Food with Flair: Tips for Choosing the Best White Wine for Cooking

Using wine in your cooking is a fantastic way to add a complex layer of flavor to a dish. Wine is a perfect way to enhance sauces, marinades, soups, salad dressings, and even desserts (see: red wine chocolate cake, poached pears in white wine, and roasted fruit with Marsala syrup).

The problem is in the choosing. What is the best white wine for cooking? How do you choose the right wine for the specific dish you’re making? Is it true that the wine you cook with should also be one you would drink?

These are common quandaries. A guide to the best type of white wine for cooking will clear them all up, not to mention make you a better cook!

The Best White Wines for Cooking: A Brief Guide

General Tips

By far, the best white wine you can cook with is not a cheap cooking wine, but a good, moderately priced, drinkable variety. The primary difference between cooking wines and regular drinking wines is the quality.  Using a regular drinking wine while cooking will give you a superior tasting sauce or dish. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you should be able to drink it.

In addition, dry white wines are better for all-around cooking than sweet or rich and oaky (barrel-aged) varieties. The rich types can become bitter after cooking, and sweet wines can add an unwanted sweet taste, or even produce unwanted caramelization in the pan (while good for some dishes, it’s not so great for others).

If the wine is mostly being cooked off, stick to moderately priced varieties. However, if the wine is meant to finish the dish and the flavor will be quite pronounced, feel free to splurge on fine varieties that will be the star of the show.

If you or someone who is going to eat the dish needs to avoid alcohol for any number of reasons you may want to try cooking with non-alcoholic dry white wines. While most of the alcohol content in wine burns off during cooking a small percentage can still remain.

The Best White Wine for Cooking Fish

white wine with seafood

When cooking flaky, delicate meat like fish, the best dry white wine for cooking will not have a flavor that is too intense. Instead, it should balance out with the other flavors, yet provide enough acidity to add some bite to fish that is fatty or mild.

A crisp sauvignon blanc is excellent for sauces with fish. Other good options are unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

The Best White Wine for Cooking Seafood

For seafood like oysters, mussels, clams, and the like, go for something light and bright – a taste that makes you think of the sea. All of the dry white wine varieties for fish can work for seafood, but another great option includes a dry vermouth, which has a bright and crisp taste. A fortified white wine such as a dry Sherry is also an option when steaming seafood. Commonly thought of as a dessert wine, a fortified wine is a wine that has spirits (most commonly Brandy) added to it.

The Best White Wine for Cooking Chicken

best white wine for cookingA heartier meat like chicken requires a richer white wine, as chicken is often marinated or served with cream sauces or gravies. However, chicken can easily become bland, so the flavors paired with it need to compensate. So, what white wine is best for cooking chicken?

In general, an unoaked Chardonnay provides the intense flavor and richness that suits chicken dishes. Cheap Chardonnays will not work, as these are aged in oak barrels and will become bitter when cooked.

The answer to the question “what is the best dry white wine for cooking?” is different depending on the food you’re preparing, the flavors you’re using, and the recipe. Choose different wines for fish, seafood, and chicken, and elevate your dishes with a refined depth of flavor.

The Best White Wine for Cooking Pasta

When it comes to cooking sauces to go on pasta, Pinot Grigio is the most neutral and versatile white wine to use. White wine sauce can simply be made by mixing chicken broth, white wine, and white wine vinegar. Adding garlic or lemon juice to your white wine sauce will provide added flavor.

The Best White Wine for Cooking Dessert

Sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Champagne are best for desserts that contain fruit elements because they offer a sweet and fruity taste. Whether it’s as simple as strawberries soaked in Prosecco or a more intricate recipe such as Prosecco Tiramisu you can be sure to put this sweet sparkling wine to use.


  1. You have totally right, this kind of wine are perfect with this meals. Specialy white wines with sea food.

  2. Tangela Randolph says:

    What is a good white wine for cooking Shrimp with angel hair pasta?Iam totally lost when it comes to wine.

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