Homemade Ketchup

This homemade ketchup recipe, made with tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar, is made without high-fructose corn syrup. And with a whole lot more complexity and finesse than the store-bought stuff.

A small white bowl filled with homemade ketchup.

What I love about this homemade ketchup recipe made with fresh tomatoes is that it tates like ketchup. There’s nothing worse than the ketchup that now pass for “housemade ketchup” in so many restaurants that tastes either like tarted-up tomato sauce or tastes nothing at all like ketchup because it’s “improved” with unusual or trendy ingredients like chipotle peppers or, I don’t know, paprika collected by 17-year-old Hungarian virgins. With this recipe, you achieve the perfect sweet-tart balance of Heinz or Hunt’s simply by reducing the tomato liquid into a thick, glossy syrup and then swirling it into the tomato pulp.–David Leite

LC No Food Mill? No Problem! Note

No food mill? No problem! (For those unfamiliar with a food mill, it’s a boon to home cooks obsessed with tomatoes because of its ability to remove seeds and skins from a thick purée.) LC recipe tester and homemade ketchup aficionado Brenda Carleton has canned countless incarnations of this condiment recipe, and not once has she bothered to invest in a food mill. Why would she? She has her trusty potato ricer on hand. Carleton is on her 50th or so batch of homemade ketchup, each made in ricer fashion, and she has no complaints. (Uh, almost no complaints. She did mention that the ricer is messy, but then, a food mill would also be messy.

No potato ricer? No problem there, either. Another LC recipe-testing aficionado, Lori Widmeyer, has also made this ketchup more than once and removes the skins and seeds the old-fashioned way. She marks an “X” on the bottom of each tomato, blanches it (that is, plops it in boiling water for just a few seconds), immediately plunges it into ice water, then coaxes the skins to slip off with her fingertips. Then she chops the tomatoes and drains them in a colander. (Those times when Widmeyer was impatient and didn’t drain the tomatoes—albeit against her better judgment—the resulting ketchup was watery.)

Homemade Ketchup

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 30 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes 64 (1-tbsp) servings (about 4 cups)
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Special Equipment: Food mill or potato ricer

Ingredients

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Directions

Place the tomatoes in a heavy, wide, nonreactive pan at least 8 quarts in size. Cover, place the pan over high heat, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the tomato chunks spill tomato juice and everything comes to a boil.

Working in batches, pour the tomato chunks and juice into a large strainer placed over a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Gently press and stir the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon so that all the liquid but none of the tomato pulp goes into the saucepan. You should have about 2 quarts liquid. Reserve the tomato pulp.

To the tomato liquid in the saucepan add the garlic, onion, vinegar, peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, ginger, and salt. Cook over moderately high heat until the liquid is thick and syrupy and reduced to about 2 cups. This could take anywhere from half an hour to an hour or even as long as 2 hours or, in the case of 1 tester, up to 4 hours, depending on the type of tomatoes used and the size of your saucepan.

Tester tip: Some tomatoes, such as beefsteaks, are more pulpy and mealy, whereas other tomatoes, like Romas, are more juicy. This will affect the final yield of juice and total simmering time. Don’t let that distract you.

Meanwhile, transfer the tomato pulp to a food mill fitted with the finest screen to eliminate the seeds and skin. You should have about 1 quart strained pulp. Transfer the strained pulp back to the first pan. Discard the tomato solids that you strained from the tomato pulp.

Strain the thick, syrupy, reduced tomato liquid into the reserved tomato pulp, pressing on the solids to extract all the liquid. Stir in the sugar and gently simmer over medium-low or low heat, stirring frequently, until the ketchup is reduced by 1/3, 15 to 20 minutes Taste the ketchup occasionally, adding more sugar if desired. You should have about 4 cups tomato goo at the end. If the ketchup still seems a little runny, continue to simmer the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the desired consistency is attained. If the ketchup isn’t quite the texture of commercial ketchup and some very vocal dissenters in your household prefer that, purée the ketchup in a blender or food processor. 

Let the ketchup cool to room temperature. Transfer the ketchup to glass jars or other containers with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate for up to several weeks. Originally published September 27, 2013.

