ANSWER: Yes, most of the time you can safely assume that your ketchup is vegan. Ketchup is made out of tomatoes, a sweetener, and flavoring. Typically, none of these ingredients are typically derived from animal products. There are some few potential things to look out for though (and we did some digging with popular ketchup companies to be sure) – so keep reading for the full scoop.
Ketchup is a popular condiment in western countries. It is typically used on sandwiches and french fries or anything other food that can be dipped. Some people even put it on pasta. It is so popular that it even has an official government identity from the United States Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA ketchup is defined as a food prepared from the following:
For the full and official technical definition, you can check it out yourself on the FDA website.
Heinz which is one of the most popular global ketchup brands has the following as their ingredient statement:
TOMATO CONCENTRATE FROM RED RIPE TOMATOES, DISTILLED VINEGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, SALT, SPICE, ONION POWDER, NATURAL FLAVORING.
On most brands, they use HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) to sweeten their ketchup rather than conventional sugar as a means of cost saving. Some “higher” end brands may use traditional sugar as a sweetener and that’s when the lines become blurred. Sugar sometimes uses bone char during the production process (more on that here) which would move it into the not vegan category.
Organic sugar cannot be sweetened with bone char so if the sugar sweetened ketchup is organic odds are it is 100% vegan.
You can also checkout our full article on sugar.
Another thing to look out for is “natural flavorings”. As we mentioned earlier natural flavorings may or may not be animal derived. If you see a ketchup with natural flavorings it might be best to reach out to that manufacturer to get a definitive answer.
But please do not worry about these trace ingredients too much as its teeters on the edge of being too nit-picky and does very little for the animals at the end of the day.
One popular brand of ketchup that official tags itself as vegetarian is Westbrae Natural Organic which is available online.
It’s also quite easy to make your own ketchup at home using a recipe like this one.
Update as of 6/1/2017: Muir Glen has officially responded and said that their ketchup uses no animal products so we can add it to our recommendation list.
Update as of 7/27/2017 - Heinz replied with
There are no animal byproducts in the flavoring of HEINZ Tomato Ketchup.
That being said, no need to worry about big brands of ketchup!
If you’re yet to make the transition to being vegan and know that ketchup is going to be a barrier, we would personally recommend not worrying about it. Be sure you’re able to remove all major forms of animal products from your diet. This is the most practical approach to reduce animal suffering and your carbon footprint rather than nitpicking over very negligible ingredients. Once you’ve gotten to that point, then feel free to take the next step and investigate the entire food supply chain.
Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey’s true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.