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.

☞ READ THE ARTICLE: BECAUSE I CAN: HOMEMADE KETCHUP

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.)

A small white bowl filled with homemade ketchup.

Homemade Ketchup

5 / 4 votes
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.
David Leite
CourseCondiments
CuisineAmerican
Servings64 tablespoons
Calories20 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours

Equipment

  • Food mill or potato ricer

Ingredients 

  • 10 pounds very ripe red tomatoes, preferably beefsteak, cored and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar, (for a mild taste) or cider vinegar (for a fruity tang)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 heaping teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more to taste

Instructions 

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 tablespoonCalories: 20 kcalCarbohydrates: 4 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gSodium: 277 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 1998 David Leite. Photo © 1998 bigacis. All rights reserved.

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.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


Hungry For More?

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Remember your mom telling you, “Pretty is as pretty does…”? This lovely elixir knows no distinction–it’s just pretty through and through.

5 mins

Caramelized Onion and Tomato Jam

Not sure what to do with that mountain of sweet summer tomatoes? This sweet and savory tomato jam is the answer.

1 hr 30 mins

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

A sweet-tart little condiment to slather on everything on your holiday table. It gets a little bit of heat from ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and chile.

30 mins


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




41 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. Mary, I, too, am glad you didn’t shy away from the recipe. And your additions and changes sound wonderful.

  2. 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.

    1. Pat Porter, where have you been all my life?! Thanks for all the suggestions and substitutions. I think I shall be delving into them next week.

  3. 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.