Worcestershire sauce. It's an ingredient called for in any number of recipes, from Caesar salad dressing and classic meatloaf to your brunch-time Bloody Mary. But what is it, anyway? How the heck do you pronounce it? And what can you substitute it with if you don't have it on hand? (It's "Woo-ster-shirr," by the way.)
What is Worcestershire Sauce?
Let's answer the first question, well, first. What exactly is Worcestershire sauce? It's a fermented liquid condiment originating in the 1900s in Worcester, England, from a duo of scientists (John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins) who went on to form the condiments company Lea & Perrins.
The sauce is tangy, funky, and umami-rich. While the full recipe is top-secret, and not publicly known, we do know the sauce is barrel-aged, to add to the funkiness.
When Should You Use Worcestershire Sauce?
Since Worcestershire sauce packs a big, savory punch, it can lend itself very well to recipes in which you want to intensely season a dish, and fast. Even a very small amount (think: a couple tablespoons or less) does the trick.
It adds meaty dimension to cheesy toast and in cheese sauces. It goes great in tomato-ey braises and ragus, to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes. You'll also find it in sweet-savory cocktails like traditional micheladas and this mezcal twist. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
How Do You Substitute Worcestershire Sauce?
So what if you're in the middle of making a juicy burger, flavor-packed meatloaf, or refreshing michelada, and realize that you're out of Worcestershire sauce? Worry not—you very likely have a fine substitute for the stuff already hanging out in your pantry.
Before we talk about what these substitutes are, let's first break down Worcestershire sauce's basic flavor components.
Worcestershire gets its unique flavor from a combination of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, garlic, tamarind extract, chili pepper extract, sugar, and salt, along with other undisclosed "natural ingredients" (which purportedly include cloves, soy, essence of lemons, and pickles).
Broadly, then, the sauce comprises notes of savory (anchovies, salt, and garlic) + sour (tamarind and vinegar) + sweet (molasses and sugar) + spice (chili pepper extract and cloves) + funk (pickles and the fermentation process itself).
With most any substitutions, a replacement isn't quite going taste the same as the real thing. But the more of the above flavor notes notes we're able hit, the more Worcestershire-like our substitution will be, and the more like the original our finished dish will taste.
With that in mind, here are the best 35 Worcestershire sauce substitutes (many of which you shared with us! Thanks for that.).
Soy-based condiments are generally a great substitute for Worcestershire, because they're similarly salty, tangy, and slightly sweet. They've also been fermented, so they bring the umami-rich funk. See below for (all-vegetarian!) ways to use them in Worcestershire's place, ranging from simple one-ingredient swaps to slightly more nuanced concoctions.
1. Soy sauce
A 1:1 swap here works best—for every tablespoon of Worcestershire called for in a recipe, you can use a tablespoon of soy sauce. Soy sauce doesn't have quite the same tartness or spice as the original, but plenty of umami and sweetness make up for it. This substitute will work in almost all recipes that call for Worcestershire, as it's got a similar consistency and can dissolve well.
2. Soy sauce + ketchup
One part soy sauce to one part ketchup will be a safe bet here. You'll get sour, sweet, funk, and a little bit of spice; the soy sauce will also thin out the thicker texture of the ketchup to make it a bit more pourable. This solution is better for dishes like meatloaf, burgers, or heartier soups and stews—it might be too thick and cloudy for salad dressings and cocktails (other than a tomato-ey Bloody Mary, of course).
3. Soy sauce + apple juice
Again hitting the salty-sweet-tart-umami notes, this combo—which uses equal parts soy sauce and apple juice—is good for adding to dishes in which there are a lot of other layered flavors, but it might taste too apple-y for simpler (or uncooked) preparations.
4. Miso paste + water
Fermented? Check. Salty and slightly sweet? Check. One part miso mixed well with one part water to dilute it slightly will provide a lot of the same flavor boosting that Worcestershire does. This substitution is also a bit cloudy, so leave it out of clear cocktails or light-colored vinaigrettes, and as a garnish.
5. Soy sauce + apple cider vinegar + red pepper flakes
Here, you have all the elements of Worcestershire—salty-sweet, tart, funky, a little spicy. Use a ratio of two parts soy sauce to one part vinegar, and just add a pinch of red pepper flakes. This substitution is great in dishes where you don't need a smooth or consistent texture—stews and meatloaf work great, while sauces and cocktails, not so much.
