Once in my life, I thought I would never need a ketchup substitute. After all, I always had a bottle or two in my kitchen since my family loves using it as a condiment. I also use it in some of my cooked recipes.
But, well, I was mistaken! One day, I just realized I only had a half-filled ketchup bottle while in the middle of cooking my family's favorite meat stew. Good thing I was able to find an ingredient in my pantry that can replace ketchup.
To make sure I don't go through that dilemma again, I tried and tested several ingredients and came up with a good list of mouth watering ketchup substitutes, which I am about to share with you.
14 Highly Recommended Ketchup Substitutes
Surely, you can name a lot of ingredients when thinking about the best substitutes for ketchup, especially if you have been using ketchup for quite some time. After all, many kitchen staples are made from tomatoes. But you might be surprised to know that not every ketchup substitute is made from tomatoes or has tomatoes in it.
1. Tomato Sauce
Thanks to its versatility, a substitute for ketchup that most home cooks have in their pantries is tomato sauce. Hence, it's number one on my list.
Made from tomatoes, you'll expect tomato sauce to have the same tomato flavor as ketchup. However, it won't have a sweet taste, so you might want to add sugar, honey, maple syrup, or any sweetener.
But if you're looking for a healthy ketchup substitute, you can use tomato sauce as is to benefit from its low sugar and caloric content.
Apart from the flavor, tomato sauce has a good amount of acidity, like ketchup.
One thing I want you to make a note of when you opt for tomato sauce to replace ketchup in your recipes is that it has a thinner consistency. That's because of its high water content.
It's why sometimes, I reduce it over low heat when my final dish, sauce, marinade, topping, or dip needs to be thick. Another hack I want to teach you is to simply reduce the amount of liquid ingredients in your recipe so you don't have to spare some time to add an extra step to your cooking preparation.
Substitution-wise, follow a 1:1 ratio to replace ketchup in your recipes.
Best for just about anything.
2. Tomato Paste
Another healthy substitute for ketchup is tomato paste, as it contains lower amounts of sodium, sugar, and calories than ketchup.
Tomato paste also has a much-concentrated tomato flavor because it has no additional spices and water. However, this flavor profile makes it unsuitable for making a dipping sauce that doesn't require cooking.
That said, the thick consistency of tomato paste ensures you give your dishes a texture closest to when using ketchup.
My one issue with tomato paste is that it doesn't have the same acidity as ketchup. But you can always solve this problem by simply adding a splash of distilled or apple cider vinegar. I also sometimes use lime or lemon juice, depending on my recipe and what's available in my kitchen.
So how to substitute ketchup with tomato paste? Well, it's quick and easy because you just add the same amount as what's listed in the recipe for ketchup.
Best for cooked recipes.
3. Tomato Puree
Add a familiar tomato flavor to your recipes by substituting ketchup with the same amount of tomato puree. It also has a slight acidity to it, as well as a smooth, velvety, thick consistency.
While tomato puree doesn't have the same level of tanginess as ketchup, it wouldn't be very noticeable. Tomato puree also has a bitter aftertaste compared to tomato sauce and tomato paste.
It's why I sometimes add a few teaspoons of sugar or any sweetener to the puree. If you plan to do the same, make sure you don't overdo it.
I suggest that for every cup of tomato puree, you must add two teaspoons of the sweetener. I also make sure I blend the ingredients well before measuring and replacing ketchup in my recipe.
To ensure the puree, whether plain or with added sweetener, works perfectly in my recipes, I follow a 1:1 substitution ratio.
Best for stews, soups, sauces, and Indian dishes.
4. Tomato Concentrate
While tomato paste and tomato puree are considered concentrates, you can also make a concentrate from your boxed or canned tomato juice. Simply heat the juice over low heat until it reduces to half the amount.
The tomato concentrate surely has a thinner consistency than ketchup, but it will give your recipe its much-needed tomato flavor, sometimes even more!
What I want you to remember is that not all tomato juice products are made the same way. Some are made from 100% tomatoes, while others have added ingredients, especially sugar.
While the sugar will give your recipe the familiar ketchup sweetness, I strongly recommend opting for pure tomato juice. If not, always taste the juice to see how sweet it is; checking the product label is also important since it might contain other ingredients like salt.
Doing any or both will ensure you can adjust the measurement of the other ingredients in your recipe.
With that out of the way, to replace ketchup in your recipe with tomato juice concentrate, simply follow a 1:1 ratio.
Best for just about anything.
5. Tomato Jam
Serve tomato jam with your French fries, fried chicken, or scrambled eggs, or drizzle it over your homemade burgers, and no one will notice that ketchup is missing.
While it's chunkier than ketchup, I sometimes turn tomato jam into a puree with the help of my food blender or processor. Doing so helps me give the jam a texture almost similar to ketchup.
Also note that besides having a tomato flavor and a slightly tangy taste, tomato jam is a bit sweeter than ketchup. It also contains other spices not present in ketchup, like ginger and chili peppers, giving it a slightly spicy taste.
