The UK’s regional sauces and how to use them

17 April 2024, 07:09 AM
  • Speciality Food looks at the stories behind the UK’s most popular and interesting regional sauces, and how retailers can sell them to customers today
The UK’s regional sauces and how to use them

Despite the UK’s smaller size compared to other similar economies, our nation has a rich regional diversity that shines through in the varied food and drink produced across the country.

Somewhere this is clearly evident is the world of sauces, condiments and relishes. Regional sauces created in the UK have become cult favourites and global best-selling brands. In fact, recent research has shown just how much Brits love punchy flavours, with brown sauce ranking second in a list of the nation’s top 10 favourite bold flavours. Commenting on the research commissioned by Fentimans, food scientist and flavour expert Rachel Edwards-Stuart said several entrants on the list contained compounds that activate the umami taste, “which means savoury deliciousness in Japanese” – and this is a common component in the regional sauces below, too.

Whether your shop is known for championing a specific regional sauce, or you’re simply looking for new products to spice up customers’ mealtimes, Vanessa Pitt of Fodder Farm Shop in Yorkshire, says she finds success promoting local sauces through cross-merchandising. If retailers want to make more of their own sauces, they should consider where they place their products, she says, “especially having items near the butcher’s counter for easy pick ups”.

With many flavours to choose from, Speciality Food finds out more about regional sauces’ local histories, their unique flavours and – most importantly – how your customers can use them.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce is popular well beyond the borders of Worcestershire, and even the UK – it’s become just as big a hit over in the US. Used in everything from a famous cocktail to traditional beef dishes, it has a distinct flavour that has become a staple in Britain and beyond.

What’s the history of Worcestershire Sauce?

Worcestershire Sauce first went on sale in 1837, created by two chemists, John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins. They whipped up the sauce for Lord Sandys, then governor of Bengal, who found the recipe while travelling in India. He asked the chemists to recreate the intriguing sauce for him. Although they made an extra jar for themselves, they weren’t fond of the flavour, so they put the concoction in the cellar to be forgotten. However, after some time passed, they retasted the sauce and discovered they were on to a winner.

The exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret to this day by Lea & Perrins, which, while owned by Kraft Heinz, continues to make Worcestershire Sauce in the UK. Today, there are many other producers of versions of the sauce, from supermarket own brands to other independents keen to recreate the flavour.

What does Worcestershire Sauce taste like?

Known for its complex umami flavour, the exact recipe of Worcestershire sauce remains a secret, but a list of the original 19th century ingredients was found in 2009 and included vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic and more. It is also thought to include cloves, soy sauce, lemons, pickles and peppers. The recipe is said to take 18 months to mature its “unique enriching flavour”.

However, if you sample Worcestershire Sauce in the US, you may notice a slightly different flavour. After first being imported to America in 1839, the sauce is now manufactured in a subsidiary in Pennsylvania which makes its own version of the recipe, using distilled white vinegar rather than malt vinegar.

How do you use Worcestershire Sauce?

Worcestershire Sauce is a versatile sauce that’s become a store cupboard staple across the country. It adds a new dimension to homemade meat stews, sauces, soups and more. You can also advise customers to add a splash on meat, like sausages or steaks, or to dash it on top of cheese on toast. And it’s famously used to round off a refreshing Bloody Mary.

Lancashire Sauce

Less well-known is Lancashire Sauce, a recipe that’s been spicing up meals in the region for over 100 years, while still boasting a handmade, small-batch production style.

What’s the history of Lancashire Sauce?

The story of Lancashire Sauce goes that Grandma Mary Elizabeth Entwistle created this sauce from a chip shop in Padiham. The recipe was then taken on by son Kenneth and his wife Kathleen who bottled it up and shared it around the family. Their son David spread it further, finding it to be popular with his colleagues in staff canteens throughout his career as a mechanic, foreman and eventually director.

In 2001, he and wife Sarah opened Entwistle’s Deli in Ramsbottom, where they popularised the sauce, giving it its name and eventually establishing branding and production that led to inquiries from other retailers and distributors. The sauce gained further popularity when they collaborated with Fiddler’s Crisps to create a first-of-its-kind Lancashire Sauce crisp.

And the future’s looking bright for this regional speciality: although the couple decided to step away from the deli in 2021, they put all their focus on Lancashire sauce, moving production from the shop to its own unit.

What does Lancashire Sauce taste like?

Lancashire Sauce is described as a “mildly spiced table sauce”. It is still made to Grandma Entwistle’s original recipe, with plant-based herbs and spices – no anchovies here! 

How do you use Lancashire Sauce?

Lancashire Sauce has bags of potential in the kitchen. It can be used to boost the flavour of everything from cauliflower cheese to a Lancashire hotpot, or similar hearty dishes.

Oxford Sauce

While it may not have hundreds of years of history behind it, relative newcomer Oxford Sauce is a spicy table sauce that’s now being used as a staple by many top chefs in England.

What’s the history of Oxford Sauce?

Oxford Sauce was created by Baron Robert Pouget, also known for founding the Oxford Cheese Company in 1986, to mark the millennium. Not to be confused with the 18th century Cumberland Sauce derivative that’s also referred to as ‘Oxford Sauce’, which the Baron believed to be “too sweet and insipid” for his tastes, this version used a more “exciting” blend of ingredients.

