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What is Cooking Sherry?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cooking sherry is a version of sherry which has been treated with salts and other additives to make it more shelf stable. Some cooks eschew cooking wines because of the added salt, which tends to flavor the final dish, sometimes unpleasantly. Cooking wines also tend to be inferior versions of their drinking cousins, sometimes lacking the flavor and complexity which they are supposed to add to a dish. Many stores stock cooking sherry along with other cooking wines, for cooks who want to use them.

Sherry is a type of fortified wine, meaning that a stronger liquor such as brandy is added to the wine. The elevated alcohol content of sherry makes it more shelf-stable, which was useful in sherry's early days since it meant that the wine could be shipped. The original sherry was from Jerez, in Spain, which came to be corrupted in English to Sherry. There are a range of sherry wines, from very dry fino to sweet cream sherry, and many dishes call for the addition of sherry to enhance the flavor.

True sherry can be stored in a cool dry place, unopened, for up to 15 years in some cases. Once opened, however, the sherry must be used within seven to 10 days, or the flavor will have faded and the wine will start to go sour. Sherry is traditionally opened for drinking before or after dinner, usually in small glasses since the wine has an intense, rich flavor.

The primary advantage of cooking sherry is that it can be kept after opening for quite some time. Since few recipes call for an entire bottle of sherry, cooks like to be able to open a bottle, use a small amount, and replace the bottle in the cupboard until it is needed again. However, the shelf stability of cooking sherry comes at a price. The salty sherry sometimes reacts unfavorably with the food, and it makes it difficult to control how salty dishes become.

Because of the added salt, this sherry is not suitable for drinking. While it is unlikely to make the consumer ill, it certainly will not taste terribly appealing. Some cooks prefer to use regular red or white wine as a replacement for cooking sherry, depending on the dish. The unused wine can be served with dinner. Other alcohol free substitutes such as vanilla, coffee, or soup stock may be used, depending on the recipe.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By dautsun — On Dec 12, 2012

@Monika - I usually like to buy cooking sherry instead of regular sherry too. I've kept cooking sherry in my refrigerator for quite awhile without it going bad. However, the last time I bought regular sherry, I didn't use it in time and it started to taste pretty vinegary.

By Monika — On Dec 11, 2012

I like to use cooking sherry to cook with, rather than regular sherry. As the article said, cooking sherry lasts much, much longer than regular sherry. I'm not a big drinker, so there's no way that I could cook with sherry, and then finish off the bottle in time.

I feel like it would be a huge waste of money to buy a bottle of sherry for cooking and then not use it up. So I content myself with cooking sherry, even though it is a bit salty.

By Pharoah — On Dec 10, 2012

@Azuza - I feel the same way. I used cooking wine once, and after I used it I felt a little silly, because for another $5 I could have gotten a decent bottle of regular wine that I could drink too. Alcohols that are just meant for cooking aren't good to drink because of all the added salt. I doubt they would taste very good.

By Azuza — On Dec 09, 2012

I don't like to use cooking wine or dry cooking sherry, even when the recipe calls for it. As the article said, alcohol meant for cooking often has salt and other things added to it.

I usually just buy regular wine or sherry if the recipe calls for it, and then I serve some with dinner for everyone to drink. It usually complements the dish really well, because there's some alcohol in the dish. Plus, most people won't turn down a nice glass of wine with dinner or sherry after the meal.

By literally45 — On Nov 13, 2012

Cooking with cooking sherry will not be a problem if you just avoid adding salt to it until after the sherry.

When I have a recipe that calls for cooking sherry, I leave the seasoning to the end and taste the food after I have added the sherry. Most of the time, I don't have to add additional salt to it. This way, you don't run the risk of making the food too salty.

By anon228201 — On Nov 07, 2011

anon3704: you can buy at lowes grocery.

By anon157900 — On Mar 04, 2011

Can a merlot be substituted for a sherry?

By anon126585 — On Nov 13, 2010

cooking sherry can be found at kroger stores. it is kept in the same section as where they keep the soy sauce and marinades and that type of thing. Hope this helps you find it.

By anon119831 — On Oct 19, 2010

anon3704 you should ask someone to help you find it. Every grocery sells it, it just isn't kept in the same area as the other alcohols.

By anon82825 — On May 07, 2010

unfortunately one can buy cooking sherry (20 percent alcohol) with food stamps and get quite drunk on it. Lasting side effects?

By anon75970 — On Apr 08, 2010

I'm making asian chicken salad and it says to marinate the chicken in sherry, but it doesn't specify red or white. Which one should i use?

By anon70219 — On Mar 12, 2010

You can use wine of course. As the article said. sherry was just a fortified wine to keep it from going bad. Using wine is just fine. Sherry is more of just an old practice that is still in effect today. Sort of how Jewish people don't mix cheeses and meats.

Back in the day they would get sick, not because of the actual combination but rather because of the lack of refrigeration and processing. Today there is no fear of such things but those practices still exist. Such as with sherry.

By Tinaskitchen — On Oct 16, 2009

I am making French onion soup for the first time and my receipe calls for cooking sherry. Is there anything that I can use in replace of the sherry? Thanks

By anon11885 — On Apr 25, 2008

I am just making roll ups that call for a tbsp of dry sherry. Should I use red wine or should I use chicken broth?

By anon3705 — On Sep 12, 2007

Where do you suggest I go for recipes for Bavarian Cream and Trifles, or other recipes?

By anon3704 — On Sep 12, 2007

"Sherry is a type of fortified wine, meaning that a stronger liquor such as brandy is added to the wine. The elevated alcohol content of sherry makes it more shelf-stable, which was useful in sherry's early days since it meant that the wine could be shipped. The original sherry was from Jerez, in Spain, which came to be corrupted in English to Sherry. There are a range of sherry wines, from very dry fino to sweet cream sherry, and many dishes call for the addition of sherry to enhance the flavor." But can cream sherry or dry sherry be used for cooking squash or other vegetables? I need to make a side dish for 1pm potluck, that will be held on Saturday, so I'm sort of in a hurry. I can't seem to find cooking sherry at any grocery store, nor Trader Joe's. What can I do?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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