6. Soy sauce + hoisin sauce + apple cider vinegar
An equal part of soy sauce and hoisin (a sweet-sour-salty sauce made of plums, and fermented black bean and garlic sauce) themselves are a great substitute for Worcestershire sauce, but a small splash of apple cider vinegar helps thin it out even more and add some extra tartness. This one's not the best for salad dressings or cocktails, due to its darker color and thicker texture.
7. Soy sauce + lemon juice + granulated sugar + hot sauce
For every tablespoon of Worcestershire, you'll want to dissolve 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar in 2 teaspoons of soy sauce plus 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice. Add a dash of hot sauce, too (any kind you like; Tabasco, Tapatio, or Cholula work well), and you'll get a sweet-spicy-salty-umami blend. This substitution works practically anywhere, as long as the sugar is really well dissolved.
8. Soy sauce + tamarind concentrate + distilled white vinegar
If you've ever made pad Thai or one of Ottolenghi's recipes, you probably have a neon yellow, red cap-topped bottle of tamarind concentrate still hanging around in your pantry—it's intensely tart, a little sweet, very dark in color, and syrupy in texture.
It's also a great stand-in for Worcestershire sauce (for one, because the original condiment already contains tamarind), especially once you mix it in equal parts with distilled white vinegar and soy sauce (for example, a teaspoon of each makes a tablespoon of "Worcestershire"). The sauce will be very dark in color, and a little bit syrupy, so best for dishes where color and texture aren't the biggest concerns (say, meatloaf or a braise; not a Bloody Mary).
9. Soy sauce + tamarind concentrate or paste + distilled white vinegar + ground cloves + hot sauce
Much like the previous substitute, you'll want equal parts soy sauce, tamarind concentrate, and vinegar, plus a pinch of ground cloves (which are said to be in Worcestershire sauce) and a dash of hot sauce. This is a little more complicated than the mixtures above, but much closer in flavor, with all of the flavor notes covered—salty, sweet, tart, umami-fied, spicy, and a little bit of heat.
10. Soy sauce + lime juice + blackstrap molasses + garlic powder + vinegar + hot sauce + granulated sugar
In this sauce, equal parts sweet-salty-funky soy sauce, sweet-tart lime juice, sweet-earthy molasses (which is in Worcestershire sauce, to begin with), and tart vinegar are combined with a big pinch of garlic powder, a littler pinch of granulated sugar, and a dash of hot sauce. Use in the same proportion as Worcestershire.
11. Soy sauce + apple cider vinegar + water + brown sugar + mustard powder
This recipe makes a lot of seasoning, and you'll have to cook the ingredients together to make it happen, but it keeps for a while, refrigerated, in a sealed jar. Just combine 1/2 cup of the vinegar with 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of mustard powder. Then, you'll cook it over medium heat until the brown sugar is totally dissolved and the liquid reduces by half. Use the resulting mixture as a 1:1 swap for Worcestershire sauce.
Fish sauce is a salty, funky, and slightly sweet condiment made from salted and barrel-fermented anchovies. It's also a great sub for Worcestershire sauce, given that Worcestershire, too, contains anchovies. In most cases when you're using fish or fish sauce-based condiments, adjust the added salt levels in your dish to make up for the product's intense saltiness.
12. Fish sauce
Use a directly proportional amount of fish sauce as a substitute for the Worcestershire called for in your recipe. Uncooked and by itself, fish sauce can be quite pungent, so save this for your meatloaf, soup, or chili, and leave it out of the michelada.
13. Fish sauce + tamarind concentrate
An equal measure of fish sauce and tamarind concentrate, mixed together until no lumps remain, has many of the salty-sweet-umami hints that Worcestershire sauce has, tablespoon for tablespoon. Again, because of its darker hue and stronger flavor of this mixture, it's advisable to cook with this rather than to use it in dressings and drinks.
14. Fish sauce + red wine vinegar + salt
To mellow out the punchy flavor of fish sauce, and bring a bit of acidity to the party, mix equal portions of fish sauce and red wine vinegar, plus a pinch of salt. Use it in the same proportions you would Worcestershire. This one's good in most any use case.
