Food & Recipes

The Sort Of Gross Way Worcestershire Sauce Is Made

Did you know it's not vegetarian?

When you think of Worcestershire sauce, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s probably, “How do you pronounce that?” (more on this later) or “How do you spell that?”

But the real question on your mind should be, “How the heck is that stuff made?” Well, your burning question has been answered: The Science Channel show aptly called “How It’s Made” recently did an episode on this difficult-to-pronounce sauce—and the results were not super appetizing.

First of all, this sauce is fermented, just like sauerkraut or kombucha. So that tidbit alone may surprise you. Second, the original Lea & Perrins recipe for this classic English table sauce included everything from walnut and mushroom ketchups to sherry and brandy to even pork liver, according to Adrian Bailey and Philip Dowell, the authors of “Cooks’ Ingredients.” 

worcestershire sauce photo
Flickr | rjw1

Don’t worry though—none of those ingredients is still in the American formula, which is commonly used in Bloody Mary cocktails, on cuts of meats such as prime rib and steak, and in shrimp cocktail sauce.

bloody mary photo
Flickr | TooFarNorth

The process starts with onions and garlic that get pickled in barrels of malt vinegar (for one to two entire YEARS!), turning a strange red that is reminiscent of the color of raw liver. There are also massive barrels of salt-packed anchovies (these only get cured for a few months), so this sauce is definitely not approved for vegetarians and vegans, which was news to me.

anchovies photo
Flickr | Verity Cridland

The sauce also contains salt, sugar, white vinegar, more malt vinegar, molasses, tamarind paste (a tangy fruit that is used in many types of international cuisine) and a “top secret” blend of other spices and herbs, according to How It’s Made.

All of the ingredients get poured into a massive mixing vat, and I will never unsee that revolting cat food-esque barrel of salted anchovies being upturned into the rest of the sauce. Lea & Perrins closely guards the mixing time and proportions of the recipe, so it’s going to be hard to make this at home… if you even wanted to.

steak sauce photo
Flickr | joshmadison

Then the Worcestershire sauce ages for several months in “maturation tanks” which helps the sauce develop its traditional, tangy flavor. Ultimately, it gets bottled and taken to stores, where people like you and me buy it to dump on steak and add to cocktail sauce. Although… are you still sure you want to buy a bottle?

Watch the video below to see the process in action:

And because I know many of you are still wondering, the correct pronunciation of this special sauce is “wuss-che-sure.” That’s it. Fourteen letters for just a three-syllable word. Hear it in the video below:

And if you are a vegan or vegetarian Worcestershire fan, Martha Stewart has you covered with this vegan Worcestershire recipe that includes apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar and mustard. It can be made and kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three months. Score!