Worcestershire Sauce

What is Worcestershire sauce, and how is it made? Find out all about this beloved condiment and essential ingredient, plus a recipe for homemade Worcestershire sauce that just happens to be vegan and gluten-free.

Spoonful of Worcestershire Sauce Lifted from a Jar Sitting on a Decorative Wooden Board Covered in Ingredients (Halved Orange, Coriander Seeds, Garlic Cloves, Cloves, and Lemon Wedges)

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Though Worcestershire sauce is an ingredient typically used in small amounts, when it’s missing from a recipe, its absence is telling. Bloody Marys, Cincinnati chili, and a classic cheese ball all seem one-note without it.

But Worcestershire sauce is not so much a single ingredient as an amalgam of many ingredients. Tamarind paste, molasses, vinegar, and anchovies are fixtures, but technically not necessities–it all depends on the bottle you buy. What is for sure is that Worcestershire is salty, thin, dark brown, and extraordinary in both its richness of flavor and history. 

Jar of Homemade Worcestershire Sauce on a Decorative Wooden Board Covered in Ingredients (Halved Orange, Coriander Seeds, Garlic Cloves, Cloves, and Lemon Wedges)

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Origins, from Worcester and Beyond

The roots of Worcestershire sauce begin not in England, but in the various fermented fish sauces found across Asia. Merchants trading with the Far East brought examples back. People trying to recreate them in England with their own ingredients led to Worcestershire precursors like walnut ketchup and pontack, a savory elderberry-based sauce. The Roman Empire had its own fermented fish sauce called garum, and the faded memory of that essential condiment may have played a role in Worcestershire's creation.

The standard origin story goes that Sir Marcus Sandys, a native of Worcester, encountered a fish sauce while in India with the East India Company. Once back in England, Sandys requested chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins to reverse engineer the sauce. Their initial attempt looked less than promising, so Lea and Perrin ignored the brackish contents of the barrel anywhere from (depending on the telling) 18 months to three years. Revisiting the sauce, they found it had matured into a miraculous creation. They first sold it in 1837.

As it turns out, today’s bottles of Lea & Perrins are not the same in the UK and US. There’s the label, for one (the UK one has been orange from the get-go and remains so; the US label is a pale parchment tone). Their formulas are different, too: Lea & Perrins in the UK is made with malt vinegar, while its US counterpart has distilled white vinegar. 

Worcestershire Sauce Substitutes 

You’re out of Worcestershire? If the recipe calls for a tablespoon or so, consider using any one of these alternatives:

  • Maggi sauce (keep in mind that Maggi sauce is saltier than Worcestershire) 
  • 2 parts soy sauce or tamari to 1 part molasses or brown sugar
  • 2 parts soy sauce or tamari to 1 part ketchup
  • 2 parts miso to 1 part lemon juice or vinegar
Homemade Worcestershire Sauce Transferred to a Mason Jar with a Funnel Attachment

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Making Your Own Worcestershire Sauce Vs. Buying

Making your own proper (as opposed to quickie improvised) Worcestershire sauce is a fun and very doable adventure. It’s a “because you want to” as opposed to a “because you have to” proposition. Our recipe calls for many ingredients, so unless you happen to have them all on hand, it is no way cheaper than buying a bottle from the shelf.

Is this homemade recipe better than storebought? I very much think so, but if spending your leisure time crafting DIY condiments to store in jars labeled with masking tape is not your thing, the old standby Lea & Perrins is available at nearly every grocery store you can think of. Of the prepared options, that’s the one I recommend. It’s a few bucks more than other bottles, but it pays off in nuance.

Is Worcestershire Sauce Vegan?

Commercial Worcestershire sauce is usually pescatarian–that is, it includes fish in the form of anchovies. So it’s neither vegan nor vegetarian. I’ve found commercial vegan Worcestershire sauce disappointing across the board, which is why I started making my own in the first place. I simply leave the anchovies out and instead add other umami-rich ingredients. 

The recipe we’re sharing is vegan, making it perfect for our Vegan Cincinnati Chili recipe.

Spoonful of Homemade Worcestershire Sauce Lifted from a Bowl

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Storing Worcestershire Sauce

With all that salt, acid, and sugar, Worcestershire sauce remains in great shape stored in a cupboard at room temperature for years. No need to refrigerate. Any DIY Worcestershire sauce recipe that says you have to refrigerate it is automatically suspect!

Like nocino, a good batch of Worcestershire sauce only gets better with time. Our recipe keeps for years, so I like to make a decent-sized batch (at least a pint) and experience it aging as I age along with it. My first batch outlasted my marriage, though I still cook for my ex, sometimes using the very Worcestershire in question. 

Ingredient Swaps and Subs

I have added all kinds of unusual things, from pickled blueberries to salted ume plums, to various batches of homemade Worcestershire. It’s very much in keeping with the spirit of this storied sauce. If you are a freewheeling cook, I encourage you to break away from following our recipe exactly and instead look at it as a template where you plug in ratios of ingredients with various base flavors.

  • Sweet: Dark and sticky molasses is the default, but you’ll also find recipes calling for brown sugar or even maple syrup in addition to molasses. Dried fruit can enhance the sweetness and add complexity.
  • Acidic: Tamarind concentrate is tart and fruity and imparts a distinct sour power. For a liquid component, malt vinegar is the most British choice. I like using apple cider vinegar in my recipe. Whichever vinegar you choose, make it a decent but not exquisite or expensive vinegar–remember, you’ll be adding plenty of other ingredients to it. Citrus sometimes shows up, too, either the juice or zest or whole shebang, including the bitter pith. 
  • Earthy/spicy: Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mustard, cardamom, and black or white pepper bring in aromatic elements.
  • Umami: Dried mushrooms, tinned anchovies, dried seaweed, black olives, or MSG add that all-important savory character.
  • Salty: If they are part of your formula, miso, fish sauce, oyster sauce, mushroom sauce, or soy sauce contribute a saltiness of their own. What else makes Worcestershire sauce salty? Salt! 
Spoonful of Worcestershire Sauce Lifted from a Jar Sitting on a Decorative Wooden Board Covered in Garlic Cloves and Cloves

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Recipes Featuring Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 60 mins
Servings 72 servings
Yield 1 1/2 cups

Steeping time for this recipe is 1 month.

This recipe is adapted from the Practical Self Reliance blog, itself adapted from The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

This version happens to be vegan. If you prefer, omit the dried shiitake mushrooms, miso, and kombu and instead add 1 (2-ounce) can of anchovies. If you're making this gluten-free, check to see that your miso does not contain barley, and don't sub the malt vinegar for the apple cider vinegar.


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap)

  • 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate

  • 40 grams (1/4 cup) dark raisins

  • 15 grams (about 6) dried shiitake mushrooms, caps and stems

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) kosher salt

  • 20 grams (1 tablespoon) miso paste

  • 6 grams (1 tablespoon) crushed red pepper flakes

  • 6.5 grams (1 tablespoon) dry mustard powder

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 3.5 grams (1 teaspoon) whole peppercorns (preferably white, but black will do), lightly crushed

  • 2 grams (1 teaspoon) whole cloves

  • 5 whole allspice berries

  • 2 cardamom pods

  • 2 grams (1 inch) cinnamon stick

  • 1 (3x6-inch) piece dried kombu

Special Equipment

  • 1 (1-quart) canning jar
  • Cheesecloth


  1. Combine the ingredients:

    Put all of the ingredients in a large non-reactive pot (such as stainless steel or enamelware). Stir to combine. 

    Simple Tip!

    If your vinegar came in a glass pint bottle, save the bottle to store your finished sauce.

    If you have a vent, turn it to high, or open the windows. The simmering vinegar smell will be strong and sharp.

    Ingredients Stirred Together in a Pot with a Spatula for Worcestershire Sauce Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  2. Simmer for 30 minutes:

    Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a simmer, set the lid ajar and cook partially covered for 30 minutes, reducing the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

    Pot of Homemade Worcestershire Sauce Recipe Covered

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  3. Cool:

    Let the mixture cool to room temperature. At this point, it’ll have some of the appearance and aroma of Worcestershire, but the flavor will be sharp. Now it’s time to age it.

    Homemade Worcestershire Sauce in a Pot

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  4. Transfer to a jar and age for a month:

    Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, then pour the mixture into a 1-quart canning jar. Screw on a lid (preferably plastic to prevent corrosion), label and date, and set in a cool, dark place to age for 1 month. It’s fine to check on your brew as it sits, though changes will be gradual.

    Homemade Worcestershire Sauce Transferred to a Mason Jar with a Funnel Attachment

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Labeled Jar of Worcestershire Sauce

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  5. Strain and bottle:

    After aging, pour the sauce through a fine mesh sieve lined with one layer of cheesecloth. Once most of the liquid has drained, press the solids to squeeze out any remaining liquid. 

    Simple Tip!

    If you have a strainer with very fine mesh, you can skip the cheesecloth.

    Transfer the sauce to a bottle for storage (your yield may vary a bit, depending on how much moisture the solids trap and how much evaporation there was during the simmering step). Taste the sauce, which will have softened in character. If it seems overly concentrated, thin it out a tiny bit with filtered water.

    Label and date the bottle. The sauce will continue to mature and mellow in the bottle, only getting better with time. It’ll keep in a dark cupboard for at least 5 years.

    Did you love the recipe? Leave us stars below!

    Worcestershire Sauce Strained into a Bowl Through a Cheese Cloth Lined Colander

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Jar of Homemade Worcestershire Sauce on a Decorative Wooden Board Covered in Ingredients (Halved Orange, Coriander Seeds, Garlic Cloves, Cloves, and Lemon Wedges)

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
17 Calories
0g Fat
4g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 72
Amount per serving
Calories 17
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 181mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 15mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 67mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.