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What is usuta sauce? How to use Japanese Worcestershire sauce

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There are plenty of delicious Japanese seasonings out there, and the most popular come in a liquid form or sauce.

Usuta is one of those sauces, and it’s an important seasoning ingredient in many Japanese recipes.

However, you might see it labeled as ‘Worcestershire sauce.’

Usuta sauce, called Usutā sōsu (‘ウスターソース) in Japanese, is their version of the British Worcestershire sauce. It is made of soy sauce, herbs, dried sardines, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. This savory condiment is used to season meat and seafood or as a marinade and dipping sauce.

What is usuta sauce? How to use Japanese Worcestershire sauce

Usuta sauce is used in all types of dishes, from grilled meats to sushi. It is also a popular dipping sauce for tempura.

If you are looking for a Japanese Worcestershire sauce, then this is the perfect condiment for you.

In this guide, I’ll explain what usuta sauce is, why it has a Japanese name even though it’s a British invention, and how it’s best used.

Keep reading to find out all the details about this umami condiment.

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What is Usuta sauce?

Usuta sauce is a type of Worcestershire sauce that is popular in Japan. It is made of basic ingredients like soy sauce, herbs, dried sardines, carrots, onions, and tomatoes.

But of course, there are variations.

Here’s a list of the most common ingredients that make up usuta sauce:

  • tomato
  • onion
  • carrot
  • ginger
  • apple
  • soy sauce (shoyu)
  • dried sardines
  • sugar
  • water
  • bay leaf
  • nutmeg
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • kombu
  • garlic
  • cinnamon
  • thyme
  • cloves
  • dill
  • fennel
  • pepper
  • chili
  • parsley
  • vinegar
  • salt

This savory condiment is used to season any type of meat and seafood or as a marinade and dipping sauce.

Usuta sauce is used in all types of dishes, from Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) grilled meats to sushi. It is also a popular dipping sauce for tempura and soba noodles.

What makes usuta sauce unique is its thickness. Actually, usuta sauce is the thinnest of any Japanese sauce.

It is created by blending and straining fruits, vegetables, and spices to get rid of the pulp.

This sauce is quite runny and is best used in sauces, soups, and stews because there is no additional starch or flour added to thicken it.

There are actually two thicker versions of the sauce, one is called Chuno sauce, and the thickest is Noko sauce.

What does usuta sauce taste like?

Usuta sauce’s flavor is very similar, if not identical, to that of Worcestershire sauce.

It is best described as savory (salty) with a hint of sweet and sour from the fermented fruits and vegetables.

The sauce also has a slight umami taste from the dried sardines. Overall, it is a very well-balanced sauce that is not too salty or too sweet.

As with Worcestershire sauce, the taste of Usuta sauce will vary depending on the brand.

Why is it called Japanese Worcestershire sauce?

Usuta sauce is called Japanese Worcestershire sauce because the British Worcestershire sauce was introduced to Japan in the late 1800s by a doctor named Hirata.

He was working in Nagasaki at the time, and he learned about the sauce from a British sailor. Hirata then created his own version of the sauce, which he called “usuta.”

The word “usuta” is a combination of the words “Worcester” and “soy sauce.”

What’s the origin of usuta?

As mentioned, Usuta sauce was created in the late 1800s by a doctor named Hirata.

But it’s based on a popular English cooking sauce called Worcestershire sauce.

Worcestershire sauce was invented in the early 1800s by two Englishmen, John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins.

Since people were traveling around, the sauce made its way to the Far East.

As it became part of Japanese cuisine, the sauce was modified slightly, and they added some apple and tomato puree, which made it taste sweeter.

Usuta vs. Worcestershire sauce: what’s the difference?

Most people wonder, is Japanese Worcestershire sauce different?

At first glance, these two sauces seem identical, at least in appearance.

However, the Japanese usuta sauce is a bit thicker, sweeter, and even darker in color.

It also has a stronger flavor because of the additional ingredients like apple and tomato puree.

The English Worcestershire sauce, on the other hand, is thinner and has a more vinegary taste.

Don’t like Worcestershire sauce? Besides usuta sauce, here are 13 other suitable Worcestershire sauce substitutes that will work

Usuta vs Tonkatsu sauce

There’s a very similar sauce called tonkatsu or tokuno, and it’s often mistaken for usuta.

The brown color is to blame for that, but these sauces, although quite similar, are still a bit different.

