What is Marsala Wine Sauce?

There is no denying that Marsala wine sauce is one of the most popular sauces among Italian and Italian-American dish aficionados.

It can be easy to make, too, provided that you know what you are doing. But with very little to no idea of what this sauce is, you might find yourself serving something abysmal than exceptional.

Marsala wine sauce is a sauce whose base is Marsala mixed with butter and flour. Some recipes may call for the addition of vegetable or chicken stock as well as some herbs. Often, Marsala wine sauce is added to chicken or veal dishes, particularly Italian and Italian-American ones. It can be used for dipping, too.

Keep reading if you want to know more about Marsala wine sauce.

By the time you are through checking out the entirety of this post, you will be able to whip up Marsala wine sauce from scratch in your own kitchen without doubting yourself and fearing for your culinary credibility.

What Does Marsala Wine Sauce Taste Like?

Marsala wine sauce, if made in the traditional fashion, has an earthy and umami flavor because of Marsala wine and mushrooms. It can have a fresh and bright taste, too, if herbs like thyme and marjoram are added. It can be easy for Marsala wine sauce to end up too sweet if lots of sweet Marsala are used.

Chicken Marsala

Like Marsala wine itself, Marsala wine sauce can have a complex flavor profile.

It all depends on the recipes and ingredients used. Classic Marsala sauce, however, can be best described as something rich and savory as well as earthy.

The addition of mushrooms, which is a staple in traditional Marsala versions, can give the sauce an unmistakable umami flavor.

Dry or sweet Marsala can be used when making Marsala wine sauce. It can wind up tasting excessively sweet if too much of the sweet variant is added or the sauce is simmered longer than necessary.

How Do You Make Marsala Wine Sauce?

The chicken cutlets and the Marsala wine sauce are cooked separately when making chicken Marsala. It’s important to make the sauce correctly as much of the flavors of the Italian-American dish will come from it.

Basic Marsala wine sauce is made by mixing Marsala wine and melted butter and thickened with flour.

Because of the sheer popularity of chicken Marsala, it isn’t surprising why there are tons of recipes for it online. There is only one way to cook the chicken cutlets, but there are lots of ways to cook the accompanying sauce.

Here’s a popular recipe that yields a more complex and updated Marsala wine sauce:


  • 1/2 pound of mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups of beef stock
  • 1/2 cup of Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup of onions (diced)
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper

In a saucepan, saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil for 6 to 10 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add Marsala wine and beef stock. Once boiling, whisk in flour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until thick.

How Do You Thicken Marsala Wine Sauce?

Marsala wine sauce gets its rich and thick consistency from the addition of flour. To make Marsala sauce thicker, more flour may be added. To make Marsala sauce thinner, on the other hand, more water or stock may be added. Besides flour, other thickening agents may be used, including gluten-free ones.

Chicken Marsala

It’s not uncommon for health-conscious individuals and those with celiac disease to want to ask this pressing question: Is Marsala wine sauce gluten-free?

Unless gluten-free flour is used as a thickener, Marsala wine sauce will contain gluten.

The good news is that all-purpose flour, which is made from wheat and thus has gluten, is not the only thing that can give Marsala wine sauce its characteristic thickness. Some wonderful gluten-free alternatives include cornstarch, buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, millet flour, and rice and nut flours.

When shopping for flour that’s naturally free of gluten, the label should specify that it’s gluten-free — some may not be entirely devoid of gluten as they are made in facilities that process gluten-containing products.

Can You Make Marsala Wine Sauce Without Marsala?

Despite the name, Marsala sauce can taste pretty much the same without any Marsala wine. The number one substitute for Marsala wine when making the Italian-American sauce is Madeira wine. Similar to Marsala, Madeira is also fortified with brandy, which gives it the same flavor profile as that of Marsala wine.

Instead of Marsala wine, you can also use Madeira wine when making Marsala wine sauce.

No other wine on the face of the planet can come close to Marsala than Madeira in terms of characteristics. It’s so similar to Marsala that you can use Madeira wine as an alternative cooking ingredient using a 1:1 ratio — no math needed!

