Saturday, April 2, 2022

The History of Ketchup

Amber Schamel Christian author
Blogger: Amber Schamel

Photo by: A.Minkowiski
CC BY-SA 3.0
Today when we hear the word "ketchup" we think of the tomato paste made famous by Heinz. But did you know that ketchup was originally made out of all kinds of things, not just tomatoes, and dates all the way back to ancient times?

Ketchup is a type of sauce that packs a lot of flavor-or at least salt-that can be easily stored and added to foods to increase the enjoyment of said foods. While ketchup is considered highly "American", it actually originated in southern China. Texts dating back as far as 300 B.C. contain references to pastes made from various things, particularly fermented fish entrails. They called this fish sauce "ge-thcup". It became popular because it could be made from various ingredients such as soybeans or meat by-products, and it stored well for long sea journeys. The popularity spread through the trade routes and eventually ended up in Britain.

The golden age for ketchup began in the 18th century. Cooks began experimenting with the genre of sauces and created all manner of recipes. Some used anchovies, others used mushrooms, or vinegar, cloves, horseradish...the list is pretty much endless. However none of them were made from tomatoes, since during those years many believed tomatoes to be poisonous.

Fun Fact: Reportedly, Jane Austen's favorite ketchup was mushroom based. 

Tomato ketchup didn't come around until 1812, but interestingly enough, it wasn't Heinz who invented it. Rather, a scientist from Philadelphia by the name of James Mease is credited with the invention. He developed it, not as a barbecue condiment, but as a medicine. Tomato ketchup was sold as a medicine until the 1850's.
Photo by: SunOfErat
CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In 1876, Heinz introduced his recipe of tomato ketchup to the market, but it took almost 30 years for them to rise to the top of the pack. Today, Heinz ketchup is the most popular brand of tomato ketchup sold in both the United States and Great Britain.

You'll find tomato ketchup in 97% of homes in the United States.

What is your favorite way to consume tomato ketchup?


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".

She lives near the Ozarks in her "casita" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


  1. Thanks for posting! I wonder what conditions ketchup was supposed to treat? It would make sense if it was scurvy or something like that. My favorite way to have it is with fries or added to meatloaf.

  2. Hi Amber, I use ketchup in meatloaf. Here's a story about my mother; one year she grew Rutgers tomatoes and they were so plentiful that she decided to make homemade ketchup. I helped her and the end result was delicious homemade ketchup, but Mom didn't care for the making of it. It was time consuming and took a lot of tomatoes for just a small batch.