If there’s one thing that can reverse the effect of “blandness” in a meal, it’s the presence of a tasty dip or sauce on the table, and what’s more popular than ketchup when it comes to condiments?
Fortunately, most sauces, like ketchup, are plant-based, making them a straight okay for vegans, right? Well, just because a type of food is plant-based doesn’t mean it’s cruelty-free.
After finding out that the soy sauce you’ve been consuming for years actually contains hidden fish ingredients and your favourite cereals contain some oil made from sheep’s wool, you must have learnt your lesson; never trust a product by its general description!
And that must be the reason you’re here today. If you’re having your doubts about whether ketchup is 100% vegan, keep reading so that we can take a look at the list of ingredients and find out together.
Is Ketchup Safe for Vegans?
To answer this question, let’s first take a look at the ingredients generally used to give standard ketchup its sweet and sour taste:
- White or brown sugar
- Powdered garlic and onion
At first glance, nothing seems fishy here. Tomatoes, garlic, and onion are all plants. Sugar is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, while salt is the result of two chemical compounds mixed together. Even vinegar and spices are generally sourced from plant-based materials.
Well, that’s all true except for the part about sugar! What most vegans don’t know is that although sugar is a plant-based product, it’s processed, filtered, and bleached with bone char to take the shape of refined white or brown granules.
If you’re not familiar with what bone charr is, it’s what its name indicates; cattle’s bones heated at an extremely high temperature to make porous, black, granular material to be used as a decolorizing filter.
Of course, the final form of sugar doesn’t contain any bone char, but that doesn’t negate the fact that an animal product has been used in its production.
If you like to think that these cattle had a natural death and their bones were taken later on for production purposes, allow us to disturb your peaceful thinking by saying that no! Like any animals used in the food industry, these cattle were raised in filthy, crowded farms and sent to slaughterhouses to be killed and sold as meat and bones.
With the crazy pace that the food industry works at, it’s illogical to think they’d wait for animals to pass away naturally to use their bones!
So, does that mean that sugar, and in turn ketchup, isn’t vegan? Not entirely. Some sugar products like organic, raw, and unrefined sugar are cruelty-free as they don’t pass by the “bone char filtration” process.
However, these sugar products aren’t as cheap as conventional sugar. So, unless it’s stated clearly on the ketchup bottle you’re purchasing that the sugar used is vegan or belongs to any of the types mentioned above, it most probably contains non-vegan sugar as it’s way cheaper than the ethical alternatives.
A “Vegan Check” on Famous Ketchup Brands
Because what the label says isn’t always true, we’ve gathered the most popular ketchup products on the market and ran our “vegan check” on them. Let’s see what we found out!
Is Heinz Ketchup Vegan?
It’s only natural that you’ve had a bottle of Heinz ketchup in your cupboard at least once in your life. After all, it’s the most recognized ketchup brand in the UK and the whole world. Have no worries, though! Most of Heinz’s ketchup lines are vegan.
In general, any Heinz ketchup bottle would have the following list of ingredients on its back:
- Tomato concentrate from ripe red tomatoes
- High fructose corn syrup
- Natural flavours
- Corn syrup
- Onion powder
As you can see, Heinz doesn’t use white or brown sugar in their tomato ketchup sauces.
Instead, they sweeten their formulae with high-fructose corn syrup, made from a blend of glucose and fructose in a medium of corn syrup. In addition to being free of animal products, none of our furry friends is hurt in the production process of glucose-fructose corn syrup, so it’s completely safe for vegans.
Heinz ketchup is also free of artificial flavours and palm oil, which stand as controversial topics in the world of veganism. Not to mention, it doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, colours, thickeners, or gluten, rendering it generally safe for people with allergies and those with food intolerances.
The company isn’t certified as vegan-friendly, though, due to the presence of two non-vegan lines, namely the Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup line and the varieties sweetened with honey.
The former contains sugar processed from sugar cane and filtered with bone char, while the latter is sweetened with honey, which is considered non-vegan as it involves the mistreatment of bees.
Is Hunt’s 100% Natural Tomato Ketchup Vegan?
Although this natural tomato ketchup is known for its fresh and organic ingredients, it doesn’t use organic sugar or fructose corn syrup in its formulae, rendering it non-vegan.
The ingredient list includes:
- Tomato concentrate made from vine-ripened tomatoes
- Cane sugar
- Less than 2% onion and garlic powder
- Distilled vinegar
- Natural flavours
Is McDonald’s Ketchup Vegan?
Nothing beats dipping McDonald’s vegan French fries (except in the U.S. unfortunately) in a mouthwatering ketchup sauce, right? We’re not taking this pleasure from you because the ketchup used at McDonald’s is all vegan.
According to McDonald’s, their ketchup is made of:
- 60% tomato puree
- Spice extracts
- Glucose-fructose syrup
- Spirit vinegar
So, unless you’re served ketchup from other brands, you can rest assured the sweet and sour sauce you’re pouring on your Veggie Artisan Roll sandwich in McDonald’s has nothing to do with animals.
Is the Ketchup Served in Restaurants Vegan?
That depends on the restaurant you’re visiting and whether they make their own ketchup or serve ketchup from other brands. For example, famous fast-food chains like Subway, Hooters, Burger King, and Wendy’s usually serve Heinz Classic Tomato ketchup, which is safe to eat, so you can dip your sandwich in it without having to ask.
On the other hand, if the brand is unclear or the restaurant serves ketchup in small bowls instead of their original containers, don’t shy away from asking the waiter or the place’s manager about the components of the tomato dip you’re served.
Trusted Vegan-Friendly Ketchup Brands
If you want to spare yourself the hassle of reading the ingredient’s list and contemplating the ethical aspects of the product you’re buying, here’s a list of vegan-friendly ketchup brands that you can grab and put in your shopping cart without a second thought:
- Mr Organic Tomato Ketchup
- Annie’s Naturals Organic Ketchup
- Primal Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
- True Made Foods Vegetable Ketchup
- Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup
Your Favourite Tomato-Based Condiment Could Be Vegan!
A general misconception that keeps lots of people from taking this ethical step and becoming vegan is that vegan foods are bland. That’s because once they become vegan, they overlook all the fun items on the grocery store shelves, like ketchup, and turn to safer plant-based options.
While being doubtful of the things you eat is a good thing, with a glance at the table of ingredients and a quick Google search, you might find out your favourite ketchup brand is actually vegan. If not, you can try several vegan alternatives until you settle on the taste closest to your heart.