Lacto-Fermentation & Whey, Recipes, Sides & Spreads

Easy Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

May 14, 2013

Have you seen those shirts that say “I Put Ketchup on My Ketchup“? Nothing expresses me more than that shirt. The first time my husband (then boyfriend) saw me put ketchup on my plate with some french fries, I saw him take pause. With quizzical eyes he said, “Got enough ketchup?” I proudly smiled and said, “I love ketchup.”

Easy Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

You see, it had become second nature to me to load all sorts of goodies with my sweet, delicious ketchup. I barely noticed when I would put a hefty squeeze of that tomato goodness on my plate.

Conventional Ketchup’s Secret

Then we became real foodies. I threw what was left of my precious plastic squeeze bottle into the trash, holding a small memorial in my heart. Did you know that ketchup is filled with nasties like:


And this is one of the better ones! But you might look at this and think, “Well, that isn’t so bad. I’ve seen labels with much worse.” I thought that too, then I did a little digging.

Tomatoes: The tomatoes may be conventionally grown, meaning they were heavily sprayed with certain pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides – which then end up in the bottle. And you have to be careful about the tomatoes, you never know if they will be genetically modified unless you do a little digging into the brand for yourself.

High Fructose Corn Syrup/Corn Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup is a sweetener made from corn, and it’s just not good for us to consume. Believe it or not, about 88% of corn in the U.S. is now genetically modified – chances are, the corn syrup in your ketchup contain GMOs. Not to mention the pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides that may have been sprayed on the corn crops.

Natural Flavoring: Here is the wonderful definition that is provided to us by the Code of Federal Regulations on what exactly natural flavoring is:

“…’the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional’ (21CFR101.22).” (source)

Oh okay, Code of Federal Regulations. So “natural flavoring” is supposed to taste…like tomatoes, but not from tomatoes? Why can’t the tomatoes just be the flavoring? For more information on what natural flavoring is, I would highly recommend this article on exactly what artificial flavoring is.

The easiest way to avoid overly-processed ketchup is to make your own at home, and lacto-ferment it to give it a punch of gut-happy probiotics! I have perfected this recipe, so that it will taste as close to the real thing as I can get it. You cannot mess with a deliciously made ketchup…so now I can put homemade ketchup on my homemade ketchup – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Easy Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

The Fundamentals

14 ounces organic tomato paste (preferably in glass jars like this)
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons organic raw honey
1 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (like this)
2 tablespoons + 1/2 tablespoon organic raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup liquid whey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of organic fish sauce (optional)

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.

2. Pour into a mason jar and seal tightly, allow to ferment on the counter for 2 to 5 days.

3. Serve with you favorite ketchup-loving foods! (Store in the refrigerator for several months)

Sources: Ketchup Ingredients, Today: Natural Flavoring, Food Renegade: HFCS, WAPF: HFCS, WAPF: Murky HFCS, Huffington Post: GMOs, Huffington Post: HFCS Plummets, USA Today: GMO Questions.
This post is a part of Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, LHITS Linky, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Sunday School, Homestead Barn Hop, Fat Tuesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Little House Friday DIY Linky.

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  • Reply Rachel May 14, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Is that ground “clover” or cloves?

    • Reply Katie May 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Good catch, Rachel! Ground Cloves – *head smack*, though clover might be interesting in it 😉


  • Reply Tracy | Screaming Sardine May 14, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Oh, thank you so much for this recipe. I’ve been holding off on buying ketchup since starting to eat healthier, but there have been times when we really missed it. I’ll be trying this recipe ASAP!

    • Reply Katie May 14, 2013 at 8:41 am

      I kept holding off too – but I knew I needed to make some delicious ketchup for the beginning of summer! I hope you enjoy the recipe, Tracy – and let me know what you think. :)


  • Reply Katie May 24, 2013 at 5:14 am

    How does this taste compared to regular ketchup? We have always used organic trader joes or whole foods ketchup, I’m pretty ok with it and the ingredients. It doesn’t have that weird consistency that congeals on your plate like Heinz. My kids can be funny about things like this, I don’t want it to be too different tasting or they likely won’t eat anything I put it on.

    • Reply Katie May 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

      It has more of a depth of flavor from the spices, which you can omit but really tastes great. To me, it’s like Heinz but with more depth. You could always try a half batch of it and see what your kids think, and adjust the seasoning to your liking. I love ketchup and I love the flavor of this one! :)


  • Reply Tracy G May 25, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Could you can this? My family loves ketchup and I do a lot of canning already. Would love to be able to make this in large batches and either can it or freeze it. Thoughts?

