Worcestershire Sauce vs Oyster Sauce | Different Flavor & Consistency
There’s no shortage of brown sauces you can add to your recipes. However, not all sauces are created equal.
When it comes to saucy condiments, both Worcestershire and oyster sauces are popular options used in many cuisines.
Worcestershire sauce is a classic English condiment made from anchovies, malt vinegar, sugar, salt, tamarind extract, spices and other flavorings. It has a pungent and tangy flavor with a hint of sweetness.
Oyster sauce is a popular Chinese condiment made from oysters, soy sauce, sugar and salt. It has a rich flavor with a hint of sweetness and umami.
The main difference is that Worcestershire sauce is made with vinegar and fermented anchovies and oyster sauce is made from fermented oyster extract and has a thicker consistency.
In this article, I’m explaining the differences between these two popular sauces. They’re both used in many Asian recipes but they have a different flavors and textures.
In this post we'll cover:
What’s the difference between Worcestershire sauce and oyster sauce?
The main difference between the two sauces is that Worcestershire sauce is made with vinegar and fermented anchovies, while oyster sauce is made from fermented oysters and has a thicker consistency.
Although both sauces are brown colored, Worcestershire sauce has a tangier salty flavor with a hint of sweetness, while oyster sauce has a richer flavor and is sweeter.
Both sauces can be used as marinades for meats or fish, added to soups or stews for added flavor, used as a dip for veggies or added to stir-fries.
While both oyster sauce and Worcestershire use seafood in their preparation, the types of seafood used are distinct.
The liquid left over after poaching oysters is used to make oyster sauce, which is then reduced to almost nothing.
In contrast, fish is used in the preparation of Worcestershire sauce. The fish, typically anchovies, add an umami note similar to that provided by oysters in oyster sauce.
The consistency of oyster sauce and that of Worcestershire sauce are different. Oyster sauce is thicker.
Reduced to a thick consistency, homemade Worcestershire sauce still lacks the body of store-bought varieties that may contain cornstarch or other thickening agents.
Bottled oyster sauce is quite thick and sticky whereas bottled Worcestershire sauce is runny.
To put it another way, Worcestershire sauce is extremely thin whereas oyster sauce is viscous.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients in the two sauces for comparison:
Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies, malt vinegar, sugar, salt, tamarind extract and other flavorings.
It has a pungent and tangy flavor with a hint of sweetness. The texture and consistency is thin and watery.
Oyster sauce is made from oysters, soy sauce, sugar and salt. It has a rich flavor with a hint of sweetness and umami. The sauce is thicker and has a sticky consistency.
Soy sauce is often used to enhance the flavor and color of homemade oyster sauce by mixing it with the reduced oyster liquid. The addition of sugar and salt is possible.
All of these components are present in commercial oyster sauce, but the addition of thickeners gives it a more ketchup-like consistency.
It’s important to note that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is frequently added to commercial oyster sauce to boost the sauce’s umami flavor.
Worcestershire sauce doesn’t normally contain MSG as it has that savory umami taste from fermented fish.
In terms of health benefits, Worcestershire sauce is relatively low in calories and sodium, making it a healthier condiment compared to oyster sauce which has a high sodium content.
It’s important to note that oyster sauce can sometimes contain MSG, so it’s important to check labels if you’re concerned about MSG consumption.
MSG is believed to cause headaches, migraines and other health problems in some people.
Worcestershire sauce is lower in calories and fat, so it can be used if you’re watching your waistline. It’s also a great way to enhance the flavor of recipes without adding high-calorie ingredients.
Oyster sauce is also pretty low in calories and fats, but it does contain more sodium than Worcestershire sauce, so if you’re watching your salt intake then you may want to opt for Worcestershire sauce instead.
Ultimately, both Worcestershire and oyster sauces can be used in the same way but they have very different flavor profiles and health benefits.
Comparatively, Worcestershire sauce has more iron, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, copper, and phosphorus, while Oyster sauce has more vitamin B12 and selenium.
It is important to consider the taste and nutritional value of both sauces when deciding which one would be a better choice for your dish.
