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Worcestershire Sauce vs Hot Sauce vs Tabasco | Spicy or Not?

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As you’re cooking, you’ll want to add some type of sauce to your dish to make it flavorful.

There are a variety of sauces to choose from, but there are three popular options everyone goes for: Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and tabasco.

There’s a major difference between Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and tabasco and they’re used differently when cooking.

Worcestershire Sauce vs Hot Sauce vs Tabasco | Spicy or Not?

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented mixture of anchovies, vinegar, molasses, spices and flavorings and it is not spicy. It has a savory taste (umami) and is often used to add flavor to marinades, sauces, gravy and soups. Hot sauce and tabasco are made with hot peppers and are very spicy. They’re usually used as toppings to add heat.

All three of these sauces are used to add flavor to dishes, but they each have different flavors and uses.

Worcestershire sauce is a great all-purpose seasoning, while hot sauce and tabasco are very spicy and should be used sparingly.

In this guide, we’re explaining the differences between these dishes and how it’s best to use each when cooking.

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What’s the difference between Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and tabasco sauce?

There are three main differences between Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and tabasco sauce.

First, Worcestershire sauce is usually mild, not spicy, whereas hot sauce and tabasco sauce are made from hot peppers so they’re very spicy.

Second, Worcestershire sauce is usually used pre-cooking for marinating and during cooking to flavor dishes whereas hot sauce and tabasco sauce are usually used after cooking as condiments to add heat.

Third, Worcestershire sauce is a fermented seasoning with anchovies, vinegar, molasses, spices and flavorings whereas hot sauce and tabasco sauce are made from ground up peppers.

However it’s worth noting some hot sauce is made from fermented peppers.

Hot sauce generally contains chili peppers, vinegar and other spices while tabasco is made with only tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt.

Hot sauce is also a popular condiment used to add heat to dishes like tacos, burritos, and chicken wings.

Tabasco is a great accompaniment for dishes like eggs, lunch meats and pizza.

Tabasco sauce is actually a specific brand of hot sauce so it’s technically hot sauce but since it’s so well known and famous, it’s referred to by its own name.

Tabasco and how it's different from Worcestershire sauce

(view more images)

Worcestershire sauce, on the other hand, is used for marinating meats, stews, flavoring soups, and making sauces. It’s also commonly used in Asian, especially Japanese and Filipino recipes.

So, when it comes down to it, Worcestershire sauce is not spicy like hot sauces and tabasco and is used for marinating and flavoring dishes, while hot sauces and tabasco are both spicy and are used as condiments to enhance the flavor.

Ingredients & flavors

These three sauces are notably different.

Whereas hot sauce and tabasco sauce contain similar ingredients like chili peppers, Worcestershire sauce is quite different.

Ingredients in Worcestershire sauce

  • anchovies
  • vinegar
  • molasses
  • tamarind
  • onions
  • spices

Ingredients in hot sauce

  • chili peppers (various types of hot pepper)
  • vinegar
  • salt
  • condiment

Ingredients in tabasco sauce

  • aged red peppers
  • distilled vinegar
  • salt

Flavor profile

  • Worcestershire sauce: savory, umami, sour, slightly sweet
  • Hot sauce: spicy and slightly sweet
  • Tabasco sauce: spicy, slightly sour and pungent

Worcestershire sauce has a savory umami flavor with hints of sweetness from the molasses.

The taste is best described as a bolder and more intense version of soy sauce or fish sauce.

Worcestershire sauce is known as umami which is a pleasant savory taste and the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

Worcestershire sauce has a mild and much more savory flavor whereas hot and tabasco sauces are spicy with varying degrees of heat.

Tabasco sauce is spicy as well as pungent. It also has a slight tanginess and saltiness to it.

Tabasco sauce is very hot and can overpower dishes if used too liberally.

The sauce registers about 2,500 SHUs on the Scoville scale, which denotes a moderate level of heat. They have a similar level of heat to cayenne peppers.

