Best Worcestershire sauce substitute: These 13 will work!

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 3, 2021

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Worcestershire sauce is perhaps the most popular condiment to ever come out of western cuisine. And why not? It tastes delicious and can be used for everything, from salad dressings to marinades, and anything in between.

The slightly fishy and umami flavor are all that you need to spice up even the dullest of recipes and amp the intensity of already delicious dishes. Everything simply tastes good with Worcestershire sauce.

However, if you’re like me and have an irresistible appetite for putting the sauce on every dish as long as it’s consumable, you’re sure going to run out of it pretty soon.

Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

You can simply get yourself a new bottle, but sometimes, the circumstances don’t allow it, and all you need is a quick fix to save yourself from embarrassment in front of your guests. Or maybe you just want to get a bit adventurous!

In any case, the first thing I’d do is to reach for a soy sauce bottle and pour equal parts of soy sauce into the recipe instead. Though it doesn’t have that particular anchovy flavor, the moderate saltiness and umami flavor make it a perfect replacement for Worcestershire sauce.

This article will walk you through all the possible substitutes similar to Worcestershire sauce, and give you alternatives that are worth a shot! ;) But before that, let’s discuss Worcestershire sauce a little more!

What is the best substitute for Worcestershire sauce

What is Worcestershire sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is a staple condiment from Worcester, England, commonly used with salads, soups, stews, and different meat dishes.

The sauce has a very complex, sweet, and umami flavor due to its strong ingredients, which include fermented anchovies, molasses, garlic, onions, and vinegar.

Although not vegetarian in its original form, vegetarian variants of Worcestershire sauce are available to appeal to a broader class of consumers.

However, since the main ingredient of Worcestershire sauce has always been anchovy, its elimination from the vegetarian sauce significantly affects the overall taste.

There’s also a low-sodium version available for people who don’t like salt much.

How to serve and eat Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce is served with and used best in inherently savory dishes. A few best examples include drinks like the Bloody Mary, michelada, marinades, and hearty meat dishes like shepherd’s pie, beef stews, and slow-cooked briskets.

Other popular dishes that make a great combination with Worcestershire sauce include pumpkin chili and beer cheese soup, not to mention its common use as a salad dressing as well. Due to its unique taste and texture, you could add it to different marinades and sauces.

Worcestershire sauce is generally kosher, except when you use it with meat. Due to the presence of anchovies in the sauce, using it in meat dishes is strongly prohibited.

To find out whether it’s halal or not, please check out our detailed article on the topic! 

Origin of Worcestershire sauce

It’s commonly believed that Worcestershire sauce originated in Worcester, England. But that’s not entirely true. Although created in England, the sauce actually finds its roots in India, as stated by Lea & Perrins, the original creators of the condiment.

According to them, the creation of Worcestershire sauce was a consequence of a mere accident, all thanks to Lord Sandys and his love for Indian condiments.

When he returned to England in 1835 to retire after ruling over Bengal for many years, he missed his favorite fish sauce, so much so, that he commissioned two drug store owners, William Henry Perrins and John Wheeley, to recreate it.

After successfully recreating the sauce, the partners decided to keep a batch to sell at retail. However, they were so bothered by the pungent smell of fish and onions that they decided to store it in the cellar, only to forget it for 2 years.

They found the batch when they were just cleaning up. And by then, it had turned into a wonderfully delicious fermented sauce that sold like nothing else. It became a staple in British cuisine and a worldwide product afterward.

Although the original recipe is still with Lea & Perrins, the company lost the trademark for the exclusive term “Worcestershire sauce” in 1835. Ever since, it’s been used for similar sauces made by several companies worldwide.

If you’re looking for the best sauce to buy, here’s my favorite brand:

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

(view more images)

Now, let’s look at some of the substitutes that are recommended:

The best Worcestershire sauce substitute: Here are 13

1. Soy sauce

Soy sauce is one of the best replacements you can use. It’s easy to find and you probably already have a bottle in your cupboard. Plus, it has a similar fermented taste!

Soy sauce works to replace Worcestershire sauce on a 1:1 basis. In other words, if the recipe calls for 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, then you can use 1 tsp of soy sauce as a substitute.

Soy sauce is not as tart as Worcestershire sauce, but it has the umami flavor and plenty of sweetness to make up for it.

It can also be mixed with ingredients like:

  • Apple sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Lemon juice
  • Granulated sugar
  • Tamarind
  • Hot sauce

or any combination of these to produce a flavor that’s closer to what you’re looking for.

2. Miso paste and water

Miso paste has the fermented, salty, and sweet flavor that makes it the perfect Worcestershire sauce substitute.

Mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio to thin it out and, voila! You’ve got the perfect blend.

The only issue is that the paste will produce a cloudy appearance that isn’t great for clear or light-colored foods.

3. Fish sauce

Fish sauce has a sweet and salty taste. And like Worcestershire sauce, it’s made from anchovies, which means it ticks off all the boxes!

