What makes chicken Marsala different from any dish of pan-seared chicken cutlets in a creamy mushroom sauce is Marsala, a fortified type of wine produced near Marsala, a town in Sicily.
In order to get the most number of complements possible the next time you whip up this popular Italian-American dish, don’t opt for just about any bottle of Marsala wine you can find at the local grocery store or wine shop — get your hands on the best possible one for cooking this delicious, rich and irresistible gastronomic knockout!
Most chefs prefer dry Marsala over sweet Marsala for chicken Marsala preparation. Typically used for cooking savory dishes, dry Marsala is still sweet, but not as sweet as sweet Marsala. However, many agree that dry Marsala and sweet Marsala can be used interchangeably for preparing chicken Marsala.
One of the nicest things about Marsala wine is that it’s widely available, thus letting you have a stab at that seemingly awesome chicken Marsala recipe you have been wanting to try for some time now.
As a matter of fact, there are many places at your favorite grocery store where it’s very much likely for you to come across a bottle of Marsala wine — at the condiments section or where the marinade ingredients are. Definitely, you will stumble upon this Sicilian wine the moment you visit the grocery store’s liquor section.
But if the goal is to serve chicken Marsala that none of your family members or friends will be able to stop raving about for many years to come, it’s a must that you make the sauce with the best Marsala wine for the job!
Look no further because I did the difficult (but nonetheless delightful!) task of testing an assortment of Marsala wine brands in order to figure out which ones should make it to your kitchen as a cooking wine (and a sipping wine, too!) for you to be considered by everyone as the chicken Marsala master.
1. Florio Dry Marsala
The contents of a bottle of Florio Dry Marsala matured for more than 18 months in a Slovenian oak barrel after fermenting in a stainless steel vat at controlled temperatures.
It’s because of this partly that the product has an unmistakable color ranging anywhere from deep amber to brown. And with most chicken Marsala recipes requiring anywhere from three-fourths to one cup of Marsala wine, its presence can help give your creation a deep-colored sauce, thus making it pop out of the table.
Hints of raisins and vanilla can subtly enhance the sweetness of your chicken Marsala — make sure you make some extra sauce!
And with a 750-ml bottle costing less than $11, there’s no denying that Florio Dry Marsala is one of the cheapest Marsala wines available — who said that a luxurious dish cooked with Marsala wine has to break the bank?
2. Colombo Marsala Dry
The maker of Colombo Marsala Dry has chefs who often need aperitif or dessert wine on its mind while fermenting the product. It’s no wonder why a bottle of it can be more commonly found in professional kitchens instead of commercial bars. It can also make for an excellent addition to the kitchen of any casual cook.
Despite having a minimum sugar level of 20 grams per liter, Colombo Marsala Dry is nonetheless perfect not only for cooking chicken Marsala and other dishes with Marsala sauce but also a host of desserts.
Pistachio cakes, dry fruit cakes, tiramisu, tarts, zabaglione, ricotta cheese desserts — these and more can taste even more heavenly with a dash or two of Colombo Marsala Dry. However, since it’s not made exclusively for cooking, unlike some Marsala wine blends on the market, it can also be enjoyed as a drink when the mood is right.
3. Cribari Marsala
When cooking chicken Marsala, check that anyone who samples it will be able to tell that Marsala wine is present in the sauce. Otherwise, it’s just pan-seared chicken cutlets swimming in some thick sauce.
If the goal is to ensure that everyone gets that what you will be serving is chicken Marsala, make sure that you opt for a bottle of full-bodied Marsala wine. This is when Cribari Marsala comes in — it has a rich taste with a light nutty flavor as well as citrus and floral notes. It’s exactly because of this why it’s great for both cooking and sipping purposes.
Costing less than $7, this 750-ml bottle of Marsala wine hails from California. However, some consumers find the sweetness of Cribari Marsala to be not at par with that of other hot-selling Marsala wines.
4. Taylor NY Marsala
Many seasoned chefs agree that the strongest suit of Taylor NY Marsala is that it has a creamy texture and fruity and semi-sweet flavor, which makes it particularly great for making all kinds of desserts.
Still, the product, which has a below $10 price tag, is ideal for cooking a variety of wine-based dishes and sauces, including most especially classic ones that are everybody’s favorite from various generations. Needless to say, having a bottle of it in your kitchen is a great idea if you want to make chicken Marsala a specialty of yours.
Generally speaking, you should cook with wine that you would actually drink. Based on consumer reviews, chances are you will need more than just a bottle of Taylor NY Marsala if you love pouring wine into a pot and a wine glass, too.
