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What’s in Worcestershire Sauce?

What ingredients give this classic English condiment its unique flavor?

There are many types of sauce that are very popular, without question. From ketchup to BBQ sauce, there are lots of different sauces that have become firm favorites in American culture. But, there are some that still divide opinion. Worcestershire sauce is one of these. 

a bottle of worcestershire sauce next to a bowl and spoon

There are lots of potential reasons why Worcestershire sauce divides opinion so much. Perhaps it is because of its strong and distinct flavor, perhaps it is because of its unique color and consistency, or perhaps it is because of its complex ingredients list. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that Worcestershire sauce is divisive. 

Despite this, Worcestershire sauce is a sauce that has been around since the early 1800s, and it is still very popular today. Used in lots of dishes as an ingredient, or as a condiment to add flavor, there are lots of different reasons why people use Worcestershire sauce. But what is it made of? Let’s take a look at this, and lots more, in this complete guide. 


What is Worcestershire Sauce?

First things first, let’s take a look at what Worcestershire sauce is. Well, as we have established, Worcestershire sauce is a type of condiment that is often used as an ingredient in cooking. It is also often used to add flavor to dishes after they have been cooked. Worcestershire sauce is most famous for its unique flavor, and this mainly comes from the long list of ingredients that are used to create it. 

Like we have said, Worcestershire sauce is something that divides opinion, and this is primarily because it is both sweet and savory at the same time. On top of this, Worcestershire sauce has a strong aftertaste that is very tangy, and this is because of one of its key ingredients, vinegar. 

Something else that a lot of people find divisive about Worcestershire is the fact that it isn’t suitable for those following a vegan, vegetarian, or kosher diet. This can seem very strange to a lot of people, as there are very few sauces which are not suitable for vegetarians. But this is all because of the ingredients list that forms Worcestershire sauce. We’ll take a look at that a little later on, but first, let’s take a look at where it comes from. 

Where is Worcestershire Sauce From?

Although Worcestershire sauce is now rather popular in the USA, this is not where it comes from. Instead, the Worcestershire sauce that we know and love today was first created in the United Kingdom, in a small city called Worcester. 

While the Worcestershire sauce that we know today was created in Worcester, it is thought that this recipe was adapted from a recipe that first came from India. In the 1830s, two chemists working in Worcester, called Lea and Perrins, first created Worcestershire sauce. It first went on public sale in 1837 and was an instant success. Since then, the popularity of this sauce has only grown, and it has become well-known all over the world. 

The sauce was named after the city in which it was created, and it is still made in Worcester today. But despite the fame, this sauce has brought to the city of Worcester, it is still unknown where the original recipe came from, and it is likely that the full history will never be known. 

Worcestershire Sauce Ingredients

As we have said, the ingredients list of Worcestershire sauce is often a source of controversy. Worcestershire sauce has an insanely long list of ingredients, and every single one of these ingredients is very important for achieving the very unique and specific flavor of this condiment.

Worcestershire sauce is tangy, sweet, and savory all at the same time, so what are the ingredients that are used to achieve this? Let’s take a look. 

Here is the full ingredients list for the US original Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce:

  • Anchovies
  • Chili pepper extract
  • Cloves
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Molasses
  • Natural flavorings
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Tamarind extract
  • Water

If you have been lucky to try the Worcestershire sauce sold in the USA, and the Worcestershire sauce sold in the UK, then you will notice that they taste different. This is because there are some changes to the ingredients used.

In the UK version, the distilled white vinegar is replaced with malt vinegar, and there is significantly less sugar and sodium used. Due to this, the American version is a lot sweeter, but the UK version is a lot healthier for you to eat. 

What does it Taste Like?

If you are yet to taste Worcestershire sauce, then this is likely because you find the idea of this very intimidating. Whenever you hear people speaking about Worcestershire sauce, you will likely hear them speak about the taste next.

This creates a mystery surrounding the flavor of Worcestershire sauce, and this mystery can be very off-putting. But there is no need for this because Worcestershire sauce tastes very good. 

