What is HP Sauce? A Guide to Brown Sauce + HP Sauce Trivia

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Nearly every Anglophile will eventually encounter HP Sauce. Whether you've travelled to England and spotted it on a restaurant table, heard it mentioned in a television show, or noticed it in the British goods section of a local shop, it's all over the place. Gilbert O'Sullivan even sings about it in the song “As Long As I Can”, saying, “And in view of all this nonsense, I think it's only fair, To point out that despite its faults, England still has HP Sauce.”

In terms of the “most British” condiments, it's right up there with salad cream and Branston pickle. Of course, they might lose a couple points over the fact that it's now produced in Netherlands, but still – you think HP Sauce, you think Great Britain.

What Is HP Sauce?

Bangers and mash, a dish frequently paired with brown sauce

If you've not tried it, you might be wondering, “What is HP Sauce?” Ask it on a forum and you'll invariably get someone saying something like, “It's basically A1.”

Not true.

HP Sauce is similar to A1 steak sauce, but it's definitely not the same thing. Let's take a look at the ingredients of each:

A1 Sauce Ingredients: 

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Raisin Paste, Crushed Orange Puree, Spice, Dried Garlic, Caramel Color, Dried Onions, Potassium Sorbate (to Preserve Freshness), Xanthan Gum, Celery Seed.

HP Sauce Ingredients: 

Tomatoes, malt vinegar (from barley), molasses, glucose-fructose syrup, spirit vinegar, sugar, dates, modified cornflour, rye flour, salt, spices, flavoring, tamarind. Contains: Gluten Barley and Rye.

Though it's a minor ingredient, the tamarind is probably the biggest contributor to the difference in flavour – though HP Sauce is also marginally sweeter. Keep in mind that there are also a few different variants of HP Sauce, and in this case, we're referring to the original, “basic HP Sauce”.

Another big difference between AI and HP Sauce is that in the UK, HP Sauce is paired with a ton of different dishes, even at breakfast (more on that in a bit). In the US, it's fairly unusual to see A1 used on anything more than a few meat entrees. 

Is HP Sauce the Same as Brown Sauce?

Shepard's Pie, another dish commonly paired with brown sauce

Yes, HP Sauce is brown sauce. However, not ALL brown sauce is HP Sauce. 

Brown sauce is just the generic name for the condiment. It's like “mustard” or “ketchup”. Grey Poupon, French's, Colman's…they're all mustards, but not all mustards are Grey Poupon.

HP Sauce is by far the most popular type of brown sauce, but Daddies is also pretty common and many stores have own-brand offerings (“generic” or “store brand” in the States). 

How Do You Use HP Sauce?

HP Sauce pairs well with something hearty like a steak and ale pie

HP Sauce is a versatile condiment, used mostly with starchy, meaty, and generally hearty dishes. It can be eaten with virtually anything (and it is), but as a general rule, you're not going to put it on things that are light (like salads) or sweet. 

Regular HP Sauce is a bit overbearing for chicken, but some people do it anyway. Because it's milder, Fruity HP Sauce is more common on chicken – it's even marketed as a chicken and rib sauce in North America.

We encourage you to experiment, but this list of common pairings should get you started:

  • Shepard's pie
  • Bangers and mash
  • Sausage sandwich/sausage roll
  • Bacon butty (a bacon sandwich)
  • Eggs on toast
  • Beans on toast
  • With a full English breakfast (or full Scottish, if you prefer)
  • Corned beef
  • Chip butty (a sandwich full of chips, aka thick fries to most US folks)
  • Pork chops
  • Pretty much any savoury pie – steak and ale pie, pork pie, etc.
  • Heavy soups and stews like beef stew
  • As a marinade for virtually any meat
  • Mixed in with minced beef/hamburger meat
  • As a dipping sauce – some people mix it with sour cream or vinegar for this purpose
  • A dash on top of cheese on toast
  • In a gravy
  • Added into a Bolognese sauce
  • In virtually any casserole to add a bit of kick

