Although soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce are used interchangeably in many dishes they are not the same thing as you can tell from the name. They have some similarities as well as some differences in them. As a cook, it is important to know where and how they are similar or different to use them properly. Let’s have a look below.
What is Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce has been popular and familiar all over the world because of how essential it is in Asian food. The sauce has a magical taste that blends with any ingredient of any cuisine. But even then, it manages to highlight its taste and enhance the overall flavor. It looks very dark almost black. The texture is very thick but runny. But it’s not viscous. It also tastes like a salty liquid made from fermented soybeans, salt, and grains.
The way it is fermented is actually interesting. They combine soybeans, roasted wheat, or any other grain that they want to add with a culture of mold and yeast. The mold is usually Aspergillus. Then the mixture is left to ferment which can take months to even years to complete the process. Then finally the sauce is made. You can use soy sauce as a seasoning or dipping sauce. You can use it to marinade stuff. You can make this an ingredient in soup, noodles, ramen, sushi, seafood, stir-fried items, etc.
While fermentation happens, enzymes break down the protein and carbohydrates that are present in the soybean and other grains. They break down and turn into different compounds like amino acids, salt, and organic acid. This is why the sauce gets the flavor and the taste. The compounds contribute to the unique taste. It gets a rich and savory taste from the acids. The texture of the sauce needs more explanation too. While we mostly see soy sauce with a thick texture, there can be light soy sauce with a thin texture too.
Light ones are not as dark in color but have a way saltier taste. But the thicker darker one has a sweeter hint in it and brings out very distinct flavors. There is also a specific type of soy sauce called tamari. It is most popular among people who are allergic to gluten because tamari is gluten-free. It is also made from wheat. You also get low sodium soy sauce here if that is what you are looking for.
What is Worcestershire Sauce?
This sauce is usually used in dishes that aren’t unique to any specific cuisine. The name also makes this stand out among the others. It originated in a place in England that is called Worcestershire. From where it got the name that is also written as a noun. The food it goes well with is also kind of Western such as steaks, burgers, and roasted vegetables.
The flavor of this sauce is quite unique. It provides a savory taste with a hint of tanginess and sweetness. Overall, the taste feels really good with fried items or sauteed items. It is used for dressing, and marinating, as well as used in soups, burgers, patties, and stews. Worcestershire sauce itself is almost made of many ingredients that make it so tasty and flavorful.
For example, vinegar, tamarind extract, garlic, onion, anchovies, and molasses, along with some spices and seasonings are used to make this sauce. Then, just like the soy sauce Worcestershire sauce is also left for the fermentation process. The ingredients are fermented for a while for the flavors to develop and play nicely with each other.
However, the recipe might change as we talk about different brands or manufacturers. Different brands may use different recipes for a unique taste or flavor. For example, vegan or vegetarian options might not have anchovies. They would use a vegan option for that. But the end result is the same dark and thin sauce that goes well with most food items. It also has an umami taste that is constant in every type you taste. The umami taste adds a new dimension to it and creates an excellent flavor profile. It also adds depth and distinct flavor to a wide range of dishes.
Differences between Soy Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire and soy sauce have a base taste that is the same and both of them are also very popular among people. But there are still some differences from flavors to ingredients to dishes they are used in- some of them are very visible some aren’t. Below are some differences that need to be highlighted if you to understand exactly where they are different.
Their ingredients are very different from each other although the end result might not be as much. Soy sauce consists of fermented soybeans, water, salt, and roasted grains that can be barley or wheat. Worcestershire sauce consists of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind, garlic, onions, spices, and seasonings. As we explained above it can change a little based on brands, food habits, or flavors. But as you can see the sauces don’t really have the same ingredients.
Worcestershire has a taste that is complicated to put into words. It has all the good parts of being tangy, sweet, savory, and sour but with a balance. Together they create a rich flavor in the food that is loved by many people. The soy sauce on the other hand has a umami and salty flavor. It brings an Eastern Asian taste to your plate within a second. The fermented salty taste will tone down the blandness of food and bring out the authentic Asian taste.
Since we brought up dishes in the last point, the point usage comes naturally. A lot of people wonder if they can use both soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce in their dishes. While it depends on the dish itself, usually the sauces are best suited for specific types of food.
