Catsup vs. Ketchup: What’s the Difference

Catsup and ketchup, two seemingly similar condiments, have sparked endless debates among food enthusiasts for years. Despite their striking resemblance in taste and appearance, differences in their origin, ingredients, and regional usage distinguish them from one another. This article aims to delve into the nuances that set these two condiments apart and help readers understand their unique properties.

The origins of both catsup and ketchup can be traced back to Southeast Asia, where they evolved from a fermented fish sauce called ke-tsiap. Over time, Western explorers brought the sauce to their homelands and adapted it to their palates, leading to the development of distinct versions. It is crucial to note the impact of the historical context on the evolution of these two condiments, as they went through numerous alterations to adapt to changing tastes and preferences.

A critical factor that differentiates catsup and ketchup is their composition. While ketchup predominantly contains tomatoes and vinegar, catsup has a thinner consistency and may include other ingredients such as mushrooms, walnuts, or anchovies. Regional usage of these condiments further complicates the distinction, with some countries using the terms interchangeably. As a result, deciphering the differences between catsup and ketchup requires an exploration of their historical evolution and modern-day usage.

Catsup Vs Ketchup

Catsup vs Ketchup: Origin and History

17th Century Beginnings

Ketchup and catsup both find their roots in the 17th century. Originating from the Cantonese dialect, the word “ke-chiap” was a type of fish-based sauce. The British encountered similar garum sauces in their travels, particularly in Indonesia where they found “ketjap.” These early versions of the sauce were quite different from today’s tomato-based condiments.

Over time, British cooks experimented with various ingredients, including mushrooms, oysters, and walnuts, in their attempt to recreate these exotic flavors. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that tomatoes were introduced to the sauce.

Ketchup’s Journey to the US

Ketchup made its way across the Atlantic to the United States in the early 19th century. With the popularity of tomatoes growing in the New World, the inclusion of the tangy fruit into the sauce became more common.

  • 1812: The first known recipe for tomato-based ketchup appeared in a cookbook
  • 1830s: Ketchup started being bottled and sold commercially

Catsup’s Emergence

During the 19th century, variations of the sauce’s name began to emerge, including catsup. However, it is important to note that catsup and ketchup are the same product. The choice of spelling usually reflects regional preferences, cultural influences, or company branding.

In the United States, “catsup” became more popular in the South and Midwest, while “ketchup” remained the predominant term in other regions. Today, ketchup is the more commonly used term both in the United States and around the world.

In conclusion, the origin and history of ketchup and catsup can be traced back to the 17th century through British encounters with Asian sauces. The condiment has evolved over time, with the addition of tomatoes and adjustments to its name reflecting regional influences.

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Ingredients and Preparation

Tomatoes and Vinegar

Tomatoes are the primary ingredient in both ketchup and catsup. They can be used in the form of fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato paste. Vinegar is also a key component in these condiments, with white vinegar being the most common choice. Some recipes may use other types of vinegar, such as apple cider or red wine vinegar, to add a unique flavor profile.

Spices and Seasonings

A variety of spices and seasonings are used to flavor ketchup and catsup. Common ingredients include:

  • Sugar or brown sugar: for sweetness
  • Salt: for flavor enhancement
  • Onion and garlic: for added depth and savory notes
  • Cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg: for a warm and aromatic spice blend
  • Ginger, mace, and pepper: for a touch of heat and complexity
  • Lemon peel: for a hint of citrus brightness
  • Preservatives (optional): to extend the shelf life

Some recipes may also include celery, shallots, and other aromatic vegetables to create a more complex flavor profile.

Tomato Ketchup vs Catsup Recipes

The main difference between tomato ketchup and catsup lies in their seasoning and spice mixtures. Although both condiments are made from tomatoes and vinegar, ketchup and catsup each have their unique spice blends. The ingredients listed above are general examples, and each recipe might have its unique combination of spice and seasonings.

