a range of types to choose from as there are many varieties of grapes that go into creating a bottle of Lambrusco.
You'll find one of four labels on a bottle of Lambrusco, and if you can, try to choose the one that best matches the dish you're making.
- Lambrusco secco is dry and rather bitter.
- Semisecco seems dry as well, but it is less dry than Lambrusco secco.
- Amabile means "just sweet" and has more fruitiness to it, which makes it better as a replacement for most tawny ports, which are less sweet than ruby ports.
- Lambrusco dolce is the sweetest and richest wine in the Lambrusco family.
14 - Chicken Or Beef Broth
In most meat dishes, chicken or beef broth can be used as an adequate replacement for port. Keep in mind that you should never use a protein broth as a substitute in a dessert dish.
Use the same amount of broth as you would use port. You can purchase broth in cans or boxes or make your own stock at home. Broth or stock can be made from any type of protein, and you should match the protein to the meat in your recipe when possible.
For example, for a lamb stew that calls for port, use a beef-based broth because lamb and beef are both dark meats. On the other hand, in chicken liver parfait recipe that calls for port, you should use a chicken broth.
15 - Vegetable Broth
When chicken or beef broth or stock are not available, a vegetable-based broth works fine. Many people who are vegetarians like to replace protein-based broths with vegetable broth, and the resulting difference is generally not too extreme, especially when used in a recipe.
Making your own vegetable stock is relatively easy, and even if you're not using it as a replacement for port, having a batch of homemade vegetable stock in your freezer is a good idea anyway.
Vegetable broth is a great way to use leftover trimmings from cut vegetables as you can easily make it with onion skins, carrot tops and other refuse that's been properly saved.
16 - Bouillon Cubes
When you don't have another fortified wine or sweet red wine on hand and when protein or veggie broths are also out of the question, bouillon cubes can be used.
In general, homemade broths are favored over store-bought broths and bouillon cubes, and store-bought broths are favored over bouillon cubes.
But as a last resort, the cubes should work fine as a substitute for port in meat-based dishes. Feel free to use chicken bouillon cubes for chicken and other poultry dishes and use beef bouillon cubes for beef or other dark meat dishes.
Follow the directions on the bouillon package, and make sure to dissolve the cubes in water before adding the resulting broth to your recipe. Never use bouillon cubes or broths in desserts.
17 - Leave The Port Out Completely
Finally, keep in mind that many recipes calling for port are only trying to enhance flavors that are already present in the dish.
As always, if a recipe calls for a specific ingredient, there's a reason for it. Port and its substitutes can add a richness and depth to your recipe that will make it all the better.
But if you don't have port, nor do you have any of the other substitute options listed here, you should be fine omitting the ingredient altogether in most cases. Soups, for example, don't depend on port or a port substitute for all their flavor.
As a chef, it's important to be aware of all of your options when it comes to ingredient substitutions. Even the best chef doesn't always have each and every ingredient he or she needs in the kitchen at all times, so it's a test of a great cook to see whether he or she knows how to improvise on the spot.
So did this list help you find a substitute for port in your recipe? Do you ever use other substitutions for port?
Let us know by telling us what you think of the article in the comments below. And, as always, please share this list if you like it!
What a wonderful read. I found your blog after searching substitutes for port specifically whether a dry sherry would be good. I’m satisfied that my gravy will be delicious now. Very concise and to the point