What Is Worcestershire Sauce (Besides Something You Hate Saying in Public)?

Ah, Worcestershire sauce. The least pronounceable of all the condiments. Thanks, England. 

No, I’m not being sarcastic. Thank you, England, for this tangy, umami-rich brown sauce. But no thanks for those impossible-to-pronounce words with lots of extra Cs and Es. My junior high band teacher once told us a story about how he had been told verbally that his gig was in “Wooster” Massachusetts but he couldn’t figure out where he was going because all the highway signs said “Worcester,” so he ended up missing the show. Not saying the spelling of Worcestershire sauce is ruining people’s livelihoods but…I’m also not not saying that. But what is Worcestershire sauce exactly? And how is it actually pronounced? 

How is Worcestershire sauce actually pronounced?

Woo-stuh-sher (“woo” as in “wood” not “woo” as in “woohoo”). You’re welcome, now you have a fun party trick–pronouncing Worcestershire correctly.

Okay, now that I can pronounce it, what is Worcestershire sauce? 

In short, it’s a tangy, vinegary steak sauce. In long, it’s a sauce first developed in 1835 by two chemist dudes in Worcester, England. The two dudes in question? Lea & Perrins. Now at first, those names meant nothing to me. Then I went to Google Worcestershire sauce and realized I totally have seen those names before and you probably have too, seeing as it’s literally one of the most prolific if not the most prolific Worcestershire sauce brand in the world. That being said, what is Worcestershire sauce, as in, what’s in the stuff? That’s where a bit of context is helpful. Apparently, Lea and Perrins (drugstore owners) were ordered to recreate a sauce for an English colonizer guy who had just gotten back from India and was missing his favorite sauce from there. Because the sauce’s contents gave it a very strong smell, the two chemists stored it in the cellar. Since some of the sauce was forgotten down there for quite some time, it apparently aged amazingly, creating a beautifully complex, fermented umami bomb not dissimilar to fish sauce, soy sauce, or garum. “Yeah yeah history blah blah, what’s actually in it Jessica, give us the juicy deetcetershire!” (that’s deets-tuh-sher, if you’re keeping track). Turns out the ingredient list is actually super fascinating. According to Bon Appetit, it’s made of vinegar, fermented onions, fermented garlic, molasses, tamarind paste, salt, sugar, and cured anchovies. The L&P version has some of those things as well as other additions like cloves and chili pepper extract.

Y’all, I was so surprised to learn that Worcestershire has TAMARIND in it! That’s insanely cool. Anyhoo, if you are in the mood for a new tangy, sweet, salty, umami, sauce with a deep flavor to try on your steak, in your braises, or just literally everywhere, consider giving Worcestershire a Worcestershot!

In writing this I’ve been inspired to head up to Worcester or Gloucestershire and eat some Red Leicester cheese with some Worcestershire just to see if the world implodes from over-exposure to “cester” being pronounced as “ster.”Thanks, England. (Okay, that one was sarcastic.)


About the Author

Jessica Block

Jessica Block is a freelance contributor to Sporked, a comedian, a baker, a food writer, and a firm believer that Trader Joe's may just be the happiest place on earth. She loves spicy snacks, Oreos, baking bread, teeny tiny avocados, and trying new foods whenever she can. Also, if you give her a bag of Takis she will be your best friend.

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