Marsala vs masala

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Marsala and masala are two culinary terms that are often confused. We will look at the difference between the definitions of Marsala and masala, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Marsala is a strong dessert wine somewhat like sherry or port. A regional wine from the Sicilian city of Marsala, Marsala wine was introduced to a wider audience at the turn of the nineteenth century. Chicken Marsala is probably the best-known dish using this wine, as well as shallots, mushrooms and butter. Note that Marsala is capitalized, as is the city for which Marsala wine was named.

Masala is an Indian spice blend used in cooking. Masala usually consists of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and coriander. However, the word masala simply means a mix of spices, not necessarily these spices. The word is derived from the Arabic word maṣāliḥ, which means spices or ingredients. Chicken tikka masala is probably the best-known dish using masala, it includes tomatoes and cream or yogurt. Masala is also used figuratively to mean a mix of different elements.


While at the check out, the cashier asked Dr Gore to produce identification because the couple were purchasing Marsala wine as an ingredient in a tiramisu they were intending to make. (The Daventry Express)

Spaghetti, eggplant Parmesan, chicken Parmesan and chicken marsala also are on the menu. (The Fayetteville Observer)

She described how one of her customers from Sonoma State that came everyday for years to eat chicken masala and naan. (The Sonoma State Star)

Japanese curry is made with a garam masala roux (you can find boxes of the roux at most Asian grocers; my college roommate always used a combo of Golden Curry and Vermont Curry bases). (The Statesman Journal)