A Killer Condiment

By now, I have told you all about my allergy to the dreaded G… Garlic. Through the ether I can hear the gasps of horror from those who didn't already know! But, please, don’t cry for me, Argentina! Nor do I want your crocodile tears, Florida! Instead, take Lewis Carroll’s words from Through the Looking Glass: “Consider anything, only don’t cry!”

It turns out there is life after garlic. I suspect this allergy caused me to be such a passionate cook. When 99.95 % of American recipes call for garlic, the allergenic chef needs to get creative, lest one die… either real death or simply culinary ennui.

When my friends cook for me, I am amazed by their care in cooking without garlic. They carefully scan the ingredients of canned tomatoes, jars of roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and prepared foods, where the dreaded G often lurks.

What usually trip them up, though, are condiments: things as ordinary as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and the like. One thinks of such a condiment as the ingredient, rather than as a conglomeration of many ingredients.

"Who would put garlic in Dijon mustard?" they might ask. "Certainly not the French!" I would reply. Friends reasonably assume innocuous mayonnaise is garlic-free, yet today's fancy “gourmet” mayos often include it. Friends don’t notice garlic in ketchup, but several brands include it.

In my effort not to die from these killer condiments, I have learned to make just about every condiment on earth, mustard, mayo and ketchup included. Happily, there are many good brands available in the store without garlic, I don't always need to make my own, which is a good thing, as my attempt at home-made Dijon didn't come close to a real Dijon. I’m content to buy Maille brand mustard; it’s the best. Homemade ketchup requires a billion ripe tomatoes to yield rather little in the end. Pass me the Heinz, for Pete's sake!

Mayonnaise is a different story. Mine is better than store bought, although for convenience I’ll still turn to Hellmann's or Best Foods brands as it makes little sense to prepare a whole batch when I need only a tablespoon or two.

There is, however, one condiment I cannot find garlic-free, so I have no choice but to make my own. It is Worcestershire sauce. And, like my mayo, my Worcestershire sauce rocks! Sorry, Lea & Perrins, but my friends agree that once they have had mine, there is no turning back.

It is easy to make, though it requires a three-week maceration of the ingredients - a small price to pay for a (non) killer condiment. I never much noticed Worcestershire sauce before, but it is now one of my favorite flavors whether for half an avocado or on steamed vegetables or to enliven grilled meat. It makes a great gift too. I recommend making a double batch, half to keep, and half to give to friends. They will think you are brilliant.

Happy Seasoning in this Happy Season!

~ David

Worcestershire Sauce

2 cups distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup soy sauce (gluten-free, if desired)
1/4 cup tamarind paste (see note)
3 tablespoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
5 cardamom pods, smashed
4 chiles de árbol, chopped
1 1-inch piece of stick cinnamon
1 anchovy, chopped (omit for vegetarian version)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 half-inch piece ginger, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients except the sugar in a 4- to 6-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the sugar in a skillet over medium-high heat until it becomes dark amber and syrupy – about 5 minutes. Add the caramelized sugar to the vinegar mixture (it will spatter!) and whisk to combine. Cook sauce for 5 minutes at a simmer and then transfer to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 weeks. (If you steep longer, the heat of the peppers gets more pronounced.) Strain to remove solids and divide among small bottles. Refrigerate for up to 8 months. Makes about 2 cups.

  • Note: tamarind paste is widely available in Asian grocery stores and some specialty food shops. If you can only find tamarind pods, make your own paste. Open the pods and remove the membranes. Place membranes in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons water (for 1/4 cup fruit) and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Remove from heat and use the back of a spoon to gently mash the fruit against the bottom/sides of the pan. Strain the mixture through a medium mesh sieve, pressing the membrane through the strainer to get as much pulp as possible while straining out the seeds. Your tamarind paste is now ready to use.


  1. In my recipe list today I started making a column for homemade condiments. This recipe is just on time David! And it sounds soooo amazing! Can´t believe you poor thing have to stay away from garlic. But well, there are worst things. What do arbol chilies taste like? And do you know that your posts are mixed up?

  2. *thud* that was me fainting after learning you're allergic to garlic! quelle dommage!! i love that you make the Worcestershire sauce from scratch and just the picture of the tamarind made the back of my mouth water. delicious! looks like you are enjoying 'life after garlic' :)

  3. Paula - thanks for letting me know that the posts were out of order. I don't know how that happened but I fixed it! Enjoy making this - the flavor is so far superior to commercial brands. Oh, and chiles de árbol are a flavorful, hot chile. Quite yummy.

    Ahu - yes, there is life after the dreaded G. I used to be able to eat it by the cupful, but sadly no longer. So many other flavors, though - and so many found in Persian cooking! Which makes me think, I have made a Persian pistachio soup - have you ever had it? Incredible!

  4. I still remember exactly where we were when I found out about your garlic allergy. All these years later, I suppose my vivid memory underscores my shock and dismay-- well, er, how can you enjoy food? I had a lot to learn. I now, as a result of hanging around your table, don't eat much garlic and don't miss it at all. Your worcestershire sauce sounds delicious!

  5. David - I have never heard of this pistachio soup! Off to google/ask my mom - I am intrigued. How is it?

  6. Allergy to garlic, ay? Always suspected you were one of those sexy vampires! ;-) What a fun recipe to try! (and I actually have ALL the ingredients in my pantry....go figure!)


  7. Ahu - I sent the pistachio soup to your e-mail address. Let me know if you try it - perhaps I will post on it soon!

    Yes, Karin, I am a vampire. One who likes lots of sunlight, though... I am setting up a batch of sauce today, as well!

  8. o_o obsessed with your Worcestershire sauce goblet. Could you share where you got it, if purchased recently?

  9. Hi, Hillary - thanks for reading. The little bottles were from Michael's (crafts store) but I think I have also seen them at Cost Plus World Market.

  10. Maille mustard sure is the best and I'm surprised to even hear that people put garlic in Dijon mustard. Really? One thing, however, it that I'll be adding this recipe to my "to do" list. Happy New Year, David!

  11. Wow! I had never even considered that you could make this at home! Love it David!
    Of course you realise that now I know I can make this, I have even more excuses to make Bloody Marys....
    Happy New Year David!

  12. Oh goodness, garlic is a tricky one. My Mum has similar problems because she's allergic to onion, and it's incredible the number of unexpected sauces and meals that shows up in. Your Worcestershire sauce sounds delicious though, we'll have to try it.

    If you are a sauce and spice fan, you might like this blog that my friend runs - http://condimentalist.tumblr.com/ - lots of lovely images of things from her cupboards. I commissioned an Old Bay Seasoning one as part of Y's Christmas present!

  13. Ruth - I think onions would be much harder. Sorry for your mum... At least in some authentic cuisines (certainly Scottish and British - and believe it or not, Italian) I am pretty safe if I know the traditional foodways. Thanks for the condimentalist site - heading there now to check it out.

  14. Why buy what you can make?
    This is brilliant, David!

  15. That, Colette, is the best argument yet!

  16. I was first introduced to this heavenly condiment a few years ago at a dinner party that David and I attended (Laura and Arch's home). I have been making it continuously since then and have never picked up another bottle of sauce at the store. I have made it for friends for birthdays, Christmas or just for fun. My family and friends are absolutely in love with it, and all of you will be too. So thanks David for sharing this with all of us!

    1. I am so glad that you and your family/friends are enjoying it! I really love it, and use it in so many things. You are reminding me - time to make another batch!

  17. Hi there. My husband is allergic to garlic, three days in bed usually. We recently worked out that my son who is 12 years old reacts to garlic but in such a vague way it has taken us years to be sure because, as mentioned, garlic is 'hidden' in everything! He is so much better now we make EVERYTHING, a different kid, better attendance at school etc. Our family were convinced he had an eating disorder / anxiety, not the most supportive! Thanks for your information, we will be making Worcester sauce!!

    1. Hi there - I am so glad you were able to diagnose your son's allergy. It is a really difficult one, as it really can be hidden in everything. If you get this message, please feel free to email me if you want other recipes I have for condiments that I use and make myself. One coming soon is for homemade chipotles in adobo. Good luck!


Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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