14 Ingredients You Can Substitute for Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce has an unforgettably punchy flavor that is unlike anything else. So how can you replace it if you’ve run out?

October 05, 2022

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Pork cutlet.

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Pork cutlet.

Photo by: kuppa_rock/Getty Images

kuppa_rock/Getty Images

By Dana Beninati for Food Network Kitchen

Dana is a host, chef and sommelier.

Impossibly hard to pronounce, but ridiculously easy to use – Worcestershire sauce is a powerhouse ingredient hailing from the town of Worcester, England. It is made of anchovies, red onion, garlic, vinegar, molasses, tamarind paste and an assortment of spices that are fermented for years before the sauce is finally bottled and sold. There are few products in the world that compare to the versatility of Worcestershire sauce, as it delivers salty, sweet, tart and umami notes all at once. Read on to learn about how it came to be and what to use as substitute should you need one.

What Is Worcestershire Sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is a charmingly pungent condiment that amplifies the taste of any savory dish with just a few dashes. And its history is as rich as its flavor. Most assume that this sauce is a British creation, but its origin is actually India. Legend has it that a member of British royalty, Lord Sandys, discovered an Indian fish sauce during his rule over the country in the 19th century. When he returned to Britain, he brought back a recipe for the sauce and tasked two chemists to recreate it. Sadly, the lord did not enjoy the sauce the pair created, so they left it in the cellar of their pharmacy for enough years that it was forgotten. There the sauce fermented into the irresistibly funky condiment we know and love today. Those men were John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins. Their company, Lea & Perrins, still holds the original recipe under lock and key, though several manufacturers of the infamous sauce now exist. Historically, Worcestershire is enjoyed by dashing it onto a piece of bread covered in melted cheese, aptly named Cheese on Toast. Nowadays, it is the sleeper ingredient that gives Caesar Salad and Snack Mix their irresistible flavor that keeps us coming back for more, bite after bite.

How to Make Worcestershire Sauce

Making Worcestershire sauce at home is no easy task, given the length of time it takes, the pungent aroma of its components and the fact that it is aged in oak barrels. Not to mention that this condiment is fermented, meaning its ingredients are allowed to break down in a temperature controlled environment. This process is what creates Worcestershire's iconic flavor and complexity. The fermentation process starts with red onions and garlic being soaked in malt vinegar while anchovies get buried under mountains of salt. These ingredients slowly ferment, which extracts their natural juices and intensifies their flavors. Then they are mixed with a blend of spices and further matured in oak barrels before bottling. As one would be unlikely to attempt this lengthy feat at home, we offer up a variety of replacements should you find yourself in need.

Worcestershire sauce in a bowl with spoon and bottle over white background, top view

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Worcestershire sauce in a bowl with spoon and bottle over white background, top view

Photo by: Roxiller/Getty Images

Roxiller/Getty Images

What to Use Instead of Worcestershire Sauce

Single Ingredients to Use In Place

Worcestershire Powder

Perhaps you didn’t know that this beloved sauce is also available in a powder. It is made from the same ingredients, but they have been dehydrated. Thus, the powder is even more concentrated in flavor.

Amchur or Dried Green Mango Powder

A popular ingredient in Indian cuisine, mango powder adds intense acidity to any dish. It is easy to sprinkle into dressings, marinades, and sauces. You will find that it boosts flavor and tenderizes proteins as well.

Pikkapeppa Sauce

Just like Worcestershire sauce, this is a vinegar-based condiment that’s fermented and barre-aged. Made in Jamaica, it has very similar characteristics to the beloved British version.

Hot Chow Chow

Chow chow is a southern relish made from pickled garden vegetables, predominantly peppers. It can be found in both sweet and hot varieties, but we feel the hot makes for a better substitute as it emulates the punchiness of Worcestershire sauce.

Maggi Seasoning

Also born in the 1800's, this German seasoning liquid is made from wheat protein. It is almost a direct match for the intensity of Worcestershire sauce, so use it sparingly to start with.

Ingredients to Mix with Vinegar

As vinegar is the base of Worcestershire sauce, it is a great place to start when supplementing. The following ingredients are incredibly savory but lack acidity. By adding a splash of vinegar, you balance their umami-packed flavors with bright tartness.

  • Anchovy paste
  • Fish sauce
  • Coconut aminos or Tamari
  • Steak sauce

Ingredients to Mix with Water

The next ingredients have deep flavors that are naturally sweet and pleasantly savory. Before adding them to your dishes, whisk with a small amount of water to match the concentration and texture of Worcestershire sauce.

  • Oyster sauce
  • Hoisin
  • Miso
  • Tomato paste

Ingredients Mix with Honey

We love the following ingredients for their striking flavor but find them all to lack the complexity of Worcestershire sauce. By mixing them with a bit of honey, their tart and spicy flavors will be balanced with mild sweetness.

  • Vinegar
  • Hot sauce
  • Liquid smoke
  • Pickle juice

Allergens and Worcestershire Sauce

Some may take issue with the fact that Worcestershire sauce is neither vegetarian nor soy free. If this is important to you, you will find our substitutions to be particularly useful. For example, tamari (a gluten free substitute for soy sauce) makes an excellent substitute for Worcestershire sauce, especially when mixed with a splash of vinegar and a teaspoon of honey.

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