Is It Catsup or Ketchup?

Quck answer

The correct spelling for the popular condiment is “ketchup.” “Catsup” is an alternative spelling that is less commonly used. While both spellings are acceptable, “ketchup” is more widely recognized and preferred. The origin of the word can be traced back to the Chinese sauce “kôe-chiap,” which was later adapted by the British and Americans. Today, “ketchup” is a common term used worldwide to refer to the tomato-based sauce used as a condiment for various dishes. So, whether you call it “ketchup” or “catsup,” it’s the same delicious sauce in the end.

From hamburgers and French fries to hot dogs and meatloaf, there’s one condiment that can be found in almost every refrigerator across the country. What are we referring to? Ketchup, of course! Or is it catsup?

If you browse through the condiment section at your local grocery store, you might come across this popular tomato-based sauce labeled as either “ketchup” or “catsup.” So which one is it?

You can actually use either term to refer to this sauce, as there is no difference between ketchup and catsup. They are simply two different names for the same thing.

Ketchup has a long history. The name likely originated from ke-chiap (sometimes spelled ke-tsiap), which was a pickled fish sauce that was popular in China. European traders loved the sauce and brought it to the West during the 17th century.

Others believe that the name may have come from Indonesia, where kicap (or kecap or ketjap) was a sauce made from brined shellfish, herbs, and spices. Regardless of the exact origin of the term, Europeans started calling their version of the sauce “ketchup” as early as 1711.

The alternative spelling — catsup — appeared in a Jonathon Swift poem in 1730. For many years, the sauce could also be found under the name “catchup” in various places.

It would take another 70 years or so before the sauce recipe incorporated tomatoes and began to resemble the condiment we know today. In the early 1800s, the tomato-based version of the sauce gained popularity in the United States.

Initially, it was primarily made by local farmers. However, by 1837, at least one company was producing ketchup and distributing it nationwide.

The H.J. Heinz Company didn’t start making the sauce until 1876. The company initially referred to it as catsup, but later switched to ketchup to differentiate themselves. Today, ketchup is the more common term, while catsup is occasionally used in the southern U.S.

Nowadays, most ketchup — or catsup — contains the same basic ingredients: tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Manufacturers may vary their recipes by adding vegetables like onions and celery, as well as other spices like pepper and garlic.

Try It Out

Do you enjoy ketchup? Or do you prefer catsup? Or does it really matter as long as you have that red, sweet, tangy sauce to accompany your French fries? Have fun expanding your knowledge about ketchup — or catsup! — as you explore one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • It’s time for a field trip! Ask an adult to take you to a grocery store so you can see the different types of ketchup available. Take a look at the bottles. Can you find both ketchup and catsup? Or is it just one or the other? Besides their size and price, how do the different types of ketchup vary? Do certain brands claim to taste better or have special ingredients? Choose one or two bottles of ketchup to buy and take home with you. You’ll need them for the next activity!
  • Take a bottle of ketchup from your fridge, or open one of the bottles you recently bought from the store. Conduct your own blind taste test. Get some French fries or hot dogs and try them with different types of ketchup. Which brand do you prefer? Examine the labels on the different bottles. How healthy is ketchup? What ingredients are included? How many calories are in one serving? How big is that serving? How much sugar is in your bottle of ketchup? Have fun learning more about one of the best condiments out there!
  • Feeling up for a challenge? If your home is like most American homes, you probably have at least one bottle of ketchup — or catsup — in the fridge. But did you know you can make your own homemade ketchup? It’s true! Grab a friend or family member and take a look at the recipes below. Choose one to try and then check the list of ingredients in case you need to go to the store for a few supplies before you head to the kitchen to make your own homemade condiment!

    • Savory Homemade Ketchup
    • Ketchup from Fresh Tomatoes
    • Homemade Ketchup


1. Is it catsup or ketchup?

Both terms, catsup and ketchup, refer to the same condiment. However, ketchup is the more commonly used term in the United States, while catsup is more commonly used in other English-speaking countries. The word ketchup originated from the Chinese word “kôe-chiap,” which referred to a sauce made from fermented fish. As the sauce made its way to the Western world, it underwent various changes in ingredients and name. Today, ketchup is a thick, tomato-based sauce that is often used as a condiment for hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries.

2. What is the history of ketchup?

Ketchup has a long and varied history. It originated in China as a sauce made from fermented fish. In the 17th century, British traders encountered this sauce and brought it back to England. Over time, the recipe was adapted and transformed, with the addition of ingredients such as mushrooms, anchovies, and tomatoes. By the 19th century, ketchup had become popular in the United States, and the tomato-based version we know today started to gain popularity. Today, ketchup is one of the most widely consumed condiments in the world.

3. What are the main ingredients in ketchup?

The main ingredients in ketchup are tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, and various spices and flavorings. Tomatoes are the base of the sauce and give it its distinctive flavor and color. Vinegar is added to provide acidity and help preserve the sauce. Sugar is used to balance the acidity and add sweetness. Salt is added to enhance the flavor. The spices and flavorings can vary, but commonly used ones include onion powder, garlic powder, and mustard. Some brands of ketchup may also contain additional ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or artificial preservatives.

4. Is ketchup healthy?

Ketchup can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, but it should be consumed in moderation. While it does contain some nutrients from the tomatoes, such as vitamins A and C, it is also high in sugar and sodium. Excessive consumption of sugar and sodium can have negative health effects, such as weight gain and increased risk of heart disease. Additionally, some brands of ketchup may contain additives and preservatives. To make a healthier choice, look for ketchup brands that have lower sugar and sodium content or consider making your own homemade ketchup using fresh tomatoes and natural sweeteners.

5. Can ketchup be used in cooking?

Yes, ketchup can be used in cooking and adds flavor to a variety of dishes. It can be used as a base for barbecue sauces, marinades, and dressings. It can also be used to add a tangy and slightly sweet flavor to meatloaf, meatballs, and stir-fry dishes. Ketchup can be used as an ingredient in sauces for pasta or baked beans. It can even be used as a topping for pizza or mixed into scrambled eggs. The versatility of ketchup makes it a popular choice in many kitchens.

6. Are there any alternatives to ketchup?

Yes, there are several alternatives to ketchup available. Some popular alternatives include mustard, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and salsa. Mustard provides a tangy and slightly spicy flavor, while mayonnaise adds creaminess. Barbecue sauce can add a smoky and sweet flavor to dishes, while hot sauce adds heat. Salsa can provide a fresh and chunky alternative to ketchup. These alternatives can be used as condiments or in cooking, depending on personal preference and the desired flavor profile of the dish.

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