All in all, each sauce can provide an interesting flavor profile to dishes, but understanding the differences between them will help you choose the right condiment for your culinary needs.
Worcestershire sauce was invented in England in 1837 by chemists Lea & Perrins, while oyster sauce originated in China in 1888 by Mr. Lee Kum Sheung.
Oyster sauce was invented accidentally when Lee Kum Sheung was trying to recreate a similar sauce made from oysters he had seen in Guangdong, China.
He added the wrong ingredients and ended up creating a sauce with a unique flavor.
Worcestershire sauce was created using a blend of different ingredients from various parts of the world including India, Southeast Asia and South America.
The ingredients were blended together to create the tangy sauce we know today.
Worcestershire sauce or oyster sauce: which to use?
While both sauces are used in similar ways, they have very different flavor profiles that make them suitable for different dishes.
Worcestershire sauce is great for adding a salty and tangy flavor to savory dishes, while oyster sauce is better suited for adding a rich savory umami flavor and sweetness to dishes.
However, the flavor profiles of each sauce are different and should be used differently depending on the dish.
Oyster sauce is a common ingredient in Asian stir-fries and is also great for use in dipping sauces for fried foods and vegetables.
You can use it to bulk up a stew or make a gravy in Western style foods.
Worcestershire sauce can be used as a flavoring ingredient in stews as well, but it won’t help thicken the dish.
Grilled or roasted meats go well with a Worcestershire sauce marinade.
You can also add Worcestershire sauce to homemade BBQ sauce, sushi dipping sauce and okonomiyaki sauce.
The most common uses for oyster sauce are: to enhance the flavor of stir-fries, braised dishes, soups and seafood dishes.
In fact, if you’re making rice or noodle stir-fry, oyster sauce should be used because it gives the dish a more rich and informative flavor compared to other sauces.
Chicken, beef, vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, and even rice and noodles can all benefit from the savory flavor of oyster sauce.
In Japan, it’s also used to make a form of radish cake for which it as an essential ingredient.
You can also use oyster sauce as a base for your own homemade teriyaki sauce or hoisin sauce.
On the other hand, Worcestershire sauce is often used to add flavor to marinades, dressings and sauces.
It can also be used as a dipping sauce for appetizers, such as fried shrimp.
It is even used in cocktails, particularly Bloody Marys.
The tangy and slightly spicy flavor of Worcestershire sauce is a great way to enhance the flavor of your dishes like rice and noodles bowls, ramen, and of course all meat types.
Can you substitute oyster sauce for Worcestershire sauce?
When compared to Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce on its own falls short. That’s especially true if you’re a fan of the savory salty taste.
Worcestershire sauce’s umami kick can’t really be replaced with oyster sauce since the sauce’s signature tangy complexity will be lost in the process.
If you want something tangier than regular oyster sauce, try mixing in some lemon juice or wine vinegar. That way you can use oyster sauce as a meat tenderizer and marinade.
If you want to replace oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce is not the best substitute. It doesn’t have the same caramel and briny salty taste that oyster sauce does.
Oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce serve a similar purpose in Western cooking.
Both can be used to enhance the savory flavor of braised, grilled, or roasted meats. However, they’re both quite different so they’re not interchangeable.
Here’s another flavor maker: learn about all the things you can do with fish sauce
The bottom line is that Worcestershire sauce and oyster sauce both offer unique and delicious flavor profiles, but they should be used differently depending on the dish.
Oyster sauce originates in Asia whereas Worcestershire sauce was created in England.
Understanding the differences between them will help you decide which condiment to use for your recipe.
Worcestershire sauce is made with fermented anchovies, vinegar, molasses as the main ingredients whereas oyster sauce is made with oysters, soy sauce, sugar and salt.
Worcestershire sauce has a pungent, umami, and tangy flavor whereas oyster sauce has a rich and sweet flavor.
No matter what type of cuisine you are making, both Worcestershire sauce and oyster sauce can add a unique flavor that will make your dishes stand out.
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.