HP Sauce Trivia

The Houses of Parliament
  • The “HP” in HP Sauce stands for “Houses of Parliament”, which are featured prominently on the bottle. 
  • The original formula was created by a grocer, Frederick Gibson Garton, in Nottingham in 1895. He named it after hearing a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament was serving it.
  • Garton sold the HP brand for £150 + the settlement of some unpaid bills
  • In 2005, Heinz purchased the parent company, HP Foods, from Danone for £440 million
  • In 2011, Heinz was forced to adjust the recipe in order to meet new standards on salt levels in food. Many people find the new formula a bit sour compared to the old.
  • The old HP Sauce factory in Birmingham had a vinegar pipeline. Why? Well, there was a highway running through the middle of the factory. The pipeline made it possible to get vinegar from one side to the other.
  • HP Sauce has been called “Wilson's Gravy” because former Prime Minister Harold Wilson adored it and used it on everything.
  • When Heinz shut down the British factory and moved production to the Netherlands, a mock wake was staged at the site of the old factory. They even put empty HP bottles in a coffin. 
  • When the Birmingham factory closed, 125 British jobs were lost and it ended a more than 100-year tradition of making sauce at the site.

 

Where Can You Get Brown Sauce if You're Not in the UK?

The first place to check would be your local supermarket. Particularly in urban areas, you can often find it tucked away at a far corner of the condiment section. It will almost definitely be HP Sauce and it's unlikely they'll have much selection in terms of variety (fruity is rare) or size. 

British goods shops and international grocers are also common places to find HP Sauce. If you have a World Market, they usually have it back in the food and beverage section.

If you can't find it locally or you just prefer to order online, we've included several options below. The store names are in the “Get It” section under each photo and they will take you directly to the product pages.

We linked to the US Amazon site by default, but British Corner Shop ships pretty much anywhere.

Basic HP Sauce

Basic HP Sauce

This is the classic brown sauce you'll find on the table in virtually every pub in Great Britain. If you want to know what all the fuss is about, start here. Suitable for vegetarians.

Get it: Amazon US | British Corner Shop

 

HP Fruity Sauce

HP Fruity Sauce

This is a milder, fruitier variation on the standard brown sauce. If regular HP Sauce is just a bit too in-your-face for you, you may prefer this one. 

Get it: Amazon | British Corner Shop

 

Daddies Brown Sauce

Daddies Brown Sauce

 

Get it: Amazon | British Corner Shop

 

Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Brown Sauce

Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Brown Sauce

If you want to make your bacon butty a bit posher, opt for Tiptree brown sauce. It's a bit fruitier than HP Sauce, and the ingredients include tomatoes, apples, treacle, lemon juice, sultanas, and spices. This one's also suitable for vegans.

Get it: Amazon | British Corner Shop

 

Cottage Delight Nutty Brown Sauce

Cottage Delight Nutty Brown Sauce

Feeling adventurous? If you're ready to branch out to something a bit different from the standard brown sauce, give this one a try.

Get it: Amazon | British Corner Shop

 

Mackie's Lorne Sausage & Brown Sauce Crisps

Mackie's of Scotland Lorne Sausage and Brown Sauce Crisps

We couldn't resist one adding one more brown sauce item to our list – this time, a bag of crisps. There are all kinds of unusual British crisp flavours, and this one may surprise you. It really DOES taste like sausage and brown sauce.

Get it: British Corner Shop | Amazon

 

Have You Tried Brown Sauce? 

If you're not from the UK, let us know – have you tried brown sauce? What did you think? Any funny stories about your first brown sauce experience?

 

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What is HP Sauce (Brown Sauce) and How Do You Use It?

1 Comment

  1. To me, cause of the tamarind, HP tastes sorta like A1. My friend from Scotland poured it over her crisps💜

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