5. Opici Marsala
While it’s manufactured in California, the maker of Opici Marsala says that it uses the same production methods as those employed in Europe. True enough, its product is something that you can count on whenever you wish to serve chicken Marsala capable of enchanting the senses.
Because it has a taste that’s both rich and dry, Opici Marsala is ideal for cooking not only with savory dishes but also sweet ones. You will notice that its flavor is on the bold and strong type, but you can rest assured that it will not overpower the various ingredients a recipe calls for, such as one that tells you how to make a winning chicken Marsala.
A 750-ml bottle of Opici Marsala costs less than $6, but don’t let its cheap price tag fool you — it’s great for cooking as well as sipping. However, some people note that the product is a tad too sweet for them.
6. Sheffield Marsala
Fermented in a stainless steel vat and mellowed in an oak barrel, it’s no wonder why Sheffield Marsala boasts of a deep, oaky flavor. This particular property of the product is what makes any chicken Marsala that it’s added to have a richer and more complex tasting sauce — in any dish with a Marsala sauce, most of the time, it’s all about the sauce.
But worry not because Sheffield Marsala remains a versatile cooking wine. This means that it can come in handy whether the recipe is that of a savory dish or a sweet dessert.
Make some space in your kitchen because the product is available in a massive 1.5-liter bottle that costs less than $13. And this is why you should add it to your shopping cart no matter if you are still in that phase of trying to get acquainted with different Marsala sauce-based dishes or already mastered them and you simply like to impress often.
7. Nando Sweet Marsala
There are two things that make Nando Sweet Marsala a complete head-turner even before a bottle of it is opened. First, its packaging reveals the fact that it comes from Italy, which means that you can make your chicken Marsala as authentic as possible. Second, it comes in a gigantic 1.5-liter bottle.
One of the flavors in genuine Marsala wines is tobacco. True enough, many consumers who have already tried cooking with (and sipping, too) Nando Sweet Marsala say that they could pick up hints of tobacco.
However, there are more flavors the product has to offer, which is why it makes for a wonderful cooking wine. For instance, it possesses strawberry, raspberry and red cherry flavors. Red currant and licorice notes are hard to overlook, too, which is exactly why Nando Sweet Marsala is also suited for making cakes, shiraz and many other desserts.
8. Pellegrino Marsala Fine Rubino
At the outset, it’s plain to see that the fresh, vibrant and fruity flavor of Pellegrino Marsala Fine Rubino makes the product perfect for various dessert-making needs. As a matter of fact, its manufacturer suggests using it with at least 70% cocoa — dark chocolate!
Still, Pellegrino Marsala Fine Rubino is also great for cooking many savory dishes.
One of the nicest things about this Marsala wine is that it does come from Sicily itself, right where the town of Marsala is located. Needless to say, you can achieve sheer authenticity each time you whip up chicken Marsala with it.
However, it’s because of the fact that it’s literally a Sicilian wine why it’s one of the most expensive products on this list of the best Marsala wine for cooking chicken Marsala — a 750-ml bottle is nearly $20. Still, its price tag is just a tiny fraction of the cost of expensive wines that are a little too unreasonable for cooking.
Product link: Pellegrino Marsala Fine Rubino.
9. Serra Mission Traditional Marsala
Coming from a manufacturer specializing in the production of dessert wines, Serra Mission Traditional Marsala can be used for anything from sipping, making savory dishes to preparing desserts. Needless to say, it’s something you can reach for whenever you are in the mood to cook and serve chicken Marsala.
But let’s get one thing about this product out in the open: it’s not made from grapes local to Sicily. Instead, it’s made from 100% grapes. But just like most actual Marsala wines, it is fortified with brandy.
Since cooking burns off much of the distinctive flavors of Marsala wine anyway, it can be hard for most people to determine whether or not a dish prepared with the real deal or Marsala wine from elsewhere. Just in case you find its flavor to be not enough, simply reduce Serra Mission Traditional Marsala before incorporating it into the sauce.
Check on Amazon: Serra Mission Traditional Marsala
10. Holland House Marsala Blend Cooking Wine
The manufacturer of this product, Holland House, came into being in the late 1800s. It goes without saying that, being around for such a long time already, it knows what it’s doing.
True enough, Holland House Marsala Blend Cooking Wine is one of the more popular cooking wines out there. It’s specifically blended for Marsala-based stews, soups, sauces and desserts. Able to withstand high heat, there is no denying that it’s versatile. Unfortunately, while you can drink it, the product does not make for an excellent drink.
