Henry Bain's Sauce Is A Robust Condiment And A Long-Time Kentucky Secret

Bourbon and fried chicken may be Kentucky's most famous culinary contributions, but there's a wealth of unique foods to come out of the Bluegrass State. Henry Bain's sauce is one such Kentucky-born recipe that was hidden in exclusivity before becoming a statewide staple.

Named for its creator, Henry Bain's sauce is a sweet and tangy steak sauce made with tomato sauce, vinegar, soy, pickled walnuts, sweet chutney, and a wealth of aromatic spices. Among its many ingredients, tamarind, soy, garlic, ginger, and molasses mirror the tangy, spicy, and umami profile of Worcestershire sauce. However, steak sauce and ketchup seasonings along with chutney and pickled walnuts give Henry Bain's sauce a distinctly unique flavor that makes Kentucky proud.

The iconic story behind the sauce's creation adds more authenticity to Henry Bain's sauce, encompassing an inspirational rise through the ranks and a delicious secret generously shared with the rest of the world. You may not see Henry Bain's sold outside of Kentucky, but its fame has inspired copycat recipes and rave reviews from nationally recognized culinary publications like the New York Times.

History of Henry Bain's Sauce

The story of Henry Bain's Sauce begins in 1883 with Henry Bain, a black man who started his career in the service industry as an elevator boy for the newly formed, elite men's club, Pendennis Club of Louisville. After years of work, Bain's charming personality and sociability landed him a well-deserved promotion to Maître d' where he became an even more valued employee until his retirement. It was during his long tenure as Maître d' that Bain concocted his famous sauce to accompany the high-end game and steak dishes enjoyed by the highest echelons of Louisville's elite for decades.

Henry Bain's sauce was an exclusive delicacy of the Pendennis Club, withstanding its move to a new clubhouse in 1928 mere months after Bain's death. The Pendennis Club remains an iconic and active organization in Louisville that now accepts women and people of color. As another step towards inclusivity, the club has revealed Bain's secret recipe for the masses to enjoy. Its popularity quickly spread throughout Kentucky, becoming a common garnish for meat and poultry dishes. Today, the club bottles and sells Bain's original sauce online.

Taste and uses

Even if you don't have an original bottle of Henry Bain's sauce, it's an easy sauce to create at home by blending a few well-known condiments including ketchup, chili sauce, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Sweet chutney and pickled walnuts are both famous British ingredients appropriated during their colonizing reign of India, with tangy, sweet, and funky flavors that add depth of flavor and intensity to the sauce. As a sauce to pour over heavy and gamey meat, Henry Bain's sauce has a robust palette with overriding sweetness and tanginess. The wealth of chilies and aromatics gives the sauce a kick of spice.

The sweet and sour steak sauce will brighten up and compliment the flavors of steak, chicken, pork, or even a savory plant-based meat alternative like portobello mushrooms. You can serve it with a nice steak, pork chops, or roast chicken, but it would also work well with gamey meat like goat, venison, and rabbit. Its use isn't exclusive to fine cuts of meat as the sauce would be delicious mixed with mayonnaise and spread onto a burger or steak sandwich.