The Best Substitutes To Use In Place Of Dry And Sweet Sherries

Sherry is a popular cooking ingredient that has similar applications as red or white wine. The fortified wine is great for simmering in rich pots of stew or deglazing a cast iron pan after frying up a steak. There is such a variety of sherries available — standard cooking sherry, dry sherry, sweet sherry, and more — that when your recipe calls for a certain type, there's a pretty good chance you won't have it on hand. When that happens, there's no need to panic and run out to the liquor store or gourmet food shop, as there are plenty of great alternatives for different types of sherry.

Not to be confused with sherry vinegar, cooking and regular drinking sherry are a type of "grape wine fortified with brandy," says MasterClass. Unlike regular sherry, though, cooking sherry has extra salt in it, which keeps it from spoiling after opening the bottle, and can significantly alter the taste of your dish if the recipe calls for regular sherry. Cooking sherry is typically dry, while the kind enjoyed for drinking is sweeter, though there are exceptions. Whatever application is right for you, we've got a guide to a few fantastic substitutes you can use in the kitchen for both dry and sweet sherry.

Best alternatives for dry sherry

If you need dry sherry but don't have any on hand, it's best to go for another dry fortified wine, like dry vermouth. This will most closely mirror the tasting notes found in a dry sherry, giving that same sharp flavor and tang, notes Cooking Light. But just like with sherry, there is a sweet alternative to dry vermouth that you absolutely want to avoid, as it could alter the taste of the recipe: Sweet vermouths are typically red or caramel colored, says Bitters and Bottles, and as you may have guessed, have a higher sugar content.

If you don't have dry vermouth available (though we recommend you snag some for a classic martini), there are plenty of other worthy alternatives for dry sherry. A dry white wine, such as a Pinot Grigio, is another great option. Even if you don't keep any booze in the house, you should still have some options in your pantry, like white wine, apple cider, or sherry vinegar, writes A Couple Cooks.

The ideal sweet sherry substitutes

Don't be fooled by the name — sweet sherry can be used in savory dishes just like dry sherry, and also to enhance deserts. Often, you'll see recipes for meat rubs call for a bit of brown sugar, like that for classic pulled pork. This can add a depth of flavor to the savory dish — and sweet sherry operates similarly. If you're out of sweet sherry for your sweet or savory recipe, reach for a bottle of port instead. This is also a fortified wine containing brandy, but it is from Portugal, while sherry is from Spain, reports MGM Wine and Spirits. Sweet vermouth would also work in this case.

You may be thinking, "If I don't have sherry, why would I have a bottle of port or sweet vermouth handy?" No problem: Try a splash red wine vinegar and compensate for the lack of sweetness with a pinch of sugar in your dish. Red wine and other dessert wines can sub in, too, per The Spruce Eats, though these won't keep as long as other alternatives — meaning you'll just have to pour yourself a glass with dinner.