From sandwiches to burgers, noodles to egg meals, and of course your Maggi bowl, the luscious, gleaming bottle of red ketchup is an item found commonly across all pantries, be it Asian, European, or American.
Tomato has been a common and affordable ingredient used across various dishes. It is preferred for its tangy and sweet Savour. Ketchup, in particular, is adored for how effortlessly it pairs with multiple dishes, be it some sloppy fries or a not-so-exciting burger.
For some, ketchup is the must-have side condiment to supplement their meals and goes beyond the hamburgers and french fries. Some quirky parents also believe in feeding their children not-so-exciting vegetables and dinners with a dollop of ketchup.
The passionate chefs at home have gone gourmet, inventing their dishes! Hot & Sour ketchup meatballs, ketchup baked beans, ketchup chips, and even ketchup ice cream! Whether or not you like it, ketchup is a definite staple in most households. But is this loathsome red concoction a part of the vegan food list?
What Actually Is A Ketchup
In the current global scenario, ketchup is most popularly received in American culture. One is bound to come across a bottle in every American kitchen. Yet, it is interesting to find that ketchup has its roots on almost the other side of the world: Imperial China.
Though it was nothing like what it is now, this humble sauce, referred to as "ke-Tsiap," was processed from fermented fish sauce called "ge-thcup" and processed with various herbs and spices.
This sauce was an ideal travel companion for the sea merchants, and thus sailed across continents and came in contact with different communities. Many were attracted to the exquisite palette that the condiment offered and decided to take a few bottles back home, thus opening a larger community of consumers.
Another interesting fact is that the ancestors of modern-day ketchup were not red, nor were they tomato-y. Instead, they were prepared with unimaginable ingredients like mushrooms, oysters, anchovies, etc.
Thus, what existed in the name of "ketchup" was a dark, soy-like sauce. Tomato was late to feature in the recipe books. It was considered an exciting addition along with spice mixtures like clove, cinnamon, and ginger. It was because tomato, a native ingredient of the American land, took some time to achieve recognition and fame.
Thus, via trade and barter through Southeast Asia, ketchup came to revolutionize the culinary culture of the West. Today, it is recognized in every part of the world, thanks to trade and globalization. However, the condiment is most popular today in the United States.
Overview Of Standard Ketchup Ingredients
The humble ketchup has evolved over the years and across pantries to be modified to suit various palettes. Thus, there is the hot sauce, the sriracha sauce, lime pepper sauce, roasted garlic, and many other kinds of ketchup. Heinz has taken monopoly of the ketchup market with its production of the "classic ketchup." This famous ketchup has tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and onion powder. There are also different flavor enhancers like mustard, pepper, clove, and ginger.
- Which ingredient could be a problem?
Should vegans scan through the ingredient label of most products, ketchup shouldn't come across as a problem, should it? Is ketchup dairy-free? Yes. Is it vegan? It depends.
It so happens that an essential component of ketchup is the added sweeteners which are usually sugar. The fine and refined sugar happens to be the sticking point for the vegan fellas. The processing of sugar is considered a contentious one.
It is because the bleaching process of white sugar is said to involve animal bone char. Another catch is vinegar. While, generally speaking, vinegar is considered vegan-friendly, certain kinds of vinegar might include animal products in the process. E.g., the clarifying process of vinegar could consist of a component called collagen.
It could be a major point for those vegans who are unwilling to compromise on even the tiniest of elements. It is also essential to understand that not all processes of sugar bleaching involve the bone char, and not all processing of vinegar involves collagen.
There is a possibility. And the only way to be truly sure is either contacting the manufacturer or opting for organic varieties. Moreover, certain kinds of ketchup may also include honey as the sweetening agent, an alarm for vegans since honey is derived from bees.
While on the face of it, non-vegan ingredients like honey, cheese, meat could easily be identified and discarded, many complexly named ingredients are animal-derived but not known. PETA mentions a list of such components on its websites: Albumen, Adrenaline ( hormones from adrenal glands of sheep, etc.), Angora, bee pollen, beeswax, glycerol.
