Making Fermented Worcestershire Sauce

Tamarindo: Worcestershire Sauce Secret Ingredient

The classic Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce was a favorite condiment as I was growing up. The American version of this ancient fermented fish sauce pales in comparison to the Thai and Vietnamese originals but by tweaking the recipe with the addition of Tamarind Paste and anchovies, you can achieve the beautiful umami bomb that will make you swoon with savory, glutamate rich flavor.

Tamarind is a bushy tree that grows all over the tropics. The fruit is actually a legume, usually called a pod. The edible part is the fleshy pulp surrounding the seeds. It tastes sweet, sour and savory. Shown here are dried tamarindo pods, widely available at Thai, Vietnamese or Mexican grocery stores.Tamarind is incredibly nutritious, being rich in B vitamins, iron, clacium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Making Tamarind Paste

Making the tamarind paste is easy. A pound of of dried pods yields about 2 cups of paste. I prefer the acidity of the pods I get at local Mexican store over the sweetness of the Thai variety. Put the pods in a pot and cover with boiling water then rest for an hour. Using your hands, peel the shell off. Mash the whole mess into goo. Place into a strainer and sieve, separating the seeds and stringy fiber by pressing the pulp with fingers or a spoon. To make a quart of Worcestershire Sauce, you need about 1/4 cup of paste. The remainder can be frozen to be used later, or turned into many other wonderful stews, jams, juices, ice cream, sorbet and snacks.

The Recipe for Fermented Worcesterhire Sauce

This recipe has been developed over time and has sources such as 1876 version published in the New York Times, as well as many great recipes from the web. If you want to make vegan Worcestershire sauce, see notes at the end- you will be using shiitake mushrooms, Kombu (dried kelp), tomato, and apple to get the umami favors. If you cannot find raw cider, you can still make the sauce. But it will not have the live SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and therefore, will not ferment as well and will lack complexity. But it will still be good!

  • 2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 shallots, caramelized over long, slow flame
  • 1/2″ fresh ginger root
  • 5 crushed cardamom pods
  • 1-2 teaspoon whole or ground clove
  • 2 teaspoons allspice or mace
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric spice or root
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • A bit of chili if you like
  • 1/4 cup molasses (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 cup tamarind paste
  • 4-6 anchovies (fresh, dried, or canned)

Place all of these ingredients in a small pot, except the molasses, tamarind paste, and anchovies. Add 1/2 cup of the vinegar.

Bring to a boil over a low flame, then simmer on very low heat for 10 minutes. Cool. Then add the remaining vinegar, molasses, tamarind paste, and anchovies. Taste, then adjust the sweetness. I do not like my sauce to be overly sweet. Pour it all into a clean quart mason jar. Cover with cheesecloth or a loose lid.

Place in a warm spot away from strong light for at least 4 weeks. A natural fermentation will occur over time from the wild yeast and acetobacter (acetic acid) bacteria that are present on the spices and in the air and especially in the raw vinegar.

Strain through a sieve into a clean decanter. I like a fair amount of sediment to remain but if you want it to be more clear, place 2-3 layers of cheesecloth in the sieve. Enjoy!

For Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, Replace the glutamates in the anchovies with the following:
Soak a small piece of Kombu (kelp) with 2-3 ounces of dried shittake mushrooms in a cup of water overnight. In the morning, add puréed tomatoes, about 1 cup. Bring this mixture to a boil then simmer on very low heat for one hour, reducing volume by half. Cool, then sieve, then add to the sauce above before beginning your full recipe boil.

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