Someone in a comment to one of my recipes noted that Worcestershire Sauce is not usually vegan as the canonical recipe includes anchovies. This is something of which I am aware, and is why I specified vegan Worcestershire Sauce in that recipe. I figured anyone who wasn’t already aware of the fish would wonder why I’d been so specific and soon find out. My reply got a bit long, explaining the options available, and as the information might be useful, I’ve turned it into a post.
Worcestershire Sauce has a very distinct flavour, and it would be natural to assume that the anchovies are a significant part of that. But it doesn’t seem to be the case and there are many vegan varieties of Worcestershire sauce out there.
They come in three basic sorts:
* cheap brands that leave out one of the more expensive ingredients (i.e. the anchovies): I’ve had supermarket own brands in the past that were vegan. Check the labels as you might be surprised (this hint probably does not work in Waitrose, but they sell one of the brands mentioned below anyway).
* expensive, usually organic, brands made especially for the veggie market. Examples include Life Free From and Geo Organics in the UK and Annie’s Naturals and The Wizard in North America. Several of these brands are also gluten-free – regular Worcestershire Sauce contains wheat.
* Japanese. This might be surprising, but Worcestershire Sauce is about the only thing that that Japanese don’t put fish in. Ignore what Wikipedia says – the Japanese brands are thin sauces, not thick like tomato ketchup. Some Japanese brands do contain fish – Bulldog, for example – but the other main Japanese brand, Kikkoman ウスター, is entirely free of animal ingredients (it’s in the “Delicious Sauce” range that also includes Tonkatsu sauce and Chuno). For the record, I use a Japanese one bought from a local Chinese supermarket.
An alternative, depending on where you live, is to use one of the other similar sauces. I particularly like Henderson’s Relish (see also), but it’s hard to get outside Yorkshire (though I see they’ll accept orders by post). For a slightly different flavour there’s another traditional British condiment, Mushroom Ketchup, for which recipes abound online, and there’s always the suggestion of the original recipe from which mine evolved: soya sauce.
If all this fails, a quick search reveals some recipes to make it yourself: one from Cooking with Rockstars, and another from Martha Stewart (though her hint for using it seems to be a little daft as, unless you’re allergic to fish or something, a regular Worcestershire Sauce would do perfectly well in that recipe!).