Print RecipeBuy the The Man Who Ate Everything cookbook

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Recipe Testers Reviews

There were a couple things I’d change about this homemade ketchup recipe recipe, but the end result was so good it still merits a Testers’ Choice. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll confess that I’m not a big fan of regular ketchup. My husband, on the other hand, loves the stuff. We tasted this side by side with some Heinz ketchup. The dipping vehicle of choice was onion rings. The result of our tasting was that we both preferred the homemade ketchup to the Heinz. The commercial ketchup was noticeably sweeter. The homemade was brighter in flavor and a bit saltier. The spices were present without being overpowering or even individually identifiable. In short, it was delicious, even to a ketchup-hater like me.

If I were to change anything, it’d be to reduce the salt just a little. If you decide to make this, make sure you have a really big pot. The author says you need at least an 8-quart pot, and you need to listen to him. You’ll also need to allow plenty of time to make this recipe. The finest screen on my food mill wasn’t fine enough to remove all the seeds from the tomato pulp, but that was okay. There were some seeds in my ketchup and it didn’t bother us at all. I also didn’t do a final purée at the end. I felt the ketchup was smooth enough—not perfectly smooth, but a perfectly acceptable texture.

My older daughter, who loves ketchup, helped me out during the process of making the homemade ketchup recipe, continually tasting it to make sure it was to her liking and as similar as possible to the organic Heinz ketchup we usually buy. This was a tough recipe for me to test as I absolutely dislike ketchup. But the entire process is pretty easy.

I used homegrown beefsteak tomatoes, which are more meaty. It took about 1 hour to reduce the liquid part and make it syrupy, but it never became thick. So my daughter thought of adding cornstarch, which did the trick to thicken it. I also ended up adding 3 more tablespoons of sugar. The final result, as per my daughter, is very similar to Heinz ketchup, except it’s just a bit darker. Now for someone who doesn’t care for ketchup, is it worth the trouble? I’m not quite sure. But I’ll make it again, mainly because I know exactly what’s in it as opposed to the store-bought kind.

The amount of effort for this recipe is homemade ketchup recipe is tremendous. On the other hand, this ketchup is delicious. First, the cutting of the tomatoes takes a long time. Second, you use several pots and strainers. I was able to get a good texture just by cooking it a little longer than the recommended time. However, you do need to watch it so that it won’t burn. I used a food mill because I have one. (A food mill makes things easy.)

I found that it took awhile to get to a syrupy texture (for the tomato liquid) and then the amount of liquid after cooking down wasn’t as great as it would seem. So I took some of the purée and mixed it in a few times to add more flavor into the final tomato puree as it cooked.

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Comments

    1. Jeanette, we haven’t tried it, but you should be able to safely water-bath can this ketchup. Based on a few other sources, I’d suggest processing for 15 minutes, in 1/2-pint jars, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

  1. I have not yet made this recipe but have made ketchup and must stand up on the why.
    WHY? OMG It’s better than anything you can purchase and it’s no more effort than making apple butter. I was inspired to do so many moons ago after tasting Ballymaloe tomato relish. I encourage those who enjoy food and “don’t just fill a void” to make it at least once.
    This looks to be a straight forward yummy recipe to make.

    1. Thanks, Penny! We couldn’t agree more. We’re looking forward to hearing what you think of the ketchup once you’ve tried it.

  2. So if I have neither mill or ricer I should peel and chop the tomatoes and drain in a colander. What about the seeds? I don’t think that will eliminate all (or even most) of the seeds.
    Thanks.

    1. Steven, I’d suggest removing the seeds at the same time as you’re peeling them. Slice in half and scoop them out as well as possible, then chop and drain.

  3. I had a load of paste tomatoes, and roasted them, not sure what I would make. I adapted this recipe to those roasted tomatoes, putting them through a food mill and reducing them further with the spices, which I put in a big tea infuser. I didn’t like the final texture, so I used my mini food processor to make it super smooth. The ketchup is really, really delicious. It is worth the effort, although I put in less effort than the recipe calls for by roasting the tomatoes. And I managed not to burn it — a triumph for me :-)!

    1. Sue, this is wonderful! I’m so glad you were able to make use of your bounty of tomatoes, and turn them into something amazing. Really appreciate you sharing your experience here.

