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Anjali Shah

Is Ketchup Vegan?

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Ketchup is one of those condiments you’ll see just about everywhere. It’s a classic childhood dip for french fries, nuggets, and so much more! If you are vegan, you may be asking the question ‘is ketchup vegan?’. The short answer is: it depends on the brand! Read on to learn more about this staple condiment, whether ketchup is vegan or vegetarian, key ingredients, and what kinds of ketchup are vegan friendly!

is ketchup vegan - Dark still life with ketchup and ingredients on the rough wood. Blurred background

But with an increasing number of individuals turning to alternative and healthier diet choices, it leads to people asking how healthy is ketchup? Is ketchup 100 percent vegan?

When I was a kid, I didn’t think too much about what ingredients are used or where they came from. All I knew was that this sauce was a great combination with some of my favorite foods and made other foods taste way better!

Now though, as a conscious eater and a mom, I have become passionate about looking into the quality of the foods we eat, how they are made, and the specific ingredients used.

It might surprise you to know, upon evaluating ketchup, that not all brands are vegan! This is especially shocking considering standard ketchup is primarily made from tomatoes.

So why is ketchup not always vegan?

Let’s take a look to uncover what ingredients are used and how they are processed for ketchup to not always be vegan-friendly. I’ll also share some vegan-friendly brands so you can be sure the next time you shop for ketchup, you know which brands are safe to use.

Is Ketchup Vegan? (Is ALL Ketchup Vegan?)

Unfortunately, no, not all Ketchup is vegan. It is important if you follow a vegan diet and/or lifestyle, to double check if the brand of ketchup you are using is vegan.

The most popular brand of ketchup is Heinz tomato ketchup. Although this brand does not have the Ve symbol on each bottle, the original Heinz ketchup in the US is in fact vegan. Whereas other brands or even other varieties of Heinz ketchup are not vegan due to their ingredients or how sugar is refined (more on that later)

So how do you know which ketchup is safe to use if you are a vegan?

Hidden Non-Vegan Ingredients In Ketchup

If you are vegan, there are a few ingredients you must watch out for when choosing which ketchup to buy.

Not all ketchup is created equally, or uses the same sources of ingredients, or methods of processing those ingredients.

Some ingredient lists are very transparent – and you’ll know immediately if a bottle of ketchup is vegan or not. For example, “Heinz sweetened with honey” ketchup is not vegan, since honey is a byproduct of bees.

However, one particular ingredient that you may have overlooked or not even considered something to watch out for, is sugar.

Sugar seems pretty harmless in itself, being that sugar is extracted from plants, most often sugarcane and sugarbeets, so it sounds like it is vegan. And if you purchase unrefined or raw sugar, then you can relax as this is 100% vegan. 

But, any other type of sugar that has been refined or processed, isn’t a simple yes or no answer.

Often, sugar is refined using a material called animal bone char. Bone char is made up of animal bones that are heated up and turned into carbon. This is then used to help filter and bleach sugar, providing it with its bright white appeal.

Once processed, there is no bone char left within the sugar, but of course, the sugar has been processed using animal parts. This goes completely against a vegan’s ethics and beliefs, hence making certain ketchup non-vegan.

The challenge is – companies do not specify whether the sugar they use has been processed via the use of bone char.

This makes it incredibly difficult to know with 100% confidence whether a product using sugar is or isn’t vegan without an official Ve certification from organizations such as the Vegan Society, Vegan Organic Network, or vegan.org.

What Is A Vegan Diet?

If you aren’t a vegan reading this post, you might not know what a vegan diet is.

Vegans hold strong beliefs surrounding animal welfare and ensuring no harm comes to another living creature. They are also often passionate about eating a healthy diet mainly consisting of unprocessed ingredients that contain no animal ingredients.

All vegans will not consume any products that have come from a living creature such as pork, beef, fish, or poultry. Nor will they eat any animal products such as eggs, dairy, or honey.

A typical vegan diet will consist of fruits and vegetables, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds, and often meat-alternative products made with soy or gluten – like tempeh or seitan.

Vegans hold such strong values that their beliefs extend further than their diet. Vegans are often advocates against animal suffering / cruelty and will refuse to use any product where an animal has suffered in the making of it. This includes certain toiletries and household products as well as leather.

What Is A Vegetarian Diet?

A vegetarian diet isn’t quite as strict as a vegan diet. Vegetarians will not consume a product that has involved the killing of an animal e.g. fish, poultry such as chickens, pigs, cows, or lamb.

However, unlike vegans, vegetarians will consume byproducts from an animal including cheese, butter, cream, and honey.

A vegetarian diet does also contain a high amount of fruits and vegetables, similar to vegans. But will also incorporate dairy and eggs into meals such as omelets, cakes, smoothies, and pasta sauces.

Ingredients In Heinz Ketchup

If you have ever used ketchup products, it is highly likely to have been Heinz ketchup. Heinz ketchup has been around since 1886 and is the leading producer of ketchup in the world, selling 650+ million bottles each year.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients list for Heinz ketchup to establish whether or not the most popular brand on the market is or isn’t vegan.

One other thing to consider would depend on which country you are purchasing your Heinz ketchup from. Similar to most big brands (Take a look at our post covering Sour Patch Kids), there tends to be a slightly different ingredient list for the same product, if you are buying it in the U.S. compared with the U.K.

Here is the ingredients list for Heinz ketchup if you were to buy it in the U.S.

Heinz Ketchup in the U.S. contains:

  • Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes
  • Distilled vinegar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Salt
  • Spice
  • Onion powder
  • Natural flavorings

Now take a look at the same brand, Heinz ketchup, but for bottles sold within the U.K.

Heinz Ketchup in the U.K. contains:

  • Tomatoes
  • Spirit Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Spice and Herb Extracts
  • Spice

The key difference you will note is the type of sweetener used. In the United States, high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup are used. Both of these are derived from corn starch, making it 100% vegan.

However, when you take a look at the U.K. list, sugar is listed as the sweetener used. As mentioned earlier in the post, quite often conventional sugar is refined using bone char aka animal bones.

Since Heinz ketchup does not have an official Ve stamp for vegan-friendly, it is challenging to tell whether or not it is truly vegan without taking a deeper look.

is ketchup vegan - A bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup on the kitchen table

Is Heinz Ketchup Vegan?

The good news is, Vegan-Friendly has reached out directly to Heinz to answer this very question. Heinz responded to confirm that the white sugar they use is not refined with bone char.

Along with the other ingredients listed, Heinz ketchup, whether consumed within the U.S. or the U.K. is indeed vegan. 

Though, if you are following a strict vegan diet focused on both animal welfare and eating a healthy diet, you may consider not eating Heinz ketchup.

Particularly in the U.S., it contains high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. Both of these are highly processed and considered more addictive than sugar. Due to this, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the ingredients and their moral use.

Strict vegans focus on a healthy diet consisting of natural ingredients. Since high fructose corn syrup is a GMO ingredient used to make Heinz ketchup in America, many vegans would not consider it a suitable product for consumption.

Also, remember to check each Heinz ketchup product. Although the original Heinz ketchup uses vegan-friendly ingredients, other varieties do not.

For example:

  • Heinz sweetened with honey ketchup: Honey is a byproduct of bees and is not vegan-friendly
  • Heinz no sugar added tomato ketchup: the sugar replacement used is sucralose. This isn’t an animal product itself however in the process of making sucralose it is tested on animals and hence goes against vegan ethics.

The best sugar free vegan friendly option for Heinz is “Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup No Artificial Sweeteners”. This has no sugar products, no high fructose corn syrup, and is vegan.

Alternatively Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup is also vegan – while it contains sugar, organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char so it’s vegan friendly. This also means that the organic versions of traditional brands of ketchup should all be vegan friendly.

Is Heinz Ketchup Vegetarian?

Heinz ketchup is 100% suitable for vegetarians.

If the sugar was refined using bone char, then similarly with vegans, Heinz ketchup would not be suitable for vegetarians, since vegetarians will not consume any product where an animal was killed.

Since we know that Heinz ketchup has confirmed the sugar they use does not use bone char, then it is suitable for vegetarians.

Remember if you are a vegetarian, or even a vegan, that not all brands will use sugar that isn’t refined with bone char. So even though Heinz ketchup original is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, other varieties or brands are not.

Is Heinz Ketchup Healthy?

Now we know Heinz ketchup original is both vegetarian and vegan-friendly, let’s take a look at the nutritional value.

A serving of Heinz ketchup is around 15 grams and only equates to approximately 15 calories. This isn’t high considering the average healthy adult is recommended to eat 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 for men.

