Port wine, a dessert wine known for its rich flavors and often used in a variety of sweet dishes, sauces, and marinades, can sometimes be expensive or difficult to find.
If you’ve been having difficulty getting port wine for a certain recipe, we’ve got good news for you: there are many suitable port wine substitutes that can still deliver the desired taste and consistency in your dish!
In this article, we will explore several delicious and accessible alternatives to port wine that you can use in your cooking.
We’ll also dive into the factors to consider when choosing a substitute, so read on!
A Quick Overview of the Best Port Wine Substitutes
Here’s a table showing all the port wine substitutes at a glance:
|Port Wine Substitute
|Nutty with a caramel taste
|Mushroom and onion sauces, poached fruits, fruitcakes
|Fruity with notes of cherry and plum
|Pasta sauces, braised meats, risottos
|Nutty with caramel and dried fruit flavors
|Gravies, stews, sauces, tiramisu, chocolate truffles
|Floral with a prominent fruit flavor
|Seafood and chicken sauces, fruit compotes, sorbets
|Nutty and sugary with hints of caramel, fig, and raisin
|Chicken and beef recipes, bread pudding, poached pears
|Floral and slightly sweet, reminiscent of red berries
|Braised meats, poached pears, berry compotes
|Herbal, floral, and slightly bitter
|Seafood and poultry sauces, fruit tarts, chocolate mousse
|Earthy and peppery with notes of blueberry and plum
|Lamb shanks, red wine braises, roast meat gravies
|Sweet and tropical with notes of peach, orange blossom, and honeysuckle
|Fruit salads, sorbets
|Herbal undertones with fruity flavors of berries and plum
|Chocolate cake, truffles, beef stews
|Bold and robust with fruity and herbal notes
|Poached figs, dark chocolate, red wine reduction sauces
|Jammy and fruity with hints of spice and smoke
|Beef stews, duck reduction sauces
|Nutty and buttery with a vanilla taste
|Creamy sauces, seafood dishes
|Red grape juice
|Deep, earthy sweetness
|Marinades, braised meats
|Salad dressings, glazes, sauces
|Tart, slightly sweet
|Poultry dishes, gravies, sauces
Top Substitutes for Port Wine
Port wine is a popular choice for cooking and sipping due to its sweet and fruity flavors. However, sometimes, finding substitutes for port wine in recipes is necessary.
Let's explore some alternatives so you have various options when port wine isn't available.
With its diverse flavor spectrum ranging from dry and nutty to sweet and rich, sherry is a versatile substitute for port wine in various dishes.
Its nutty and caramel-like notes complement savory recipes like mushroom or onion sauces while adding a touch of sweetness and depth to sweet dishes such as poached fruits or fruitcakes.
Top tip: Be sure to use sweet or cream sherry to better match port wine's sweetness.
Chianti wine is a dry red wine with a medium body, earthy undertones, and flavors of cherry and plum.
It can add depth and acidity to the flavor profile of different savory dishes, so it can serve as a port wine substitute in pasta sauces, braised meats, and risottos.
Top tip: Remember that Chianti tends to be more acidic than port wine, so it’s best to use less of it than the amount of port your recipe calls for.
Offering nutty, caramel, and dried fruit notes, Madeira wine presents a unique flavor profile, making it a great substitute for port wine.
It brings depth and complexity to savory dishes like gravies, stews, and sauces and also imparts a rich and slightly sweet flavor in desserts such as tiramisu or chocolate truffles.
Top tip: It’s true that Madeira tends to be on the pricier side, but don’t worry. Even cheaper Madeira varieties can give you delicious results.
Riesling wine, a versatile white wine with a range of sweetness levels and fruity flavors, can also replace port wine.
This option can be incorporated into seafood or chicken sauces. But it works particularly well in desserts such as fruit compotes or sorbets, especially if you opt for a late-harvest Riesling for more sweetness.
Top tip: Feel free to add sugar or any other sweetener if you’re using Riesling as a substitute for port wine in a dessert recipe.
Boasting a rich, sweet flavor profile with hints of caramel, fig, and raisin, Marsala wine is an excellent substitute for port wine.
For bread pudding or poached pears, marsala wine imparts a slightly fruity flavor that resembles port wine.
Top tip: Like port wine, Marsala can add a similar touch of sweetness to savory chicken or beef recipes. But it isn’t as deep or rich as port wine, so it may not be able to enhance these dishes as well as port wine does.
Lambrusco can be used in both savory and sweet recipes that typically use port wine. This is due to its sparkling nature and flavors of red berries, floral notes, and slightly sweet profile.
In braised meats, it adds a subtle fruitiness and sweetness. Meanwhile, it contributes a vibrant flavor to poached pears or berry compotes.
Top tip: Take note that Lambrusco can be a bit too light for recipes that require port’s depth, such as beef stews.
With its herbal, floral, and sometimes slightly bitter notes, vermouth can be a handy substitute for port wine.
For sauces for seafood or poultry, vermouth adds herbal complexity. To desserts like fruit tarts or chocolate mousse, it gives a unique herbal and aromatic twist.
Top tip: In most cases, dry vermouth is better for savory recipes and sweet vermouth for desserts.
Shiraz wine brings an intense and versatile flavor profile, marked by dark fruit flavors such as blueberry and plum, along with earthy and peppery notes.
It's a great substitute for port in dishes like stews, lamb shanks braised in red wine, or rich gravies for roast meats, lending a unique depth to these hearty meals.
Top tip: Shiraz’s high tannin content can make certain dishes taste bitter. If this happens, add some honey to your dish to counteract the bitterness.
Moscato wine has a sweet and aromatic profile showcasing flavors of peach, orange blossom, and honeysuckle, so it can easily replace port wine in sweet dishes, sauces, and syrups.