15. Fish sauce + blackstrap molasses + lime juice
An equal part each of fish sauce, sweet molasses, and tart lime juice will make a dark and cloudy, but very Worcestershire-like substitution that you can use in the same amounts as you would the original condiment. Again, stick to cooked or darker color dishes, here; both fish sauce and molasses could use a little tempering.
16. Fish sauce + soy sauce + brown sugar
Half fish sauce, half soy sauce, and a big pinch of brown sugar will make a fine sub for Worcestershire, as long as you dissolve the brown sugar really well. Use it the same way you'd use Worcestershire sauce, but in dishes that will be cooked (so there's no gritty or grainy remnants of sugar).
17. Fish sauce + lemon/lime juice or distilled white vinegar + pomegranate molasses or cranberry juice
With an equal pour of each, you'll hit salty, sweet, funky, and tart notes, and can use it tablespoon-for-tablespoon in place of Worcestershire sauce. If you end up using pomegranate molasses, consider its darker color, strong flavor, and slightly syrupy consistency—you wouldn't want that in Caesar dressing, for example.
18. Fish sauce + soy sauce + tamarind concentrate + ketchup + rice or cider vinegar + allspice
Because this replacement requires a number of ingredients, it's best to make a bigger batch and keep it in a jarred container in the fridge. Use equal parts of fish sauce, soy sauce and tamarind concentrate, half the amount of ketchup and rice vinegar, and a pinch of allspice. You'll be rewarded with a spicy, sweet, salty, and umami-rich mixture that tastes shockingly like Worcestershire. Consider using this replacement in dishes that require cooking, as the thicker texture, darker color, and slightly syrupy consistency wouldn't do well in raw preparations or thin sauces.
19. Oyster sauce
Made with caramelized oyster juices, sugar, and soy sauce, and sometimes thickened with cornstarch, oyster sauce is a staple for quickly adding umami and sweetness to stir frys and sauces. It can also be used as a replacement for Worcestershire in a 1:1 swap. Oyster sauce has less salt than soy sauce or fish sauce, so you can better control the amount of salt in your dish. Because of its thicker texture, it might not be the best for thin sauces, light dressings/vinaigrettes, and beverages.
20. Anchovy paste + water (or whole cured anchovies, mashed with salt until dissolved and paste-like + water)
Anchovy paste, which is made of ground oil-or salt-cured anchovy fillets, water or olive oil, salt, and sometimes vinegar and sugar, is a good replacement for Worcestershire when diluted with an equal amount of water. Alternatively, mashing whole cured anchovy fillets (like the ones you'd find in a jar or in a tin) into a paste, then mixing with an equal amount water, would also work. Use it as a proportional swap in recipes that call for Worcestershire—since it will likely not be totally smooth, and will have a fishy and salty flavor, consider using it in cooked dishes only.
Because they've been aged and fermented, many vinegars can give the same tart-sweet-umami-filled flavor as Worcestershire sauce, used (mostly!) in the same proportions as the condiment. Many of the substitutes below are naturally vegetarian, too.
21. Red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar + tamarind paste or concentrate
An equal part of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, mixed together with tamarind paste or concentrate, can be used as a replacement for Worcestershire. While this mixture will be sweet, it's also going to be much more tart and tangy than the original condiment, so use half the amount you would of Worcestershire sauce. This will probably also be too intense for drinks or dressings (which usually already call for some kind of vinegar).
22. Sherry vinegar
Malty, funky, sweet, and sour sherry vinegar hits many of the same notes as Worcestershire—it's just missing a bit of spice and heat. Add it tablespoon for tablespoon in your cooked dish or sauce, but leave it out of drinks or as a garnish, please—it's a bit too puckery.
23. Malt vinegar + blackstrap molasses + tamarind paste or concentrate
An equal measure of these three ingredients, mixed well together, can go in all the burgers, meatloaf, stews and stroganoffs of your dreams. Maybe not in a cocktail or salad dressing, though—it's got an extra-dark color, thanks to the molasses and tamarind, and a thickish consistency.
24. balsamic vinegar + beef or chicken broth + molasses + ground ginger + white pepper + garlic powder + salt
Here's another cooked substitute, made with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a cup and a half of beef or chicken broth, 1/4 teaspoon of molasses, and a pinch each of ground ginger, white pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Bring this all to a boil, and then lower it to a simmer, allowing the liquid to reduce by half. Use 1:1 as you would Worcestershire (and in any place you'd use Worcestershire), then save the rest in a lidded jar in the fridge for next time.