It can substitute Worcestershire sauce at a 1:1 ratio; however, it’s quite pungent. This makes it more suitable for dishes with stronger flavors, such as meats and chilis.

Fish sauce can also be mixed with ingredients like tamarind, red wine vinegar, salt, soy sauce, brown sugar, molasses, lemon and lime juice, ketchup, or any combination of these to help you get the taste you’re looking for.

4. Oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is made from caramelized oyster juices, soy sauce, and sugar, so it should come as no surprise that it makes the perfect substitute for Worcestershire sauce in a 1:1 swap.

It’s great for adding an umami taste to sauces and stir-fries. And it has less salt than other recommended substitutions, so it’s easy to control the salt content!

However, because it has a thick texture, it’s not recommended for foods with a thinner consistency, such as broths, thin sauces, and light dressings.

5. Anchovy paste and water

Worcestershire sauce is anchovy-based, so it makes perfect sense that anchovy paste makes a good substitute for the condiment.

Alternately, you can just take whole anchovy fillets and mash them up yourself and add them to dishes.

Combining the paste with an equal amount of water will help to thin out the consistency.

The paste can be used as an equal swap for Worcestershire sauce, but it’ll produce more of a fishy, salty taste.

That, along with the fact that it probably won’t have a completely smooth consistency, makes it more suited for cooked dishes.

6. Sherry vinegar

Sherry vinegar is great for producing that sweet and salty taste in foods, but it doesn’t have the same kick as Worcestershire sauce.

Consider adding your own spices to make up for this. It’s an equal swap for Worcestershire sauce in cooked dishes, but it can overpower soups.

7. Red wine

Any kind of red wine will give foods a flavor similar to that of Worcestershire sauce.

It’s best when used in cooked dishes, such as meatloaf and stews, but it should be kept out of cocktails and dressings.

8. Liquid smoke

You might not have guessed it, but liquid smoke is actually a great substitute. Liquid smoke provides earthy complex flavors similar to those found in Worcestershire sauce.

However, it doesn’t have the same sweetness. It’s also quite strong, so it’s best if used in moderation.

Mix it with a dash of salt and maple syrup to add sweet-salty flavors to the ingredient, which will make some magic out of your food.

Just be careful with the amount. Too much salt or maple syrup mixed with liquid smoke can overwhelm the other ingredients.

It works best with cooked foods and can be added in a 1:1 ratio with Worcestershire sauce.

9. A1 steak sauce

A1 is made from ingredients like tomato puree, raisin sauce, salt, corn syrup, and crushed orange puree. In other words, it has many of the flavor notes of Worcestershire sauce, minus some of the spice and heat.

It makes a great tablespoon-for-tablespoon substitute, but it’s thicker in texture.

So it’s best for cooked dishes, as opposed to broths and dressings that have a thinner consistency.

10. Pickle juice

Pickle juice has a tangy, tart, salty, and sweet taste that makes it the perfect Worcestershire alternative.

It also has a consistency that’s ideal for cooked dishes and sauces alike. It should only be eliminated if you’re looking to use it as a garnish.

11. Tamarind extract and fish sauce

Since tamarind extract has a unique property of tenderizing meat, many companies often use it as an optional ingredient in their Worcestershire sauce recipe.

However, when times are desperate, you can use it as an alternative to Worcestershire sauce alone, as it adds a burst of sweet and sour flavors to the dish.

To add the signature fishiness and a slight punch of saltiness, mix the tamarind concentrate with fish sauce. It’ll make the flavor much more refined and robust, with the closest resemblance to Worcestershire sauce.

12. Maggi seasoning sauce

One thing you need to know about Maggi seasoning sauce? It’s incredibly pungent.

Second, it packs every flavor, from sweet to salty, tangy to umami, and anything in between, thanks to fermented wheat!

Use it in a 1:4 ratio with Worcestershire sauce to get the ideal flavor.

Beware, it’ll make you pucker! ;)

13. Red wine vinegar with tamarind paste

The sharp and tangy flavor of red wine vinegar when combined with the sour and citrusy taste of tamarind paste gives food a very unique, umami-ish taste.

However, you have to add a dash of salt to add some flavor to the otherwise pure savory flavor. You can then use the mixture for soups, stews, and dressings.

Need a Worcestershire sauce substitute? Try one of the above

Worcestershire sauce, without a doubt, is a condiment where its absence is felt when you’re having your favorite stews, soups, and meat dishes. Where the sauce in its own right is irreplaceable, there still are some alternatives you can go for.

Yes, I agree, they might not taste exactly the same, and might not even fill the space perfectly as a hardcore replacement. But when you’ve got guests waiting for a delicious meal on the table, or a craving to satisfy, reaching for any of the aforementioned options will do quite well as temporary alternatives.

We hope this article has been helpful in finding the right alternative for Worcestershire sauce.

And by the way, you can also always add a vegan homemade sauce like this one:

Which of these will you be adding to your dishes?

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.