Cooking sherry is a type of white wine that’s been boosted with brandy. Think of it as your average low-quality sherry, except it contains additives like salt and preservatives to prolong its shelf life. When added to food, cooking sherry imparts a sweet, nutty flavor, sometimes with delicate notes of citrus fruits. It pairs brilliantly with tender meat dishes like turkey gravy and slow-cooked pork.
If you’re looking for a substitute for cooking sherry because you’ve run out or for any other reason, here’s a curated list of the best alternatives you can use instead.
#1. Dry Vermouth
Dry vermouth, like sherry, is a type of fortified wine and is flavored with various herbs and spices. Vermouth comes in two major styles — dry (white) and sweet (red). It pairs brilliantly with dishes like chicken and pork.
If you’re planning to substitute vermouth for cooking sherry, you should go with dry. It is on par with cooking sherry in terms of bringing acidity, sweetness, and complexity to a dish. Dry vermouth is more intense than most cooking wines so you want to start with a little and only add more after tasting.
1 Cup Cooking Sherry = ½ Cup Dry Vermouth
#2. Dry White Wine
Dry white wine is a common choice for cooking. The best kinds of whites you could use include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. They’re subtle yet bring out the ideal balance of sweetness and acidity to recipes. Foods like chicken, seafood, pork are often paired with white wines because they require a crisp finish.
White wine is a staple in French and Italian cuisine, not just as an ingredient for flavor but also as a cooking technique. It deglazes your cooking pan to release the brown bits of food that tend to get stuck at the bottom. These bits are exceptionally well-cooked and crispy and enhance the texture of your recipe.
1 Cup Cooking Sherry = 1 Cup Dry White Wine
#3. Sherry Vinegar
If you’re looking for a substitute that brings more acidity and flavor to your dish, sherry vinegar is the ideal choice. Sherry vinegar is nutty and not as sweet as cooking sherry. If sweetness is important, you can supplement your recipe with some dry wine or granulated sugar.
If sherry vinegar is unavailable, you could alternatively use white vinegar or white wine vinegar. But if it is available, sherry vinegar will make the best substitute for recipes that call for cooking sherry because it matches the flavor profile quite closely.
However, sherry vinegar has a more intense flavor, so start with a little and add more as per your taste.
1 Cup Cooking Sherry = ½ Cup Sherry Vinegar
#4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar tastes a lot like apple juice, except it has more of a tang to it. It’s made by adding yeast to apple juice to ferment it. Fermentation turns the fruit sugars in the juice into alcohol and acetic acid, giving the vinegar its distinctive and pungent sour taste.
Apple cider vinegar makes an excellent non-alcoholic substitute for cooking sherry in recipes that require tart acidity and sweetness. Cooking sherry possesses all of these elements but apple cider vinegar is sweeter, so they cannot be substituted in equal parts.
1 Cup Cooking Sherry = ½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
#5. Chicken Stock and Lemon
A combination of chicken stock and lemon is an innovative substitute for cooking sherry. Chicken stock has a dry, earthy, and meaty flavor that makes it pair well with all kinds of meat dishes. It’s made by simmering the bones of chicken in water and usually includes some mixed herbs or condiments for flavor.
Chicken stock can perform the same functions of cooking sherry in all kinds of recipes. However, it lacks acidity, a squeeze of freshly cut lemon into 1 cup of chicken stock gives it that much-needed tartness. Good chicken stock should have a medium body and a mild savory flavor.
1 Cup Cooking Sherry = 1 Cup Chicken Stock and Lemon
Brandy is distilled from white wine, so it has a similar flavor profile to cooking sherry. It is sweet, warm, and has rich fruity tones, depending on the grape it’s made from.
If you’re planning to use brandy as a substitute for cooking sherry, it is recommended that you go with an unflavored brandy so that it doesn’t interfere with your dish’s final flavors. The brandy will work as a pan glazer and smoking catalyst for meat-rich dishes.
Another thing to note is that brandy has a higher alcohol content than cooking sherry, so you will need to dilute it with water first. The dish will also need to be cooked longer to ensure that all the alcohol evaporates.
And it goes without saying, but you need to use less brandy for every cup of cooking sherry.
1 Cup Cooking Sherry = ½ Cup Brandy (or a full cup if mixed with water)
#7. Vanilla Extract
The last entry on this list is no less than any of the substitutes mentioned so far. Vanilla extract is a good choice for a substitute if your recipe uses cooking sherry for its flavors. You won’t be able to glaze a pan with vanilla extract but you can get the same results in terms of taste as you would with cooking sherry.
Vanilla extract is primarily used in desserts to enrich the flavor. It goes well with sweet dishes and wouldn’t fetch you a good result if you pair it with savory dishes. Vanilla extract is available in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. It is up to you which one you want to use.
Just remember to add some water to vanilla extract to make up for the liquid volume you’re missing out on by not using cooking sherry.
1 Tbsp. Sherry = 1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract + 4 Tsp. Water