Its light and refreshing nature can complement the flavors of fruit salads or sorbets with a touch of sweetness and a floral aroma.
Top tip: Moscato is very sweet, so it might not be the best port wine substitute for hearty recipes with deeper flavors.
As a substitute for port wine, merlot offers flavors of plum, cherry, and herbal notes, making it suitable for a wide range of recipes.
It can replace port in desserts like chocolate cake or truffles, contributing a rich and fruity flavor profile.
And it can also add port wine’s signature depth to savory dishes.
Top tip: If you want to replace port wine in a recipe that requires sauce reduction, merlot is a fantastic choice. It reduces slowly, giving you the intense flavor you desire.
Cabernet sauvignon seamlessly imparts a bold and robust flavor profile to desserts like poached figs or baked goods with dark chocolate, effectively replacing port and enhancing the overall taste experience.
In addition, it enriches the depth and richness of red meat dishes, infusing complexity into the flavor profile.
Top tip: Cabernet is also perfect for braising.
Known for its robust, fruit-forward taste, Zinfandel makes a distinct alternative to port. It features less sweetness but compensates with rich flavors like blackberry and cherry, accented by spicy and smoky notes.
This wine is an excellent choice for enriching poultry dishes or reduction sauces, where its boldness pairs well with the richness of meats.
Top tip: Since Zinfandel is lighter than port, it may be a less desirable port wine substitute for dishes like stews. Stick to using it for fruity desserts or chicken recipes.
Chardonnay is lighter than port and offers a more nuanced flavor with hints of vanilla, butter, and sometimes nuttiness.
It works well in dishes where port might be too overpowering, like seafood dishes, adding a subtle and refined touch.
Top tip: You can cut through the richness of gravies and creamy sauces with Chardonnay.
Red Grape Juice
For a non-alcoholic option, red grape juice is an excellent choice. It's especially good in desserts or sauces that need a hint of fruitiness to enhance the overall flavor.
Its natural sweetness and fruity profile closely mimic the basic characteristics of port, making it a suitable substitute in recipes where the wine-like flavor is desired but without the alcohol.
Top tip: Grape juice may work best for dishes that only require a splash of port wine as opposed to ones that have it as part of the base.
Prune juice brings a unique twist as a port wine substitute. Its deep, somewhat earthy sweetness can add an interesting dimension to dishes, particularly those that benefit from a hint of rich, dark fruit flavor.
Its use can be particularly effective in marinades or braised meat dishes, where the complexity of prune juice brings out the savory elements.
Top tip: If you find your store-bought prune juice too sweet for savory recipes, you can whip up your own by using a juicer. You can also buy sugar-free prune juice instead.
Offering a tart and tangy profile, pomegranate juice is another vibrant substitute.
It works well in salad dressings, glazes for meats, or sauces where its unique flavor can stand out, especially in dishes that could benefit from a touch of acidity.
Its sharpness and slight sweetness can enliven dishes, adding a different kind of depth compared to port.
Top tip: Making your own pomegranate juice? Save the seeds and use them to garnish your salads or add a crunch to your desserts.
Cranberry juice offers a refreshing alternative with its distinctively tart and slightly sweet profile. It's great in recipes that call for a fruity yet tart element, balancing sweetness with acidity.
Cranberry juice can be particularly effective in poultry dishes, adding a zesty twist to each recipe.
Top tip: Avoid using this fruit juice for soups and stews.
Factors To Consider When Substituting Port Wine
When looking for a suitable port wine substitute, it's essential to consider several factors to ensure the flavor and consistency of your recipe remain intact.
Here are some key aspects to remember when selecting a port wine replacement:
It’s important to consider how much you want to stick to the original flavor profile of your recipe.
Marsala wine, Madeira, and sherry most closely resemble the flavor profile of port wine, so they’re the best port wine substitutes if you’re looking to follow a particular recipe religiously.
But you can also opt for substitutes that add a new twist to your recipes. For instance, moscato can offer a lighter, more refreshing touch to your desserts than port.
Consider the other ingredients in your recipe as well and see if any might clash with the port substitute you want to use.
Always check the sugar content of your substitute and compare it to the port wine recipe you'll be using, especially if you’re making a dessert or a reduction.
Some alternatives may need to be balanced with additional sweeteners to match the sweetness of port wine.
Port wine has an alcohol content of around 16 to 20 percent, which is considered high.
So it’s crucial to consider the alcohol content of your substitute. If it doesn’t match port wine, adjust your cooking method or measurements to accommodate the change.
If cost is a concern, some budget-friendly substitutes, such as red grape juice or inexpensive chardonnay, can be used.
Port wine is generally gluten-free, but it’s also usually filtered with animal-derived fining agents, which means it’s not vegan.
So if you’re looking for a vegan and gluten-free substitute for port wine, be sure to check the label of the product you’re eyeing.
Homemade fruit juices or fortified versions of your certain wines (which are not filtered) are your best bets for this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use White Port as an Alternative to Regular Port Wine?
You can use white port as an alternative to red port wine, but keep in mind that it offers a lighter, fresher taste than the traditional red port.
This means it may not provide the same depth of flavor and color as red port, so you may need to adjust your recipe's other ingredients to achieve a similar taste and appearance.
What Options Do I Have for Substituting Port Wine in French Onion Soup?
In place of port wine, you can use cabernet sauvignon to create a flavor profile similar to French onion soup.
Replace Port Wine With the Best Substitutes Today!
Now you know that various substitutes for port wine are available, ranging from different wines to non-alcoholic choices like fruit juices.
With this knowledge, you can choose the most ideal alternative that’s compatible with your needs, your taste preferences, and the dish you wish to make!