Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments in the world. It is also unique in that no sauce provides exactly the combination of sweet, savory and acidic flavors that you get from ketchup. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to come up with a substitute. Quite the contrary, there are many ketchup alternatives out there. Whether you need a stand-in because you ran out of ketchup and don’t have time to head to the store or you just want a new twist on the old flavor profile, here are some of the best ketchup substitutes.
Your best bet: Make your own
Whether you need a substitute because you want something better than commercial ketchup or are out of it and need some in a hurry, making your own might be the best way to get a high-quality ketchup substitute.
There are several methods for making homemade ketchup with complex recipes that use multiple spices; however, the basic recipe relies on three things: tomato sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Get these ingredients in the right proportions and you are most of the way to making your version. The spices that you should add include allspice and cloves.
A decent second choice: Salsa
Salsa was at one time America’s favorite condiment for some good reasons: it is flavorful and most salsas do not have anywhere near the sugar content of ketchup. Salsa can come in many forms, from uncooked pico de gallo to smoother and more ketchup-like salsa roja.
You can use salsa as a ketchup substitute in many dishes. Like ketchup, it works on hotdogs and on fries. You can even use it as a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets and other breaded and fried proteins. Salsa is easy to make from scratch and requires only a few common ingredients.
In a pinch: Tomato jam
Like other fruit preserves, tomato jam is made with a fruit that is combined with sugar and cooked down. It’s a good ketchup substitute since both tomato jam and ketchup rely on the flavor of tomatoes accompanied by rich sweetness. Tomato jam works in all of the same applications as ketchup.
Tomato jam has become trendy in recent years but it is not a new invention. In fact, it has been around almost as long as the American version of ketchup. It may have begun as an early recipe for stewed tomatoes that required as much sugar as tomatoes. Tomato jam provides the same savory, umami notes and the same acidity that you would expect from ketchup. As with the homemade ketchup option above, you can use a variety of spices in a tomato jam.
The most popular barbecue sauces are tomato-based and have a similar texture to ketchup. The flavor profile is typically ketchup plus a little smokiness. As a result, you should be able to barbecue sauce as a ketchup substitute in any dish that can benefit from a smoky note.
The popular hot sauce Sriracha can make a good ketchup substitute, especially if you want a modest amount of heat. While it lacks ketchup’s syrupy sweetness, it is still somewhat sweet and its color and consistency make it look like a scarlet ketchup.