Worcestershire Sauce – An Unsung Hero

Whether you say WOOS-tuhr-shuhr, WUSS-terr-sherr, or simply the “W” sauce, I hope you will agree with me that this sauce is a workhorse, and should be on everyone’s cooking radar.

By Robin Stephens

Worcestershire Sauce – An Unsung Hero: the history and flavor of Worcestershire Sauce, and how to use it

Whether you say WOOS-tuhr-shuhr, WOOS-tuhr-sheer, WUSS-terr-sherr, or simply the “W” sauce, I hope you will agree with me this sauce is a workhorse, and should be on everyone’s cooking radar. (Of course, my children, and myself too if I’m being honest, have had our own struggles pronouncing the name. We just call it “W” sauce. It’s much easier.)

No matter how you pronounce it, I believe Worcestershire sauce is something every cook should have in their arsenal. It adds a depth of flavor to so many foods. The wonder of this sauce is that just a small amount is all that’s needed to make a subtle, but important, difference to a dish. That’s why I think of it as an unsung hero.

The Origin of Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce was developed by two chemists, John Lea and William Perrins, in Worcester, England in 1835. While experimenting with vinegar-based sauces, one of the batches didn’t taste right and was abandoned in the basement. Left alone, it fermented and developed complex flavors. It was so good, the partners bottled more, starting the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce journey that became famous around the world. How’s that for a crazy beginning?

What Does Worcestershire Sauce Taste Like?

Worcestershire sauce has a distinct flavor, but it can be hard to decipher its complex ingredient list. The sauce is a balance of tangy, savory, sweet, and salty, making it a perfect condiment. I like to add it when a dish needs a little “something” – a hit of umami flavor. The spices vary of course by brand, but they can even change within the same brand. The Lea & Perrins Worcestershire changes the recipe depending on where it’s being sold. The sauce sold in the U.K. market uses malt vinegar, whereas the U.S. version uses distilled white vinegar. Plus, the U.S. version contains three times more sugar and sodium! This could be partly why I think it tastes so good.

How to Use Worcestershire Sauce

There are a variety of ways to put the magic sauce to use when it comes to cooking. I like adding it to stocks, broths, and braising liquids. It’s a quick way to add a depth of flavor to these liquids. Worcestershire sauce is also good in sauces, marinades, and even salad dressings. Don’t forget - it’s nearly an essential ingredient in cocktail sauce and a Bloody Mary. I also add a few dashes of the magic sauce to burgers, meatloaf, and steaks. A favorite use for Worcestershire sauce for my family has always been to add it to Mac n’ cheese.

So, if you are looking for a way to add umami, turn to your condiment shelf. Or buy a new bottle. Worcestershire sauce is a good friend to have hanging around.

Our Favorite Worcestershire Recipes

Put this versatile sauce to use in some of our favorite recipes!


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