What’s really nice about a cooking wine such as Holland House Marsala Blend Cooking Wine is that it can retain its quality for up to a couple of years after opening. On the other hand, sipping wine tends to break down as soon as it’s uncorked. Needless to say, the product has a much longer shelf life after opening than an actual Marsala wine.
Check on Amazon: Holland House Marsala Blend Cooking Wine
11. Kedem Gourmet Marsala Cooking Wine
The health-conscious in you will be more than happy to know that Kedem Gourmet Marsala Cooking Wine is devoid of practically everything that you wouldn’t allow past your lips — it’s free of gluten, artificial flavoring, artificial coloring and added sugar. What’s more, it’s certified kosher.
It can make all kinds of dishes requiring the addition of Marsala wine complete because the product contains actual Marsala wine. As a matter of fact, if you give it a taste, you will find its flavor similar to dry Marsala wine.
Besides making chicken Marsala and other Marsala-based dishes, Kedem Gourmet Marsala Cooking Wine is also great for making baked goods and desserts that a little Marsala wine can enliven. It’s a good idea to have a bottle of it, which costs less than $8, somewhere in your kitchen for when a bottle of actual Marsala wine isn’t readily available.
Product link: Kedem Gourmet Marsala Cooking Wine
12. Iberia Marsala Cooking Wine
Don’t let its rich golden color fool you! Iberia Marsala Cooking Wine has a surprisingly mild flavor. It has a mild aroma, too, which makes it a versatile product because it will not leave any ingredient it touches tasting and smelling just like Marsala wine. If the goal is to, say, tenderize meat, then this would make for a wonderful marinade ingredient.
But stay away from that salt shaker — some consumers agree that the product has enough salt already.
It contains actual Marsala wine alright. However, at over $8 a 750-ml bottle, Iberia Marsala Cooking Wine costs more than some of the Marsala wines we have mentioned above. But if you are looking for something that’s exclusive for your cooking needs, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ordering a bottle of it.
Product link: Iberia Marsala Cooking Wine
Notes on Cooking Chicken Marsala
Cooking chicken Marsala is fairly easy. However, it’s also quite easy to turn what could have otherwise been a phenomenal dish into something totally forgettable if you make the mistake of not using the right Marsala wine for the job.
Above, we talked about 12 of some of the best Marsala wine options on the market. Paired with the right recipe, the right bottle can make it virtually impossible to fail to make a big impression. Just don’t forget to cook and serve your chicken Marsala with a lot of love and joy!
But before you log online or hit the local grocery store or wine shop, check out these quick tips on shopping for Marsala wine for the purpose of serving the best chicken Marsala ever:
Use dry Marsala wine for savory dishes
The majority of savory dishes with Marsala wine could benefit tremendously from the nutty and brown sugary taste of dry Marsala wine. Dry Marsala wine also provides lovely caramelization to meat, mushrooms and other ingredients without causing unnecessary sweetness.
Use sweet Marsala for sweet dishes
First things first: both dry and sweet Marsala wines are sweet. However, sweet Marsala wine, as the name suggests, is sweeter, which is why it’s more suited for preparing sweet dishes and sauces. It’s also a dessert-making ingredient, commonly added to the likes of tiramisu and zabaglione.
Dry Marsala can be used in place of sweet Marsala
Worry not if the recipe calls for the use of sweet Marsala wine but all you have is dry Marsala wine. That’s because it’s perfectly fine to replace sweet Marsala wine with dry Marsala wine. Alas, it doesn’t go both ways — you cannot substitute sweet Marsala wine for dry Marsala wine in a recipe. Needless to say, dry Marsala wine is more versatile.
Alcoholic substitutes for Marsala wine
If you can’t get your hands on a bottle of Marsala wine and that chicken Marsala recipe (or any other recipe that requires Marsala wine) can’t wait, use Madeira wine instead. Just like Marsala wine, it’s also fortified, although it comes from Madeira, a sub-tropical archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa.
Have no Madeira wine either? Try this Marsala wine substitution hack: mix two parts white wine and one part brandy, add a little brown sugar and a pinch of salt, and simmer.
Non-alcoholic substitutes for Marsala wine
Some people steer clear of anything with alcohol at all costs. Whether you are one of them or planning to surprise some of them with your culinary masterpiece with a dash of Marsala wine, you could try using a non-alcoholic substitute when preparing it instead. Some very good examples are:
- Chicken stock
- Balsamic vinegar reduction
- Pomegranate juice
- Cranberry juice
- Apple juice
- Red or white grape juice