Port wine, named after its origins in Douro Valley, Portugal, is commonly enjoyed with dessert due to its rich, sweet flavor.
It is a fortified wine with different aging styles that fall under Ruby or Red port, White port, Rosé port, and Tawny Port.
Port wine has a complex flavor profile with notes of caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, and berries, making it an exciting ingredient in cooking.
You can add port wine to a wide range of dishes, from meat preparations and cakes to curries and sauces, or you can simply drink it straight from the bottle!
If you don’t have port wine in stock or need a kid-friendly alternative, check out our list of port wine substitutes. We will tell you everything you need to know about which substitute to use in different types of dishes, whether it’s Vermouth wine in sauces, chicken stock in chicken dishes, or even fruit juice in baked goods.
You can also use Zinfandel or Muscat in curries and stews or Chianti in steaks and seafood dishes.
Read on to discover ten great substitutes for port wine that you can use for cooking, baking, and drinking.
- Port Wine Substitutes
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Considerations
- Related Guides
Port Wine Substitutes
1. Black Muscat Wine
Port wine lends casseroles, stews, and curries a rich taste and texture that will leave your family and guests asking for seconds and thirds.
But if you forgot to stock up on it and are now thinking, “What is a good port wine equivalent?” enter Black Muscat wine.
It is a sweet, rich, fruity wine with notes of berries, black tea, cherries, roses, and violets, so it can easily sub in for Ruby port in stews and curries.
Note that Black Muscat wine is considerably sweeter than port, so use it sparingly and meet the rest of the recipe’s liquid requirements with water.
2. Zinfandel Wine
Zinfandel has rich berry notes like Ruby port and lower alcohol content at 9% to 10%, compared to the latter’s 16% to 20%.
This makes it a healthy substitute for Ruby port in stews and casseroles if you want to use wine with a lower alcohol percentage.
However, Zinfandel has high acidity and a good amount of tannins, which gives it a bold flavor and makes it slightly different from port wine. Use it in small amounts, and you’re good to go.
3. Marsala Wine
Marsala wine is an Italian fortified wine from Sicily that comes in two main color classifications: Ambra and Rubino.
Ambra is amber-colored and is made using white grapes, and Rubino is red or ruby in color and is made from red grapes.
This wine also has three levels of sweetness: dry, semisweet, and sweet.
If you’ve run out of White or Red port, you can easily switch to the sweet varieties of Ambra or Rubino to get a similarly sweet, rich taste, and enjoy the rest of your evening with a classy dessert wine.
4. Sherry Wine
Sherry wine is a popular Spanish fortified dessert wine that you can enjoy after dinner or pair with a spicy meal. It tastes very similar to port wine in that it carries a rich, nutty, and fruity flavor.
However, it lacks the berry notes of port, making it a bit drier. Sherry wine also has a lower sugar content, making it a healthier alternative!
5. Syrah Wine
Many wine-based sauces and soups have port wine in their list of ingredients, as it helps to create that thick, rich texture and gives these dishes a bolder flavor.
This is due to its relatively high alcohol content compared to unfortified wines.
If you’re in doubt about what a good port wine alternative is, you’ll need to use another sweet, fortified wine in place of it, like Syrah, also known as Shiraz wine.
It has a high alcohol percentage like port and has similar fruity and berry-like flavors that will work well to elevate your soups.
6. Vermouth Wine
Another Italian wine on this list, vermouth is a fortified wine that comes in two levels of sweetness: dry and sweet. Its sweet version can be easily substituted in sauce recipes that require port wine.
Vermouth wine also has good amounts of alcohol at 15% to 19%, which is close enough to port wine’s alcohol content. It’s also relatively inexpensive, making it easy on your budget.
However, the notes of vermouth wine are quite different from port wine, as the former tastes like vanilla, caramel, spices, and bitter oranges—quite a departure from port wine’s berry and chocolate notes.
If you don’t mind these differences and only want the sweetness that port brings, vermouth can easily be the go-to substitute for your next soup or sauce.
7. Chianti Wine
If you’ve run out and you’re in your kitchen wondering what to use in place of port wine, Chianti wine is an excellent choice.
Chianti wine is a well-loved Italian wine that tastes like cherries and strawberries.
It has sweet and fruity notes, much like port wine, and is a delicious addition to seafood and poultry dishes.
8. Chicken Stock
Meat dishes like braised chicken, roasted beef tenderloin, and pepper steak taste better with the addition of fortified wine like Tawny port.
However, if you’re cooking for your kids and don’t want to give them wine just yet, you can always substitute port wine with chicken stock.
It is a readily available and simple port wine substitute that can help you develop rich flavors without the use of alcohol.
Of course, the dish will not have the exact same taste, but you will achieve a similar rich texture that port wine provides.
9. Fruit Juice
If you’re baking cakes, cookies, or muffins, or whipping up yummy desserts with a recipe that includes port wine and you don’t have it, use unsweetened fruit juice instead. You can use mixed fruit juice, plain cranberry, or orange juice for this purpose.
Unsweetened fruit juice will give you a similar bright, fruity flavor. And as it has no alcohol and sugar, it is also a healthy, kid-friendly alternative!
10. Madeira Wine
If you’re thinking, “Can I use Madeira wine instead of port in a recipe?” Yes, you can!
Madeira wine is a sweet fortified wine that is an excellent alternative to Ruby port wine in puddings, flans, cookies, and cakes. It has a similar taste, texture, and alcohol content, making it a very close substitute.
In fact, the famous Madeira cake actually uses Madeira wine in its recipe, so you can’t go wrong with this type of wine in your baked goods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does The English Word “Port” Originate From The French Word “Porte”?
Yes, the word “port” comes from the Old French word “porte,” which in turn comes from the Latin word “porta,” meaning passage or gate.
Port wine, too, was named after the seaport city of Porto in northern Portugal, where it is aged and bottled.
Can I Use Port Instead Of Red Wine?
If a recipe or pairing calls for red wine and you don’t have it at home, you can use port wine in a pinch.
Note that port wine is sweeter than dry red wine, so use about half the amount stated in the recipe and substitute the rest with water or chicken stock.
For example, if the recipe asks for 100 ml of red wine, use only 40 to 50 ml of port wine and 50 to 60 ml of water or stock to create a rich flavor.
Is Port Better Than Red Wine?
Although port wine is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it also contains more alcohol and sugar than red wine.
If you’re looking for a healthier option between the two, we suggest you go for red wine for its lower alcohol and sugar content.
What Wine Is Closest To Port?
In terms of flavor profile, the wines closest to port would be Marsala and Merlot due to their sweet, bright, and fruity taste.
You can also sub in sherry or Madeira as they are close enough to port wine in taste and richness.
Port is a versatile wine that need not be restricted to your wine glass alone. It is a great ingredient to add to cakes, cookies, muffins, meats, sauces, and curries; you name it.
If you don’t have it at home or have never tried cooking or baking with it, you can sub in the above alternatives to create a similar flavor profile and texture.
Or better still, simply take a walk down to your local wine retailer and ask for port wine. Its unique taste and complexity will be worth the trip!
Have you tried port wine or any of its substitutes in your recipes? How was the experience? Let us know in the comments below!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.