If you want a sauce with a tremendous depth of flavor, the Worcestershire sauce is probably among the most used sauces in culinary as it combines many different ingredients that are fermented individually, blended, and fermented again, which combined can provide dishes with a savory umami taste.
Is Worcestershire sauce vegan? Unfortunately, the Worcestershire sauce is not vegan, as it is usually made with fermented anchovies and fish sauce, which are both no-go ingredients for vegans.
However, there are also vegan and vegetarian versions of the sauce, and you also have alternative sauces that have a comparable flavor, which you can use instead.
In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about the famous Worcestershire sauce.
What is Worcestershire Sauce?
Worcestershire sauce is a fermented liquid condiment created in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England during the first half of the 19th Century.
The condiment was created by pharmacists, who eventually formed the company Lea and Perrins that developed and distributed Worcestershire sauce in the United Kingdom, which is now recognized as the leading global brand of Worcestershire sauce.
The sauce is mostly used to enhance food and drink recipes, but it can also be used directly as a condiment on steaks, hamburgers, or other finished dishes, and it can also be added to cocktails; for example, the Bloody Mary and Caesar cocktails are flavored with Worcestershire sauce.
Is Worcestershire Sauce Vegan-Friendly?
Unfortunately, the Worcestershire sauce is not vegan, and it never has been, as the recipe has always called for animal ingredients like anchovies or fish sauce.
The original recipe of the Worcestershire sauce contained the following ingredients:
- barley malt vinegar
- spirit vinegar
- tamarind extract
- shallots (later replaced by onions)
The recipe is not that much different today, but you can find varieties of the sauce that are made without anchovies or fish sauce, and they’re often labeled as vegan or vegetarian.
For instance, if you live in the United States and often go to the Whole Foods Market, they have an organic Worcestershire sauce that is made without animal ingredients. It contains white vinegar, molasses (and cane sugar), salt, caramel color, garlic powder, black pepper, and different spices such as nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cayenne peppers.
If you’re from the UK, you’re also able to find Worcestershire sauce in places like ASDA, for example, there’s one called Chippa Worcester sauce that is vegan-friendly.
However, if you’re unable to find a vegan Worcestershire sauce, there are some alternatives you can use.
Alternatives to Worcestershire Sauce
Vinegar is the largest ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, so balsamic vinegar is a logical choice if you want to find a substitute that offers the same tartness and sweetness as Worcestershire.
Like Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar is slightly sweet, dark, and it carries complex flavors that gel well with different recipes. For example, Worcestershire sauce is sometimes used to make bolognese, but I believe balsamic vinegar is a way better option given its sweet acidity.
If you don’t have balsamic vinegar (which isn’t hard to find), red wine and brown sugar can also play a similar role in food.
Sweet Soy Sauce
Since regular soy sauce is mostly acidic and doesn’t have the slightly sweet flavor that Worcestershire sauce provides, you can opt for sweet soy sauce, which offers a combination of tartness and sweetness, making it a decent substitute for the Worcestershire sauce.
Sweet soy sauce has a dark and viscous consistency; it’s made from a fermented paste of black beans, roasted grain, salt, water, and Aspergillus Wentii, a mold to which the palm sugar is added, hence the sweetness.
While it’s not the perfect substitute, BBQ sauce is sweeter and thicker than Worcestershire sauce, but it will add a similar onion-based complex to a dish if the extra sweetness is not a problem for you.
Most BBQ sauces are suitable for vegans, as they’re merely a combination of vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, and spices like mustard or black pepper. Some brands of BBQ sauce use honey, but I’d say the majority of the BBQ sauces you will find don’t have it.
Vinegar is one of the largest ingredients in BBQ sauce, which is also the same as Worcestershire sauce.
Hoisin sauce provides some of the umami profile you can find in the Worcestershire sauce, but it’s still not as similar, because it’s thicker and sweeter, which it’s okay if you don’t mind the sweetness.
Hoisin sauce is often used in Cantonese cuisine as a glaze for meat, or as a dipping sauce.