Tonkatsu sauce is also used as a marinade, dipping sauce, and condiment.

It’s made of fruits, vegetables, and spices that are blended and strained.

Tonkatsu sauce also has a stronger and sweeter flavor because it’s made with more fruit, fewer vegetables, and less water.

Also, tonkatsu sauce is less spicy because there aren’t as many spices in it, and it’s quite a bit thicker than usuta sauce.

How to use Usuta sauce?

Usuta sauce can be used in many different ways.

It’s commonly used to season okonomiyaki and yakisoba (Japanese stir-fries), as a marinade for meats and seafood, or even as a dipping sauce.

Here are some ideas on how you can use Usuta sauce:

  • Okonomiyaki sauce: mix with mayonnaise and ketchup to create a delicious sauce for Japanese pancakes
  • Yakisoba sauce: mix with soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar to create a delicious stir-fry sauce
  • Dipping sauce: mix with soy sauce and vinegar to create a simple dipping sauce for tempura or soba noodles
  • Meat marinade: mix with soy sauce, sugar, and ginger to create a delicious marinade for meats and seafood
  • Soup seasoning: add a few drops of usuta sauce to your miso soup or ramen to give it a boost of flavor

As you can see, there are many ways to use this versatile sauce. So, if you’re looking for a new way to add flavor to your dishes, give Usuta sauce a go.

Is Usuta sauce gluten-free?

Yes, Usuta sauce is usually gluten-free, although it’s best to check the label to be sure.

This is because it’s made without thickening agents like flour or starch.

Is Usuta sauce vegan?

In some cases, usuta sauce is vegan, and in some, it’s not – this depends on whether sardines or other dried fish are used in the manufacturing process.

So, if you’re vegan and want to use usuta sauce, make sure to check the label to be sure.

Some foods go exceptionally well with usuta sauce.

Here are the top dish combinations to try:

Korokke (Japanese croquettes): the savory and crispy korokke goes perfectly with the sweet and sour usuta sauce. These are deep-fried patties made with ground meat, mashed potatoes, and onions, breaded in panko breadcrumbs.

Menchi katsu: this is a breaded and fried minced meat patty. It’s usually made with ground pork, but you can also use ground beef. The juicy fried patty is drizzled with tasty usuta sauce or tonkatsu sauce.

Aji Fry (Fried horse mackerel fish): this is a popular Japanese pub dish made by frying horse mackerel fillets. The fish is often served with usuta sauce on the side.

Cabbage: for some reason, the savory sweet flavor of the usuta sauce tastes delicious when paired with cabbage and dishes that contain cabbage, like okonomiyaki.

How to store usuta sauce and shelf life

Usuta sauce can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Once opened, it’s best to keep it in the fridge, where it will last for 3-4 months.

It’s also best to keep it in glass bottles rather than plastic, as the sauce can interact with the plastic and affect the flavor.

Where to buy usuta sauce? Best brands

The Usuta sauce is available in Asian grocery stores or online.

This sauce is a bit harder to find compared to other similar sauces like Ponzu or soy sauce. So, it might take a bit of searching to get it.

Bull dog worcestershire or usuta sauce

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The best brand of usuta sauce is actually Bull-Dog and its “Worcestershire Sauce”.

It has a delicious savory sweet flavor that goes well with many dishes.

Another good brand is Kikkoman, which makes a slightly different version of usuta sauce that’s also quite good.

It’s called tonkatsu sauce, but adding some water will give it the right consistency of usuta sauce.

Is Usuta sauce healthy?

Usuta sauce is a healthier alternative to other similar sauces like soy sauce or teriyaki sauce.

This is because it’s made with fruit and vegetables, rather than just salt and sugar.

It’s also lower in sodium than soy sauce, which makes it a good substitute. Color-wise and in terms of consistency, the sauce is the same thickness.

Conclusion

Usuta is a lesser-known Japanese seasoning sauce. Although it’s not as easy to get a hold of, there are some tasty homemade usuta sauce recipes out there.

The sauce is made with dried fish, vegetables, and fruits, and it has a savory sweet flavor.

The sauce is commonly used to add flavor to Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, and dipping sauces.

It’s also a healthier alternative to soy sauce, as it contains less sodium.

So, when a dish needs a little something extra, give Usuta sauce a try. Who knows, it might become your new favorite seasoning.

Check out more delicious dipping sauces that also pair wonderfully with teppanyaki and yakinuki

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Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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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.