The Vegan Swaps For Anchovies When Making Worcestershire Sauce

One of Worcestershire sauce's most distinguishing ingredients is anchovies, but vegans need not fret. While the fish offers the condiment its signature umami flavor, it's easy to replace them with vegan alternatives that provide that same umami richness.

The scientific origins of umami reveal that the presence of glutamate, a common building block of protein in most food groups, accounts for its savory character. Fish, meat, and cheese have high levels of glutamate, but an even longer list of vegetables, legumes, and fermented products, like miso, soy, dried mushrooms, and seaweed, contain equal or higher amounts.

Soy sauce is a wheat and soy product with a fermented flavor that covers the savory and a high sodium content that mimics the salty flavors inherent in anchovies. Meanwhile, miso, which is a fermented soybean paste, also boasts savory and fermented flavors but with a creamy consistency that adds heft to vegan Worcestershire sauce. 

As for mushrooms, they are famous for their meaty, earthy flavors, and dried mushrooms intensify these underlying umami flavors. Dried shiitakes, for example, contain nearly twice the glutamate of anchovies. And dried seaweed, also known as Nori, offers the same fishy, oceanic flavors found in anchovies that the other umami alternatives lack.

How to replace anchovies with each ingredient

Some of these substitutes are single swaps where all that's required is to alter ingredient ratios while others work best as a pairing to achieve a more exact replica of anchovy's flavor.

Soy sauce is a household staple, making it a convenient vegan substitute for anchovies. In a pinch, you could replace Worcestershire sauce altogether with an equal part of soy sauce in vegan pasta sauces and marinades.

Miso paste is another good stand-alone substitute, but its intense umami palate requires dilution. So, you'll need to combine equal parts miso and water before adding it to your Worcestershire sauce. You have three types of miso at your disposal: Red miso provides a funky and salty flavor, while yellow and white are milder and sweeter.

Dried mushrooms have a unique meatiness that makes for a great savory substitute, but they lack sodium. The best way to use dried mushrooms as an anchovy substitute is to blend them with soy sauce or add extra salt to your Worcestershire sauce recipe. The same goes for dried seaweed, which supplies fishiness but needs an extra dose of sodium. 

No matter which substitute you chose, be sure to taste as you go to ensure an ideal balance. After all, once you add to much of an ingredient, there's no going back.