I personally taste-tested a variety of sherry substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for dry sherry in cooking is dry white wine or another fortified wine like dry vermouth. If you prefer a non-alcoholic alternative, try sherry or apple cider vinegar mixed with water. To replace sweet sherry in cooking, look for another sweet fortified wine like port or a small amount of vanilla extract.
Dry sherry is the most common type of sherry used in recipes, so I focused on that for this article. But I also recommend some sweet sherry and cooking sherry substitutes later on. If the recipe just calls for sherry, I would assume it means dry sherry.
To test all the substitutes, I sauteed different batches of mushrooms using this simple but delicious recipe.
Dry sherry is a fortified wine. It’s completely fermented, which means its sugars have all been transformed into alcohol. It has a complex flavor profile with nutty, salty notes. It’s generally used to add depth and a touch of acidity to dishes, but you can also see it in cocktail recipes.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Dry White Wine||Has refreshing acidity||9/10|
|Water, Apple Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Soy Sauce||Really good!||9/10|
|Vinegar||Replace in a 1:1 ratio for small quantities; combine with equal parts water for larger quantities||8/10|
|Dry Vermouth||Has herbal and slightly bitter undertones||8/10|
|Dry Marsala/Madeira||Rich, caramel-like character, sweeter||7/10|
|Shaoxing Wine||Likely salted, so reduce salt in recipe||6/10|
|Chicken Stock + Lemon||Non-alcoholic, easy to find||7/10|
Dry White Wine
Looking for a budget-friendly or easy-to-find substitute? Try dry white wine.
White wine is less dry than sherry with a touch of sweetness, but once you’ve added it to your recipe these flavor differences won’t be that noticeable. It did a great job of deglazing the pan in my recipe. And the light body and crisp flavor profile is especially suited to chicken, vegetable, or seafood dishes.
Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot grigio are all considered dry white wines. You can also use a dry sparkling wine, but only if your recipe calls for a small amount of sherry.
How to substitute: Replace sherry in a 1:1 ratio with dry white wine.
Dry vermouth is another fortified wine, so has a lot of similarities with sherry, but the flavors are different. Vermouth has a distinct herbal flavor and a soft bitter undertone because of all the botanicals used in its production. There’s no nuttiness like sherry.
But the vermouth added just as much depth and complexity to my mushrooms as the sherry did.
If you’re replacing dry sherry, be careful not to pick up a sweet or semi-sweet vermouth. These are better suited to replacing sweet sherry. You can generally tell what type of vermouth you have from the color. Dry vermouth is clear, while sweet vermouth is red. Semi-sweet vermouth has an amber color.
How to substitute: Replace sherry in a 1:1 ratio with dry vermouth.
Water, Apple Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Soy Sauce
I first saw this substitute suggestion on a forum and I was intrigued. It’s a non-alcoholic suggestion and the forum users raved about how similar it was to sherry, so of course I had to try it.
I mixed 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup apple juice (unsweetened), 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of soy sauce. This made a cup of ‘mock sherry’ and it worked amazingly in my mushroom dish.
The vinegar made sure the mixture had the same deglazing properties as alcohol and the final dish tasted very similar to the sherry version. The soy sauce added depth and a touch of saltiness, but I recommend you omit it if you are looking to replace sweet sherry.
How to substitute: Replace sherry in a 1:1 ratio with your mock sherry.
If you don’t have all the ingredients you need to make the above substitute, then you can make do with vinegar. Vinegar’s main role in recipes is to add acidity, which makes it an okay stand-in for dry sherry if you’re using it in small amounts.
Sherry vinegar is unsurprisingly the top choice so you can get those deliciously nutty notes. But you can also go with white wine or apple cider vinegar – bonus points if you can mix these with a bit of balsamic vinegar.
If your recipe calls for more than 1-2 spoonfuls of sherry, I recommend diluting the vinegar with an equal part of water so the flavor doesn’t become overwhelming.
