Sherry, a fortified wine, adds a depth of flavor to soups, sauces, slow-cooked beef recipes and mushroom dishes. If you don't happen to have a bottle in your pantry, you can use a sherry substitute. Nothing quite replaces the heady flavor of sherry, however, so if you can, use the real stuff.
About the Ingredient: Sherry
Sherry is a fortified wine, which means a small amount of distilled spirits — in this case brandy — is added to the wine. This boosts the flavor and the alcohol content to 15 to 20 percent.
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Sherry comes in a variety of types — some are clear or pale, and more delicately flavored, while others are rich and quite sweet. The taste of sherry suggests orange peel, spice and caramel. Some describe it as complex and nutty.
Sherry is classically used in dishes such as lobster bisque, chicken with mushroom sauce and stewed beef. You might even try adding it to this LIVESTRONG.com recipe for Cauliflower Soup. Sherry can also add a kick to our recipe for Mushroom Thyme Gravy. Usually nonsweet (or dry) versions are best for recipes. An affordable bottle is best for cooking, but don't go for the cheapest "cooking" varieties if you care about your recipe's taste.
Cooking sherry is meant only for addition to food, and it's made with a lower quality sherry wine. It also has salt and preservatives added to it. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 190 milligrams of sodium, which makes it unsuitable for drinking.
As noted by the experts at the Culinary Institute of America, you do want a wine (or sherry) that's of good-enough quality that you would drink it on its own. The flavors only concentrate in your dish, so if you have a poor-tasting bottle of sherry, your dish suffers.
If you do opt for sherry cooking wine, you might consider altering the amount of salt you add. The salt added to preserve the cooking wine may be enough to flavor your dish.
Good Sherry Substitutes
Sherry isn't a staple pantry ingredient in many kitchens, so you may need to look for a sherry substitute. Options that impart a somewhat-similar flavor and could act as a sub for sherry include white wine, brandy and dry vermouth. In some recipes, Port, Madeira or Marsala may work — but be familiar with the flavor of your sherry sub, and how it may impact your final dish.
If you're looking for a non-alcoholic addition, choose a vinegar such as apple cider, wine, or rice wine. If the dish you're making has a fruity notes, consider apple cider vinegar, explains the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Services. Apple cider vinegar has a strong taste, however, so dilute it with water, and add a pinch of sugar to better replicate the sherry taste.
If you're adding sherry to a sweet dish, consider apple or orange juice as a sub for sherry. For example, some apple pie recipes call for sherry, and could use one of these fruit juices instead.
White wine and champagne vinegar are delicately flavored, while red wine vinegar is a good sub for sherry in a strongly flavored dish that contains rosemary and meat.
Read more: How Bad is Alcohol for Weight Loss
Know that a little splash of sherry in a whole dish doesn't count as one alcoholic drink, according the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. You'd need to drink about 4 ounces on your own to consume the equivalent of one drink.
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 9. Alcohol"
- Culinary Institute of America: "Cooking With Wine"
- University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service: "Preserving Food: Flavored Vinegars"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Cooking Sherry"
- Santa Rosa Junior College: "Dessert & Fortified Wines"
- University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program: "Definitions: Malt Liquor and Fortified Wine"