Homemade Ketchup

Got tomatoes? Me too. And even though I have them in my back yard, I can’t help but pick up more when there are so many overflowing bins of them at the market. And so this year I made ketchup (takes up less space than sauce or whole tomatoes – not that I’ve ever preserved my own that way anyway) – since W is such a ketchup fan, and because the bottled kind you get at the store is largely liquid sugar, I thought I’d make my own before he gets old enough to discriminate against any ketchup that doesn’t start with an H and end in a Z. I posted it over at the Family Kitchen, and it went a little bit viral – turns out it’s not just me who thinks homemade ketchup is a good idea. We talked about it on CBC yesterday morning, along with the issue of tomato classification.

To recap: Botanically, tomatoes are indeed fruit, but they are also vegetables. The term is purely culinary, referring to any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food. So from a culinary standpoint, a tomato is a vegetable. In the garden, it’s a fruit. Whatever you call it, I’m just happy that my plants are producing some. (Emphasis on some.) In case you do get pulled into the fruit vs. vegetable debate, you can play the Supreme Court card: legally, tomatoes have been considered vegetables since the late 1800s when the US imposed tariff laws that included a duty on vegetables but not fruit, forcing a court decision. (Furthermore, tomatoes are the state vegetable of New Jersey – 8,682,661 New Jerseyers can’t be wrong.)

There are a bazillion ketchup recipes out there – all flavoured differently. So feel free to add spices to suit your taste – cinnamon, cloves, paprika, celery seed, peppercorns, bay leaves and fresh basil are commonly simmered along with the tomatoes (pluck out anything that’s too hard to purée), or try thinly slicing a bulb of fresh fennel and adding it to the pot. I do this in the slow cooker – throw the lot of it in and set it on low for 6-8 hours. Purée.

Homemade Tomato Ketchup


September 22, 2010

  • Makes: Makes about 2L.


canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 purple onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled (optional)

10 medium tomatoes (about 3 lbs.), roughly chopped

1 5.5 oz (156 mL) can tomato paste

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. salt

pinch dried red chili flakes


1In a large pot, heat a generous drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and chili flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for an hour or so or until very soft and fairly thick.

2Using a hand-held immersion blender, purée the mixture right in the pot, or cool and transfer in batches to a blender and puree until smooth. Seal in sealable jars according to the manufacturers’ directions, store in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze for up to six months.


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19 comments on “Homemade Ketchup

  1. Allie
    September 22, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Brilliant! I’m married to quite possibly the most loyal name-brand ketchup fan, so this might be a challenge. But a girl can dream, right?

  2. Mary Ann
    September 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    I too made ketchup this summer. Less sweet, spicier than the commercial and I really like it. Can’t get the others in the house to even give it a try. Maybe one day {sigh}
    Yup – a girl can dream!

  3. Sharon
    September 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    This is eery. I logged on to ask if you had done this, or would consider doing it. Thanks.

  4. Nancy
    September 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I’m going to challenge on having the most loyal name-brand ketchup fan: I used to have to smuggle American you-know-what across the border to my husband when he was going to school in Montreal, because the Canadian version “didn’t taste the same”. What do you think would happen if I put some of this in an empty brand-name bottle?

  5. JulieVR
    September 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Nancy – ha! I think he would know the difference. He might think it tasted funny and try to return it to the store…

  6. akaJB
    September 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I posted a link to your post on the family kitchen in the comments of the following globe article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/the-secret-weapon-at-my-table-ketchup/article1716843/

  7. Evelyn in Canada
    September 22, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    But can you make this out of blighted tomatoes? Green or otherwise? I’m on a hunt for green tomato recipes that can be pressure-canned. Maybe because of the vinegar, I can water-bath process the ketchup. That should get the Ph level up high enough, right? What would it taste like out of green tomatoes? Maybe I’ll make a half-sized batch tomorrow and see how it tastes and let you know.

  8. Sharon
    September 23, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I’m very impressed by the bottles and how perfectly you’ve filled them. Tiny little points of ketchup reaching up to be poured.

  9. JulieVR
    September 23, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Why thanks! they just turned out like that, having used a funnel. Normally I’m not that neat.

  10. Lisa
    September 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

    How long will this ketchup keep for in the fridge? Can you freeze it?

  11. erin
    September 23, 2010 at 8:36 am


    Thanks for this, can’t wait to try it. Your blog has become the first place I check when I am looking for a homemade version of something that most people wouldn’t think of making from scratch.

  12. sharon
    September 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

    At the risk of you blowing me off here Julie I am asking you and your readers to sign this. It must be signed today Sep 24 (or I would have sent it privately).

    Think Before You Pink: Against Bovine Growth Hormone in MILK.


  13. Shannon
    September 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Love the photo. Next you should make Blackberry Ketchup. Mmmm..

  14. Robyn
    September 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    i feel like this could be another game-changer for me, along the lines of the skillet strawberry jam! and you don’t have to peel the tomatoes – awesome.

  15. Chelsey
    September 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Ketchup, now that is something I have to try. What did w think, did he notice anything different?

  16. Eden
    September 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I just made this recipe this afternoon. My tomatoes were pretty sweet little romas so I cut the sugar in half which worked out. I loved this recipe no peeling, seeding etc. so quick.

    We just finished picking all the tomatoes because we were afraid we might get frost before they were ripe.

    Thanks for the recipe! I never would have thought of making ketchup. I just love your blog! Next up, salsa to use up the rest of the ripe tomatoes.

  17. Barb
    September 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    This sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to try it.!

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