It's why I advise that you only use half the amount of what's required in the recipe if you'll use tomato jam to replace ketchup. Reducing the amount of spices included in the tomato jam blend will also ensure you won't have overly seasoned recipes.
But, of course, you can add the same amount of tomato jam as what the recipe calls for ketchup if you want to serve something with a spicy kick.
Best for stews, soups, and marinades and as a dipping sauce and topping.
6. Sun Dried Tomatoes
Are you surprised to find sun dried tomatoes as a substitute for ketchup? I understand because, after all, it isn't as close to ketchup in terms of texture.
But besides the tomato flavor, this ingredient also gives your savory dishes or anything you prepare a delicious umami flavor. Most canned sun dried tomatoes are also soaked in olive oil, giving them an additional flavor or aroma.
You can use the dried tomatoes directly out of the can or packet and allow them to cook together with the other ingredients in your baked beans, stews, casseroles, or soups. You can also blend the tomatoes or turn them into a puree to use as a dipping sauce, topping, or marinade ingredient.
Like with tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes lack the acidity of ketchup. Simply add a splash or two of distilled or apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to resolve this issue.
Ratio-wise, follow a 1:1 ratio when used in puree form. When using the dried tomatoes as is, I suggest using ½ dried tomato for every tablespoon of ketchup required in the recipe.
You can also slice the dried tomatoes into smaller cubes for easy measurement and then replace ketchup with the same amount of diced tomatoes.
Best for just about anything.
7. Sun Dried Tomato Hummus
Made from natural ingredients, sun dried tomato hummus is an excellent healthy substitute for ketchup. However, it isn't an ideal choice if you're serving someone following a low-carb diet.
With that out of the way, sun dried tomato hummus will give your recipe umami-ness with an added herby flavor.
It has a thicker consistency than tomato ketchup, so when you combine it with its flavor, you can use it as a dip for fried food, fresh vegetables, and tortilla chips. You can also spread it on your pita bread and burger bun to make a delicious chicken wrap, burger, and more.
The hummus' consistency can also thicken your stews and soups without any hassles. Depending on how thick you want your cooked dishes to be, substitute ketchup with one-fourth or half the amount of sun dried tomato hummus.
Remember that sun dried tomato hummus has added herbs, even spices. So make sure you give the product a taste or check the product's label. Consider reducing the amount of any of the ingredients included or completely eliminating those that you find can overpower your cooked dishes.
Best for soups and stews and as a dipping sauce and spread.
8. Banana Ketchup
What could be a good ketchup substitute than another type of ketchup, right?
While it's made from bananas instead of tomatoes, this ketchup product works perfectly as a condiment for French fries, fried chicken, fried fish, and other viands. You can also make a delicious sauce from banana-made ketchup and use it as an ingredient in many baked and cooked recipes.
This ketchup has almost the same spices as tomato ketchup, such as onion powder, garlic powder, vinegar, and sugar (or any sweetener). It means that it has the same tangy taste. However, since it's made from bananas, it is slightly sweeter.
To use, add the same amount as what the recipe calls for tomato ketchup, but you may want to reduce the amount of sugar or any sweetener in your recipes.
Best for just about anything.
9. Tomato-Based Hot Sauce
If you or your guests love spicy food, go ahead and use chili sauce or hot sauce in your recipe instead of tomato ketchup.
While you can use any hot sauce products like Tabasco and sriracha, I suggest you look for one with tomato as one of its main ingredients. They're usually made by Mexican, African, and Puerto Rican brands, so it's easy to find them in your grocery aisles.
These chili sauce products will ensure you still give your recipes the desired tomato taste. It's like using tomato sauce, tomato jam, or tomato paste with added chilies.
As a dipping sauce, you can add ⅛ teaspoon of sugar, honey, or pure maple syrup to every tablespoon of your hot sauce. Doing so will help balance out the spiciness and heat.
To use in your cooked recipes, the amount you use will depend on how spicy and hot you want the dish to be. I found that adding half the amount of what's required in the recipe for ketchup is enough if you want it to have a well-balanced tangy, tomato, and spicy taste.
Best for just about anything.
10. Red Pasta Sauces
As a home cook, you're aware that red pasta sauces are made from fresh or dried tomatoes, even tomato sauce and/or tomato paste. As such, it isn't impossible to use your leftover or canned pasta sauce to replace ketchup in your recipes.
Not only will your recipe have the much-needed tomato taste, but also a good amount of acidity and mild sweetness the ketchup brings.
However, pasta sauce products have added ingredients, such as garlic powder, onion powder, and other spices and herbs. While they will bring umami-ness and earthy flavors and aroma, this might not be what your specific recipe requires.
Thus, always make sure the pasta sauce's content doesn't affect your recipe's balance of flavor.
To use, add the same amount of pasta sauce as what the recipe requires for ketchup. Then, adjust the amount of any spices and/or herbs included in the blend, or remove them.
Best for pizza sauces, pasta, and vegetable dishes.
Do you store canned salsa in your pantry to have something to grab when you need a dip for your tortilla chip? Well, you can also use it as a healthy ketchup substitute!