How to substitute: Replace small quantities of sherry in a 1:1 ratio with vinegar. For larger quantities, combine equal parts of vinegar and water.
Marsala is another fortified wine, but again it has its own distinct flavor profile.
Marsala has Italian roots and is known for its deep, caramel-like character. It will bring warmth and a hint of nuttiness to your dishes. But here’s the catch: Marsala has a sweeter undertone than sherry, which makes it a good option for richer stews that can absorb this sweetness.
And if you don’t want that sweet hint, simply add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the Marsala to mellow out the sweetness.
Psst… dry Madeira is also a solid option you can try.
How to substitute: Replace sherry in a 1:1 ratio with dry Marsala/Madeira.
Dry sherry is often recommended as an alternative to Shaoxing wine, so it makes sense that the reverse holds true. Their comparable nutty and woody flavors make them a good match but shaoxing tends to be a tad sweeter while sherry is crisper.
You’re guaranteed to find a bottle of Shaoxing wine in your local Asian grocery store, but I found some in my local supermarkets’ international aisle!
And a little tip… most Shaoxing wines sold in stores in the US have added salt and aren’t meant for drinking (although not all, so double check first). This means you won’t want to use this substitute if you’re replacing a lot of sherry, and you’ll also want to hold back on adding any extra salt to your recipe.
How to substitute: Replace sherry with half the amount of Shaoxing wine and reduce the added salt.
Chicken Stock + Lemon Juice
Another easy, non-alcoholic alternative for dry sherry that you can try is chicken stock and a splash of lemon juice. This isn’t the best substitute flavor or complexity-wise, but you will likely have both these ingredients on hand so it could save you a trip to the grocery store.
You can also swap the chicken stock for vegetable or beef stock.
My sauteed mushrooms weren’t as savory or warm, but they still tasted delicious! Next time I will add a splash of soy sauce to try add mimic the umaminess of sherry.
How to substitute: Replace sherry in a 1:1 ratio with chicken stock + lemon juice.
Best substitutes for sweet sherry
In desserts, you might find that sweet sherry is called for instead of dry sherry.
The best substitute for sweet sherry is another sweet fortified wine. You have several to choose from including port, sweet vermouth, sweet Madeira, or sweet marsala. If your recipe only calls for a small amount of sweet sherry, you can also substitute it with a red wine like Malbec or Merlot, or a sweet dessert wine like Muscat.
If you want a non-alcoholic substitute, you can use apple cider vinegar mixed with sugar. Use the vinegar at full strength for small amounts (1-2 tablespoons), or dilute it with equal parts water for larger amounts. You can also mix the vinegar with fruit juice instead of adding sugar.
Another option for sweet recipes is vanilla extract, but you only need a small amount. You can swap a tablespoon of sweet sherry for a teaspoon of vanilla extract. But don’t use this option if your recipe already calls for vanilla!
What is the difference between drinking sherry and cooking sherry?
Cooking sherry is also a fortified wine like regular drinking sherry but it has added salt to help preserve it. It’s also usually lower quality than drinking sherry. You can use it as a substitute for dry sherry in a pinch but don’t add any extra salt to your recipe if you do!
Best substitutes for cooking sherry
Cooking sherry is lower-quality dry sherry with added salt, you’ll generally only see it called for in older recipes or ones keeping to a budget. The best substitute is dry sherry and a little extra salt. But you can also use another fortified wine like dry vermouth or a dry white wine. Apple cider vinegar is a good non-alcoholic substitute.
Substitutes to avoid
There were lots of suggestions for sherry substitutes, but not all of them turned out great. One options I saw suggested was to swap dry sherry for sweet sherry. But this isn’t a good idea, the flavors are way too different and the swap will alter the taste of your dish too much.
Best Sherry Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup vinegar + 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth
- 1/2 cup dry marsala
- 1/2 cup shaoxing wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock + lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sake
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen dry sherry substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.