There is something special about ketchup that makes it a favorite for many around the world. It’s possible that you have a bottle or two of ketchup lying around your kitchen to use with many of your meals. However, in your vegan journey you’ve probably wondered, “is ketchup vegan?”
We explore this question below.
Ketchup is a tangy seasoned tomato sauce used as a relish for all kinds of meals. It has a long history that dates back to imperial China and, surprisingly, at one point, it was completely tomato-free.
Interestingly, ketchup comes from the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap, the name of a sauce derived from fermented fish. The theory is traders brought fish sauce from Vietnam to southeastern China. The British likely encountered ketchup in Southeast Asia, returned home, and then tried to replicate the fermented dark sauce. Nevertheless, without the exotic ingredients from Asia, the British would have to use other ingredients available to them.
Then enters the tomato. In 1812, the tomato-based ketchup was born. James Mease, a scientist, and horticulturalist is given credit for developing the recipe. His recipe contained tomato pulp, spices, and brandy but lacked vinegar and sugar.
Before vinegar became a standard ingredient, preservation of tomato-based sauces was an issue, as the fruits would quickly decompose. A relatively new company called Heinz introduced its famous formulation in 1876. It included tomatoes, distilled vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and various spices. They also pioneered the use of glass bottles, so customers could see what they were buying and were successful because they could last for up to a year.
Ingredients used in making ketchup:
- Tomato concentrate
- Distilled vinegar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Onion powder
- Natural flavoring
The ingredient list above is what most ketchup sauces contain. However, ingredients may vary depending on the brand. With that said is ketchup vegan?
Is it Vegan?
Most of the ketchup in the market uses standard ingredients, including sugar. The issue then arises of whether or not the sugar used is suitable for vegans because not all sugar is vegan. White sugar gets its color through filtration of animal bone char. Bone char is a black, porous material made from charred cattle bones.
Brown sugar is the same because it comes from adding molasses to white sugar as well as those made sweet by using honey. Therefore vegans who adhere to the rules strictly may not use conventional ketchup.
Arguably, PETA says that obsessing over micro-ingredients in foods or giving a waiter at a restaurant a hard time can make it (veganism) seem difficult and unappealing to friends and family. This may discourage them from trying to eat vegan—which REALLY hurts animals.
If you are looking for vegan ketchup, look for one that has organic sugar listed in the ingredients since organic sugars are never processed with bone char. Otherwise, it is better to stick to vegan brands.
Ketchup brands that have organic labels, including the traditional brands, are typically safe to use. Something to note is that brands made using high fructose corn are always considered vegan. Also, when it comes to the vegan lifestyle and the strict application of one’s principles, the type of brand and ingredients will always matter.
If you are looking for other vegan alternatives or just want to have more vegan options, below are some of the ketchup brands you can consider:
- Annie’s Organic Ketchup
- Heinz Organic Ketchup
- The Foraging
- Sir Kensington’s Ketchup
Overall, if you follow a strict vegan diet, reach for the organic ketchup or those made with alternative sweeteners other than honey and you will be fine. For vegans that consume white and brown sugars, all ketchup is a fair game.