This article is about the condiment; for the singers, see Las Ketchup.
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Organic Ketchup, a 21st century condiment

Ketchup (or catsup) is a popular condiment, usually made with ripened tomatoes. The basic ingredients in modern ketchup are tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Onions, celery, and other spices are frequent additions. In Australia, New Zealand and the UK, ketchup is commonly referred to as tomato sauce.

Ketchup has not always been made out of tomatoes. It started out as a general term for sauce, typically made of mushrooms or fish brine with herbs and spices. Some popular early main ingredients include anchovy, oyster, lobster, walnut, kidney bean, cucumber, cranberry, lemon, and grape.

Two major commercial distributors of ketchup in the United States are the H. J. Heinz Company and ConAgra Foods (manufacturer of Hunt's brand).


Early ketchup recipes

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Ketchup from a ketchup packet.

Ketchup in the 1800s referred to any sauce made with vinegar. As the century progressed, tomato ketchup began its ascent in popularity, influenced by an American enthusiasm for tomatoes. However, the Webster's Dictionary of 1913 still places mushroom before tomato.

n. A table sauce made from mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc. [Written also ketchup.]

A 19th century tomato catsup recipe

The following is taken from Sugar House Book, published in 1801, from the collection of the Newport Historical Society (

  1. Get [the tomatoes] quite ripe on a dry day, squeeze them with your hands till reduced to a pulp, then put half a pound of fine salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boil them for two hours.
  2. Stir them to prevent burning.
  3. While hot press them through a fine sieve, with a silver spoon till nought but the skin remains, then add a little mace, 3 nutmegs, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper to taste.
  4. Boil over a slow fire till quite thick, stir all the time.
  5. Bottle when cold.
  6. One hundred tomatoes will make four or five bottles and keep good for two or three years."

The salt in this recipe, which served as a preservative, yields a taste extremely salty to modern taste buds. This recipe is important because tomato was not widely accepted by people in North America in the early 1800s. Many believed it was poisonous.

Another influential 19th century cookbook The Virginia Housewife (1824) written by Mary Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's cousin, also had a tomato catsup recipe.

A 20th century grape catsup recipe

This recipe is taken from The Inglenook Cook Book, published in 1906:

Take 1 quart of grape juice, 1 pint of vinegar, 1 pound of sugar, and ground cloves to suit your taste. Boil until quite thick.

This book also teaches its readers how to make tomato and cucumber catsup.

Modern ketchup

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small packets of ketchup and mustard

Heinz introduced the first commercial ketchup in 1876 which was advertised: "Blessed relief for Mother and the other women in the household!"

Modern ketchup emerged in the early years of the 20th century, out of a debate over the use of sodium benzoate as a preservative in condiments [1] ( Harvey W. Wiley, the "father" of the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., challenged the safety of benzoate. In response, entrepreneurs, particularly Henry J. Heinz, pursued an alternative recipe that eliminated the need for that preservative.

Prior to Heinz (and his fellow innovators), commercial tomato ketchups of that time were watery and thin, in part due to the use of unripe tomatoes, which were low in pectin. They were also less vinegary than modern ketchups; by pickling ripe tomatoes, the need for benzoate was eliminated without spoilage or degradation in flavor. But the changes driven by the desire to eliminate benzoate also produced changes that some experts (such as Andrew F. Smith [2] ( believe were key to the establishment of tomato ketchup as the dominant American condiment.

Until Heinz, most commercial ketchups appealed to two of the basic tastes: bitterness and saltiness. But the switch to ripe tomatoes and more tomato solids added savoriness, and the major increase in the concentration of vinegar added sourness and pungency to the range of sensations experienced during its consumption. And because the elimination of benzoate was also accompanied by a doubling of the sweetness of ketchup, a balanced stimulation of all five types of taste buds produced an almost gestalt effect.

In the past, ketchup was produced from fresh tomatoes after harvesting. Vacuum evaporation made it possible to turn tomatoes into a very thick tomato paste that is easy to store at room temperature. This enables a factory to produce ketchup throughout the year.

Later innovations

Originally, ketchup was stored in glass bottles and was difficult to pour. While glass containers protected ketchup from moisture and oxidization, the physical properties of ketchup make it difficult to pour smoothly from a glass bottle. Without vigorous shaking, ketchup tends to stick to the inside of the bottle. Physicists explain this by noting that ketchup is a dilatant power-law fluid. The introduction of polyethylene squeeze bottles made it easier to get the ketchup out.

Since 2000, Heinz has marketed colored ketchup products. These popular products are made from adding food coloring to the traditional ketchup. Its introduction, in smaller soft plastic squeeze bottles [3] (, has led to a 12% increase as of 2004 in ketchup consumption in homes with children [4] (


The following table compares the nutritional value of ketchup with raw ripe tomatoes and salsa, based on information from the USDA Food Nutrient Database. Based on U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances and recommendations from the United States National Research Council, the table illustrates how ketchup is less healthy due to its sweetness and added salt.

