Marsala sauce is a popular Italian sauce often used in dishes like chicken marsala or veal marsala. It has a rich, nutty flavor from the Marsala wine that gives it its name. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, determining if Marsala sauce is gluten-free is an important consideration.
What is Marsala Sauce?
Marsala sauce is a sauce made from Marsala wine, a fortified wine originally from Sicily. The key ingredients in Marsala sauce are:
– Marsala wine: This provides the distinctive flavor. It ranges from a sweet to a dry style.
– Butter: Butter provides richness and body to the sauce.
– Flour: Flour helps thicken the sauce. All-purpose flour or cornstarch may be used.
– Chicken or vegetable stock: Adds moisture and more flavor.
– Mushrooms, onions, garlic, herbs: Aromatic ingredients that enhance the sauce.
– Salt and pepper: Seasons the sauce.
The ingredients are cooked together, with the flour helping the sauce thicken to the desired consistency. The Marsala wine is reduced down to concentrate its flavor.
Does Marsala Wine Contain Gluten?
The key to determining if Marsala sauce is gluten-free lies in its main ingredient – Marsala wine. Here’s a look at whether Marsala wine contains gluten:
– Made from grapes: Authentic Marsala wine is made from grapes, so the wine itself does not contain gluten.
– May use barley malt: Some types of Marsala use barley malt as a sweetening and coloring agent. Barley contains gluten, so Marsala made this way would not be gluten-free.
– Colorino grape must: Most Marsala uses a grape must called Colorino instead of barley malt. This authentically made Marsala would be gluten-free.
– Check the bottle: Look at the ingredients list on a bottle of Marsala wine to see if barley malt is used. Select a gluten-free variety.
So in summary, Marsala wine itself does not contain gluten being made from grapes. However, some types include the gluten-containing ingredient barley malt. Choosing a Marsala made with Colorino grapes and no barley malt will ensure a gluten-free wine for the sauce.
Are Other Marsala Sauce Ingredients Gluten-Free?
Besides the Marsala wine, we also need to look at common Marsala sauce ingredients like flour and seasonings:
– All-purpose flour: This contains gluten and is not okay for a gluten-free sauce.
– Alternative gluten-free flours: Rice flour, cornstarch, potato starch or xanthan gum can be used instead.
– Chicken or vegetable stocks are naturally gluten-free. Watch for additives like soy sauce.
Herbs, spices, vegetables
– Fresh or dried herbs like oregano and basil don’t have gluten.
– Spices like garlic powder are fine.
– Onions, mushrooms, and other vegetables are naturally gluten-free.
So in summary, Marsala sauce can be made gluten-free by choosing gluten-free Marsala wine, flour alternatives, and watching for any sauce add-ins that may contain gluten.
Is Store-Bought Marsala Sauce Gluten-Free?
When purchasing pre-made Marsala sauce from the grocery store, check the ingredients list and any allergen information on the label. Here’s what to look for:
– Marsala wine: It should specify if the wine is gluten-free or made from Colorino grapes.
– Thickening agents: Opt for rice flour, cornstarch or other gluten-free starches. Avoid sources with wheat flour.
– Natural flavorings: These are typically fine but check for barley malt.
– Soy sauce: Sometimes added but contains gluten. Choose a brand without it.
Some gluten-free brands of pre-made Marsala sauce include:
– Alessi Marsala Sauce
– Roland Marsala Sauce
– Marcelli Formaggi Marsala Sauce
– Cento Marsala Sauce
Always double check the label each time you purchase as ingredients can change. Also look for a gluten-free certification symbol from organizations like GFCO.
Gluten-Free Substitutes for Marsala Sauce
If you cannot find a gluten-free Marsala sauce either pre-made or by making it yourself, here are some substitutes:
– Mushroom sauce – Saute mushrooms in butter, olive oil and garlic. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Thicken with cornstarch or arrowroot.
– Wine reduction – Reduce balsamic vinegar or red wine by 1/3. Add thyme, rosemary, parsley.
– Beef or veal demi-glace – Made from beef/veal stock. Look for a gluten-free brand.
– Chicken veloute sauce – Chicken stock thickened with rice flour or cornstarch.
– Beef or veal jus – Made from pan drippings so gluten-free.
– Compound butter – Blend butter with garlic, lemon, herbs and pepper.
While these alternatives won’t have the exact Marsala wine flavor, they can still complement chicken, veal or steak dishes well.
Is Restaurant or Pre-Made Chicken Marsala Gluten-Free?
When ordering chicken marsala from a restaurant, you need to ask about the Marsala sauce ingredients to determine if it is gluten-free. Here are some tips:
– Ask if they make it with gluten-free Marsala wine or use barley malt wine
– Request they use chicken or vegetable stock, not soy sauce
– Ask them to leave out the flour or use a gluten-free thickener
– Request butter only, no wheat flour roux
– Ask if they sauté in a shared pan that may be cross-contaminated
– Check that herbs and spices are gluten-free
For pre-made chicken marsala meals from the grocery store, carefully inspect the ingredients looking for gluten-containing ingredients like:
– Wheat flour
– Barley malt
– Soy sauce
– Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Pre-made meals often have hidden sources of gluten used as fillers, binders and flavorings. So diligently check all ingredients before consuming.
Marsala Sauce Gluten-Free Recipe
Here is a simple recipe for gluten-free homemade Marsala sauce:
Gluten-Free Marsala Sauce
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 shallot, finely diced
– 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
– 1/4 cup Marsala wine, gluten-free
– 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
– 3 tbsp potato starch
– 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
– 1 tsp thyme
– 1/4 tsp pepper
– Salt to taste
1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in Marsala wine and cook for 2 more minutes.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together chicken stock and potato starch. Pour mixture into the skillet.
4. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened.
5. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, pepper and salt.
6. Let sauce cool slightly before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
This recipe uses gluten-free Marsala wine and substitutes potato starch for flour to create a rich, gluten-free Marsala sauce. It can be used to make chicken, veal or steak Marsala.
Marsala sauce can be made gluten-free by using authentic Marsala wine made from grapes, avoiding barley malt wine, and substituting gluten-free thickeners like potato starch for wheat flour. When purchasing pre-made sauce, carefully check the ingredients list and label for gluten-containing ingredients. If dining out, inquire about the Marsala ingredients to ensure no hidden sources of gluten. With the right ingredients and care taken to avoid cross-contamination when cooking, those with gluten intolerance can enjoy delicious gluten-free Marsala sauce.