Is Ketchup Vegan? Best Brands & Homemade Recipes

by Alena
Mar 15, 2020
Top view of homemade vegan ketchup in small grey bowl

When choosing to follow a vegan lifestyle, you’re faced with a lot of label reading. From sweets to sauces and beverages, you want to be sure you aren’t purchasing any animal products.

While some food choices may be more obvious than others (hello, cheese!), today, we want to give you a closer look at condiments  to answer the question, “Is ketchup vegan?”

We’ve all had it before – with french fries, tater tots, burgers, over pasta (don’t act as if you haven’t at least tried that), or with many meat-based dishes.

But once you decide that you want to decrease or eliminate all animal-derived products from your life, you may start to second-guess your usual favs.

Is bread vegan? Is honey vegan? Is ketchup vegan??

If you’ve come to this stage in your plant-based diet journey, then congrats. You’ve probably already cut out all of the more obvious animal products from your life, and that’s fantastic!

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, so we’d like to discuss whether most, if not all, ketchup brands are vegan, how to make your own at home and more.

Because when asking whether ketchup is vegan, we need to talk about bone char (yup, actual animal bones), refined sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and more.

If you’re now to all of this, let’s quickly take a look at what is and is not considered vegan.

What Foods Are Not Vegan

  • Meat like beef, pork, poultry, turkey, lamb, game meat etc.
  • Fish and seafood, anchovies, shrimp, mussels, lobster etc.
  • Eggs and food made with any of these like mayonnaise
  • Dairy milk and all food made with them like milk chocolate, spreads or baked goods
  • Cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, butter, ghee
  • Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, gelatine (mostly in desserts)

While these foods seem to be straight-forward and easy to identify as animal products, there are often “hidden” animal ingredients in our food.

They can be found under the following names:

  • Casein
  • Lactose
  • Collagen
  • Amino Acids
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycerin
  • Lard

For a full and regularly updated list, check out this page by PETA.

Top view of differently shaped red and green tomatoes

What Is Tomato Ketchup Made Of?

Even though we all have probably eaten it over the course of our lives, not everyone knows what tomato ketchup is actually made of.

Ketchup is a sweet and tangy condiment made mainly from tomatoes with some added white or brown sugar (sometimes high fructose corn syrup), vinegar, seasonings and spices.

Although spices and seasonings can vary, common ingredients include onions, garlic, cloves, coriander, cinnamon and cumin. Plus a bunch of salt, of course!

Interestingly, when it first originated, this common condiment used to be made with foods such as egg whites, oysters, mussels, walnuts or mushrooms instead of tomatoes – but these ingredients are not often found in today’s recipes which is why ketchup is vegan in most instances.

Needless to say, tomato ketchup has definitely gained popularity, and you can find this ubiquitous and delicious dipping sauce at many restaurants and almost every grocery store; a whopping 125 million households in the US have ketchup which comes to nearly 97 percent!

This all leads to the average American eating over 70 pounds of it each year!

Granted, ketchup by itself is not exactly a healthy food – but it can certainly be part of a healthy whole food diet.

Full Guide: Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Hidden Ingredients in Ketchup

So, we’ve just established that today’s formulations of this popular spiced tomato sauce feature pretty much just basic plant-based foods. None of them are straight-up animal products – however, there can be a catch.

While we certainly don’t want to make veganism seem too complicated and restrictive, there are some interesting details we’d love to share.

Some foods that are found in ketchup, mainly vinegar and sugar, can be made using animal products without them having to appear on the ingredient list. The same goes for alcoholic beverages, by the way.

Some kinds of vinegar are made from white or red wine, for example, which is often filtered through fish bladders, egg whites or gelatin.

Similarly, the added refined sugar in ketchup could have been made using animal bone char. This is a product usually derived from animal bones that are heated up and reduced to their carbon components. 

If you want to learn more about this, we recommend Sarah’s Comprehensive Guide to Vegan Sugar.

One more obvious animal-derived ingredient that is found in some ketchup brands at the store is honey.

Honey comb on a white table next to a glass jar with honey

Is Ketchup Vegan, Then?

Most likely, yes. With the exception of some ketchup brands that use honey, none of the ingredients are technically animal-based.

If you want to take into account the potential usage of animal products in the filtering process of sugar or vinegar, you need to dive deep and do your research – because things that are used for these cases, like fish bladder or bone char, don’t have to be declared on the label.

In the case of sugar, here are a few words to look out for on the packaging to be sure that it wasn’t processed with any bone char and your ketchup is vegan:

  • Organic
  • Unrefined
  • Natural
  • Raw 

What’s more, the term “natural flavorings” can potentially mean that there are animal-derived ingredients in the product, similar to the term “mono and diglycerides”.

