Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce (/ˈwʊstərʃər/ WUUS-tər-shər), also called Worcester sauce,[1] is a fermented liquid condiment invented in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England, during the first half of the 19th century. The inventors were the pharmacists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, who went on to form the company Lea & Perrins. Worcestershire sauce has been a generic term since 1876, when the English High Court of Justice ruled that Lea & Perrins did not own a trademark for the name Worcestershire.

Worcestershire sauce
Worcestershire sauce in a dish
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Region or stateEurope and North America
Created by
  • John Wheeley Lea
  • William Henry Perrins
Main ingredients

Worcestershire sauce is frequently used to augment recipes such as Welsh rarebit, Caesar salad, Oysters Kirkpatrick, and deviled eggs. As both a background flavour and a source of umami (savoury), it is now also added to dishes that historically did not contain it, such as chili con carne and beef stew. It is also used directly as a condiment on steaks, hamburgers, and other finished dishes, and to flavour cocktails such as the Bloody Mary and Caesar.[2]


A fermented fish sauce called garum was a staple of Greco-Roman cuisine and of the Mediterranean economy of the Roman Empire, as the first-century encyclopaedist Pliny the Elder writes in his Historia Naturalis and the fourth–fifth-century Roman culinary text Apicius includes garum in its recipes. The use of similar fermented anchovy sauces in Europe can be traced back to the 17th century.[3]

The Lea & Perrins brand was commercialised in 1837 and was the first type of sauce to bear the Worcestershire name.[4] The origin of the Lea & Perrins recipe is unclear. The packaging originally stated that the sauce came "from the recipe of a nobleman in the county". The company has also claimed that "Lord Marcus Sandys, ex-Governor of Bengal" encountered it while in India with the East India Company in the 1830s, and commissioned the local pharmacists (the partnership of John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins of 63 Broad Street, Worcester) to recreate it. However, neither Lord Marcus Sandys nor any Baron Sandys was ever a Governor of Bengal, nor had they ever visited India.[5]

According to company tradition, when the recipe was first mixed the resulting product was so strong that it was considered inedible and the barrel was abandoned in the basement. Looking to make space in the storage area a few years later, the chemists decided to try it again, and discovered that the long fermented sauce had mellowed and was now palatable. In 1838, the first bottles of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce were released to the general public.[6][7] Worcestershire sauce has been a generic term since 1876, when the English High Court of Justice ruled that Lea & Perrins did not own a trademark for the name Worcestershire.[6]


The original ingredients in a bottle of Worcestershire sauce were:

Since many Worcestershire sauces include anchovies, it is avoided by those who are allergic to fish,[8] and others who avoid eating fish, such as vegetarians. The Codex Alimentarius recommends that prepared food containing Worcestershire sauce with anchovies include a label warning of fish content, although this is not required in most jurisdictions. The US Department of Agriculture has required the recall of some products with undeclared Worcestershire sauce.[9][10] Several brands sell anchovy-free varieties of Worcestershire sauce, often labelled as vegetarian or vegan.[11] Generally, Orthodox Jews refrain from eating fish and meat in the same dish, so they do not use traditional Worcestershire sauce to season meat.[12] However, certain brands are certified to contain less than 1/60 of the fish product and can be used with meat.[13][14]

Although soy sauce is used in many variations of the Worcestershire sauce since the 1880s, it is debated whether Lea & Perrins has ever used soy in their preparation. According to William Shurtleff's SoyInfo Center, a 1991 letter from factory general manager J. W. Garnett describes the brand switching to hydrolyzed vegetable protein during World War II due to shortages.[6] As of 2021, soy is not declared as an ingredient in the Lea & Perrins sauce.[15]


Lea & Perrins

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce as sold in the U.K. and Canada
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce as sold in the U.S.

The Lea & Perrins brand was commercialised in 1837 and continues to be the leading global brand of Worcestershire sauce.[4]

On 16 October 1897, Lea & Perrins relocated manufacturing of the sauce from their pharmacy in Broad Street to a factory in the city of Worcester on Midland Road, where it is still made. The factory produces ready-mixed bottles for domestic distribution and a concentrate for bottling abroad.[16]

In 1930, the Lea & Perrins operation was purchased by HP Foods, which was in turn acquired by the Imperial Tobacco Company in 1967. HP was sold to Danone in 1988 and then to Heinz in 2005.

U.S. version of Lea and Perrins

The U.S. version is packaged differently from the British version, coming in a dark bottle with a beige label and wrapped in paper. Lea & Perrins USA claims this practice is a vestige of shipping practices from the 19th century, when the product was imported from England, as a measure of protection for the bottles.[17] The producer also claims that its Worcestershire sauce is the oldest commercially bottled condiment in the U.S.[18] The ingredients in the US version of Lea And Perrins also differ somewhat the US version uses distilled white vinegar as opposed to the malt vinegar used by the UK and Canadian versions. [19]

Brazil and Portugal

In Brazil and Portugal it is known as molho inglês ('English sauce').

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, a local variation of the sauce is Salsa Lizano, created in 1920 and a staple condiment at homes and restaurants.


In Denmark, Worcestershire sauce is commonly known as Engelsk sauce, meaning 'English sauce'.[20]

El Salvador

Worcestershire sauce, known as salsa inglesa ('English sauce') or salsa Perrins ('Perrins sauce'), is very popular in El Salvador. Many restaurants provide a bottle on each table, and the per capita annual consumption is 2.5 ounces (71 g), the highest in the world as of 1996.[21]


A sweeter, less salty version of the sauce called Worcestersauce Dresdener Art was developed in the beginning of the 20th century in Dresden, Germany, where it is still being produced. It contains lower amounts of anchovies. It is mostly consumed in the eastern part of the country.[22]


In Mexico it is known as salsa inglesa (English sauce).

United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand

Holbrook's[23] Worcestershire was produced in Birmingham, England, from 1875 but only the Australian subsidiary survives.[24]

United States

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce is sold in the United States by Kraft Heinz following the Kraft & Heinz merger in 2015.

Other leading Worcestershire sauce brands in the United States include French's, which was introduced in 1941.[25]


It is commonly named salsa inglesa ('English sauce') and is part of many traditional dishes such as Hallacas (a traditional Christmas dish) and Asado Negro (in some of its versions).[26]

Non-fish variations

Some "Worcestershire sauces" are inspired by the original source but have deviated significantly from the original taste profile, most notably by the exclusion of fish.


Thai Gy-Nguang brand Formula 2 Worcestershire sauce (2010)

Gy-Nguang (Thai: ไก่งวง) Worcestershire sauce has been produced since 1917.[27] It relies on soy sauce instead of anchovies for the umami flavour. The company makes two versions: Formula 1 for Asian taste, and Formula 2 for international taste. The two differ only in that Formula 2 contains slightly less soy sauce and slightly more spices.[28]


In Japan, Worcestershire sauce is labelled Worcester (rather than Worcestershire), rendered as ウスターソース (Usutā sōsu). Many sauces are more of a vegetarian variety, with the base being water, syrup, vinegar, puree of apple and tomato puree, and the flavour less spicy and sweeter.[29] Japanese Agricultural Standard defines Worcester-type sauces by viscosity, with Worcester sauce proper having a viscosity of less than 0.2 Poiseuille, 0.2–2.0 Poiseuille sauces categorized as Chūnō sōsu (中濃ソース), commonly used in Kantō region and northwards, and sauces over 2.0 Poiseuille categorized as Nōkō sōsu (濃厚ソース); they are manufactured under brand names such as Otafuku and Bulldog, but these are brown sauces more similar to HP Sauce rather than Worcestershire sauce.

Tonkatsu sauce is a thicker Worcester-style sauce associated with the dish tonkatsu. It is a vegetarian sauce made from vegetables and fruits.[30][31]

China, Hong Kong, Taiwan

A bottle of Shanghainese "spicy soy sauce", Taikang Yellow brand

Worcestershire sauce has a history of multiple introduction in Chinese-speaking areas. These sauces, each differently named, have diverged both from the original and from each other:

Spicy soy sauce (Chinese: 辣酱油; pinyin: là jiàngyóu), Shanghai
Worcestershire sauce was first produced under this name in 1933 by Mailing Aquarius, then an English-owned company. With Mailing moving to Hong Kong in 1946, the Shanghai branch was nationalised in 1954. Sauce production was transferred to Taikang in 1960. The sauce was reformulated in 1981 under a "nine flavors in one" formula, and again changed in 1990 into two "Taikang Yellow" and "Taikang Blue" varieties.[32][33] As of 2020, only the yellow variety remains available.
The Taikang Yellow sauce contains no fish. It is highly aromatic yet basically devoid of umami flavor. It is used in Haipai cuisine, especially on pork chops and Shanghainese borscht.[34]
A descendant of an earlier form of the sauce is found in Taiwan as "Mailing spicy soy sauce", originally produced by the HK branch of Mailing. It is found in steakhouses.
Gip-sauce (Chinese: 喼汁; pinyin: jízhī; Jyutping: gip1zap1), Hong Kong
This variety is of uncertain etymology: it may have come from catsup or the verb give.[35] Save for the Lee & Perrins original sold as a gip-sauce, most varieties of this type have a stronger umami flavor with the addition of soy sauce, fish sauce, and/or MSG; some commercial varieties forgo fish altogether. This sauce is commonly used in dim sum dishes such as steamed meatball and spring rolls.[36]
Spicy vinegar (辣香酢), Taiwan
This variety is descended from the Japanese Worcester Sauce via the Kongyen company, originally founded by Japanese businesspeople. It is also known under the name Taiwan Black Vinegar due to confusion post-WW2.

