Sunday 1 July 2007

The Worcestershire Sauce Puzzle

I haven’t had Worcestershire sauce since I went vegetarian. I don’t remember being a huge fan before that, but soon after I heard it had anchovies in it and therefore was not vegetarian fare. Quite possibly I had eaten it inadvertently but I couldn’t tell you how it tastes.

But I wrote down a recipe in the first flush of vegetarianism and was determined to make it. The years passed and I got used to substituting soy sauce for Worcestershire sauce. I often passed the recipe while browsing in my notebook but it seemed less urgent. Then one day recently I realised I had most of the ingredients in my pantry and it no longer seemed so overwhelming. In fact it looked downright simple.

I made it last Wednesday and followed the recipe fairly closely. I put all the ingredients in a small saucepan (pictured) and simmered for an hour. Seemed easy. I turned on the oven timer and busied myself with other things while it simmered. At the end of the hour, the sauce barely covered the bottom of the saucepan (pictured). So once I had strained it (through a tea strainer which was too small) I maybe had 30ml (pictured). The recipe said I should have 250ml. My mum said I must have boiled it too fast when I asked her. It tasted pretty strong so I added enough water to make up 150ml.

When I was at mum’s place yesterday I checked her bottle of Worcestershire sauce – for one horrible moment it occurred to me that maybe in the last 15 years they had stopped putting anchovies in it. Nope! But maybe there are vegetarian alternatives on the market I could buy and save myself the trouble?

Thinking about the anchovies, I began to wonder why there was no salt or soy sauce or stock in the recipe I had followed. Now I don’t know where I got my recipe but today I got a book out of the library called The Ethnic Vegetarian: traditional and modern recipes from Africa, America and the Caribbean by Angela Shelf Medearis. This book had a recipe for vegetarian Worcestershire sauce – the only other one I can recall ever seeing. Her recipe is a little more complex – onion, mustard seeds, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves, chilli, cardamom, white vinegar, molasses, soy sauce, tamarind pulp, salt and curry powder. Maybe I will try this one next time.

My next challenge is that I still am not sure if it tastes right – I think so – but having not tasted it for years, the closest I have is sniffing mum’s bottle yesterday. I just couldn’t bring myself to taste it – it seemed to defeat the purpose of the exercise. But I am excited about trying it out so stay tuned!

Vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

500ml brown vinegar
1 small green apple, cored, peeled and finely diced
1 tsp cayenne pepper (I used chilli paste)
¼ tsp ground cloves (I used whole cloves)
¼ allspice
½ ground ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed (I cut mine in eighths)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp treacle (I used molasses)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat til all ingredients are mixed. Cover and simmer approximately one hour (keep an eye on it and simmer for less time if needed). Rub through a strainer. Some of the sediment needs to come through into the sauce as Worcestershire sauce traditionally has some sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Makes approximately 500ml (according to the recipe). Can be stored in a screwtop bottle for several weeks.

On the stereo:
Carnival in Babylon: Amon Düül II


  1. I would never have thought to make it myself! Michael has long been a fan of Worcestershire sauce, and luckily for him I found an organic vegetarian version at Allergy Block in Carlton. It's Melrose brand.

  2. Brilliant idea.

    Have you ever seen Japanese Umeboshi plum vinegar? It's also called Ume Su and is a bright but deep pink colour. It's taste is salty and a little bit fermented (God, I'm selling it well, aren't I...) and I reckon it closely replicates the flavour of both fish sauce (Nam Pla) and Worchestershire.

    This recipe looks great though! Look forward to earing about your success.

  3. thanks Cindy - will look out for the worcestershire sauce at Allergy Block.

    thanks for the suggestion Lucy - I always use soy sauce for fish sauce as well as Worcestershire so will keep an eye out for umeboshi vinegar - I think I have seen it about.

  4. Hi there, I just happened upon your blog while searching Worcestershire Sauce. My father and I are about to embark on a batch for the school fair. His recipe is totally vegetarian - malt vinegar, lots of cayenne pepper, allspice, cloves, whole oranges and apples (pips and all) and I suspect a few other secret ingredients. Boiled for 2-3 hours and then pulverised (no straining!). He tells me it improves with age so best make a big batch in a well ventilated kitchen and keep most for at least 6 months. If you're interested in the recipe, I might be able to acquire for you. Cheers and greetings from New Zealand!

  5. thanks Anonymus - I have a new-found love of Worcestershire sauce in cooking - so much more taste than soy sauce! I have another recipe (as mentioned in the post) that actually has a lot more ingredients but even this simple sauce is very tasty - but I confess I have found a vegetarian one in a health food shop since this post which I will try soon as I have almost finished my home made one - if you have the recipe to stick in the comments I would be interested to see it but if your dad wants to hold onto his secrets that is ok! Oh and I like his sense of it getting better with age - mine seems to have lasted well so that is good to know it doesn't have to be used within weeks!

  6. I found this post while I was searching for a Worcestershire sauce recipe (not because I am vegetarian/vegan, but because I don't trust all the additives and msg that are in many store bought sauces). I found one that sounds MUCH simpler than you discussed in your post. It is from I'll copy the recipe here incase someday the link doesn't work.

    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons water
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon pepper
    Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 minute. Cool.
    Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 3/4 cup.

    I hope that can be of some help to you or your readers.

  7. Here's another recipe that I found online and thought I'd share:


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