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Is Worcestershire Sauce Gluten-Free?

A bowl of Worcestershire sauce next to a sauce bottle and a leaf. Worcestershire sauce may or may not contain gluten. Check the ingredients before adding Worcestershire sauce to your meal. 

What is Worcestershire sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is a thick brown condiment that adds a savory, umami flavor to dishes. This sauce was created in Worcestershire, England in the early 1800s, which is where it gets its name from, although it may have actually evolved from kecap manis, a thick and sweet Indonesian soy sauce.  

It is commonly used in dishes like Caesar salad, oysters, deviled eggs, meatloaf, Köttbulle (Swedish meatballs), Tonkatsu sauce, and in Bloody Marys. It’s a good addition to most stews and beef dishes. 

Ingredients

The original Worcestershire sauce included barley malt vinegar, making it unsafe for someone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, there are many different versions of Worcestershire sauce, including gluten-free versions. Many modern versions use white vinegar instead, which is a safe, gluten-free alternative to barley malt vinegar. 

Generally, Worcestershire sauce includes vinegar, molasses, sugar, shallots and or garlic, and spices like cloves or celery seed. Some versions include tamarind or fermented anchovies, making it unsuitable for those with fish allergies.  

Substitutions

If you don’t have a gluten-free Worcestershire sauce on hand, try these substitutions to get a similar flavor:

  • Fish sauce gives the same fishiness and saltiness of Worcestershire sauce.
  • Soy sauce is what Worcestershire may have evolved from, so it’s a fairly good substitute. Be sure to check the label and ensure the soy sauce is gluten-free before adding it to your dish. Regular soy sauce is not gluten-free. Wheat is a primary ingredient in soy sauce, which surprises many people who are new to gluten-free diet. There are several gluten-free soy sauce options available that use rice instead of wheat. If you cannot find soy sauce marked gluten-free, tamari is a good gluten-free substitute. As always, be sure to read the ingredients label before purchasing and eating.
  • Mix soy sauce, ketchup and, if you have them on hand, fish sauce and tamarind paste for a homemade Worcestershire sauce.
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