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June/July 2016

Worcestershire Sauce

We tasted four nationally available bottled Worcestershire sauces to find one with bold, balanced flavor.

Update: November 2016
We recently learned French's made changes to the ingredients and recipe of their Worcestershire sauce. We tried the new product, and while tasters noticed that it is lighter in color and less spicy than the old French's, we still preferred Lea & Perrins and our results stand as is.

How We Tested

We use Worcestershire sauce to add salty, punchy kick and depth to all sorts of dishes. This ingredient originated in the English county of Worcester in the early 19th century. As the story goes, a wealthy Brit who had recently returned from India commissioned chemists John Lea and William Perrins to create a sauce reminiscent of those he’d enjoyed abroad. Lea and Perrins made the sauce to his specifications but found it unpalatable, so it sat, forgotten, in a corner of their shop’s basement until someone decided to try it a few years later and discovered that fermentation had transformed it into a sauce with incredible depth.

While no manufacturer wants to give up its exact recipe, most Worcestershire sauce today is made with onions, garlic, salt, anchovies, vinegar, spices, tamarind, molasses, and sugar. The sauce is aged for a few weeks to a few months before being strained, diluted with water, and bottled. To find the best version, we rounded up four nationally available Worcestershire sauces and sampled them plain, in barbecue sauce, and in a grilled steak recipe that uses a full cup in the marinade.

Texture wasn’t important in our findings, but flavor certainly was. Two manufacturers made their sauces vegan by omitting anchovies and substituting ingredients like onion oil, mushrooms, and soy sauce. Unfortunately, these sauces didn’t quite match the subtle meatiness and depth of Worcestershire made with anchovies. Tasters also singled out one of the vegan sauces for its overly pungent notes of onion (from the addition of onion oil) when sampled plain and in the steak. We preferred sauces that were balanced, without any one ingredient being too assertive.

Vegan products also tried to compensate by jacking up the sodium: One sauce contained 130 milligrams of sodium per 1-teaspoon serving—twice as much as the 65 milligrams in our top-ranked sauces. Products with moderate saltiness allowed us better control over the final flavor of the dish. That said, these flaws of balance and salinity didn’t matter when we tasted the sauces in barbecue sauce, a recipe that contains a lot of potent ingredients—if you need only a few teaspoons of Worcestershire for a pungent recipe, it’s likely any product will do.

Overall, tasters preferred Lea & Perrins Original Worcestershire Sauce for its bright, balanced flavor; incredible depth; and subtle kick of heat. It’s no wonder this product has stuck around for almost 200 years.

Methodology

Twenty-one America’s Test Kitchen staffers tasted four nationally available bottled Worcestershire sauces plain and in our Cook's Country recipe for Grilled Bourbon Steaks; a smaller group of tasters sampled each product in barbecue sauce. Ingredient lists and sodium levels were pulled from nutritional labels. Sodium levels shown are for a 1-teaspoon serving.

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The Results

Note: Cook's Country continuously updates our equipment reviews and taste tests. The written content below is the most up-to-date information available and may not match what appears in the video segment.

Winner
Recommended

Lea & Perrins Original Worcestershire Sauce

$4.19 for 10 oz ($0.42 per oz)

Lea & Perrins Original Worcestershire Sauce

The original Worcestershire sauce, this product “hit all the marks,” with “balanced” notes of vinegar, pepper, and tamarind. In a marinade, this sauce was “distinctively punchy” and lent a “bright” ­tanginess that tasters loved.

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$4.19 for 10 oz ($0.42 per oz)
Recommended

French’s Worcestershire Sauce

$2.39 for 10 oz ($0.24 per oz)

French’s Worcestershire Sauce

This sauce was full of “bold citrusy tang,” with a “mild” sweetness and a hint of “fishy” flavor (“in a good way!”). Though a few ­tasters thought this sauce was “a little hot for Worcestershire,” most appreciated its “spicy” heat and “­balanced” flavors.

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$2.39 for 10 oz ($0.24 per oz)

Annie’s Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

$3.59 for 6.25 oz ($0.57 per oz)

Annie’s Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

Tasters liked the “hint of tang” and slightly “fruity” flavor of this organic sauce though, without anchovies, some lamented that this product was “more sweet” and “mild” than other samples. In steak ­marinade, this sauce was “molasses-forward,” with subtle “smoky,” “woodsy” notes.

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$3.59 for 6.25 oz ($0.57 per oz)
Recommended with Reservations

The Wizard’s Organic Vegan ­Worcestershire Sauce

$4.09 for 8.5 oz ($0.48 per oz)

The Wizard’s Organic Vegan ­Worcestershire Sauce

While some tasters liked the “funky,” “assertive” flavor of this “piquant” and “salty” sauce, many thought this vegan product “lacked the distinguishing flavors of Worcestershire.” Instead, these tasters identified “heavy” notes of “salt” and “soy sauce,” with a prominent “oniony” smell, likely from the addition of onion oil.

More Details
$4.09 for 8.5 oz ($0.48 per oz)