Not only is it a perfect dipping sauce, but you can also use it to top your enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and scrambled eggs. You'll also find blended or pureed salsa products, such as salsa roja, making them a great ketchup substitute for cooked recipes requiring thick consistencies.
Whichever variety you choose, tomatoes are the main or base ingredient of salsas. Most also contain onions, chili peppers, green peppers, and lime juice. So, always make sure you adjust the amount of any ingredients included in the salsa blend.
To replace ketchup in your recipe, add the same amount of salsa.
Best for soups and stews and as a topping and dipping sauce.
12. Sweet Paprika
Sweet paprika might not have crossed your mind when thinking about the best ketchup substitutes. After all, it's in powder form and doesn't have the same tomato flavor.
That said, this type of paprika has a tart-like flavor, close enough to the tanginess ketchup brings. Plus, it's sweet, so it won't feel like you're missing ketchup in your recipe.
Paprika also blends perfectly well with most spices, such as onion powder and garlic powder, and herbs, like oregano and cumin. Sometimes, I combine it with tomato sauce and paste to give them a more complex flavor. I simply add ¼ teaspoon of paprika to a cup of tomato sauce or half a cup of tomato paste.
You can also combine it with smoked paprika if you want to add some smokiness or earthiness to your recipe. What I do is combine one part of smoked paprika with two parts of sweet paprika.
To replace ketchup with paprika, I add the same amount as what the recipe lists for ketchup.
Best for rubs, sauces, and marinades.
13. BBQ Sauce
If you've been making barbecue sauce, you're fully aware that one of the main ingredients is ketchup. Hence, you can use it as a good ketchup substitute for some of your recipes.
While the ketchup and regular, distilled, or apple cider vinegar content of BBQ sauce gives your recipe a tangy taste and acidity, the sugar will add some sweet flavor. Meanwhile, the added spices to the BBQ sauce are responsible for the smoky, spicy notes that can make your dishes more appetizing.
Of course, the BBQ sauce has a different color than ketchup. If you think it will affect your dish's overall quality, then using barbecue sauce might not be a good idea.
If you don't mind the difference in color and overall flavor and aroma profile, replace ketchup with the same amount of barbecue sauce.
Best for meatloaves and marinades.
14. Apple Cider Vinegar
Like barbecue sauces, apple cider vinegar is a surprisingly excellent ketchup substitute. Unlike ketchup, it's liquid and isn't made from tomatoes.
But vinegar is one of the main ingredients of commercially prepared ketchup products, even when you make your homemade ketchup. It's responsible for the ketchup's acidity and tangy flavor.
Needless to say, apple cider vinegar is the best ketchup substitute if you're only after the acidity and/or tanginess. Simply add a teaspoon or two to your recipes, and apple cider vinegar will already work its magic!
Best for sauces and dressings.
Serving a Hearty Meal Without the Ketchup
There you have it, some great ketchup substitute ideas that won't disappoint even when you need just a condiment or an ingredient for your sauces, dressings, marinades, and dishes.
From tomato-based ingredients like tomato sauce, paste, puree, concentrate, and jam to unusual ketchup substitutes like barbecue sauce and apple cider vinegar, you will surely find the perfect substitute for ketchup to use in your recipe.
Like with most ingredient substitutes, there is no one perfect or best ketchup substitute that will have the exact same flavor and other characteristics. Depending on your recipe or why you're replacing the ingredient, you might need to make a few tweaks or adjustments.
Still, you will be able to serve your family and/or guests with hearty meals even when you run out of ketchup.
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Healthy Homemade Ketchup
- Blender or food processor
- fine-mesh sieve
- Glass container with a lid
- Wash your fresh tomatoes and remove the stems.
- Chop the tomatoes and remove their seeds, and then wash them again.
- Place the chopped tomatoes in your blender or food processor and pulse until you have a smooth puree.
- Place your sieve over your saucepan and pour the puree over it.
- Bring the puree to a semi-boil over medium heat.
- Once the puree is about to boil, turn the heat to medium-low or low.
- Allow the puree to simmer and reduce for 30 to 45 minutes, making sure you're stirring occasionally.
- Add the other ingredients and stir.
- Let the mixture simmer for another eight to 10 minutes, making sure you stir occasionally to avoid burning.
- Once the mixture has a similar consistency to ketchup, remove your pan from the heat, and allow it to cool.
- Once cool, transfer your simple homemade ketchup to your small container.
- You can now use your homemade ketchup! When not in use, make sure you seal the bottle tightly and store it in your refrigerator.
- This homemade ketchup substitute will last for two months.
- You can replace the brown sugar with the same amount of honey or pure maple syrup.
- You can replace the apple cider vinegar with the same amount of distilled vinegar.
- You can also use 12 ounces of tomato paste, but skip the cooking and sieving steps.
- If you want to adjust the consistency of your homemade ketchup substitute, you can add water to the mixture while boiling.
- If you want to make spicy homemade ketchup substitutes, you can add chili sauce or chili peppers to the mix. The amount will depend on how spicy you want your homemade ketchup to be.
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