Best Port Wine Substitute for Cooking

Port is a wonderfully rich and complex wine that the vast majority of people adore. While the flavor may be too powerful for some when it’s being drunk, it can be simply perfect when cooking. The bold and uncompromising flavor is a great option for pairing with other strong notes, such as blue cheese, or red meat.

Port can be a bit tricky to track down from time to time, however. To combat this, we would suggest having a look through our list for some good substitutions for port wine, and then using them if you simply can’t find any port. With that said, happy reading, and happy cooking!

5 Best Port Wine Substitutions for Cooking


Chianti is a famous wine thanks to a notable line in The Silence of the Lambs. However, the actual flavor notes of the wine are far from being as horrific as the movie itself. Chianti is quite sweet and fruity, and it has a full-bodied and simple nature that is easy to sip at and cook with. It’s similar to port in this way, tasting quite similar.

Chianti differs from a port in two ways, really. The first is that it has quite a strong note of cherry right at the front of the first sip you take. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something that you might not be quite looking to bring to your port cooking.

The second way that chianti can be quite different from port is that it can be quite a bit drier. The problem with this is that, paired with the fairly acidic notes of the wine, can be quite potent in a number of dishes. These flavor notes are noticeable in dishes that contain quite a lot of fat.

When using chianti instead of pork, opt for a smaller portion than you would with port, and taste as you go.


The broth is the unsung hero of the kitchen – it’s easy and simple to make, and has a suite of different health and flavor benefits for a number of recipes and meals. We love to use homemade broth whenever we can, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying the earthy richness of well-made broth in a homecooked meal.

For most dishes that call for port, you can replace that liquid content with some form of stock or broth. This will add the rich, full-bodied notes of port, but will obviously cut down on the number of fruit notes in the meal.

Only use broth in place of port for rich, savory meals – adding broth to a dessert would be a terrible mistake!


Zinfandel is a simple wine, and it’s one that benefits from being a little lighter than some similar, related red wines. It’s fruitier than some of the other, comparable options, too, and can be a bit refreshing.

Most of the tasting notes for zinfandel revolve around fruit, with cherries, raspberries, and nectarines getting a look-in in most situations. This is a wonderful combination for drinking, and it can bring a lot to a meal, too.

Zinfandel is a great substitute for port in chicken and turkey-based dishes, as well as casseroles. However, it does have a lower alcohol content than port, which can mean that it should be avoided in sauces – the overall bouquet with zinfandel will be reduced, a little.


Merlot is a spectacular substitution for a ruby port. It’s bright and fruity, and not at all in a subtle way. In this manner, it’s a spectacular substitute for a good port.

There are some hints of plum in a good merlot, and there is a suite of smooth, rich, velvety layers that make it a wonderfully gentle drink, despite how strong the flavor is.

Merlot is very full-bodied, too. This makes it a little imposing in a glass, but when it’s used in stews, casseroles, and similar dishes, it brings a lot of different and bright flavors to the fore. It’s a great addition, as a substitution, to lamb or beef dishes. It can also be added to tomato dishes and slow-cooked stews as a way to deepen the sharp flavors of the sauce. It will take the edge off an acidic sauce like a tomato option, by cutting the acidic notes and offering earthy, rich tones for a rich, smooth sauce.


Both shiraz and port are notoriously fruity forms of wine, which makes them wonderful substitutions for one another.

Shiraz is sometimes confused with Syrah wine, since they come from the same type of grape, and are prepared in similar ways. However, shiraz is a darker wine, and has slightly spicy overtones – this complex flavor is great for cooking with.

There is also some sharp black pepper in shiraz wine, and there are potent fruit flavors as great bases. This means that it’s a decadent and reliable alternative to port for a number of dishes, though principally those featuring dark meat at the center of the food.

A final note on Shiraz – it is aged during the process of manufacturing, which means that the final drink has some notes of wood and greenery that have entered the wine from the barrel. Port has these flavor notes too, also from an aging process, which makes the two options very similar to one another, ideal for a substitution!

Final thought

Knowing which wine is the best one for your kitchen can be tricky, but we’re sure that you’ll be able to use these alternatives, including the broth, to make a meal that’s tasty, rich, elegant, and, thankfully, simple.

Cooking with a port can be a bit of a challenge, too, since port is a little more expensive than a number of comparable bottles. If that’s a problem for you, then we’d certainly recommend perusing our list – cooking should be affordable as well as wonderfully delicious. With these alternatives, it can be both!

We hope that the next dish you make, whether it uses port, a substitute, or neither, is wonderfully tasty – happy cooking!

Kunal Sharma
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