Tomato ketchup usually has a thicker consistency than catsup and is sweeter due to the higher sugar content. On the other hand, catsup has a thinner consistency, with a more tangy and spiced flavor profile.

Tomatos with a light shadow isolated on white

Here are two brief examples of recipes for each type of condiment:

Tomato Ketchup:

  1. 6 cups tomato paste
  2. 1/2 cup white vinegar
  3. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  4. 1/2 cup water
  5. 1 tablespoon onion powder
  6. 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  7. 2 teaspoons salt
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  9. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  10. 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice


  1. 8 cups fresh tomatoes (chopped)
  2. 1 cup white vinegar
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup water
  5. 3/4 cup chopped onions
  6. 1/4 cup chopped celery
  7. 1 tablespoon salt
  8. 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  9. 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  10. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  11. 1/2 teaspoon ground mace

Tastes and Flavors

Sweet, Sour, and Salty

Catsup and ketchup, while similar in appearance, have distinct taste profiles that can be categorized into sweet, sour, and salty flavors.

  • Sweet: Ketchup usually has a sweeter taste due to the inclusion of sugar, corn syrup, or other sweeteners. Catsup, on the other hand, leans towards a milder sweetness.
  • Sour: The sourness in both catsup and ketchup can be attributed to the vinegar content. However, catsup’s tanginess is generally lighter in comparison.
  • Salty: While both condiments contain salt, ketchup usually has a higher salt content, giving it a distinctly saltier taste.

Catsup’s Unique Taste

Catsup’s taste stands out due to a few factors:

  1. Spiciness: Catsup often contains spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, setting it apart from ketchup.
  2. Herbs: Some catsup brands incorporate herbs like basil and marjoram, giving it an earthy, wholesome flavor.
  3. Tartness: The use of less vinegar creates a milder acidity level in catsup, making its tanginess less prominent.

Ketchup’s Popular Flavor

Ketchup’s popularity can be attributed to its versatile and recognizable taste that complements various dishes:

Flavor AspectKetchup Notes
SweetIts sweet profile goes well with fried foods like french fries.
SavoryIts umami-rich, tomato-base balances meaty dishes like hamburgers.
BitterThe slight bitterness counters the richness of greasy meals.

Overall, ketchup’s flavors create a balance that consumers find familiar and enjoyable in a variety of culinary applications.

Brands and Market Share

Heinz and Its Market Dominance

Heinz is the leading brand in the ketchup industry, with a significant market share. The company’s iconic product, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, has been widely popular among consumers due to its quality and taste. Heinz has built up its reputation as a reliable brand that consistently delivers high-quality products.

The company has a strong presence in various markets around the world, which has further contributed to its market dominance. Some factors that have driven Heinz’s success include:

  • Consistent product quality
  • Distinctive taste
  • Strong brand recognition

Del Monte’s Presence

Del Monte is another notable player in the ketchup and catsup market. While it may not command the same market share as Heinz, Del Monte offers a range of ketchup products that cater to various consumer preferences.

The company has made its presence known in the industry by nurturing its brand and creating a loyal following. Del Monte’s success can be attributed to several key factors:

  • Wide product variety
  • Focus on taste and quality
  • Competitive pricing

With Heinz and Del Monte, the ketchup and catsup market has two strong contenders vying for consumer attention. Both brands have managed to establish themselves through their dedication to providing high-quality products that resonate with consumers, and have paved the way for a competitive industry landscape.

Culinary Uses

Catsup and Ketchup as Condiments

Catsup and ketchup are common condiments known for their versatility. Both are made from ripened tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and a variety of spices. While some people might argue that there is a difference in taste between the two, others consider them to be virtually the same. Nonetheless, they share many similarities in how they are used in the culinary world.

Common Food Pairings

  • French Fries: Catsup and ketchup are often paired with french fries, providing a tangy and sweet complement to the saltiness of the fried potatoes. They can be drizzled on top or served as a dipping sauce on the side.
  • Burgers and Hamburgers: A popular addition to burgers and hamburgers, both catsup and ketchup add a perfect balance of flavor, enhancing the taste of grilled meats and vegetables.
Food PairingCatsup UsageKetchup Usage
French FriesDrizzlingDipping

While these condiments are most commonly associated with fries and burgers, they can also be integrated into various other dishes, such as meatloaf, stews, and dressings for salads or sandwiches. Catsup and ketchup can also be used as a base ingredient in other sauces, offering a sweet and tangy flavor to the dish.

Experimenting with these condiments may yield interesting and delicious results, expanding one’s culinary skills and knowledge in the process. Whether it’s catsup or ketchup, their similarities make them a favorite in kitchens worldwide, enhancing the taste of various dishes while also offering new creative options for food pairings.

Variations and Regional Differences

British Ketchup and Catsup

In the United Kingdom, ketchup has evolved from its origins as a fish sauce to a popular tomato-based condiment. British ketchup typically contains tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and a variety of spices and herbs, such as cayenne and celery seed. Catsup, also known as catchup, is less common in the UK, but it may still be found in certain regions. It is similar to ketchup but often contains additional ingredients like mushrooms or Worcestershire sauce.

Southern US Catsup

In the Southern United States, catsup takes on a unique character. This regional variation is often characterized by a thinner consistency and a more pronounced tanginess, which comes from the addition of vinegar or pickled elements. Some Southern catsup recipes may include pickled fish sauce or shellfish, while others might incorporate a variety of herbs and spices.

Asian Influences

The influence of Asian cuisine can also be seen in the world of catsup and ketchup. Kecap, also spelled kicap, is a soy-based sauce that originated in the Fujian region of China. This sauce then traveled to Southeast Asia and has since evolved into various forms. For example, kecap manis is a sweet, thick Indonesian soy sauce made from soybeans, sugar, and spices.

The use of soy in catsup and ketchup can be traced back to Asian influences, especially in recipes that call for a blend of soy sauce and other ingredients like pickled fish. Asian-influenced catsup and ketchup may also feature a blend of unique spices and flavors, including those derived from the region’s rich culinary traditions.

In conclusion, the variations and regional differences in catsup and ketchup can be traced back to their unique cultural and historical roots. From the British Isles to the Southern United States, and with influences from Asia, these versatile condiments continue to evolve and delight palates around the world.

Catsup vs Ketchup: The Debate

Naming and Spellings

The debate between catsup and ketchup has been a longstanding one. There are numerous variations in spelling and pronunciation, with references to catsoup, kitsip, cornchop, cackchop, katshoup, kotpock, and kutchpuck. While the exact origin of these different names remains uncertain, what is clear is that they all refer to the same condiment we commonly use in our meals.

In the past, both catsup and ketchup were used interchangeably, although regional differences might have played a role in their usage. Over time, though, ketchup has become the more widely used term, particularly in American kitchens.

Quality and Necessity

When it comes to the debate between catsup and ketchup, it is important to consider the quality and necessity of the condiment in the culinary world.

While the ingredients of catsup and ketchup remain largely the same, subtle differences in taste can be noted. Some people might argue that one has a superior flavor or texture, while others see them as virtually identical. Regardless of personal preference, both condiments can be enjoyed in various dishes or as a dipping sauce.

The necessity of using catsup or ketchup in cooking is also a subject of debate. Some people argue that they are indispensable in certain recipes, while others maintain that they can easily be substituted with other ingredients or omitted entirely. Ultimately, the preference for catsup or ketchup comes down to the individual’s taste and the specific needs of a recipe.

Catsup Vs Ketchup

Catsup vs Ketchup

Here's a simple recipe for homemade catsup:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Seasoning, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 88 kcal


  • 1 can 28 oz of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves


  • In a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and cloves.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break down and the mixture thickens.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan.
  • Return the saucepan to the stove and simmer the mixture over low heat for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired thickness.
  • Let the catsup cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a clean jar or container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Calories: 88kcal
Keyword catsup vs ketchup
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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