What is the difference between ketchup and tomato sauce?

Ketchup typically contains additional ingredients besides tomatoes, such as sugar, vinegar, and other flavor enhancers (salt, garlic, onion, pepper, etc.). Although tomato sauce can have more ingredients than ketchup, at its most basic form, it is simply made of tomatoes that are squashed, cooked, and mixed with a bit of lemon juice, vinegar, or salt for flavor enhancement. Both forms of sauces require a long cooking time in order to reduce the tomato to a soft, liquid, and sauce-like form.

Ketchup is only ever ketchup, which is supposed to be the sugary and vinegary red goop they sell in bottles at the grocery store, while the tomato sauce could be used to describe a wide range of tomato-based sauces. All in all, ketchup is a sauce made of tomatoes, but so is a tomato sauce, although there are other tomato sauces that are not considered as ketchup.

What Was the Original Ketchup?

Surprisingly, the first ketchup that was invented in ancient times didn’t even have tomatoes as one of its ingredients. The first ketchup consists of pickled fish and spices, which has a totally different flavor from the ketchup that we know today.

This early ketchup was invented in 17th century China, and it had eventually arrived in the Malay territories when the Chinese traded their goods in the areas that are now Singapore and Malaysia. In these lands, the people called the sauce “kicap” that is translated as “brine of pickled fish” in English. The word evolved into ketchup when the English settlers tasted the sauce and introduced it in the colonies found in North America.

Evolution of Ketchup

In Britain, ketchup evolved into a different sauce during the 18th century, and the ones invented by the British people have mushrooms as the main ingredient. Although at first, the mushrooms were mixed with the original fish ketchup, the country soon omitted the use of pickled fish and mixed more mushrooms in the mixture instead. When the tomato ketchup was invented in the early 19th century, the mushroom ketchup slowly fell out of favor among the British people. There are still some shops in the UK that sell mushroom ketchup, but they are quite rare.

The first tomato ketchup in the early 1800s had pickled anchovies as one of its ingredients, but by the 1850s, the fishy ingredient was dropped. It was the fishless variant of the ketchup that became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, and it was also during that time that many companies hopped into the opportunity of creating a popular tomato ketchup product.

Tomato ketchup became sweeter and sweeter in the 20th century, and it was rather used as a condiment rather than a sauce for the main dish, as people believe that it is better with side dishes like fries and potato wedges. Even though ketchup was a well-known condiment in the US, it would take a few more years before fresh tomatoes rose in popularity. It was known that people were reluctant to eat whole or sliced tomatoes in the 1800s, and the only way that they can consume it is by turning it into ketchup that is mixed with spices and vinegar.

Another popular type of ketchup beside the tomato variant is the banana ketchup, which is currently the number one condiment in the Philippines and its surrounding countries in Southeast Asia. According to historical records, banana ketchup was invented by Maria Y. Orosa, a Filipina food technologist who experimented on foods during World War II. Because of the lack of tomatoes in the country, Orosa tried to find an alternative fruit or vegetable that has a similar flavor to tomatoes, and the one food item that she decided to turn into ketchup was the banana. During that time, banana production is much higher compared to tomatoes, and what better way to use the excess banana supply than by turning them into ketchup. Although tomato ketchup and banana ketchup has the same sour and slightly spicy taste, the latter is said to be much sweeter than the former. Today, banana ketchup is sold not only in Southeast Asia but also in other faraway countries like the United States, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom.