Worcestershire sauce is one of those magical flavor-enhancing ingredients that I splash into just about everything savory. Something not quite right about a soup? Probably needs Worcestershire. Chilli a bit bland? Worcestershire sauce saves the day again.
As we work towards making more of our own foods, including condiments, from scratch I got to wondering…what’s in this stuff anyway?
I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated by making my own Worcestershire sauce. The old school traditional version is fermented in casks for over a year and contains a lot of fresh fish that slowly ferment during the process. The original Worcestershire sauce recipe that was developed in England in the early 1800s is based on a fermented fish sauce that dates all the way back to the Roman Empire.
These days there are plenty of brands of Worcestershire sauce, and all of them have a slightly different flavor and consistency.
Worcestershire Sauce Ingredients
The two most commonly available versions, in the US at least, are Lee and Perrins and Annie’s Organics. Since Lee and Perrins was founded in 1837 by the people that actually invented what is known as Worcestershire sauce, their version is obviously the most “traditional.”
The Annie’s version has a much thicker consistency, and it’s vegan, so it lacks anchovies which are a key ingredient that provides most of the “umami” flavor that Worcestershire sauce is known for.
Either way, the Worcestershire Sauce ingredients lists for both commercial versions give you a good idea of how to make your own. Unfortunately, “natural flavorings” can be just about anything, but still, it’s a nudge in the right direction.
Lee and Perrins Worcestershire sauce Ingredients: Distilled white vinegar, anchovies, garlic, molasses, onions, salt, sugar, water, chili pepper extract, cloves, natural flavorings, tamarind extract
Annie’s Organics Ingredients (Vegan): Water, Apple Cider Vinegar, Molasses, Soy Sauce (Water, Soybean, Salt, Wheat, Alcohol), Cane Sugar, Tamarind, Sea Salt, Cornstarch, Xanthan Gum, Garlic, Onion, Clove, Chili Pepper.
Since I find the thick texture of Annie’s version pretty unappealing, I won’t be adding any corn starch or xantham gum. The thick dippable texture is a better choice for a steak sauce like A1, but that more or less makes the vegan aspect pointless…
Choosing a Worcestershire Sauce Recipe
I started combing the internet for Worcestershire sauce recipes and I didn’t make it very far. Just about all of them are a mixture of cider vinegar and soy sauce, with a few seasonings thrown in. None that I found contained anchovies, and all of them are ready to use as soon as you whisk them together.
Sure, instant gratification is nice, and it’s great for making a quick Worcestershire sauce substitute if you happen to run out…but it’s not what I’m going for. I’m trying to craft something special, and waiting for the flavors to come together just right is part of the process.
Disappointed, I shelved the project until I came across a recipe for Worcestershire sauce in The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. The ingredients list is long, but reading through it, I happened to have all the ingredients waiting in my pantry.
To be fair, I have a pretty well-equipped pantry, and most people probably don’t have tamarind paste or anchovies in stock at all times. Beyond those two things, the recipe is pretty basic pantry staples and spices.
The original recipe called for 1 tsp. anchovy paste and I’ve instead used a 2oz can of whole anchovies. A single teaspoon didn’t seem like nearly enough, especially since it’s the second ingredient in the Lee and Perrins Worcestershire sauce ingredient list. I also substituted maple syrup for the brown sugar since we make our own homemade maple and have plenty on hand.
After a month of aging in the pantry, this homemade Worcestershire sauce is incredibly satisfying. It tastes surprisingly like the original, but with a little bit more warmth of flavor. As an added bonus, I also have a jar full of Worcestershire sauce paste that was filtered out of the liquid sauce. It’s chunky, but has all the flavor of the original sauce.
The original recipe says to discard it, but that’s a shame. I’m saving it to add by the spoonful to soups. I imagine it could also be pureed finely and then dehydrated for use as a Worcestershire sauce powder.
So all in all, is it worth the extra effort to make your own Worcestershire sauce? It’s a fun project, and I’m amazed by how good it tastes. It’s less salty than the original, and the flavor is warmer. I’m very happy with the results. I’ll make it again for sure.
This homemade version doesn’t exactly save money, and it’s not made with homemade ingredients either (unless you can grow both your own tamarind and anchovies…) but it is incredibly tasty. Saving money and producing everything 100% yourself doesn’t have to be the only reason to try making something from scratch. Sometimes it’s worth it just for fun kitchen science, with delicious results!
This homemade Worcestershire Sauce is a lot like the commercially prepared version, with a taste that's well rounded and full of umami.
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup un-sulfured molasses
- 1/4 cup tamarind paste
- 2-ounce can anchovies
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
- 6-8 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 cups white vinegar, divided
- 2 cardamom pods
- 2 Tbsp. kosher or canning salt
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar or maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. whole cloves
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Pour boiling water over raisins in a small bowl and allow to stand 15 minutes until raisins are softened. Drain and discard water.
- Place raisins, molasses, tamarind paste, anchovies, onion, ginger, garlic and half the vinegar (1 cup) into a food processor. Process until smooth.
- Pour the pureed mixture into a saucepan and add the remaining ingredients (including remaining vinegar). Bring the whole mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.
- Pour the mixture into a 1 quart canning jar, seal with a plastic lid and store in a cool, dark place for at least 1 month (or longer for stronger flavors).
- After aging, pour the sauce through a fine mesh sieve before use.
More From Scratch Recipes
Looking for more from scratch recipes? Try any of these:
- Homemade Salsa Verde (Tomatillo Sauce)
- Dill Pickles Recipe for Canning
- Duck Breast Prosciutto (Salt Cured Duck Breast)
- Salt Cured Egg Yolks