What Is Worcestershire Sauce—And How To Pronounce It

No Southern pantry is complete without a bottle.

Worcestershire sauce pouring
Photo: kuppa_rock/Getty Images

Nearly every condiment shelf and basement bar in the South has one thing in common: a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. The ubiquitous paper-wrapped bottle covers one of the most versatile, flavor-packed, umami-filled sauces around—and one that is easily forgotten on a shelf. It's a key ingredient in the best Bloody Marys, the perfect thing to splash on a steak, and the secret to delicious deviled eggs. But what is Worcestershire sauce?

How Do You Pronounce "Worcestershire" Sauce?

First things first, according to the folks at Bon Appetit, the sauce is pronounced "Wuss. Terr. Sherr" sauce and not like this.

What Is the History of Worcestershire Sauce?

Now that's settled, Worcestershire sauce actually has royal roots. Back in the early 1800s, Lord Sandys returned to his home in the county of Worcester in England with a souvenir from his travels in Bengal: a recipe for a sauce. Not having any kitchen know-how, but having a hankering for the taste, he asked two local chemists to whip up a batch.

The chemists' names? John Lea and William Perrins.

The soon-to-be famous Lea and Perrins followed Lord Sandys' recipe but did not like the results. As with many home cooks unhappy with a batch of sauce (or jam or preserves), but unwilling to throw it out, they put the jars in their cellar to gather dust. After a few years passed, they found the forgotten jars in the cellar and decided they couldn't be all that bad after all. They popped them open and, sure enough, the aging process had made the sauce downright delectable.

A bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
© MCT via Getty Images

According to the Lea & Perrins website, Mr. Lea and Mr. Perrins were so smitten with their sauce they decided to share it with the world, giving it the name of their county (or shire), Worcester. They began bottling it and selling it to chefs across Europe, and the sauce quickly developed a reputation for giving a little boost to food and making cheese on toast and cuts of meat taste just that much better.

In 1839, a New York entrepreneur sampled Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and decided he simply had to bring it to the States. Soon, he was importing boatloads of it to the U.S. While it's hard to believe—what with the rows of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and salsa lining the aisles of the Piggly Wiggly at the time—Worcestershire sauce was the only commercially bottled condiment in the U.S., and Americans simply couldn't get enough of it. They still can't today, which is how a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce has ended up in every pantry in the South.

What Flavor Does Worcestershire Sauce Add to Food?

Much like fish sauce or soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce is known for its punchy umami flavor— that deeply savory characteristic that makes you want to add it to everything. In Worcestershire sauce, this comes from anchovies.

The sauce has been described as tangy, salty, and sweet, and it adds a layer of depth to various foods. On its own, the sauce can be overwhelming, but when used in small amounts to boost sauces or soups or meat, Worcestershire adds another dimension of flavor that helps to pull together the sweet and savory components of a dish.

How Long Does Worcestershire Sauce Last?

The good thing about this condiment is that it's made to last, even if you only use a tablespoon every once in a while. In the pantry, your bottle of Worcestershire sauce will maintain its flavor for around a year, while in the refrigerator, that time span stretches to three years. And even if your bottle is over its expiration date, it's most likely safe to eat— it just won't have quite as bold a flavor.

Can You Make Worcestershire Sauce From Scratch?

While the bottle of Lea & Perrins will last for a long time, if you have a lot of free time or can't make it to the store, you can make Worcestershire sauce from scratch. While the exact recipe for Lea & Perrins' version is a closely guarded secret, you can get close to indistinguishable results at home. Most recipes for DIY Worcestershire sauce call for a lot of ingredients, but otherwise are fairly simple to make.

Blend fermented onions, garlic, apple cider vinegar, fish sauce, honey, molasses, tamarind paste, onion powder, chili powder, and clove and you'll have a batch of your own Worcestershire sauce that will last in the fridge for at least two months. Or, you know, just go buy a bottle.

Recipes Using Worcestershire Sauce

The possibilities for Worcestershire sauce are virtually endless, and a dash goes a long way. Check out 115 of our favorite Worcestershire-using recipes, or try one of our favorites below:

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles