Worcestershire sauce is a type of fermented sauce that was prepared in the first half of the 19th century in the city of Worcestershire. The creators were the pharmacists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, who went on to form the company Lea & Perrins–the most common brand on the market today.
If you’ve never tried it, you’re probably wondering what Worcestershire sauce tastes like. After all, can a fermented sauce taste good?
Well, it’s often used for it’s umami flavor, which adds a richness to food, and it’s quite popular. It’s made from vinegar, molasses, red pepper, tamarind, anchovies, and various spices, and has a powerful, complex flavor palette.
Is Worcestershire sauce healthy?
Because it’s often used in such small amounts, Worcestershire sauce has very little negative impact on your health. It does contain some sugar, but a single teaspoon is only 5 calories, so it’s not going to have any significant impact on your waistline.
Where does Worcestershire sauce come from?
The origin of their recipe is unclear, but the company claims that the recipe was prepared by the ex-Governor of Bengal in 1830, and recreated by Lea and Perrins in the town of Worcestershire.
The first recipe for Worcestershire sauce was developed in 1837, but the resulting product was so strong that it was inedible, and was stored in the basement. When Lea and Perrins revisited their original supply, they found that the fermentation process mellowed out the flavors, resulting in a delicious, versatile sauce.
The first bottle of Worcestershire sauce was released to the public in the year 1883, and it remains a staple in kitchens to this day.
What is Worcestershire sauce used for?
Because it has a potent flavor, Worcestershire sauce is often used sparingly as a flavor enhancer, rather than a staple ingredient. It’s most popular uses are in Caesar salads, deviled eggs, oysters, and when cooking various types of red meat.
It’s commonly used to add some richness to cocktails as well, and is a staple ingredient in the Bloody Mary.
Fermentation – The secret behind Worchestire Sauce
Fermented sauces like fermented anchovy and garum are produced for a long time. Their production started due to the problem in the supply of secret sauce the soy sauce after the second world war. This problem resulted in the replacement of soy sauce with hydrolysed vegetable proteins. Other major ingredients in these fermented sauces were anchovies (or essence) and vinegar (Shephard, 2006).
During the era of Roman empires, garum was known to be the staple food of Greece and Roman cosines. O Pliny the Elder, the famous encyclopedist of first-century wrote about it in his book Historia Naturalis and roman culinary text. Apicius included Gurum in their recipes during the 14th century. In Europe, the fermented anchovy sauces were prepared in the 17th century.
What are the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce?
The main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce are vinegar, sugar, molasses, salt, anchovies, onion, spices, garlic, tamarind extract, and other various flavors depending on the brand.
100 g of Worcestershire contains almost 78 calories, 980 mg sodium (40%), 800 mg potassium (22%), 10% sugar, 1% vitamin A, 21% calcium, 29% iron, 1% vitamin C and 3% magnesium (USDA).
While Lea and Perrins are the most popular manufacturer, companies around the world have put their own spin on this classic, with slight variations and changes.
Interestingly, it even has different names in other countries. In Portugal and Brazil, it’s called “molho ingles,” in China it’s simply known as “spicy soy sauce,” and in Denmark, it’s called “Engelsk.”
In the United States, it’s almost always called Worcestershire sauce, but different brands may have varying flavors, due to using different ingredients and spices. Just like ketchup, BBQ sauce, or any other condiment, the foundations remain the same, but companies put their own unique spin on the recipe.
Modern Diet Flexibility – Gluten Free, Keto-friendly, or Vegan?
While most people are able to enjoy Worcestershire sauce, if you have any particular dietary restrictions, you may need to skip this condiment, or make a homemade bottle tailored to your needs.
Most brands are considered to be gluten-free, especially in the United States, but other countries may include barley malt or wheat. If you have Celiac’s, or need to avoid gluten for any other reason, always double-check the label on your specific product.
Nearly every brand uses anchovies in its recipe, so if you follow a vegan diet, you’ll need to find a special vegan option. Luckily, many companies these days are producing vegan Worcestershire sauce, you’ll just need to check the ingredient label for the brand you want to use.
While Worcestershire does contain sugar and carbohydrates, you’re getting less than 1 gram per 5mL. So, unless you’re using a significant amount–which most people aren’t, this is perfectly fine to include if you’re following a Keto diet. Relatively speaking, it would take takes 25-50 grams of sugar to shift someone out of ketosis.
Potential Health Benefits of Worcestershire sauce
Now that we’ve talked about a few reasons you may want to avoid Worcestershire sauce, let’s look at some of the benefits.
Keep in mind, you likely won’t experience too many benefits as this sauce is often used in very small amounts, but the ingredients are somewhat healthy nonetheless.
Worcestershire sauce contains vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that supports a healthy immune system. The anchovies may provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and finally, the onions contain thiamine, which may calm nerves and anxiety.
Potential Health Risks of Worcestershire sauce
Some studies report potential negative effects on health. (Murphy, 1971) conducted a study on three patients with having a history of excessive and continuous intake of Worcestershire sauce.
One of them with the highest intake was diagnosed with renal failure. The other patient having similar kind of symptoms with intermediate intake was asked to cease the intake of sauce and all the symptoms vanished after some days and the patient was fully recovered.
Moreover, two other patients with high intake of Worcestershire sauce were diagnosed with abnormal oral ammonium chloride test. Another patient was diagnosed with a bilateral and recurrent kidney stone. His aminoaciduria was also non-specific.
However, more information and analysis is needed for conclusive evidence. Not only was the study in 1971 done with only three people, it’s important to note that a high dosage of ANY food or product can be potentially hazardous, if not lethal. The high intake related to renal failure may be due to the high sodium content. It is also unknown what the study considers a “high intake”. Is this 10oz, or 100oz?
It may be the high sodium content is the culprit of all of the negative effects and not the Worcestershire sauce alone. Either way, it would be a good idea to refrain from excess consumption.
Worcestershire Sauce in Review
If you’re looking to improve your nutrition, Worcestershire sauce is a fantastic option. It adds a wonderful flavor, you only need to use a small amount, and it’s very low in calories. Unless you have a specific medical issue with one of the ingredients, this is a fantastic option to keep around and spice up your cooking!