(per 100 g)
Ketchup Low sodium
USDA commodity
La Victoria
Salsa Brava, Hot
Energy 100 kcal 104 kcal 18 kcal 36 kcal 40 kcal
Water 68.33 g 66.58 g 94.50 g 89.70 g 88.67 g
Protein 1.74 g 1.52 g 0.88 g 1.50 g 1.36 g
Fats 0.49 g 0.36 g 0.20 g 0.20 g 1.11 g
Carbohydrates 25.78 g 27.28g 3.92 g 7.00 g 6.16 g
Sodium 1110 mg 20 mg 5 mg 430 mg 648 mg
Vitamin C 15.1 mg 15.1 mg 12.7 mg 4 mg 7.2 mg
Lycopene 17007 μg 18968 μg 2573 μg n/a n/a

Ketchup packets from fast-food restaurants:

Restaurant Packet
Energy Sodium Carbo-
Arby's 9 g 10 kcal 100 mg 2 g
Burger King 10 g 10 kcal 127 mg 3 g
Jack in the Box 9 g 10 kcal 105 mg 2 g


Early uses in English

The word entered the English language in England during the late seventeenth century, appearing in print as catchup and later as ketchup. The following is a list of early quotations collected by the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • 1690, B. E., A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew
    • Catchup: a high East-India Sauce.
  • 1711, Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India 128
    • Soy comes in Tubbs from Jappan, and the best Ketchup from Tonquin; yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in China.
  • 1730, Jonathan Swift, A Panegyrick on the Dean Wks. 1755 IV. I. 142
    • And, for our home-bred British cheer, Botargo, catsup, and caveer.
  • 1748, Sarah Harrison, The Housekeeper's Pocket-Book and Compleat Family Cook. i. (ed. 4) 2,
    • I therefore advise you to lay in a Store of Spices, ... neither ought you to be without ... Kitchup, or Mushroom Juice.
  • 1751, Mrs. Hannah Glasse, Cookery Bk. 309
    • It will taste like foreign Catchup.
  • 1817, George Gordon Byron, Beppo viii,
    • Buy in gross ... Ketchup, Soy, Chili~vinegar, and Harvey.
  • 1832, Vegetable Substances Used for the Food of Man 333
    • One ... application of mushrooms is ... converting them into the sauce called Catsup.
  • 1840, Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1849) 91/1
    • Some lamb chops (breaded, with plenty of ketchup).
  • 1845, Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery v. (1850) 136 (L.)
    • Walnut catsup.
  • 1862, Macmillan's Magazine. Oct. 466
    • He found in mothery catsup a number of yellowish globular bodies.
  • 1874, Mordecai C. Cooke, Fungi; Their Nature, Influence and Uses 89
    • One important use to which several ... fungi can be applied, is the manufacture of ketchup.

The spelling catsup seems to have appeared first from the pen of Jonathan Swift, in 1730.

The China connection

One popular theory is that the word ketchup is derived from kechiap or k-tsiap which is from the Amoy dialect of China by way of the Malay word, kecap (pr. similar to "ketchup").

The exact Chinese characters for kechiap has been disputed:

  • Theory 1: "ketchup" means "茄汁": "茄" is the Chinese character for "eggplant" or a shortened form of "tomato" (蕃茄). "Ketchup" means "茄汁" or "tomato juice (sauce)".
    • Pronunciations in modern Taiwanese dialect (very similar to that of Amoy): 茄(ki) 汁(chiap)
    • Pronunciations in modern Cantonese: 茄(ke4) 汁(jap1) (Sounds like Kay-dzup)
  • Theory 2: "ketchup" means "鮭汁": "鮭" is the Chinese character for "salmon" (鮭魚), or more generically, "fish". Therefore, "ketchup" means "鮭汁" or "fish sauce".
    • Pronunciations in modern Taiwanese dialect: 鮭(ke) 汁(chiap)
    • Pronunciations in modern Cantonese: 鮭(gwai1) 汁(jap1)

Ketchup and U.S. politics

In 1981, US President Ronald Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, proposed classifying ketchup as a vegetable as part of Reagan's budget cuts for federally financed school lunch programs (it would make it cheaper to satisfy the requirements on vegetable content of lunches). The suggestion was widely ridiculed and the proposal was killed.

In 2004, presidential challenger John Kerry's ties to H. J. Heinz Company through his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, led some supporters of George W. Bush to create an alternative called W Ketchup [5] ( According to them, W stands for George Washington; others suspect "W" more likely refers to Bush's middle initial, which is often used as his nickname.

See also

External links

Early recipes

Other non-commercial recipes

es:Ketchup fr:Ketchup nl:Tomatenketchup ja:ケチャップ pl:Ketchup sl:Ketchup fi:Ketsuppi sv:Ketchup


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