  4. About how many pounds/gallons of ketchup does this recipe have? Cause I would like to know before I make it so I don’t too much or too little.

    1. Ally, I like the way you’re thinking! The yield for the recipe can be found just above the ingredients and is 3 to 4 cups. Hopefully that’s not too much and not too little!

  5. I will try this someday. I like the idea of using all non GMO ingredients and also I will substitute the sugar for raw honey or other natural no calorie sweetener.

    I want to pass on a tip that may make this a simpler process. A way to remove the skin from the tomatoes right from the beginning. Use a box shredder. You cut the tomatoes in half and one by one rub the flat sides on the side of the box shredder that has all the semi circular indentations, the side you would use to shred cheese. This works really well and you just toss the skins when the meat has been scraped off.

    It should be a much easier process now to remove the seeds :-)

  6. Late summer here in Australia, and I finally gave this a go! My partner’s away, there’s 20 kg boxes of roma tomatoes on sale five minutes bike ride away, and it seemed like serendipity.

    Why make it yourself? Because it is fun, you know what went into it, it puts you back in touch with food in a way sadly missing in a prepackaged world. Also, my kitchen smells like my childhood, which I really ought to have expected but caught me a little off guard.

    One note: I tried the potato ricer idea. Er, no. Maybe I have the wrong sort of potato ricer. Tomato pulp and juice just spurted up around the sides and kinda everywhere. I abandoned that one and fled to the nearby homewares store, where I bought a mouli legumes, which was surprisingly cheap and worked perfectly (alas, unlike my mother’s, not in 1970’s orange plastic)

  7. David and Guest, I looked for an hour before I came upon your story and recipe. Huh, ya know how it goes, all the tender loving care, money and anticipation you give your garden, rewards you with a beautiful bounty sometimes all at once? I didn’t have enough white vinegar so I used rice vinegar and added 1 tablespoon of a good balsamic (worked perfectly). I also used chopped ginger in the jar, Sriracha (out of cayenne),and brown sugar that worked very well. My homegrown tomatoes have thick skins so a quick dunk in hot water saved me time and mess. I took my time and enjoyed the process which took all afternoon. I couldn’t be happier! It has a little kick and a wonderful depth that enhances the flavors of both the Ketchup and the food it’s accompanying. I usually follow recipes to the letter but I’m very glad I didn’t shy away from this one. Thank you, Mary.

  8. David, I have been making ketchup for thirty years, growing far too many tomatoes in my tiny backyard, always brandywines, long before heirlooms were even heard of. What got me into this? Well, one day I was at a local store, talking to a guy and mentioned I wanted to get a load of tomatoes. This was before I started growing my own. He told me to call his friend. His friend said “meet me at this place” and the only requirement he had was that he did not want payment, but merely that I take all of the tomatoes he brought. Well, he brought me SIX BUSHELS. Now what. Make ketchup. I made pots and pots of it over the course of a week. My therapist thought I was crazy. That’s why I was seeing her, duh. The next year, I bought my house, and discovered that my new neighbor was none other than the tomato man. We have been best friends ever since.

    Three things I would add to the recipe here: brown sugar, not white; lots of fresh, not ground, ginger; and never, ever white vinegar (tastes like turpentine to my palate) — always cider vinegar. Oh, another thing — when you have two pots going, add some dried hot peppers to one. Some folks, myself included, like it extra spicy. And tell Gregory to get a life.

  9. This may seem like cheating but…I plan to try this on a smaller scale with canned, skinless, plum tomatoes. The beauty of these home made condiments found on Leite’s Culinaria is the ability to control the ingredients (sugars, sodium) etc. With just 2 people in my household this seems an interesting option.

    1. Larry, that’s not cheating. Cheating is taking Heinz ketchup, spooning it into a canning jar, and trying to pass it off as your own. This is smart cooking. Tell me how it comes out. Might be a good way to make ketchup in the non-tomato season.

  10. This recipe looks great, but aren’t cinnamon, clove and ginger “unusual ingredients when compared to store bought? (Nothing wrong with that. ..)

  11. David, Just recently found this site and the homemade ketchup commentary and recipe made me laugh…and remember. I grew up on my Grandma’s homemade “catsup” and absolutely loved it! In fact, I have her recipe and in her handwriting! Obviously it is very special to me. Personally, I love the flavor of homemade ketchup, and this post will hopefully encourage me to make some of both this coming year and compare the results, as the two recipes are quite different.

