Is ketchup vegan?
For advocates of veganism or those who are considering becoming one for health, environmental or any other personal reasons, you really must follow and adhere to the “no animal products” basics and principles. It is quite easy to find out for most foods, whether they are suitable to the vegan lifestyle or not. This isn’t so for some foods which pose quite a challenge to knowing if you could enjoy them as a vegan. These just may be included in the no-no list for vegans (9). For instance, a lover of ketchup who is considering the vegan lifestyle will definitely want to ask, “is ketchup vegan?” In your efforts to try to answer this question, continue reading to find out more about this basic condiment.
Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments found in kitchens of most homes. About 97% of American households say they have a bottle of it somewhere in the cooking and eating areas of their homes, ready to be called upon for use at any time. So it is no surprise for a vegan to be tempted to add it to their fries and veggie-burgers.
Ketchup, what is it?
Ketchup or catchup, as it’s sometimes referred to, is any vegetable sauce containing vinegar and sold in a bottle. It is a condiment that has become popular around the world and is found in various sizes and packages. Anytime you pick-up your takeaway burger or chips you should faithfully find a small sachet of ketchup alongside the food in the bag. Most customers expect and want some of that extra juiciness along with their burger and fries. Most brands are deliciously sweet, smooth, and thick.
Ketchup is a savoury sauce that can function both as an ingredient and a meal condiment. Although the sauce is popularly referred to as tomato ketchup, there are other vegetables, fruits, and even fish-based concoctions of ketchup. Interestingly, the origin of this famous sauce did not even start with any trace of tomato in the recipe. The original version of ketchup was not made with tomatoes. So when people ask “is tomato ketchup vegan?” they are possibly doing so because they know little about what the fantastic sauce is made up of.
History of ketchup
The origin of ketchup has been traced to Asia, specifically China and Indonesia. The sauce’s name was obtained from fermented fish, and derived from the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap. Based on general belief, merchants from Vietnam brought fish sauce to southeastern China (4). After the British encountered the sauce in Southeast Asia they returned home to try to come up with something that replicated the dark fermented sauce. As a result, the sauce popularly known as ketchup today didn’t look anything like the original. What was made in those days was much darker and it could be added to fish, meat, sauces, and soups.
Since those early days, different methods of preparing the sauce have been developed so that today there are quite a few variants of ketchup on the market (7). In Malaysia, there is a soy sauce, usually referred to as Kechap Manis, while the most common form of ketchup in Germany is made from powdered curry. Jamaicans enjoy jerky ketchup made from ingredients like cinnamon, thyme and scotch bonnet peppers. Sometimes, crushed pineapple is added to this delicious mix. People in the Philippines reportedly discovered banana ketchup during the second world war as a result of the enormous scarcity of tomatoes. Although this version may contain a bit of tomato, it’s banana flavour is usually irresistible. It is considered as an essential ingredient in the preparation of the locally made sweet spaghetti in the country.
How is ketchup not vegan?
This question, in any conversation, may require an explanation describing what is in ketchup that isn’t vegan. Well first off, most of the types of this sauce are made from mostly plant-based ingredients; there are however, some brands which include ingredients that are forbidden according to the rules of veganism. This then means that the ingredients used in the preparation of any kind of ketchup will determine whether it is vegan friendly or not.
Is tomato ketchup vegan friendly?
But then, specifically, you may want to ask, “is tomato ketchup vegan friendly?” A quick look into all the combined substances that make up tomato ketchup will help to answer this question. Typically, tomato ketchup is prepared from the ingredients listed below:
- Sweetener (especially sugar or high fructose corn syrup);
- Different types of spices depending on the preference of consumers;
- Powdered garlic and onion;
Considering the ingredients listed above relative to the question, “is eating ketchup vegan?” It would not be misleading to say yes, since all of the above-listed ingredients appear to be 100% plant-based (5). But then, while this may be true for most of the tomato ketchup out there, there is a specific element in the processing which is of concern to the principles of strict veganism, based on the type of sugar present. Most people who subscribe to veganism principles believe that if animals are hurt in any way during the production of any kind of food, then such food is not appropriate for consumption.
Worries about bone char
You may be wondering what the sugar in ketchup has to do with veganism and animal maltreatment. The point is this: when ketchup is sweetened with either brown sugar, white sugar or both, there is a possibility that it can not be consumed by a strict vegan. The reason for this is that during the production of various kinds of brown and white sugar, the bones of certain animals (mostly cattle) are charred or burnt. The burnt bones are used to achieve the filtration and bleaching process in sugar production (2).