In the case of ketchup, the primary ingredients to look out for a while choosing a vegan-friendly option are:
Many manufacturers might choose to use honey as a sweetener rather than sugar. Honey, being an animal-derived product, is not preferred by vegans.
Many people opt for sugar-free ketchup. Such sugar-free ketchup, however, contains artificial sweeteners like the controversial sucralose or Splenda. These have been known infamously for being tested heavily on animals, thus raising concerns. However, whether sucralose is vegan or not is still not clear.
Vegan Ketchup Brands That Are Safe To Use
Being a vegan could seem to be a tedious process. All the label reading and looking out for non-vegan ingredients could overwhelm the majority of folks. However, thanks to the popularity of vegan culture, many brands have exclusively recognized themselves to be "vegan-friendly." So what vegan brands should you be seeking when you go out shopping?
- Heinz Organic Ketchup
Heinz has been in the ketchup market for years and has produced classic ketchup bottles. The essential ingredients include tomato, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder.
Other popular brands include Hunt's ketchup, Annie's Organic Ketchup, Del Monte, French's, Westbrae Natural Organic Unsweetened Ketchup.
Can You Make Vegan Ketchup At Home?
For those vegans who go the extra mile to make their dishes, a homemade recipe could be the solution. It would indeed be an excellent feeling to mix up your tangy and flavourful relish. Moreover, there is always something special about a carefully prepared homemade sauce.
Keeping in mind a few tips and following a recipe could get you a luscious jar of juicy, tangy, and vegan ketchup.
The first tip is to use fresh, organic, and ripe tomatoes to get enough pulp and concentrated taste. Secondly, adding preservatives like sodium benzoate increases the shelf life. However, one can also opt For making their sauce preservative Free. The next essential step is mashing the pulp while straining to get maximum flavor.
To make your vegan ketchup:
- Start by rinsing your fresh Tomatoes in water, making sure you get rid of all impurities.
- Cut them into rough chunks. Separate the ones with blemished skin. Add the Tomatoes to a big saucepan on low flame.
- Add aromats and flavor enhancers like ginger, garlic, clove, and dried red chilies.
- Add a significant amount of vinegar and Organic sugar. Stir all the ingredients.
- Let the concoction cook on simmer. After some time, you should be able to Find your Tomatoes soft and mashable. Moreover, enough water should Haven been released from the Tomatoes.
- At this point, take your sauce off the stove, and let it cool down. With a blender, puree the mixture, making sure the big Tomato chunks are also pureed.
- Next, with a decently porous strainer, strain the puree. With the help of a flat spoon, Press the mixture hard to extract maximum flavor. This step is time taking yet a crucial one.
- Once you Have extracted maximum pulp, put the mixture back on low flame and allow it to reduce and thicken. Keep tasting the sauce and balance it with sugar, salt, pepper, or other condiments per preference (We suggest oregano!). You can reduce the sauce For as long as you want till you get your desired consistency. We recommend cooling your sauce overnight for the flavors to develop. For storage purposes, it is ideal if you store it in a sterilized glass jar or bottle.
- Quick note: For many vegan folks, who don't prefer sugar, ideal alternatives could be raisin or maple syrup.
What seems to be a humble jar of simple ketchup has genuinely revolutionized the gourmet world, being an essential part of the fast-food world. This condiment has been widely recognized around the globe and has been used in a multifold capacity. In its early days, the popularity of ketchup skyrocketed to such an extent that it was a luxurious commodity!
Today, we see it in more humble forms like sachets, squeeze bottles, and glass bottles. The best thing about ketchup is that it also records a decent nutritional profile.
Studies have suggested ketchup's benefits in cutting cholesterol, improving eyesight, and preventing heart disease and cancer.
The Vega community has been actively promoting vegan-friendly alternatives to most food products available, ketchup being no less. Brands have been manufacturing vegan-friendly ketchup, and food enthusiasts have been coming up with vegan ketchup recipes.
Thus, the ketchup industry is slowly acknowledging the needs of the vegan community and working towards modifying ingredients.