I fully understand that there is no absolutes in names, but would you expect anything sold today as Worcester sauce to contain at least the key original ingredients?

I figure them to be:

  • Malt vinegar
  • Anchovies (or similar fish)
  • Tamarind

I accidentally brought a bulk new supply of Worcester sauce only to discover it only contained

  • Apple juice
  • Food acid
  • Flavouring

And sugar, salt, spices etc. as well

I am sending this lot back of course :-(

Note: In some countries the generic sauce is called Worcestershire, but this is really the L&P name

Edit: I can read Wikipedia, and know the previous and current ingredients, I am looking for the key ingredients that defines this sauce

  • @ElendilTheTall Thanks for the obvious title edit...doh :-)
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 11:56
  • 1
    I just show up and let the Lord work through me... ;) Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 13:04
  • 4
    While I'm not thrilled with the Wikipedia copypasta answers, I think they may be the only plausible answers; Worcestershire sauce isn't a generic term, it's a specific product invented by Lea and Perrins and it sounds like you managed to buy some cheap knock-off that's just made to taste like Worcestershire sauce using some artificial "flavouring". Worcestershire sauce is, I guess, anything that manages to taste enough like Lea & Perrins Sauce to stay in business.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 23:09
  • 2
    Worcester sauce was once a genuine condiment with a history dating back to Roman times (cester or caster or chester in a place name indicates a Roman camp). Lea and Perrins still use a fermented anchovy basis to the sauce like the Roman garum, for me that's enough to give them prime place in the Worcester sauce race, although Hammonds won the war which entitled them to call their product "Worcester sauce".
    – klypos
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 3:22
  • @Aaronut Nice, probably the correct answer!
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:36

3 Answers 3


DO I has to? Nobody learned it?

Garum, a fermented sauce made with anchovies as the principal ingredient, was the Romans' legacy to Britain when they left GB for home. They put the stuff in everything - Roman Fricassee of Dormouse would be naturally adorned with garum, Roman asparagus would have to be served with garum ...

There was a sauce, Worcester sauce, that had disputed origins - but was obviously based on an English version of garum,. So there was a historic Dickensian precedent a la Jarndyce v Jarndyce between Lea and Perrins, who sold Worcestershire sauce to avoid argument, and Hammonds of Bradford who sold something very similar marked "Yorkshire Relish", which they acquired when they bought Goodall, Backhouse of Leeds.

What happened was that Hammonds won, in that for a brief period they sold WORCESTER sauce without dispute about the name, instead of calling it Yorkshire Relish. Just after that they were taken over by some multinational who didn't give a tinker's cuss about that valuable TM, just the market share. Some brands, including Yorkshire Relish, were sold to an Irish company who are still making the "thick" Yorkshire Relish brown sauce in Ireland, but not the "thin" version we are discussing here.

Lea and Perrins are still selling Worcestershire sauce. The Hammonds Sauceworks brass band are still performing, although the factory produces no Yorkshire Relish. There is a factory somewhere producing Henderson's Relish, which is very similar to Worcester sauce, but made in Sheffield with no Garum - never seen an anchovy.

At least Lea and Perrins still produce the closest thing to a traditional product which goes back 2,000 years. Whatever they do with the anchovies, that component is said to be left for three years to mature.

  • Fascinating history, so it's just anchovy sauce then, or is it latin-dictionary.org/oxygarum? How does that compare to Asian fish sauces?
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:32
  • Henderson's Relish is marketed as OK for vegetarians, so no Anchovies then?
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:35
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    Nobody really knows what went into the making of garum, but it is well documented that it was prepared from anchovies and left for some time to mature. The Romans used it on almost everything savory that they ate. The point of mentioning Hendersons Relish was to show that it is possible to make a sauce similar in style to Worcester sauce without anchovies (but my wife likes the ones with anchovies better, it appears to be the combination of anchovies and soy sauce that make the formula work). Whatever, there has to be a period of "maturing time" involved as well.
    – klypos
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:35

Lea & Perrins "Original Worcestershire Sauce" contains:

  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Molasses
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Onions
  • Anchovies
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Cloves
  • Extract of Tamarind
  • Natural Flavorings
  • Extract of Chili Pepper

I don't think this is the original recipe by John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, but that's what it says on my bottle here.

  • 1
    yes that is all common knowledge. What defines Worcester sauce?
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 11:55

I suspect the only definition is the maker choosing to call it Worcestershire sauce, as your experience demonstrates. However, this is the original recipe according to Wikipedia:

The ingredients of a traditional bottle of Worcestershire sauce sold in the UK as "The Original & Genuine Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce" are malt vinegar (from barley), spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spice, and flavouring.[9] The "spice, and flavouring" is believed to include cloves, soy sauce, lemons, pickles and peppers.[9] Notes from the 1800s were found by company accountant Brian Keogh dumped in a skip, which he rescued.

Wikipedia cites this article from dailymail.co.uk as their source. If you enlarge the photo of the original recipe, you can make out most of the ingredients Wikipedia lists.

  • this doesn't answer question at all. What defines Worcester sauce?
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 21:39
  • First off, it's not Worcester sauce, it's Worcestershire sauce. Second, I pointed out in my answer that the only "definition" is someone putting a sauce in a bottle and choosing to call it Worcestershire. It's not like there's some international standards organization that has defined it. If the current leading brand recipe isn't good enough for you, and the original recipe isn't good enough for you, what exactly are you looking for? Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 22:13
  • The question title says it all. I can read Wikipedia thanks! In some parts of the world it is marketed and known as "Worcester Sauce". Tomatoes define tomato sauce, everything else in it is personal taste. What defines Worcester sauce?
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 22:41
  • 2
    I fail to see how the original recipe isn't the only reasonable definition. If you invented a sauce, would your recipe not define it? Of course it would. Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 22:50
  • But they didn't invent it! Just mass marketed it
    – TFD
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 20:30

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