Soy sauce is predominantly used in Eastern Asian dishes like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, etc. Even south East Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have dishes with soy sauce too. But Worcestershire sauce is mostly seen in Western cuisines.
For example, burgers, steaks, salads, dressings, marinades, soups, and stews, are the type of dishes with Worcestershire sauce in them. In fact, it is also used in drinks like Bloody Mary cocktails.
The consistency of both sauces is also very different. Soy sauce is known for its thick viscous texture. It is also the reason soy sauce gets mixed with food pretty easily. But Worcestershire sauce doesn't have the same consistency. It has more of a runny and thicker consistency that works for marinating and steaks.
Ingredient Based on Choice
Both of the sauces have some ingredients that are not suitable for eating by a large pool of people. For example, soy sauce has an alternative option for those who are avoiding gluten or looking for gluten-free sauce.
Then Worcestershire sauce has anchovies that might not be suitable for vegan or vegetarian people. Therefore an alternative flavor or sauce is always preferable.
Similarities between Soy Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce
Apart from all the differences we find some similarities between the two options too. Let’s find out the similarities
Both the soy and Worcestershire sauce have an umami flavor in them. Umami is a rich and savory taste that is very satisfying. In fact, both of the sauces enhance the umami flavor of the food they are used in.
Both of the sauces can be used in many types of dishes. Although we explained that they are made for some specific cuisine that doesn't mean you can’t use them for other cuisines. They can be used as seasoning in a lot of dishes. That is what makes them versatile. They can also bring a new dimension to the dishes in many ways.
The saltiness is constant in both sauces. A lot of salt is used while making them which is why soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce bring different levels of saltiness in food.
But the saltines keep the flavor and taste of the food. Although soy sauce might be a bit bad for your health because of the salt in it, soy is actually good for your hormonal level according to Harvard.
Dishes to be Used in
They can be used in a lot of cuisines and dishes ranging from Asian to African to Western. Whether you cook traditional or fusion or western or anything, Worcestershire and soy sauce can be used pretty frequently.
Substitute for soy sauce
Tamari is also another Japanese sauce that is very similar to soy and has less saltiness in it which is why a lot of people prefer it, It is also gluten-free so it is a popular choice. If you want to use one just substitute soy for one to one ratio and it will be good to go.
It is another soy sauce alternative for those who need it soy-free or gluten-free. As it is made from coconut sap it is a bit sweeter and milder than soy sauce. It can also be used in equal amounts.
It is a great alternative since it is made directly from soybeans which is why is it very similar to soy sauce. But it is also very low in sodium compared to soy sauce itself. It can also be used in equal amounts.
Miso paste is fermented soybean paste which is another Japanese traditional seasoning. The similarity it has with soy is the umami flavor. But the texture and flavor are quite different.
Homemade soy sauce
You can also make soy sauce at home. There are recipes you can follow online. Or you can try to combine things like vinegar, molasses, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. You can adjust the quantities to fit your preference.
Substitute for Worcestershire
You will be surprised that soy sauce can be very easily used as a substitute for Worcestershire sauce in a lot of cases. The umami taste along with the savory taste brings the same thing to your dishes. But the overall flavor profile might alter.
Tamari can be used here too. It is a gluten-free Japanese sauce that is very similar to soy. It has a rich, savory flavor.
This one is thick, sweet, and tangy. But less than balsamic vinegar. It won’t be exactly like Japanese sauce which is very similar to soy sauce but it brings a similar tanginess to the dishes. It can adobe sweeter than Worcestershire sauce.
A lot of Southeast Asian cuisine uses this sauce. Just like the name it is made from fermented fish and has an aroma. It has the same savory and salty flavor as Worcestershire sauce. Using it in smaller amounts might adjust the seasoning.
Soy Sauce and Vinegar
Combining these two can bring almost the same flavor as Worcestershire sauce. You can use apple cider too as long as the acidity and tanginess are there.
Both of the sauces are very unique and popular. They have some distinct flavor that makes them popular all over the world. Knowing a bit more about their history, ingredient, and usage makes it better for cooking enthusiasts. In fact, knowing how they are made puts things in perspective for those who are meticulous about their cooking. For them, here is a nice documentary on how Worcestershire sauce is made