A direct 1:1 swap of any of wines (fortified or otherwise) should do the trick. While none of them will have all of the complexity, spice, or slight heat that Worcestershire sauce does, they're each fermented, funky, and ever-so sweet, making for a good sub in a pinch.
25. Dry sherry
Earthy, funky, floral, and a little yeasty, sherry (a wine that's fortified with brandy) is used to add depth to lots of food, so could be a good stand-in for Worcestershire. It's definitely not anywhere near as meaty or spicy as Worcestershire, so needs to be combined with a bit of salt in cooked dishes (and avoided in sauces, dressings, and drinks where Worcestershire adds savory flair).
26. Shaoxing cooking wine
This Chinese rice wine has a similar flavor profile as dry sherry, but is usually salted, which makes it slightly more similar to Worcestershire. Cooked preparations might be better for this substitute too, so you're not left with any kind of alcoholic aftertaste.
27. Red wine
Really any kind will do, especially a spicy Shiraz—because of its bold flavor, best not to use red wine in dressings or cocktails, but it'll work great in meatloaf, in burgers, and in stews and braises of all sorts.
As for some unexpected Worcestershire substitutes? You know, sauces and seasonings you might use for other dishes, but not think to use in the condiment's place? Here they are. Proportions will vary greatly, so read on to learn how much of each to use.
28. A1 Steak Sauce (or HP Brown Sauce)
Made with tomato puree, raisin paste, white vinegar, corn syrup, crushed orange puree, and salt, this sauce has many of the same flavor notes as Worcestershire—it's just missing the spice and heat. Use this tablespoon-for-tablespoon as you would Worcestershire, but as it's a bit thicker than the original condiment, it won't work so well in drinks or as a garnish.
29. Maggi seasoning sauce
Maggi seasoning sauce, in its apothecary-looking little brown bottle, is a perfect swap for Worcestershire sauce. chock-full of umami (that's thanks to roasted and fermented wheat), sweetness, salt, and a puckery tang. It's extra salty and potent, so you really only need a quarter of the amount in place of Worcestershire sauce.
30. Coconut aminos
Coconut aminos is a sauce made of aged coconut sap and sea salt, with a soy sauce-like flavor and a slightly coconutty sweetness. It also has a lot less salt than soy sauce, and is naturally gluten-free. In the same way that soy sauce is, coconut aminos are a good substitute for Worcestershire in equal measure as the original condiment—and by using them, you can better control the added salt in your finished dish. This substitute is great just about anywhere you need to use Worcestershire. (And, speaking of swaps, feel free to swap in an equal amount of coconut aminos for any of the soy sauce-based substitutions listed above.)
31. Liquid smoke
Just use a dash of this, please, and only in cooked dishes, chilled soups, or dressings (not drinks or sprinkled as a topping)! It will lend a lot of earthy, complex flavors to your recipe in the same way that Worcestershire sauce would, but liquid smoke doesn't have any of the added sweetness or saltiness, and can be very intense if used in excess.
32. Pickle juice
Think about it: Pickle juice is 1) tart and vinegary, 2) salty, 3) a little sweet, 4) spiced with coriander and dill, 5) sometimes a little hot, if peppers are in the mix, and 6) funky and fermented. Basically like Worcestershire sauce! A splash equal to the amount of Worcestershire sauce called for could work wonders in dressings, sauces, some drinks, and cooked dishes alike. It won't work so well for garnish, though.
33. Marmite + splash of lemon juice or soy sauce + hot water
Marmite, the polarizing, extra-salty and slightly bitter British condiment, is made of yeast extract and super-concentrated vegetable and spice extracts. That's why it's so dang umami-rich and delicious, and why, when mixed with two parts sweetish lemon juice/soy sauce, and two parts hot water to help it dissolve, it works wonders as a stand-in for Worcestershire. This sub goes great in cooked foods of all kinds; because of its strong flavor, maybe best to leave it out of sauces, drinks, and as a garnish or topping.
I know this might not be want you want to hear, and I'm sorry. But Worcestershire sauce is simply a flavor booster in most recipes it's called for, and not a chemically integral ingredient. Additionally, since you're almost always using just a couple tablespoons or less in any kind of dish, chances are, you can leave the ingredient out and things will taste just as good (well, almost).
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