Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Substitute for Port Wine

Port wine is a type of fortified wine. It’s a Portuguese fortified wine, to be exact.The most popular type of Port wine is sweet, red wine. However, dry and semi-dry varieties also exist. In fact, there are white Port wine drinks as well.

While Port wine can be served as a dessert wine, it is also used in many cooking recipes. So, in this particular post, I will let you in on some of the substitutes for Port wine (video).


Substitute #1 – Sherry

Sherry can be categorized as a cousin of Port wine because they are similar in taste – that’s why you can use Sherry as a substitute for Port. It’s also interesting to note that while Port is from Portugal, Sherry originated from Spain. Having closely located regions makes them even more relatable with each other.

One difference between Port and Sherry is that the former carries berry flavors which are absent from the latter. As for sugar content, however, Sherry has lower sugar content when compared to Port.

Like Port, you can also serve Sherry as dessert wine – and it tastes better chilled (just like Port). For recipes that call for Port wine, you can also substitute Sherry (video).

Substitute #2 – Moscato or Muscat

Moscato (Italian) wine is just the same as Muscat (English) wine. This type of wine comes in many varieties of sweet flavors such as nectarine, orange blossom, and peach. Moscato has low alcohol content – so, you can replace Port wine with it if you find Port’s alcohol content to be too high.

Moscato or Muscat via Vina Concha Y Toro

Moscato or Muscat via Vina Concha Y Toro

Even though Moscato (or Muscat) carries a lightly acidic taste, it can still replace Port wine because of its sweetness. Its qualities also make it an appropriate substitute ingredient in dishes and as a dessert drink as well.

Substitute #3 – Marsala

Marsala is an Italian fortified wine that can also be used as a substitute for Port. Amber-colored wines are sourced from white grapes, while the ruby-colored variety is sourced from red grapes.

When using Marsala as a substitute ingredient for Port in cooking, you have 3 levels of sweetness to choose from:

  • Dry – it contains 1 teaspoon of sugar per glass
  • Semi-dry/ Semi-sweet – it contains 2 teaspoons of sugar per glass
  • Sweet – it contains 4 teaspoons of sugar per glass
Dry marsala wine via Wine Folly

Dry marsala wine via Wine Folly

Marsala is best used in recipes that use thick sauces as it caramelizes well because of the sugar content.

Substitute #4 – Banyuls

Banyuls is a semi-sweet, full bodied wine. While it works great as a dessert drink, you can also use it to substitute for Port in your recipes.

Substitute #5 – Madeira

Madeira wine comes in many different varieties and levels of sweetness. If you are using it to substitute for Port as a dessert drink, go for the following:

  • Verdelho
  • Boal
  • Sercial
Madeira wine via The Telegraph

Madeira wine via The Telegraph

The above-mentioned types of Madeira wine are quite expensive, but they’re really delicious and flavorsome.

Now, if you simply want to use Madeira wine to substitute for Port in cooking, you can settle for the cheaper ones (the quality is barely noticeable in cooked dishes).

Substitute #6 – Chardonnay

You can also use Chardonnay wine to substitute for Port especially if you need it for your recipes. With its acidic taste, it’s complements seafood and poultry dishes well.

Chardonnay wine via Wine Folly

Chardonnay wine via Wine Folly

Recipes that use heavy creams will also taste well when you use this as substitute for Port. You can also consider Chardonnay as one of your options if you’re particularly looking for a wine with low alcohol content.

Substitute #7 – Vermouth

Vermouth comes in dry and sweet varieties – so, you can choose the type that best suits your taste (whether as a drink or as a food ingredient).Vermouth is also a fortified wine, but it only contains a small amount of alcohol. You can therefore use it in recipes that you don’t want to be too high in alcoholic content.

Needless to say, you can also use Vermouth as a substitute dessert drink for Port wine.

Substitute #8 – Shiraz or Syrah

Shiraz is a type of fruity red wine that can also be used as substitute for Port. Since it comes with some spicy taste (like black pepper) it can replace Port in dark meat recipes. You can also use it in casseroles and stews.

Substitute #9 – Merlot

Merlot wine comes in velvety texture and sweet fruity flavors. This type of wine cooks well in dishes as it doesn’t easily evaporate – that’s why it’s recommended for slow cooking recipes.You can substitute Port with Merlot in duck, beef, and lamb dishes (dark meat). Merlot also works well for dishes that make use of tomato sauce.

Substitute #10 – Riesling

Riesling is a sweet type of white wine that can be used as a substitute for Port wine. They’re both sweet, that’s why – and Riesling works really well as a dessert wine.

