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It’s summer time, there’s a heat wave, and all anyone wants to do is break out the grill, throw down some veggie burgers, and relax in the shade. But what barbecue is complete without dressing up your veggie burger with tomato, onion, avocado, vegan cheese…and mountains of ketchup?

But, is ketchup vegan? Can you still enjoy the sweet and tangy tomatoey goodness on your (vegan) burgers and fries?

Don’t fret: I happen to be somewhat of a ketchup connoisseur, which means I’ve got the scoop on ketchup’s vegan status. Keep reading to see whether you can keep ketchup on your picnic table, or if you need to find a new condiment to call your number one.

What is ketchup?

wooden bowl of tomato ketchup surrounded by tomatoes with a sprig of basil and a wooden spoon upon a check napkin on a table

Put simply, ketchup is a tomato-based sauce – a condiment that’s seemingly ubiquitous. From packets at fast food restaurants to bottles of it at the pub to trends like ketchup flavored ice cream, it’s almost universally beloved.

Although it’s eaten and loved all over the world, the sheer popularity of ketchup is well-exemplified by taking a look at America. The United States are a phenomenal consumer of ketchup, with 97% of all households having at least one bottle of the stuff in their pantries and 10 billion ounces of ketchup are consumed each year. (Remember, that’s just in the US!)

What’s typically in ketchup?

jar of tomato ketchup surrounded by ingredients such as garlic, chili, salt, pepper, basil and other herbs

You might be thinking, “tomato-based sauce is a little vague, Lisa.” To that I say that you’re right, so let’s delve into the tomato-based details.

These are the typical ingredients that you’ll find in your tomato-based condiment:

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Sweetener (usually high fructose corn syrup or sugar, but can be anything. More on this later)
  • Various spices
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt

Of course, you can see some variety on these ingredients, but almost all ketchups will be made of these basic ingredients.

Is ketchup vegan?

tomato sauce ketchup in a ceramic bowl with garlic and herbs on a wooden table

We’ve made it to the question you’ve been wondering about: Is ketchup vegan? The short answer: yes!

Almost all ketchups are made with the ingredients I listed earlier, all of which are plant-based. None of them are animal products, which is often good enough for most vegans to consider ketchup vegan (but not always; see the section below for more on this).

However, as with most things, it’s always best to check the ingredients just in case. While it would be unusual to find a ketchup with something else besides those general ingredients, it really can’t hurt to double check.

READ NEXT: IS SRIRACHA CHILI SAUCE VEGAN?

Non-vegan ingredients to look out for

different types of sugar on a wooden table

While most vegans will consider ketchup vegan based on those ingredients, some vegans delve a little bitter deeper into what they consider to be truly vegan.

The main issue some vegans have with some ketchups is the presence of white and/or brown sugar. Many types of white and brown sugar are filtered over and bleached with animal bone char.

Bone char is made by taking the bones of animals (usually cows), heating them up to a very high temperature, and reducing them to their carbon components. This material can then be used as a filter and as a bleaching agent for sugar production.

So, while there are no actual bone particles found in white or brown sugar, it is an animal product that’s used in the making of these sugars.

Many vegans don’t consider this enough to make refined sugars non-vegan, especially since not all refined sugar is filtered with bone char (sugar refined from beets doesn’t require this, for example, and many companies don’t use bone char at all).

That said, lots of vegans consider any use of animal products – even if it’s not a core ingredient within the item – a factor to make something non-vegan. It really is a personal choice (let me know what you think in the comments below!)

Vegan ketchup brands

Now that you know that pretty much all ketchup is vegan, it might seem confusing that I’m going to outline specific plant-based options. If ketchup is vegan, shouldn’t you just be able to pick any brand and call it a day?

Well, you can if you want to go through the ingredients yourself to be certain, but I thought I’d make life a little easier for you. The options I’m going to outline here are either certified vegan, or they are completely plant-based down to the sugar/sweetener used.

If you decide that refined sugar is OK in your book, you’ll have many more options. But these vegan ketchup brands I’m going to recommend are ones that everyone can enjoy without worrying about looking at the back of the bottle.

Heinz Organic Ketchup

Arguably the most well-known ketchup brand in the world, Heinz does make a entirely vegan ketchup free of all animal products, including bone-char-filtered sugar. So, if you’ve ever wondered, “Is Heinz ketchup vegan?”, the answer is, yes…if you choose the organic version.

Organic sugars can’t be filtered over bone char, which makes this a completely plant-based condiment. It’s also free of high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to have negative effects on health.

You can get your hands on some here.

Annie’s Organic Ketchup

Here we have another organic ketchup which uses only vegan sugar in their recipe.

Annie’s organic ketchup has a slightly different twang to it than Heinz, with a hint of clove giving it a warm, comforting feeling. Again, you’ll find no high fructose corn syrup here, and the product is certified organic as well as being Non-GMO Project verified.

Try it out for yourself here.

Westbrae Natural Organic Unsweetened Ketchup

The last one for your consideration is Westbrae Natural Organic Ketchup.

This condiment is labelled as unsweetened, but be aware that it does contain maltodextrin. While this commonly used ingredient is usually fine to consume in small quantities, diabetics should take care…especially as the label could mislead.

Get yours here.

Make your own ketchup

You also have another option: make your own ketchup. The simple ingredient list makes this a pretty easy task, and it can actually be cheaper to make your own as well.

Here’s the ingredients you’ll need for your own vegan ketchup recipe:

  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 4 tablespoons sweetener (maple syrup, vegan sugar, etc)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

If you want to get a little fancier, you can try adding your own mixture of spices like oregano or thyme to this homemade vegan ketchup. Or, if you like things spicy, you can try adding some hot sauce or cayenne pepper for a little kick.

Once you’ve gathered the ingredients, all that’s left to do is throw it all in a bowl, mix it up, and you’re done! It’s ready for potato dipping, burger adorning, and white shirt ruining (because that always seems to happen, doesn’t it?).

Is ketchup vegan? The bottom line

So what have we learned? Ketchup is vegan depending on how you define vegan products. But, even if you’re a stickler for vegan sugar, there are plenty of vegan ketchups out there for you.

You won’t have to worry about finding a new favorite sauce to replace ketchup in your heart, but if you have any more ketchup questions, leave a comment down below.

Also let me know if you try out the ketchup recipe!

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