While ground beef is an oft-used ingredient in casseroles of one sort or another, our hamburger casserole is meant to taste as much like its eponymous fast-food favorite as possible. As recipe developer Erin Johnson describes it, "This casserole is a great option when you want the taste of a burger but you also want to add something different to the rotation." To this end, it's flavored with ketchup, mustard, and pickles and is not only topped with shredded cheddar but also includes cheddar cheese soup. Johnson explains the latter's inclusion by saying, "Similar to how cream of mushroom/chicken [soup] works in casseroles, this provides the binding but also pumps up the cheese flavor."
While all of these ingredients make their presence known, one important element of the dish is far subtler in its influence. The Worcestershire sauce that gets stirred into the beef as it cooks may not assert its flavor to such an extent as the cheese and condiments, but it nonetheless gives the meat a little extra savory flavor. You could call it umami, vague though this term may be, but we prefer "je ne sais quoi" to describe that indescribable something extra that it adds. (Yes, we're fully aware of the contradiction, but such is the ineffable nature of this confounding condiment.)
You Can Still Replace This Ingredient If Need Be
Worcestershire sauce may be a versatile flavor booster for all manner of savory dishes (though we'll admit it's a bit overwhelming for desserts), but it's not for everyone. Vegans, for one, can't eat the stuff because one of the ingredients it contains, surprisingly enough, is anchovies. This means that it's off the menu for anyone with a fish allergy, as well. It's also possible that some brands of Worcestershire sauce may contain gluten, at least if they are made with malt vinegar, and the sauce can be high in sodium, too.
If you need to skip this sauce for whatever reason, you have several alternatives open to you. While low sodium, gluten-free, and even vegan versions of the condiment are available, other possible Worcestershire sauce substitutes include A.1. Original Steak Sauce (which is fish-free) as well as soy sauce, tamari, and coconut aminos. You could even use fish sauce if anchovies aren't the problem component. Another option is to make a quick and easy DIY Worcestershire sauce replacement by combining distilled white vinegar, soy sauce (or tamari), and ketchup in a 1:1:2 ratio. Any of these substitutes will work just fine in your hamburger casserole, so you needn't forego this recipe just because Worcestershire sauce is a no-go for you.
Read the original article on Mashed.