How often do you use ketchup? Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments in the entire world. It seems like it’s been a part of the culture of food and history of cooking forever. But just like McDonald’s. ketchup had to be introduced at some point.
We put ketchup on a lot of foods, and in fact, it’s hard to imagine a lot of what we eat without it as an option. French fries regularly come with sides of ketchup, in containers or in packets. It’s tough to order the best burger in NYC without considering getting the classic combination of pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, mustard, and ketchup. And of course, ketchup makes ordering onion rings all the more tasty and enjoyable of an experience.
Whether it’s being included in Russian dressings, topping a burger or hot dog, or being used as a side for French fries, chicken nuggets, onion rings, and more, you cannot deny how entrenched in food culture this condiment truly has become. Like milk and cookies, ketchup and mustard are well-known because they are frequently used. Multiple brands even specialize in offering mainstream or even fancier versions of ketchup, such as the Sriracha Ketchup or other flavored varieties.
Ketchup is so popular that a whopping 97% of households in the United States have ketchup in their homes. The numbers don’t lie! So where did ketchup come from? We’re diving into the history of this savory and sometimes spicy or sweet condiment to get the scoop and give you the Heinz– we mean whole– story on the origin of ketchup. Scroll down and find out more!
How long has ketchup, also spelled catsup, been around? This bright, tomato-based side actually started off quite differently than what we are used to today. Hokkien Chinese traders used fish sauce to make this condiment, which became fermented beans turned into pastes and mixed with other ingredients, which were traded to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Eventually, this traded condiment known as kechap or ketjap made its way to English and Dutch sailors in the 17th century. They, in turn, brought it to the shores of Europe, where it was deemed as ketchup or catsup as it remains today. It instantly became a hit for its flavor and its usability– you could easily bring it with you on long voyages or travels and it would not spoil for a while, retaining its nutritional value and staying fresh long enough to be eaten, its intended purpose.
Once integrated into European eating, ketchup skyrocketed in popularity. The fad of restaurants was becoming more popular, adapted from France, whose chefs had found themselves out of a job as a result of the revolution. There were also more spices available than ever thanks to global trade, so spices frequently used in making ketchup such as cayenne or nutmeg or even cumin could be acquired easily.
Ketchup first appears in print in the 1758 book The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith. She includes a recipe for ketchup akin to a savory chutney, including spices and anchovies in its ingredients. The recipes for ketchup would evolve and often have very different flavors or consistencies. Some included walnuts, oysters, beer, or mushrooms.
Once ketchup hit America in the early 19th century, the country was hooked. Commercial bottles of ketchup took off, and Heinz was making the first preservative-free ketchup in 1876. Sales were past 5 million bottles by 1905, and the rest is history. Love it or leave it, expect this classic condiment to be around for a long time.