Hot sauce can vary in spiciness but on average, it is also rated between 2,500-5,000 on the Scoville scale.

It depends on the type of hot peppers used to make the sauce and the combination of spices.

Hot sauce is, as the name implies, very hot and spicy with a hint of sweetness from the vinegar.

Texture and appearance

While tabasco is a sauce, it has a much different consistency compared to the thin runny Worcestershire sauce.

Hot sauce has a thicker texture, similar to ketchup.

Tabasco sauce has an orange-red color, while Worcestershire sauce has a darker brownish-black hue and hot sauces vary in color depending on the peppers used.

Most of them are reddish or orange but some green hot sauces exist too.

Hot sauces generally have a pasty texture, while tabasco sauce has more of a liquid consistency.

In terms of consistency, Worcestershire sauce is runny, hot sauce has a thick texture and tabasco is in between.

Uses

Another difference between Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and tabasco is the way they are used.

Worcestershire sauce is usually used pre-cooking for marinating and during cooking to flavor dishes. It is also an important ingredient in many dipping sauces or glazes.

Hot sauce and tabasco are generally considered condiments, used to add flavor and heat to dishes after cooking.

They can be added to almost any dish, from pizza and tacos to eggs and sandwiches.

Although hot sauces are used in some meat marinades for BBQ, they’re best applied after the meat is cooked.

Worcestershire sauce can be used as the marinade or combined with a hot sauce as a glaze. Also, it can be used as a topping once meat is cooked.

Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce are traditionally used in Bloody Mary cocktails.

Tabasco is also used to spice up popular dishes such as Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail.

All three sauces can be used to kick up your Bloody Mary, add flavor to savory dishes, and give a spicy kick to any recipe.

In the end, each sauce has its own unique flavor and can be used for a variety of dishes.

Nutrition

Worcestershire sauce is relatively low in calories and fat. It contains about 65mg of sodium per 5 gram serving and 0.5 grams of sugar.

Thus it’s a pretty healthy seasoning.

Hot sauce is also low in calories and fat, but it contains more sodium. One tablespoon of hot sauce usually has about 10-20 calories and no fat.

However, it can contain anywhere from 20 to 100 mg of sodium per serving.

Although hot sauce has a low calorie count, it’s important to read labels, as some brands can have added sugar or preservatives.

Tabasco sauce has zero calories and fats and contains 35mg sodium per tsp. It’s a healthy sauce compared to Worcester and hot sauces.

Overall, tabasco sauce is the healthiest option out of these three sauces.

Origin

Worcestershire is a classic British seasoning.

It was created by two chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins in 1837 and has been used since to flavor food, especially beef.

Hot sauce was created in the Americas and the Caribbean islands where it has been used for centuries to add flavor and heat to dishes.

The original hot sauce was made from peppers, vinegar and salt. It’s believed the Aztecs were among the first civilizations to use hot sauce as early as 7000BC.

Tabasco sauce was created by Edmund McIlhenny, a passionate grower and food enthusiast in the 19th century.

He received seeds from Capsicum frutescens peppers that originated in Mexico and Central America.

He planted the seeds, cared for the plants, and made the sauce from peppers he grew on Avery Island in South Louisiana.

Ever wondered how to say “spicy” in Japanese?

What is tabasco sauce?

Tabasco is the name of a company that produces hot sauces, the most famous of which is called Tabasco Sauce.

It is made from chilli peppers and vinegar and is spicy, aromatic and slightly sour. It is used as a condiment for various dishes to give them extra heat and flavour.

Tabasco sauce is actually named after a type of hot pepper called Tabasco or Capsicum frutescens.

The original sauce has a reddish-orange color and a unique flavor that is pungent, with a hint of sweetness.

Tabasco sauce is considered to be one of the hottest sauces in the world, but not the hottest.