Like we have said, Worcestershire sauce has a sweet yet tangy flavor. Due to the long list of ingredients used to create this sauce, there are many aspects to its flavor, so when you eat it, you will experience lots of different tastes. As well as being sweet and tangy, Worcestershire sauce is also very salty and savory, and every time you try it, it will taste slightly different. 

The flavor that you get will also differ depending on the type of Worcestershire sauce that you buy. So, let’s take a look at the different types of Worcestershire sauce. 

Different Types of Worcestershire Sauce

With a lot of sauces, you will find that there are different types. But with Worcestershire sauce, this isn’t really the case. The only company that really produces Worcestershire Sauce is Lea and Perrins, and because of this, there isn’t a lot of variation in the different types of this sauce. But, as we said earlier, there are some variations to the recipe depending on where in the world you are. 

There is no definitive reason why the recipe for Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce is different in different countries. But, it is assumed that the recipe has been modified to suit the flavor preferences of different countries and the accessibility to ingredients.

In the USA, this Worcestershire sauce has a much higher amount of sugar and sodium, and this has likely been added to suit the flavor preferences of Americans. 

That being said, there is one other type of Worcestershire sauce that exists, and that is homemade Worcestershire sauce. It is becoming increasingly popular for people to create their own sauces and marinades, so you might consider making your own Worcestershire sauce. If you want to do this, here is a recipe to try out. 

Worcestershire Sauce Recipe 

Here is a quick and easy homemade recipe for Worcestershire sauce for you to try out.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 0.5 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 0.25 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.25 tsp onion powder
  • 0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Black pepper to taste

How to make it:

  1. Take a small saucepan, and combine the wet ingredients (water, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar). 
  2. Add the dry ingredients (brown sugar, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cinnamon and black pepper). 
  3. Mix all the ingredients together until combined. 
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue to simmer until it becomes fragrant. This will usually take around 1 minute. 
  5. Turn off the heat, and cool the Worcestershire sauce to room temperature. Once cool, either serve or store in a bottle for later use. 

As you have likely noticed, there is a pretty big difference in the ingredients list for the original Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and the ingredients list in this homemade recipe. The homemade recipe uses ingredients that are more easily accessible, and because of this, it will taste very different from the original Lea and Perrins recipe.

Overall, the flavors are similar enough for them to both be considered Worcestershire sauce. But, they are noticeably different, so you should be aware of this before you attempt to make your own Worcestershire sauce at home. Just make sure to use the right kind of sugar or you’ll wind up with a totally different taste!

Cooking With Worcestershire Sauce

So far, we’ve spoken a lot about Worcestershire sauce, and we have said quite a lot about it being used in cooking. But, we are yet to speak about how Worcestershire sauce is used in cooking. So, let’s take a look at this, and also have a look at some of the most common dishes in which Worcestershire sauce is an ingredient. 

The most common way in which Worcestershire sauce is used in cooking is as a marinade. The ingredients used in Worcestershire sauce mean that it is great for adding flavor to naturally blander foods, such as chicken and fish.

To use Worcestershire sauce as a marinade, you simply need to brush it onto the surface of the meat before cooking it. You can do this no matter whether you prefer your meat baked, grilled, or fried. 

As well as this, Worcestershire sauce tastes excellent when used as a condiment. Some people choose to use Worcestershire sauce on salads, shellfish, and sandwiches to give it extra flavor. Alternatively, it can also be added to soups and stews to give them more flavor. So, as you can see, this sauce is very diverse. 

How to Store Worcestershire Sauce

Finally, let’s take a quick look at how you should store your Worcestershire sauce. Before you have opened your bottle of Worcestershire sauce, you can simply store the bottle in any cupboard. Preferably a cool and dark one. But, once you have opened your Worcestershire sauce, the way in which you store it becomes more important. 

Once you have opened your Worcestershire sauce, you should store it in the refrigerator. Failure to do this could cause the flavor of your sauce to degrade, and it will eventually become inedible. As long as you store your Worcestershire sauce in the refrigerator, it will last for up to 2 years, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the whole bottle. 


Summary

In short, this has been a complete guide to Worcestershire sauce. We’ve taken a look at what it is made of, where it comes from, and how it can be used. So, if you want to find out more about Worcestershire sauce, check out this guide.

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.