    1. Rhonda, your grandma’s recipe in her own hand? That’s fantastic. The One has dozens and dozens of handwritten recipes from his mom and grandmother. They’re so special. When you make both ketchup recipes, let me know what you think. I’m in love with it.

  12. Just wanted to append RE: your mention of grinding your own flour from grains…I bought a full “brisket” of Wagyu beef pastrami for which I am planning to develop the quintessential Pumpernickel/Siberian Soldiers Bread recipe. I bought a grain mill (the Wonder Junior) that will grind fine enough for flour, a bunch of grains, malt syrups and so on. So I totally know where you’re coming from. ;)

    For me, it’s much more practical to buy and store the various grains (which stay fresher longer than ground flour) and grind them in very small batches when I’m feeling like experimenting than to buy the flours and eventually throw most of them away because they’re no longer fresh enough to make a good tasting bread. Grind all my own AP flour? Probably not in this lifetime, but the tweaks for added flavor or better nutrition profile, sure! ;)

  13. “G” definitely sounds like a pain in the tokas, and IF I invited him to dinner, he would be welcome to eat any veggies on the table, but the rest of us would have something decent to eat. But I also have to wonder why spend so much time & effort on a bottle of something that, at least in my house, lasts about six months.

    1. Dorothy, my heart sank when I read your comment. Why make it? “Because. I. Can!” The flavor is so different and so much better than bottled stuff. I don’t know. Maybe I was a homesteader on the prairie in a past life, making everything from scratch. (So I guess when I say I’ll be trying to grind my own flour, you’re going to groan, right?)

      1. Maybe when I’m no longer toiling 40 hrs/wk at a computer I’ll have the energy to make more homemade things like ketchup. I bought peaches to make jam & threw them into the freezer due to lack of initiative. There’s always next year. At least it’s raining here today. YIPPEE!

          1. The Great & Powerful Leite sent me some of this ketchup to try & IT’S DA BOMB! I’m wondering if canned tomatoes could be used.

            1. Dorothy, I’m so glad the package got there in one piece and the ketchup was still cold. I think you could use canned tomatoes. I’d use Roma tomatoes. The syrup you make from the juices might not take as long to reduce. The juice from fresh tomatoes is almost as thin as water.

  14. Was wondering if you would have more information about the canning of this? I see there is an acid (vinegar) in the recipe, is this enough to just do a water bath canning? Or, should I go the longer way around and pressure can? Any help would be appreciated as my tomato plants are starting to produce.

    Also was wondering as I have a steam juicer, would this work better for collection and boiling down of the tomato juice?
    Inquiring mind here….

    1. Hi Phyllis, I asked Melissa, one of our testers here at LC, and this is her advice-
      “I would be willing to go out on a limb and say you could do this in a hot water bath. Some people do tomatoes that way as is, as tomatoes are fairly acidic, although pressure canning is preferred. This having some added vinegar, and sugar (also a preservative), and salt (once again a preservative), I think it would be OK in the hot water bath. That said, because this is already cooked quite a bit in the making, I don’t think pressure canning would cause any loss of quality, and would of course be the safest option. I bet it would also do just fine in the freezer.” As far as your steam juicer question, well, you have a pretty well equipped kitchen! Any other steam juicer owners out there?

      1. I have a steam juicer. We often use it for grape and pear juice canning. I wonder if it works for this recipe?

        1. Hi Hope, I can honestly say that I’ve never used a steam juicer although they look like quite the fun contraption. Perhaps one of our readers has tried one for this recipe? If you do give it a whirl, please come back and tell us how it turned out.

    2. And Sue, another of our testers, offers this tip-
      “When I have a question like this I always call a state university extension service. Almost every state university has one and they’re amazingly helpful. I’m from Atlanta so I use the UGA extension service but it doesn’t matter where you live or are from. They’re always helpful and it’s great to get correct information. I’d always rather be safe than waste a lot of time and ingredients.”

  15. Now that I realize GMOs are in too many products we buy I am thrilled to get this recipe. I have learned from my mother that a good homemade meal is truly the best.

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