However, many of these ingredients only exist in trace amounts, and whether or not you want to go that deeply into the details to affirm your veganism is your decision.

Luckily, some ketchup brands feature a vegan logo or even the official certification by vegan.org.

You can find a list of the best vegan ketchup brands in this article below.

This quick guide to condiments by PETA shows how we can generally categorize products like ketchup, salsa, mustard or ranch into “very likely vegan” and “not vegan”.

Easy Vegan Ranch Recipe

How to Choose Healthy Ketchup

Depending on your dietary preferences, there are a few things to look out for when buying ketchup. For example, maybe you can’t have nightshades, are allergic to a specific ingredient or need to watch your added sugar intake closely.

As you begin to read labels, you’ll notice that some types of ketchup have less added sugar or other sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup. You may also want to choose a ketchup brand that doesn’t use any added flavor enhancers.

And please remember, just because a label says “natural” or “organic” on the front, this does not mean that it’s a healthy product — organic ketchup is vegan most of the time (this label does ensure no bone char was used) but can still have heaps of brown sugar.

Although the American Heart Association states that up to 100 calories per day of added sugar are ok on a healthy diet, you want to keep track of these hidden sugars – and not just count the amount that you yourself add to the food or beverages you consume.

If you want to eat a healthy diet, the same rule applies as for vegans: check the label!

Extra points for BPA-free and plastic-free packaging.

You man in restaurant holding Heinz ketchup bottle upside down

Best Vegan Ketchup Brands

While pretty much all ketchup you’ll find at the store or restaurants can be called vegan, it’s up to each individual to decide how deeply into details they want to go.

To make things easier for you, here are a few vegan ketchup brands you can look out for! Some of these even have some added veggies and are totally free from added sugars.

  • True Made Foods Ketchup
  • Heinz Organic Ketchup
  • Annie’s Organic Ketchup
  • Westbrae Natural Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
  • Veg’d Organics Vegan All-Natural Ketchup
  • Tessemae’s Organic Ketchup
  • Primal Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
  • 365 Organic Tomato Ketchup
  • Hunt’s Natural Ketchup

Heinz Ketchup: Most Popular Brand

When asking “is ketchup vegan?”, you’re probably thinking of common brands like Heinz ketchup. Although we just listed a couple of supermarket choices above, it’s important to actually find tomato ketchup at the store!

And Heinz ketchup is arguably the most popular and widely accessible brand around. Both the traditional version and Heinz organic ketchup are made without bone char or high fructose corn syrup — just like all good vegan ketchups!

Easy Homemade Vegan Ketchup Recipes

If you want to know exactly what’s in your ketchup, there are so many different ways to quickly make your own ketchup at home!

No matter if you’re looking for classic tomato ketchup, one that’s free from refined sugar, features unusual spices or doesn’t use any nightshades such as tomatoes, we’ve hand-selected a list of the best homemade ketchup recipes.

Collage of 4 different recipes for homemade vegan ketchup

Vegan Recipes with Ketchup

Now that you know that pretty much all ketchup is vegan, let’s see what you can create with this tasty and ubiquitous condiment! Just dipping your fries or potatoes wedges in it is totally fine, of course, as well as spreading some on your vegan burger.

But we wanted to show you how versatile this condiment can be and how vegan ketchups can be used in completely different (and perhaps new) ways that are really delicious!

Other Tasty Vegan Condiments

Adding the right condiments can make or break your meal. We believe that eating a plant-based or vegan diet is super easy and delicious – if you know how to make the food taste great.

There are basics such as soy sauce, peanut butter, tahini, hot sauce, salsa and nutritional yeast that can take pretty much any food from “meh” to “oh yeah”!

So if you want to go beyond the basics of just adding some ketchup or mustard to your meals, you can try some of these delicious condiments:

Did you know all of this about ketchup? Do you plan on checking the label now before buying some, and have you tried making your own at home before? Share with us in the comments below and pin the best ketchup recipes here.

Alena enjoying a bowl of fresh plant-based food and coffe in a restaurant
Alena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist (CPD) who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.
dark grey spotted bowl with a variety of vegetables next to small bottle of green smoothie isolated on light background

Free Vegan Transition Course

become fully plant-based.

Our free transition eCourse teaches you how to meet your nutrients easily and create simple, tasty meals. You’ll also get a free 3-day meal plan, education on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle and how to navigate social situations.

Leave a Comment