The tabasco pepper has a Scoville heat rating between 2,500 to 3,500 Scoville Heat Units which is up to 10 times hotter and spicier than a Jalapeno pepper.

So the sauce is very spicy but not the hottest on the market.

But did you know there are now several types of tabasco sauce besides the original orange one?

The most common ones you’ll find in stores are the green jalapeno tabasco, chipotle tabasco and habanero tabasco.

Each of them has a different heat level to suit your tastes. You can try a variety pack of 7 types of Tabasco sauce from Amazon.

What is hot sauce?

Hot sauce is a condiment made from various types of peppers, vinegar and other ingredients. It adds flavor and spiciness to dishes.

Some of the most common types of peppers used to make hot sauce include: cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, serrano and Tabasco.

The heat level of the sauce varies depending on the type of pepper used and how much it is diluted with other ingredients.

Hot sauce can range from mild to extremely hot.

What is Worcestershire sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is a condiment that has been around for over 150 years.

It was created by two chemists in 1837 in Worcester, England. It has a runny texture and dark brown color, similar to soy sauce.

The main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce are vinegar, molasses, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, tamarind extract and fermented anchovies.

These days there are plenty of vegan versions of Worcestershire sauce available which don’t contain anchovies yet the flavors are still similar.

Worcestershire sauce is often used to add flavor to dishes such as steak, burgers, stir-fry, rice dishes, salads, dips, and cocktails, just to name a few.

Is Worcestershire sauce hot?

No, Worcestershire sauce is not typically spicy or hot. It is a savory and tangy condiment that contains vinegar, molasses, sugar, anchovies, tamarind and various spices.

It is commonly used in the preparation of dishes such as deviled eggs, stir-fry, and Caesar salads.

The reason why Worcestershire is not hot is because it is not made with hot peppers.

Instead, it’s a fermented anchovy, vinegar, and molasses based sauce that is mixed with spices and flavorings but none of the condiments are spicy.

There are some spicy varieties of Worcestershire sauce on the market like the Cajun Power Worcestershire Sauce which contains some hot cajun spices.

But, the original Worcestershire sauce is not hot.

Which is spiciest: Worcestershire, hot sauce, or tabasco sauce?

The spiciest of the three sauces is tabasco, followed by hot sauce and then Worcestershire.

Tabasco has a very hot chili pepper base which gives it its distinctive flavor and spiciness.

Hot sauces vary in heat level depending on the type of peppers they contain so technically, a hot sauce like Mad Dog 357 Plutonium No. 9 is much hotter.

In fact, the Mad Dog hot sauce is the spiciest in the world.

Worcestershire sauce is not hot at all so it is the mildest of the three!

Is Worcestershire sauce as substitute for tabasco sauce?

No, Worcestershire sauce is not a suitable substitute for tabasco sauce. While both sauces are made from vinegar and have a similar flavor profile, tabasco sauce is much spicier.

It’s the umami that makes these sauces similar, but the chili peppers in tabasco give it a much higher level of heat.

Worcestershire sauce is made from fermented anchovies, molasses and spices which gives it a unique flavor but does not make it spicy.

Some home cooks like to use Worcestershire sauce instead of tabasco sauce in recipes when they’re making mild versions of their favorite dishes.

So, if you don’t like hot foods, Worcestershire sauce is a better option than tabasco.

Conclusion

Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and tabasco are all popular sauces used to add flavor to dishes. While they have similarities, there are some key differences between them.

Worcestershire sauce is usually mild and used pre-cooking while hot sauce and tabasco are very spicy and used as a condiment after cooking.

Additionally, Worcestershire sauce is a fermented mixture of anchovies, vinegar, molasses, spices and flavorings while hot sauce is made with chili peppers and vinegar while tabasco is made with only hot pepper, vinegar and salt.

If you like cooking spicy, try this Chuka Tare Recipe (The Japanese Spicy Glaze)

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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.