How do you get the bone char without first of all harming the animal? The animals whose bones are collected for this purpose were slaughtered, and the needed bones removed. After that the bones are allowed to burn under very intense temperature until charred. These burnt bones are used as a filtration and bleaching agent to make the sugar white or brown (2). The final product (sugar) doesn’t contain any bone particles as they are only a part of the process of refining the sugar.
A strict vegan will decide to neither buy nor eat food containing this sugar because an animal product has been used to achieve the refined state of the sugar used. Instead, such a person will select a type of ketchup with sugar which has not been refined by the use of any animal product. Most of the refined sugar from beets meets this standard, and so a vegan is happy to enjoy ketchup in this way(1, 2).
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Alternative ketchup for vegans
If you are one of the strict vegans and would love to be able to enjoy your “ketchupy” meal without being unnecessarily worried about the non-vegan ingredients, here is something that may interest you. You can keep this list of vegan-friendly tomato ketchup with you wherever you go hunting for a bottle of ketchup at your favourite grocery store (5, 6).
Heinz organic ketchup
The Heinz company is known to be the producer of the most famous brand of ketchup. Data shows that this company supplies over half of the market in the United States. Among their products is a vegan-friendly formula of this condiment. Their organic tomato ketchup label does not contain any ingredients of animal origin, and so it is suitable for consumption by vegans. It also has the added advantage of not containing high fructose corn syrup, which is the sweetener used in most of the commercial ketchup brands(8).
Annie’s organic ketchup
The ingredients in this brand are also animal-product free. It is made from only plant-based sugar, and as well does not contain high fructose corn syrup. Something unique is that you will find cloves in the ingredients, which causes you to have a slightly warm feeling in your mouth.
Vegan tomato ketchup
If for any reason you feel that manufacturers might be hiding something by not including every ingredient on the label, you can still enjoy your vegan tomato ketchup by preparing it yourself. It is effortless to make and may even be cheaper than what you can buy from a store. An added advantage is that you can spice it to your satisfaction. So, all you need are the ingredients that meet the requirements of veganism (3).
- Vegan sweetener
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Apple Cider vinegar
- Spices such as thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and any other type of spice depending on how comfortable you are with spicy foods.
- Fill your slow cooker with the tomato.
- Add a bit of water to it.
- Pour in your sweetener, Apple cider vinegar, salt, garlic, onions, and then stir until it is thoroughly mixed.
- Cook the mixture until it becomes thick. Stir at intervals while cooking.
- Pour the mixture into an immersion blender to assist you in smoothening the texture.
- Then, pour everything into a clean bowl and allow it to cool before trying to taste it to find out if you may need to add a bit of spice, depending on preference.
- After this it is ready to be served with whatever food you may wish.
Are ketchup and mustard vegan?
Mustard is also a popular condiment, especially among Americans. It is mostly prepared from plant-based ingredients like the mustard seed, water, sugar, and certain amounts of wine or beer. For a vegan, is there a mustard brand suitable for consumption? Mustards made from vinegar, salt, spices, and mustard seeds are okay for a vegan’s consumption.
However, the honey mustard and Dijon mustard may not be appropriate for consumption (6). The reason is that, in the case of the honey mustard, the source of the honey used in production, which may not be identified, is the problem. Some strict vegans may note that the process of getting honey from bees is animal rights abuse.
On the other hand, the Dijon mustard may be considered non-vegan because white wine is used as part of the ingredients in its preparation. No animal product is contained in the final product of white wine, really, but the issue is that some animal-based agents are used during the process of filtration during the process of producing it. Examples of such filtration agents of animal origin are the casein, isinglass, gelatin, and albumin.
Over the years, ketchup has become one of the most famous sauces eaten alongside various foods around the world. But then, is ketchup vegan or not has been one of the pertinent questions that vegans, especially those who don’t want to part with this tasty sauce and don’t wish to violate the veganism principles that they hold fast to. Considering all that has been discussed and that there are plenty of unsuitable ketchup brands in the market, the vegan must carefully consider the ingredients of whatever brand they are interested in, before purchasing.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 4 Great Fruit Ketchups ( 2013, saveur.com)
- Are animal ingredients included in white sugar? (n.d., peta.org)
- Homemade ketchup (n.d., allrecipes.com)
- How was ketchup invented? (2014, nationalgeographic.com)
- Is Ketchup Vegan? (n.d., vegetarian.lovetoknow.com)
- Is Mustard Vegan? Here’s What You Should Know (n.d., spoonuniversity.com)
- Ketchup (n.d., madehow.com)
- Negative Effects of High-Fructose Corn Syrup (n.d., livestrong.com)
- What Is Veganism? (2020, spruceeats.com)