Its recipe changes depending on the region where it’s produced, but it usually includes soybeans, fennel, red chili peppers, and garlic. In some places, they might use vinegar, cane sugar, and different spices.
This traditional Japanese condiment does not have the same taste as Worcestershire sauce, however, when applied to some dishes, it can add a savory umami flavor in the absence of any other options.
Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, which are mixed with salt and koji – a mold that is often used to make sake, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Some manufacturers might also include barley, rice, rye, or other grains in the blend.
Marmite is not a liquid condiment, but it can be a great substitute for Worcestershire sauce in some circumstances, especially if you’re seeking a salty, umami addition to a recipe.
It is basically a food spread made from yeast extract; it’s a byproduct of beer brewing and it’s quite popular in the United Kingdom as well. It’s rich in B vitamins, and it also contains several other vitamins and minerals, making it a healthier product than Worcestershire sauce, despite the salt.
Coconut Aminos is a coconut-based version of soy sauce, and they are surprisingly similar to Worcestershire sauce in terms of sweetness and savoriness. They’re not as vinegary, but they’re often a good replacement.
If you don’t know what they look like, it’s basically a dark-colored sauce that tastes similar to soy sauce, but instead of being made from soy, it’s made with the sap of the coconut plant, making them a wonderful option for people with allergies to soy or wheat.
Furthermore, it has 73% less sodium than soy sauce, which means it’s also a healthier alternative.
Preparing Worcestershire Sauce at Home
While you won’t have trouble finding good alternatives to Worcestershire sauce in the supermarket (including vegan Worcestershire sauce), some individuals like to make their own sauces at home.
Frankly, making sauces at home is usually a relatively easy process that doesn’t take much time, or effort, and once you’re done with the steps, you can immediately use the sauce however you like.
This recipe by KarissasVeganKitchen only takes 2 minutes to prepare and 5 minutes of cooking time, which is basically a total of time of 7 minutes.
You also don’t need that many ingredients, other than the following:
- apple cider vinegar
- soy sauce
- brown sugar
- dijon mustard
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- black pepper
There are only three steps to the recipe – you are merely required to mix the ingredients in a pot at low heat before letting cool down and storing it in a jar in the fridge.
Unfortunately, most Worcestershire sauces are not suitable for vegans, as they’re mostly made with anchovies, which are small, oily fish typically found in the Mediterranean, as well as the sea near Scandinavian countries.
However, it’s possible to find vegan or vegetarian Worcestershire sauces made without anchovies or fish sauce, even in regular supermarkets. For example, if you live in the US, you can find vegan Worcestershire sauce at Whole Foods, and if you live in the UK, you can find it in ASDA or Tesco.
If you’re unable to find them, there are also other alternatives that you can use, namely balsamic vinegar or sweet soy sauce, which will help you replicate Worcestershire’s flavor in certain recipes.
Worcestershire Sauce FAQs
Is Worcestershire Sauce Vegetarian?
Regular Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian because it contains anchovies, which are fish.
Most vegetarians don’t eat fish, but there is a small percentage that does, and they call themselves pescatarians, which is someone that adds fish or seafood to a vegetarian diet.
Is Worcestershire Sauce Gluten-Free?
Unfortunately, some Worcestershire sauces are not gluten-free because they contain barley malt vinegar, which is basically vinegar fermented with barley, a gluten-containing cereal.
However, there are also Worcestershire sauces that do not contain gluten-containing cereals.
For example, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is distilled white vinegar (not barley mat vinegar), so it’s technically a gluten-free product.
Is Worcestershire Sauce Keto?
Despite some Worcestershire sauces containing some sugar, they’re not very high in carbohydrates, therefore, they should be suitable for individuals on a Keto diet.
Does Worcestershire Sauce Go Bad?
It’s not easy to determine the shelf life of Worcestershire sauce, as it depends on the ingredients it contains and how you actually store it.
Most opened Worcestershire sauces can last up to one year in a pantry, but you can increase its shelf life by storing it in the fridge, which would then make it last for up to three years.
An unopened Worcestershire sauce can last up to five years after the best-by-date.