The sauce’s success may in fact be down to an accident during production. While experimenting with flavours, the decimal point on the chilli content was misread, creating a hotter product than initially expected – but one that has quickly developed a loyal following. The sauce is now said to be found everywhere from the Vaults and Garden in Oxford to the Babylon Beach Bar in Ibiza.

What does Oxford Sauce taste like?

Oxford Sauce is a spicy brown sauce with a complex flavour. It’s described as “deceptively sweet” followed by a “surprising afterthought” of chilli heat, and it is made with ingredients like tamarind, anchovies, garlic and real Birds Eye chilli (not chilli powder).

How do you use Oxford Sauce?

Oxford Sauce can be used in numerous ways, on meat and seafood, in Mexican-inspired dishes or even in the Baron’s version of a Bloody Mary, in addition to Worcestershire Sauce.

Henderson’s Relish

“Like Worcestershire Sauce, but one million times better.” That’s how Arctic Monkeys band member Matt Helders described Henderson’s Relish

What’s the history of Henderson’s Relish?

Henry Henderson whipped up his first batch of Henderson’s Relish in 1885, and it has been made in Sheffield ever since. The sauce really took off after Henry set up his own greengrocer in 1890, and according to local legend he kept a barrel of relish in the shop so that customers could bring their own bottles to be filled. By 1899, he was known principally as a ‘relish manufacturer’.

At age 60, Henry retired and sold his business to Shaws of Huddersfield, a jam and pickle maker, where business boomed. But the relish changed hands again in 1940, bought by Charles Hinksman who created an independent limited company and ran it as a family business. By 1951, sales had topped a million bottles per year. 

Now, Henderson’s continues to go from strength to strength. As Vanessa of Fodder Farm Shop points out, this regional sauce was even used by local cheesemongers Cryer & Stott to create a cheese called Sheffield Forge, Yorkshire Red cheese blended with Henderson’s Relish.

What does Henderson’s Relish taste like?

Sheffield’s answer to Worcestershire Sauce is made to a secret recipe. While it might look similar to the Lea & Perrins sauce, it has a unique taste that is similar to a sweet brown sauce.

How do you use Henderson’s Relish?

“Hendersons is great on top of cottage pie, on eggs, on cheese on toast and can be used in a Yorkshire rarebit,” Vanessa says. “Our butchers are even making a sausage using it.” 

Colman’s Mustard

Synonymous with English mustard, Norfolk-based Colman’s has become an institution in the UK known for its “famous, full-on flavour”.

What’s the history of Colman’s Mustard?

Colman’s Mustard has been proudly made in Norfolk since 1814, and it gets its flavour from the mixture of two mustard seeds: brown mustard and white mustard. While brown brings the slow-build heat, white offers an initial burst of sinus-clearing flavour. According to Colman’s, the process for making the famous product hasn’t changed much over the years. The brand puts the mustard’s flavour down to its manufacturing process: “Unlike most mustard manufacturers, we sieve our seeds up to nine times to remove any trace of impurities,” Colman’s states on its website. “The seed dryer building, built in 1890, still uses original wooden sieving equipment from the 1950s, too.”

The mustard seeds that Colman’s sources come from the local area in Norwich, and Colman’s still works with many of the same farms, and in some cases the same families, as it always has – in some cases up to five generations have been producing mustard seeds for Colman’s. 

What does Colman’s Mustard taste like?

This is not your vinegary American mustard or subtly sweet French mustard. Colman’s mustard seeds are blended with a mix of ingredients, including water, citric acid, sugar, salt and spices. It has a pungent “fiery, full-on” flavour similar to wasabi.

How do you use Colman’s Mustard?

Perfect with a roast or on a ham sandwich, Colman’s Mustard goes well with meat. But it can also be stirred into cauliflower cheese or in potato dishes to give a zing of flavour.

Tewkesbury Mustard

Once said to be the finest in England, and even getting a shout-out from Shakespeare, this mustard is made on a smaller scale, but customers won’t forget its flavour.

What’s the history of Tewkesbury Mustard?

According to The Tewkesbury Mustard Company, which was established in 2013 as the only producer of the condiment based in Tewkesbury, Tewkesbury Mustard was traditionally only ever available in the form of mustard balls until the 1850s, when it was sold by E Moore, a chemist, who produced jars to sell from his high street shop.

Unfortunately, the manufacture of Tewkesbury Mustard ended in the beginning of the 19th century, but numerous small, independent producers have recreated the product to keep it alive, and today, the Tewkesbury Mustard Company also handmakes the product in its small kitchen on the edge of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. “We are continuing a tradition that dates from before the 16th century,” they boast.

What does Tewkesbury Mustard taste like?

Tewkesbury Mustard is unique because it is infused with horseradish to give the product a hotter kick of flavour.

How do you use Tewkesbury Mustard?

It pairs brilliantly with roast beef, but it also works well with cheesy vegetarian dishes in need of a flavour boost.

Do you sell a regional sauce that’s not on this list? We’d love to hear about it! Get in touch with

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