Besides Madeira wine, there are a few other wines that you may use as an alternative to Marsala when making Marsala wine sauce or any other Italian or Italian-American dishes with a Marsala-based sauce. Generally speaking, the best alternatives for it are fortified wines, too.

Among red wines, some of the replacements for Marsala include Pinot Noir and Gamay. Pinot Grigio and light Chardonnay are alternatives among white wines. You may also try fortifying any white wine you have with a little brandy.

Can You Make Marsala Wine Sauce Without Alcohol?

It’s very much possible to make Marsala wine sauce without any Marsala or any other wine.

For instance, stock commonly used in making Marsala sauce, whether vegetable or chicken, may be combined with a small amount of balsamic vinegar. Wine or red grape juice may be used in place of stock.

Marsala cooking wine

Some people steer clear of dishes cooked with alcohol. If you are one of them but you can no longer avoid chicken Marsala that many love, you will be happy to learn that you can make the sauce without using Marsala wine.

The secret is balsamic vinegar, which can make stock or grape juice taste kind of like Marsala.

There are those who swear by adding a little brown sugar to balsamic vinegar. Some agree that something similar to Marsala wine can be obtained by pureeing stewed figs with added sage and rosemary. Cranberry juice and prune juice are used by others who wish to stay away from cooking with wine.

But be warned: Marsala wine sauce without Marsala or any other wine with a Marsala-like taste profile will not taste like the real deal. But with ingenuity, you can make one that can come kind of close to it.

Is Marsala Wine Sauce Fattening?

Every 4 tablespoons of Marsala wine sauce has approximately 15 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates. Experts say that reducing one’s daily caloric intake by 500 can contribute to a loss of 1 pound a week. Paired with healthy eating and regular exercise, it’s unlikely for Marsala sauce to cause unwanted weight gain.

Butter and flour — besides Marsala wine, these two ingredients are important for making Marsala sauce.

But it’s no secret that butter is packed with calories and saturated fat. Flour, on the other hand, is known to be laden with calories and carbohydrates, too.

Since just about any dish with Marsala wine sauce tastes awesome, it can be easy for anyone to lose control and end up eating more than they should. Paired with a lack of regular physical activity or exercise, weight gain is inevitable. And that is why you should stick to healthy portion sizes when enjoying something with Marsala wine sauce.

Just Before You Make Marsala Sauce

Marsala wine sauce is entirely different from other rich sauces because of the presence of the fortified Italian wine Marsala.

Other than chicken, the said sauce can also be added to veal, beef and pork. Marsala wine sauce can be incorporated into a number of shrimp dishes, too. And by the way, you can also use it as a dipping sauce.

But you can make Marsala sauce even without Marsala wine, and the top alternatives were discussed above.

Always remember everything you have read here each time you are planning on making chicken Marsala or just Marsala wine sauce for a variety of purposes and attaining success in the kitchen should be easy!

Read Next: 12 Best Wines for Cooking Chicken Marsala

Related Questions

Is Marsala wine sauce haram?

Because it contains a fortified Italian wine with a high alcohol by volume (ABV) of around 15% to 20%, Marsala wine sauce is considered haram. This is true even if some of its alcohol content would evaporate when cooked. The use of a non-alcoholic alternative to Marsala can make Marsala wine sauce not haram.

Is Marsala wine sauce keto-friendly?

One of the ingredients for making Marsala wine sauce is flour. In making chicken Marsala, flour is also used to coat chicken cutlets. Whether on its own or added to dishes, Marsala wine sauce is not ideal for individuals on a keto diet. Marsala wine sauce, however, can be made using keto-friendly flours or thickeners.

Can you freeze Marsala wine sauce?

You can store Marsala wine sauce in the freezer. Doing this extends its shelf life for up to 6 long months. However, Marsala wine sauce may never fully freeze, depending on the freezer’s setting, because Marsala wine and other alcohols have lower freezing temperatures. Marsala wine sauce lasts 5 to 7 days in the fridge.

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