Does Marsala Wine Sauce Have Alcohol? A Simple Guide

Marsala wine sauce is a staple in many kitchens, adding a rich and nutty flavor to dishes like chicken and mushrooms. But have you ever wondered if this popular cooking ingredient contains alcohol?

The answer is yes, Marsala wine is fortified with brandy, giving it an alcohol content of around 15-20%. However, much of the alcohol is cooked away during the cooking process.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Marsala wine sauce, including its alcohol content, how it’s made, and whether it’s keto-friendly or haram.

So grab a glass of your favorite beverage (alcoholic or not) and let’s dive in!

Does Marsala Wine Sauce Have Alcohol?

As mentioned earlier, Marsala wine sauce does contain alcohol. The brandy used to fortify the wine raises its alcohol content to around 15-20%. However, during the cooking process, much of the alcohol is cooked away, leaving behind the rich and nutty flavor that makes Marsala wine sauce so popular in cooking.

It’s worth noting that even though some of the alcohol content is cooked away, it may not be enough to make it halal or kosher. If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, there are options available that can still give you the same rich flavor without the alcohol content.

What Is Marsala Wine Sauce?

Marsala wine sauce is a rich and flavorful sauce that is commonly used in Italian-American cuisine. It is made using Marsala wine as a key ingredient, which is a fortified wine from the Italian island of Sicily. The wine is made by adding brandy to the wine during the fermentation process, which raises its alcohol content to around 15-20%.

The sauce itself can be made using a variety of flavored bases, such as tomato, mushroom, or fruit flavors, and is typically served with pasta, poultry, pork, veal, fish, and game. The recipe for the sauce usually includes onions, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, heavy cream, oil or butter, and of course, Marsala wine.

To prepare the sauce, the meat is first seared and cooked in a bit of oil and then removed from the pan. The sauce ingredients, excluding the wine (and heavy cream if it is used), are added to the pan and cooked with the meat juices and pan drippings for a short period. The Marsala wine is then added to deglaze the pan and loosen any bits that have stuck to it. If heavy cream is used in the recipe, it is added last.

While much of the alcohol content in Marsala wine sauce is cooked away during the cooking process, it may not be enough to make it halal or kosher. However, there are non-alcoholic alternatives available that can still give you the same rich flavor without the alcohol content.

How Is Marsala Wine Made?

Marsala wine is a fortified wine that is crafted from a mix of grapes in the Sicily region, including Catarratto, Grillo, and Inzolia grape. The growing conditions and harvest vary depending on the type of grape used. Ruby Marsalas are made from a combination of local red grape varietals like Pignatello. The fermentation of Marsala is halted by the addition of brandy when the residual sugar content reaches the pre-determined levels according to the sweet/dry style desired. This process raises the alcohol content to between 15-20%.

Similar to the solera system of blending various vintages of sherry, Marsala often goes through a perpetual system where a series of vintage blending takes place. The time at which the spirit is added to the base wine determines the level of sweetness in the Marsala, which is dependent on how much residual sugar remains at the time of fortification.

Marsala wines go through a period of oak aging, often in an in perpetuum or soleras system, whereby finished wine is partially tapped from older barrels and replaced with wine from newer barrels to capitalize complexity with multi-vintage blends. This particular aging technique called the Solera method involves continuously adding newly produced wine to the oak barrels that contain already aged wine, to keep the flavors and aromas.

The fortified Marsala wine can only last up to four to six months after opening due to its fortifying process. While this Italian wine won’t be spoiled if you keep it in the cupboard for six months, one can already taste the difference. Marsala wine’s aroma and flavor will fade after six months. It is best always to store this wine in a dry, cool place.

How Much Alcohol Is In Marsala Wine Sauce?

When making Marsala wine sauce, the amount of alcohol used is relatively small. Typically, a cup of Marsala wine with 20% ABV is used for a large volume of sauce for four people. This means that the wine used in the dish contains 1.6 ounces of alcohol. However, since the wine is diluted with chicken broth or other broth and other moisture in the pan, the alcohol content in one ounce of the mixture would be around 0.1 ounce.

It’s important to note that Marsala wine sauce is not typically consumed in large quantities, as it is most often used as a cooking ingredient rather than a beverage. Additionally, the alcohol content in Marsala wine sauce may vary depending on the recipe and cooking method used.

Does Cooking Marsala Wine Sauce Remove The Alcohol?

Many people believe that cooking Marsala wine sauce removes all of the alcohol content, but this is actually a common misconception. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab, food baked or simmered in alcohol for 15 minutes still retains 40 percent of the alcohol. Even after an hour of cooking, 25 percent of the alcohol remains, and after two and a half hours, there’s still 5 percent of it.

When making Marsala wine sauce, it’s important to continue cooking until the sauce is reduced by half. This process may take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes or longer, depending on the size and shape of the pan. Although this concentrates the sauce and increases the amount of alcohol in it, some of the alcohol is also evaporated during this time.

Factors such as how long the dish is cooked at the boiling point of alcohol (173 degrees Fahrenheit), other ingredients used in the recipe, and the size of the pan can all impact the final alcohol content of homemade recipes. For example, a bread crumb topping on scallops cooked in wine sauce can prevent some of the alcohol from evaporating, increasing the amount of alcohol in the final dish.

Is Marsala Wine Sauce Keto-Friendly?

While Marsala wine sauce can be a delicious addition to many dishes, it may not always be keto-friendly. This is because Marsala wine contains about 4 grams of net carbs per serving, which can add up quickly if you’re trying to stay within your daily carb limit.

However, there are ways to make a keto-friendly version of Marsala wine sauce. One option is to use sherry vinegar instead of wine, as it has a similar flavor profile but without the added carbs. Another option is to use a low-carb thickener like xanthan gum instead of flour to create a creamy texture.

If you’re making a chicken Marsala dish, it’s also important to note that traditional recipes often involve coating the chicken in flour before pan-frying it. This can add even more carbs to the dish, making it less keto-friendly. To keep the dish low-carb, try using a coating of salt and seasonings instead, which can still create a crispy crust without the added carbs.