Substitute #11 – Chianti

Chianti is a semi-sweet red wine that’s also similar in taste to Port wine. Its fruity flavors give this wine its sweetness, but the overall taste is mild. If you’re cooking a poultry dish that calls for Port wine, you can use Chianti instead.

Substitute #12 – Lambrusco

Lambrusco comes in sweet and bold varieties. If you’re planning on using it to replace Port wine, choose the sweet variety (like grapes).

Substitute #13 – Zinfandel

Zinfandel wines come in a wide variety of fruity flavors – which make it sweet and tasty. If you’re looking for a Port substitute as a dessert drink, you can go for Zinfandel. As a cooking ingredient, it can also replace Port wine in casseroles and poultry dishes.

Substitute #14 – Any Sweet Red Wine

Any basic red wine can actually work as a substitute for Port. The sweet variety is the most preferred type, since sweet Port wine is the most popular kind (as a dessert drink and as a food ingredient).

Substitute #15 – Any Dry Red Wine + Sugar

If you only have dry red wine available, you can use this as a substitute for Port wine in recipes. Just keep the following things in mind when using this ingredient as substitute for Port.

  • Since dry wine is not sweet, you need to add sugar to the mixture.
  • To recreate a sweet tasting red wine, combine 2 parts of dry wine and ¼ part sugar. To make the mixture closer in taste to Port wine (which is a fortified wine) add 1 part of brandy (or vodka) to the mixture.

​Substitute #16 – Fruit Juice (Unsweetened)

Fresh home made Manhattan cocktails with lemon and maraschino cherry

Fresh home made Manhattan cocktails with lemon and maraschino cherry

If you want a non-alcoholic substitute for Port wine, you can go for fruit juices. For the best tasting combination, add an acidic ingredient like citrus fruit to the mixture (to imitate the berry taste in Port).

Grape juice, cranberry juice, and pomegranate juice are just some of the unsweetened types of juices that you can use as substitute for Port wine. If you want a mild tasting substitute, however, you can go for apple juice or orange juice.

While fruit juice is not suitable as Port substitute for soup recipes, it can be used for the following:

  • Meat dishes
  • Dessert recipes
  • Marinades
  • Sauces

Substitute #17 – Meat Stock

If you need a Port wine substitute for your meat dishes, you can use chicken or beef stock instead. Needless to say, this substitute only works for food recipes – and not as desserts.

For this type of substitute, you can opt to make your own stock or simply buy those that come in packs and cans. Keep in mind that beef stock is best used for dark meat recipes, while chicken stock is best used for chicken recipes.

Substitute #18 – Bouillon Cubes

Store-bought bouillon cubes also work well as substitute for Port wine when cooking (especially meat-based recipes). For best results, use chicken bouillon cubes for poultry dishes and beef bouillon cubes for beef dishes (also for other dark meat recipes).

To use bouillon cubes, these should first be dissolved in water so as to convert it into a liquid ingredient. Just keep in mind that you can only use this as Port substitute in cooking recipes and not in desserts and wine drinks.

Substitute #19 – Vegetable Broth

Since you can effectively use meat stock as substitute for Port wine in recipes, it’s also safe to say that you can use vegetable broth as well. Go for this option, if you are vegetarian. One way to make vegetable stock (video) is to use vegetable cuttings instead of throwing them away.

Using Port Wine Substitutes as You Like it

Port wine is a versatile type of wine (video) and it works in enhancing the taste of certain recipes because of its richness and depth qualities. While this sweet-tasting wine is still the best option in recipes that particularly call for it, you can substitute it with other types of wines (or mixtures), if there’s a need for it.

Here are just some of the reasons why you might need a Port substitute:

  • You are out of Port.
  • You want to use a non-alcoholic ingredient.
  • You want to opt for a lower alcohol content type of wine.
  • You want to add variety to the taste of your dishes.

Whatever your reason is, this article contains 19 Port wine substitutes that you can use to replace it – whether as a drink, a dessert, or a recipe ingredient. So, good luck!

Do let me know in the comment section if you have used other Port wine substitutes than the ones I’ve listed here. I would also appreciate it if you can share this post with your friends.

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Lita Watson

Hi there! I’m Lita, and I’m absolutely in love with cooking blogs. I’m a beginner in cooking and i try my best to make it quick and easy. Even though, it’s not always quick and easy to keep up with fancy dinners… so i keep learning and blogging about quick and easy ways to create delicious and yummy foods for my two kids and a wonderful husband.

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