Homemade Ketchup


I don’t know about you, but I’m so (like, so so so so) happy that summer’s coming. This winter was a long, snow-filled one in New England, and everyone I know is happy to see the thermometer finally rising a little.

Which brings me to thoughts of summer plans. Which brings me to barbecues and picnics. Which brings me to (you guessed it) all those homemade goodies you can pack into a picnic basket.

Now, when it comes to condiments, if they sell it in a store, chances are that I’m going to try to make my own version at home. If you have a blender (or food processor) and a stove, it’s easy as pie to make your own ketchup.

This ketchup comes from Saveur. It’s a great base recipe that you can customize to suit your tastes. You can also make it thicker or thinner by adjusting the cooking time up or down.

This is definitely ten steps up from most bottled ketchups, which tend to be laden with sugar and corn syrup.

This ketchup is fragrant with ground clove and ginger, and gets the tiniest bit of sweetness from a few spoonfuls of brown sugar. Half a fresh jalapeno adds just a little heat.

A brief history of ketchup

Ketchup finds its origins in the ancient Chinese sauce ke-tsiap, a spiced, pickled fish sauce that was probably more akin to a soy sauce than the thick tomato-y sauce we know and love today. It became kechap in Malaysia, and ketjap in Indonesia.

English sailors brought it west in the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century, tomatoes found their way into the brew.

In 1876, Heinz started to bottle it and distribute it to the masses. The rest, you could say, is history.

A note about ingredients

For the mustard powder, I like Colman’s mustard. You can find it in the spice aisle of most major grocery stores in the U.S.

For the cider vinegar, I used Bragg’s, which I always have in the kitchen. Love the flavor. It’s also one of those folksy elixirs that’s reputed to help keep you full of life. Read more about its health benefits here (note that cooking will probably kill some of them).

The dreaded “pinch”

OK, so the spice measurements in this recipe are all in “pinches,” which I know frustrates some people.

I think the idea is to give you a good guideline for which spices to use, and let you decide how much of what you want to add. Add more or less of the ones you like/dislike. (For example, we love clove at The Mouse House, so I added a little extra ground cloves.)

If you’re not sure what to do, just add equal pinches of each.

For you scientific types out there, a pinch is generally considered to be a little less than 1/8 of a teaspoon.

What are San Marzano tomatoes?

This recipe calls for one 28-oz. can of tomato puree. Use the best tomato puree you can find. If you grow & can your own, use that. It will be even better.

I used San Marzano tomatoes, a variety that’s widely considered to be one of the best for sauce. San Marzanos are pointier and thinner than traditional plum tomatoes. They’re also slightly less acidic, with thicker flesh and fewer seeds.

The puree is really silky, a little sweet, and very, very tomato-y.

A can is going to run you more than the average tomato puree, but I think it’s well worth the extra buck. If you can find them on sale, grab a few and stash them away.

That said, use the tomato puree you like best. I usually use Pastene, which would be really good, too.

Don’t forget the mustard…

If you want to deck out your table with matched homemade condiments, try the Guinness Mustard I made a while back. It’d go really well with this ketchup.

The short version of the recipe goes like this

Grab all your fresh ingredients. Toss them into your blender with the tomato puree. Blend. Transfer to a pot. Add the spices and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool and bottle.

Here’s what that looks like, step-by-step.

Homemade Ketchup

Recipe from Saveur

1  28-oz. can tomato puree
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 fresh jalapeño, stemmed and seeded
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
Pinch cayenne
Pinch celery salt
Pinch dry mustard
Pinch ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Yields about 4 cups of ketchup (that’s about 3 1/2 pint jars)

Blend up the tomato base

Grab your jalapeno. If you’re super sensitive to spicy stuff, use rubber gloves when you handle the little guy.

Whack him in half and nip off the stem.

Slice out the ribs and seeds (where most of the heat is).

This is what you’ll wind up using.

Peel your garlic clove. A fast, easy way to do this is to lay your knife blade down on top of the garlic clove…

…then carefully press down on your knife really hard. You’ll smoosh the meat of the garlic, and you’ll almost always be able to pull the wrapper off in one or two large pieces.

Peel your onion, then cut it into about 8 pieces. Basically, you want to chunk it up so it’s easier for your blender to deal with.

Toss the tomato puree in your blender or food processor.

Toss in the jalapeno, garlic, onion, and brown sugar.

Cap your blender and puree for about a minute, until it’s smooth.

Now that you’ve liquified the solids, it’s time to add the liquids. Toss in the cider vinegar…

…and the water.

Puree until the mixture is uniform.

It will be a little on the thin side, but it’s going to reduce as it cooks, so that’s just fine.

Cook the ketchup

(Say that 10 times fast, eh?) Transfer the contents of your blender into a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot. I used my 4-quart copper pot.

Toss in the spices. (See my note above about “pinches” as a measurement.)

Whisk to incorporate. Give it a quick taste to check the seasoning. If you think it needs more spices, add them. (Remember though: Flavors intensify as sauce reduces.)

Set the pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally.

When the mixture starts to boil, knock the heat down to about medium. Basically, you want the sauce to just hold a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 45 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When is it done?

That, to me, is a loaded question. At least where matters of tomato-y sauces are concerned. It comes down to how you like your ketchup…on the thinner side, on the thicker side, or somewhere in between.

How to test your ketchup

To test what your ketchup will be like when it’s chilled, stick a small plate in the freezer for about 15 minutes. (This will be familiar to all you jam makers out there.)

When you think your ketchup is done, put about a teaspoon on the cold plate. Stick it back in the freezer until the ketchup is cold. Then, taste it and see if you’re happy. The consistency of the ketchup on your plate represents about how the entire pot would be once it’s chilled.

If you like it, take the pot off the heat. If you want it thicker, simmer it for another 5-10 minutes, then do the cold plate test again.

When you’re happy with your ketchup, take it off the stove.

Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Cool it to room temp on the counter, then bottle and refrigerate.

Bottle & enjoy!

My finished ketchup was kind of a medium thickness. Thinner than Heinz. Thick enough to slather on a burger or hot dog. It was the consistency of a thick, fresh tomato sauce (hey, go figure, right?).

I packed mine up in a few pint jars. One for our house, two for friends.


Keeps well in the fridge for about a month. Happy picnicking!


Previous articleHomemade Candy for Your Easter Basket (Plus More Easter Ideas)
Next articleHomemade Dulce de Leche
Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. I think this is my next monday or rainy day project! I was just at the gmonkey food truck in Hartford for lunch and they made homemade ketchup and it really was divine with the sweet potato fries. Hopefully Roscoe can nap during this recipe!

  2. I usually skip ketchup – if I’m going to eat that much sugar, I’d rather have gummi bears, but this looks like something I would really enjoy! I can’t wait to try this recipe, just in time for grilling this summer. Thanks!

  3. Great, the another day i flew to Glasgow for make a special about the city in my blog, and we discover a gourmet burger heaven, they even make and sale his own ketchup, i was ready to buy it when i discover that contain sulfide. So i will try you more healtier recipie, shame i only can keep for a month but must be the price to pay.

  4. Awesome! I’ve been wanting to make homemade ketchup for a long time, now I’m encouraged to do so. What are you thoughts on freezing the extra cans. I may have to break down and learn to can it.

  5. I imagine the consistency would change when frozen, have you tried it? I don’t have the space to keep it in the fridge for a month either, but am so intrigued by this!

    • Hey Karlynn,

      I honestly haven’t tried to freeze it yet, though I bet you’re right about the consistency. (Tomato sauce freezes well, but you reheat that once it’s thawed…) I’d say try making half a batch. Or do what I did: Make a full batch, and give 2 jars to your best friends.

      Good luck!

  6. my boyfriend has been talking about chipotle ketchup and never being able to find it at the supermarket- at what point in this recipe could I add a few chipotles to make him some?

    • Chipotle ketchup
      1 medium-sized sweet onion, diced
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      28-ounce can of whole tomatoes
      ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
      ¼ cup brown sugar
      1 teaspoon molasses
      ½ teaspoon cinnamon
      ½ teaspoon ground cloves
      1 teaspoon celery seeds
      3 chipotle peppers in adobo
      Salt to taste

      On medium low heat, cook the diced onion in the olive oil in a medium-sized pot just until the onions start to brown a bit on the ends.

      Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

      Stir in the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

      After an hour, puree the mixture, and then continue to cook on low heat until it reaches your desired thickness.

  7. Cant wait to make this! Am new to this site and am wondering…is there a way to emai these recipes, tips. ideas etc to someone? I see the Facebook, Stumbeupon and Twitter links, but dont see anywhere we can click to email. If its not available, can the owner make it possible? I like emaiing stuff to myself or friends, would be so much easier!!Thanks!

  8. I really love this recipe, I always knew making Ketchup had to be easy, just never tried it. Hate to pay so much for the good “American” stuff here in Poland. But now I will try it. Yesterday I made the Concord Grape jelly (your recipe) from a neighbor’s 20+ year old vines – growing up his house and balcony. Awesome stuff.
    Beautiful pictures on your site as well!!

    Thanks for doing what you do 😉

    Ex Pat American

  9. This is really delicious! I left out the jalapeno and put in about 1/16th tsp of cayenne. I would suggest leaving out the cayenne and jalapeno altogether. It isn’t that it is too spicy (I love spicy food) but it is too spicy hot for what I want in a ketchup. Remember that everything in this intensifies as the ketchup reduces. After tasting this at various thicknesses I can definitely feel the heat more now that I did before.
    I put all of the ingredients in my VitaMix with no chopping and blended till smooth, poured it into my saucepan and it has been simmering away. It has reduced now by more than half and I’m going to let it go a bit longer. Ran out of ketchup this morning so I saved the bottled to put my homemade stuff in!

  10. Thanks–this is the most promising ketchup recipe I’ve located. Love the 1/2 jalapeno idea. Did you know that those tomatoes and tomato products (San Marzano brand) are not really from the San Marzano region of Italy? I agree they are pretty good-tasting tomatoes, but they are U.S.-grown, and some retailers are charging far more for them than domestic tomatoes warrant, and some consumers take them to be actual imports of the coveted San Marzano tomato, despite the label’s quiet “grown domestically” statement.

  11. Glad we found your site! Ran out of ketchup while making home made fries for the kids.
    We used your guidelines loosely (didn’t have all ingredients on hand) and it tasted so good .. we are not buying ketchup anymore.
    I cut up two plum tomatoes and threw them in the blender with 1/2 an onion, some brown sugar and a little apple cider .. blended. Poured in a pan and cooked to reduce, added salt. Done.

    We Loved IT! =o)
    Tastes soo organic.

    Thanks again.

  12. I cannot eat spicy food. So that means that spicy peppers, plain pepper, are OUT for me. I have tried every brand of ketchup and found none that will not irritate my stomach ulcer. If there is one thing I would appreciate is tomato sauce recipe that resembles that “red stuff” we put on hamburgers and hot dogs.

  13. I have made different ketchups for many years with different seasonings. They water bath perfectly for about 10 minutes. Haven’t lost a jar yet