See also


  1. "Worcester, n.", OED Online, Oxford University Press, retrieved 30 March 2022
  2. "It's 2009, the 40th Anniversary of 'Canada's Drink': The Caesar". That's the Spirit. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013.
  3. "Fish Sauce: An Ancient Roman Condiment Rises Again". NPR.org.
  4. "Heinz Acquires Leading Sauce Brands, Including Lea & Perrins(R), From Groupe Danone for US$820 Million; Transaction Accelerates Growth in Global Condiments and Sauces". Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  5. Pezarkar, Leora (12 June 2017). "Worcestershire A Sauce from India?". Live History India. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  6. Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2012). History of Worcestershire Sauce (1837–2012) (PDF). Soyinfo Center. ISBN 9781928914433.
  7. Keogh, Brian (1997) The Secret Sauce: a History of Lea & Perrins ISBN 978-0-9532169-1-8
  8. Steinman, HA (August 1996). "'Hidden' allergens in foods". Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 98 (2): 241–250. doi:10.1016/s0091-6749(96)70146-x. PMID 8757199. Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  9. "Alabama Firm Recalls Beef Jerky Products Due to Misbranding and Undeclared Allergen" (Press release). USDA. 12 June 2013.
  10. Taylor, SL; Kabourek, JL; Hefle, SL (October 2004). "Fish Allergy: Fish and Products Thereof" (PDF). Journal of Food Science. Institute of Food Technologists. 69 (8): R175–R180. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2004.tb18022.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  11. Simpson, Alicia C. (2009). Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food: Over 150 Great-Tasting, Down-Home Recipes and 65 Everyday Meal Ideas—for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. The Experiment. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-61519-109-3.
  12. "Ask the Expert: Meat and Fish—My Jewish Learning".
  13. Cohen, Dovid. "Fish and Meat". Chicago Rabbinical Council. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  14. "Kosher certification". Star-K. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  15. "Our Sauce – Lea & Perrins UK". www.leaandperrins.co.uk.
  16. "Spicy delight as our world-famous sauce is bottled in city again". Worcester News. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  17. About, Lea & Perrins
  18. History, Lea & Perrins
  19. https://www.thespruceeats.com/worcestershire-sauce-history-1807686
  20. "engelsk sauce". Saucer, krydderier og garniture (in Danish). Den store danske.
  21. "Salvadorans Relish a Bottle of Worcestershire Sauce". The Wall Street Journal. 22 July 1996.
  22. "Strehlener erfand Dresdner Worcester-Sauce". www.saechsische.de (in German). Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  23. Shurtleff & Aoyagi 2012, p. 57.
  24. "Let's Look Again". Let's Look Again. 12 October 2015.
  25. https://www.foodchamps.org/best-worchestershire-sauce/
  26. Angélica (28 December 2017). "Asado negro al estilo venezolano". Bizcochos y Sancochos (in Spanish).
  27. "GY-NGUANG Worcester Sauce". www.gy-nguang.com. Tinnakorn Worcester Sauce.
  28. "GY-NGUANG Worcester Sauce ingredient". www.gy-nguang.com. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  29. 彩流社『ニッポン定番メニュー事始め』澁川祐子 198頁
  30. "About Tonkatsu". Bull-Dog Sauce Company. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  31. "Western Roots, Japanese Taste: Tonkatsu". Food Forum. Kikkoman. Archived from the original on 4 April 2011.
  32. 上海轻工业志-第一编行业-第二章食品-第二节主要产品- 七.其他食品- 2.辣酱油 [Shanghai Chronical of Light Industries, Worcestershire sauce]. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  33. 上海粮食志 -第七篇粮油工业-第六章产品开发-第一节粮油食品开发-辣酱油 [Shanghai Chronical of Food, 7.6.1.x. Worcestershire sauce]. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  34. 舌尖上的海派西餐 [Haipai western cuisine on tongue-tip]. 上海热线. 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 27 February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 上海人的炸猪排裹了厚厚的金黄色面包粉,外脆里嫩,完全不似现在的炸品那么油腻张扬,很多人吃之前上面略微浇一点口感带微酸的辣酱油,这也是上海人独有的吃西餐的诀窍。 [The Shanghainese pork chop is heavily breaded in golden-yellow powder, crispy outside while tender on the inside, completely unlike the flagrantly oily fried food of today. Many people add a splash of slightly sour "spicy soy sauce" before eating, a western dining trick specific to the Shanghainese.]
  35. "英式喼汁﹝Worcestershire Sauce﹞". 太陽報 (in Chinese). 此汁於二十世紀傳至中國廣東,並把英國人俗稱為Catsup的Worcestershire Sauce,直譯成喼汁,自此喼汁成為廣東人對Worcestershire Sauce的專用名詞。 [This sauce is brought to Canton in the 20th century. The colloquial name "catsup" was directly [phonetically] translated into "gip-sauce", the Cantonese proper noun for Worcestershire Sauce ever since.]
  36. "飲食中的東成西就" [Achievements east and west, in food]. 長訊月刊. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. 於是,這英國產物真正融入我們的飲食,無論你吃春卷、山竹牛肉,總有支喼汁在旁,或許我們接觸到最西化的 喼汁用法,就是把它加入雞尾酒 Bloody Mary。 [So this English product truly blended into our [Hongkongese] diet, with a bottle of gip-sauce next to us whenever we eat spring rools and steamed meatballs. Probably the most westernized way to use this sauce we see in everyday life is the Bloody Mary cooktail.]
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