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Worcestershire sauce is one of those ingredients whose flavor you may not even be able to identify – but you definitely know when it’s missing. It’s savory, kind of tangy, a little sweet, a touch sour and definitely funky. It adds a punch of umami, and a little goes a long way.
So when you find yourself fresh out, you need a replacement, stat. Here are some ways to substitute for Worcestershire sauce.
What is Worcestershire sauce?
First made in England (in the county of Worcester, of course) by Lea & Perrins, Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment that combines garlic, onion, vinegar, anchovies, molasses, tamarind extract and spices. And that’s why it’s so full of flavor.
The sauce is traditionally used in Bloody Marys, cocktail sauce, homemade barbecue sauce, pulled pork and even classic Caesar dressing. It’s highly versatile and can wake up the flavor in all manner of sauces, dressings, marinades, cocktails and dishes.
How to create your own stand-in
Given that Worcestershire sauce is such a complex mix of sweet, sour, tangy, spicy and funky, any substitute you can whip up is going to leave you with a somewhat different flavor. The trick to creating a sauce that’s as close to the original as possible? Mimic the complexity by starting with a base and building on it with other flavor elements.
You can keep it simple with just one or two add-ins (or none), or really go to town with more. It depends on your taste, your patience with the process and how much you want to nerd out on getting close to the original flavor.
You can customize your stand-in Worcestershire sauce with these steps.
Start with a base that also brings umami: Soy sauce, fish sauce, coconut aminos, steak sauce, anchovy paste, miso or dry sherry would all work.
Add an acidic element: A dash of vinegar (such as white, cider, balsamic, red or white wine, or sherry) or citrus juice brings the sharpness and brightness.
Add a sweet element: Honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or mirin will sweeten things up. Start with just a drop and add more if needed.
Add a tangy element: Ketchup, tamarind paste or unsweetened cranberry or pomegranate juice will bring the pucker.
Add some heat: A dash of hot sauce or a pinch of red pepper flakes will infuse spice.
Finally, play with spices: Garlic powder, powdered ginger, allspice, and/or ancho chili powder add the finishing touch.
Once you find the ingredients you like best, you can dial up the umami, sweet, tang or any other element based on where it’s going. And don’t be afraid to make adjustments depending on what you’re cooking. The version you use for cocktails might be sweeter or more acidic than the one you stir into meatballs, for example.
Discover more substitutes and swaps you can turn to if you’re all out of key ingredients: