Top 5 Ketchup Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The amount of sugar and sodium in ketchup can be quite high, especially in commercial varieties, thereby making ketchup substitutes a necessary choice. Fortunately, there are several ketchup alternatives that make it easy to add the taste of tomato to a meal without all that unwanted sugar and salt.


Ketchup is one of the most commonly used condiments in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is also an ingredient in many recipes and is used as a base for sauces. Ketchup is usually made with some combination of these main ingredients – tomatoes (or tomato concentrate), vinegar, sweeteners (such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup), salt, and spices.

Best Ketchup Substitutes

Diabetics and people with heart diseases may need to eliminate their consumption of sweeteners or salt, and many other people are simply interested in limiting their intake of these ingredients. And for all of these reasons, here is a list of the best ketchup substitutes, which include the use of tomato salsa, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and apple cider vinegar. You can also make your own ketchup at home!

A close-up view of tomato ketchup

A crispy bucket of french fries and a ketcup bowl is all you need for chilling on weekends. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Tomato Salsa

Most brands of salsa have little to no added sugars. Substitute an equal amount of mild salsa for ketchup in a recipe, or use salsa as a condiment in place of ketchup.

Tomato Paste

This is an inexpensive tomato concentrate widely available in a can or a squeeze tube. Spread tomato paste on a burger or hot dog, or use it in place of ketchup in cooking for a rich tomato flavor without any added sugar or sodium.

Tomato Sauce

While some varieties of canned tomato sauce also have lots of salt or sugar, many do not. You can replace ketchup with an equal amount of tomato sauce in a recipe, or use it as a dip for fries and potatoes.

A jar of apple cider vinegar with whole and halved fresh apples and leaves

A jar of apple cider vinegar Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Apple Cider Vinegar

Although there are no tomatoes in it, substituting apple cider vinegar in recipes that call for ketchup can impart a tangy sweetness to the dish, while completely eliminating ketchup’s problematic ingredients.

Make Your Own

Combine tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices in a saucepan and simmer over the stove until it reaches a proper consistency. Making your own ketchup allows you to significantly reduce the levels of dangerous sweeteners and sodium. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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