Tangy and sweet ketchup is the perfect topping for hearty vegan burgers and crispy, golden french fries. You've made the switch to a plant-based diet, but is ketchup vegan? We've got the details below on common ingredients in ketchup and how to find some plant-based ketchup.
Congratulations on choosing a vegan diet - while some of the dietary changes are clear and simple, like cutting out meat products, other transitions can be a little stickier (ketchup pun intended).
Veganism encompasses removing meat, dairy, and eggs from the diet and avoiding as much as possible anything made with animal by-products or food creation processes that exploit animals or the environment.
Is ketchup vegan?
While this food is plant-based by nature, and some vegans choose to consume ketchup, others won't eat certain varieties containing a few ingredients that don't fit into their veganism definition.
Vegan condiments become even more critical when you're learning how to flavor and adapt to an entirely new way of eating. Tomato ketchup is one of America's favorite condiments, and that doesn't have to change when you become vegan - you just find different foods to squeeze this sweet tomato sauce onto instead.
Many different kinds of ketchup fit into any standard vegan diet. Learn more below about ketchup's main ingredients, which ones can cause trouble for vegans, and the best vegan ketchup brands on the market.
What is Tomato Ketchup?
Ketchup is a sweet, tangy sauce typically made using tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and many spices, like allspice, onion, coriander, cloves, garlic, and cumin, and mustard.
This irresistible, sweet red sauce is an excellent dip for french fries and grilled sandwiches, and topping for hamburgers and hotdogs, vegan or otherwise.
Tomato ketchup is often found as an ingredient in other sauces, like General Tso, as an easy method of adding some sweetness and acidity.
This sauce couldn't be any more popular in America, with 10 billion ounces of ketchup consumed annually and 97% of American households having a bottle regularly stocked in their refrigerator.
So, surely ketchup is vegan.
What is Ketchup Made out of?
Most of the ingredients in tomato ketchup are vegan, but there are a few questionable ones that not all vegans choose to eat. If you choose to make your own vegan ketchup recipe at home, this might help:
These sweet, red vegetables are safe and encouraged for a vegan diet, as they contain a load of crucial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Vinegar is an acidic solution from plant-based sources, like apples, other fruits, and grains like barley. All essential kinds of vinegar are vegan, but specialty bottles of vinegar with an elaborate ingredient list may not be.
The vinegar used in tomato ketchup making is vegan.
Spices are sourced from plants and are therefore always vegan in their natural state. Any spice blends added to ketchup are vegan-friendly.
Salt is a mineral that comes from the earth, and no animals are exploited or involved in its production.
Based on the above, you’d think that ketchup is vegan, and suitable for a plant-based diet. But it’s not as simple as that.
Sugar or Brown Sugar
While not an animal product in itself, many vegans consider sugar in ketchup to be non-vegan-friendly, as many white and brown sugars are filtered and bleached using animal bone char.
Heating cow bones to a high temperature until they break down into carbon creates bone char or activated carbon.
Sugar lies in a grey area for many vegans, as the resulting sugar is filtered, and no bone char remains in the sugar itself.
You can find sugar refined using other products, like beets, and many omit carbon from their process altogether.
It's not a guarantee that bone char is used to process the sugar in your ketchup, but most national brands opt for inexpensive ingredients, like non-vegan white sugar.
For all the reasons above, you’ll find many people who say that sugar is not vegan.
You won't run into this ingredient in tomato ketchup often, except in homemade or specialty ketchup cases. Honey is an animal product, so when it’s present in food, it's no longer safe for vegan consumption.
Can vegans eat ketchup?
Absolutely they can! Sugar is the only ingredient in most brands that may trip up someone following a vegan diet, but it's a personal choice to make.
Veganism is supposed to be practicable, and many vegans don't feel they'll be able to avoid sugar, which is in almost every single processed food on the market. Consider whether you think the small amount of animal-based carbon in sugar is substantial enough for you to avoid sugar altogether.
Is ketchup vegan? PETA is one of the most prominent animal advocate organizations in America. Even PETA gives tomato ketchup the green light for veganism. Many vegans eat sugar in their diet, and many feel that sugar is not a good part of a vegan diet. Whatever you decide, there is no wrong choice, just what feels right for you.
Whether you choose sugar or not, you can still consume tomato ketchup. There are sugar-free ketchup brands that will suit any vegan lifestyle and are a bit healthier for your body without the addition of refined sugars.
Any brands that contain certified organic sugar cannot be processed using bone char, so all organic kinds of ketchup produced in America are free of animal products.
Vegan Ketchup Brands
No matter which ketchup you choose, you can build a vegan pantry that includes this classic condiment and a ton of others.
Here are some vegan ketchup brands that are widely available at supermarkets:
- Heinz Tomato Ketchup
- Hunts Natural Ketchup
- Annie's Organic Ketchup
- Muir Glen Organic Tomato Ketchup
- 365 Organic Tomato Ketchup
- Del Monte Tomato Ketchup
- Hellman's Ketchup
- Nature's Promise Ketchup
- Tesco Ketchup
- ASDA Ketchup
- Red Gold Ketchup
- Trader Joe's Ketchup
- Kroger Ketchup
- French's Ketchup
- Great Value Ketchup
- Stokes Ketchup
Is Heinz Ketchup Vegan?
Heinz is the most popular ketchup in America, and great news for vegans, the classic version is safe! All versions are vegetarian-friendly.
There are no no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or thickeners.
Aside from the animal products question, a lot of vegans will question other factors in the making of any product. Heinz ketchup ingredients don’t include palm oil, which will come as good news to all ketchup-loving vegans.
It also doesn’t contain gluten.
The Heinz tomato ketchup ingredients list includes white sugar, but the company confirms that the sugar used in their classic recipe did not contact bone char. So, that makes this product suitable for vegans.
There are a couple of exceptions in the line of product offerings from Heinz. Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup is sweetened with sugar which may be processed with bone char.
The other variety of concern is Heinz Sweetened with Honey ketchup, which unfortunately contains a non-vegan ingredient, honey.
In terms of nutritional value (per 15g serving), see below:
Is Hunts Ketchup Vegan?
Hunts ketchup's classic recipe is vegan-friendly, as it's sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a vegan sweetener.
Hunts' ketchup ingredients label lists sugar in their 100% Natural Tomato ketchup variety. With no confirmation, we can't guarantee that animal bone char isn't used during the processing of the natural ketchup.
What about ketchup served at restaurants?
Getting your hands on an ingredient list at a restaurant can be a little challenging sometimes. If you know the brand of ketchup the restaurant uses, that can make things a little more clear, but your best bet is to ask a server or manager if you're unsure.
Many restaurants carry classic Heinz ketchup, which is always vegan.
Here are some popular chains that serve vegan ketchup options:
- Burger King
Final Verdict: Is Ketchup Vegan?
There are plenty of vegan options available for everyone to enjoy. Whether you abstain from sugar in your vegan diet or not, we've got you covered.
For vegans not worried about sugar consumption, virtually every ketchup is vegan, and gets the green light unless it happens to contain honey or other specialty ingredients.
For white and brown sugar-free vegans, stick to organic brands that are always vegan. Any sugar-free varieties of tomato ketchup won't contain animal products, either.
And best yet, try making a homemade ketchup vegan alternative that is perfect for any plant-based or omnivorous diet!