    • Reply Katie May 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

      That’s a great question, Tracy! I have never tried making this in large batches, but I am thinking if you freeze it and thaw as needed it will keep better. By lacto-fermenting, it does preserve the ketchup for around 7 months and I am thinking freezing would help preserve all the goodness inside. I am not 100% sure though, so if you try it – let me know how it goes!


  • Reply Natalie L. May 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I husband LOVES ketchup. He even made a show on YouTube called “Does Ketchup Go With This? We try to buy the non-high fructose corn syrup kind, but I still wonder about it. Even though we are trying to cook healthier when we can afford it, we can’t cut the ketchup! 😛 I will definitely have to try this recipe!

    • Reply Katie May 26, 2013 at 10:26 am

      That is amazing Natalie! Ketchup is an amazing condiment and I can totally relate to not letting it go. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply How to Make Lacto-Fermented Mayo | Girl Meets NourishmentGirl Meets Nourishment June 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm

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  • Reply Rachel June 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Mine’s been on the counter for 5 days, and it’s been pretty warm inside, but no bubbles….should I toss it???

    • Reply Katie June 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Rachel,

      If it smells good and looks okay, you should be okay – but always trust your gut feeling. Some times mine gets bubbly and some times it doesn’t. My last batch didn’t and we ate it all. :)

      Hope this helps,

      PS – with lacto-fermentation I always go with look and smell – Sally Fallon says if it doesn’t smell right you know it didn’t come out right.

  • Reply Kristi June 14, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Sounds delicious. Could kefir be used instead of the whey?

  • Reply Ramona August 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I made a batch of this ketchup and am wondering about the bubbling… I left mine for 3 days, it was pretty warm inside our house and it was bubbly. Now in the fridge, days later, it’s STILL bubbling! Should it be bubbling this much? I had to put it in a larger container because it was threatening to bubble out of the jar. I used whey from homemade kefir. Maybe there is too much active culture in the whey? Should I add more tomato paste to dilute the critters? Or is this just normal?

    • Reply Katie August 11, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Good Morning Romona,

      It is okay if your ketchup is bubbly. :) That means it is really fermenting! Give it a whiff and if it smells okay, than you are good to go. If it is still super bubbly in the fridge, you could put it into two separate jars to prevent the contents from bubbling over. :)

      Hope this helps, but trust you gut and go with your best instinct when fermenting foods,

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  • Reply Anna October 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    How do you know when it’s done? Mine hasn’t bubbled. Is there something I should look for to figure out if it’s done?

    • Reply Katie October 3, 2013 at 9:33 am

      The ketchup doesn’t get bubbly unless in a really warm climate. I have found that letting it sit out for 3 to 4 days is prime for me in the chilly Montana climate. Sometimes, I just let it sit for the full five days before transferring to the fridge, in the really cold winter. I tend to lean toward the longer time on the counter to let the lacto-fermentation really take hold – since the ketchup is thicker than a pickle or sauerkraut brine, we don’t get the tell tale sign of the bubbles.

      Hope this helps!

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  • Reply Guenevere December 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I would love to try this, but is it possible to make it with out using whey? I am lactose intolerant, and from what I have read it would be very risky for me to consume whey and not have an issue. I’d hate to go to all the work of making whey and then making this ketchup just to find out I couldn’t eat it.

    • Reply Katie December 21, 2013 at 8:11 am

      You can still make this ketchup without the whey, but you will need to skip the fermentation step and the shelf life would be around 2 weeks. I hope this helps! :)

      • Reply Shelly June 11, 2014 at 11:04 pm

        Instead of whey you could use brine from naturally fermented pickles, the kind you find in the refrigerated section of the store or your own homemade brine pickles. Or water kefir would probably work too.

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  • Reply Christopher December 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I have a slightly modified version I think is amazing, no whey needed. Thanks for sharing!
    Fermented Ketchup

    Two 12-oz jars/cans of tomato paste
    1/3 cup raw (clover) honey
    3 Tb raw apple cider vinegar
    3 small garlic cloves, pressed
    6 Tb sauerkraut juice
    2 tsp finely ground salt
    pinch cayenne pepper
    pinch black pepper
    pinch ginger
    pinch paprika
    pinch mustard
    pinch clove
    pinch cinnamon
    Squeeze of lemon
    ½ tsp onion powder add more as needed for taste

    • Reply Katie December 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Sounds great! Thank you for sharing!

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