But, that’s it in terms of positives to your health or daily diet where Heinz tomato ketchup is concerned.

Per serving, Heinz ketchup contains 3.5g of carbohydrates, with 3.4g of that amount being sugars. A healthy adult is recommended to consume no more than 30g of sugars each day. One small serving of Heinz ketchup (just 1 teaspoon!) equates to 10% of your daily sugar intake.

Additionally, U.S. Heinz ketchup is made with high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. These ingredients have been linked to diabetes and obesity. So it is recommended to try and avoid consuming products with these ingredients listed.

Lastly, there are no other nutrients in Heinz ketchup. It contains no significant amounts of vitamins and minerals, protein or other nutrients.

So even though Heinz ketchup may be your go-to choice of condiment with your favorite meals, it provides no nutritional value whatsoever. If you do choose to consume Heinz ketchup, as with anything high in sugar and salt, do so in moderation.

With that in mind, there are healthier alternatives to Heinz ketchup.

Healthy Alternatives To Heinz Ketchup

The following ketchup varieties are a healthy alternative to Heinz ketchup using natural sugars and are lower in salt.

Primal Kitchen: Organic Unsweetened Ketchup

Primal Kitchen’s ketchup contains the same number of calories as Heinz but without high sugar and salt levels.

One serving of Organic Unsweetened Ketchup contains only 1g of sugar and 105 mg of salt. It contains no added sugars such as honey, high-fructose corn syrup, or refined sugar.

Their ketchup is vegan, gluten-free, and organic.

Thrive Market: Organic Ketchup

Another brand that provides organic and vegan-friendly ketchup. Thrive Market uses organic ingredients including organic sugar, which as mentioned by PETA, organic sugar is not processed using bone char.

Each portion of organic ketchup contains 160 mg of salt and 3 g of sugar, making it another healthier choice compared with Heinz ketchup.

True Made Foods: Vegetable No Added Sugar Ketchup

Being potentially one of the best ketchup options for nutrients, True Made Foods ketchup is made from a range of vegetables and fruits.

Their ingredients list includes: apples and Vegetable puree containing carrot, butternut squash, and spinach.

True Made Foods ketchup is also low on salt and sugars, containing just 135 mg of salt and 2g of sugar. 

There are no added sugars making this ketchup vegan-friendly, gluten-free and non-GMO.

For the healthiest option, I would recommend this Heinz ketchup alternative due to the ingredients used, natural sugars, and low salt content.

Runner Up: Wellbees: Honey Sweetened Ketchup

Wellbees pride themselves on providing excellent tasting ketchup without compromising the ingredients. 

Each serving contains 80 mg of salt and 5g of sugar. Although the sugar does seem on the higher end, the sugar used is from a natural source, honey, rather than processed such as high-fructose corn syrup. This ensures it is a healthier option compared with Heinz ketchup, however it is just vegetarian friendly, not vegan.

Vegan Ketchup Brands

Not all alternatives to Heinz ketchup are vegan often due to how the sugar has been processed. So here is a list of vegan brands and products you can guarantee are vegan-friendly for you to enjoy at home.

Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup

Trader Joe’s is a popular brand name trusted by many and they don’t disappoint with their organic ketchup. With a slightly smoky flavor, Trader Joe’s ketchup uses organic ingredients including organic sugar. 

Since organic sugar does not use bone char, Trader Joes Organic Ketchup is vegan-friendly.

Annie’s Naturals Organic Ketchup

Another great organic option is Annie’s Organic Ketchup. Though it also uses cane sugar, all the ingredients are organic, hence it is vegan-friendly. 

Although Annies Natural Tomato Ketchup is not vegan certified, it is USDA Organic certified and non-GMO.

Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup

Sir Kensington’s is vegan-certified, non-GMO verified and does not contain high-fructose corn syrup.

They pride themselves in using vine-ripened tomatoes to create their version of ketchup. Plus, contain a low level of salt and sugar.

Make Your Own Homemade Ketchup

Alternatively, for guaranteed vegan ketchup that is healthy, why not make your own?

You can choose to either use tomato paste or tomato sauce for a smooth consistency, or a mix of sundried and fresh vine tomatoes to provide a bit of texture to your ketchup.

Then select the type of sweetener. For a vegan-friendly recipe ensure to choose alternative sweeteners like maple syrup, agave syrup, or organic cane sugar. Or you can leave the sugar out altogether and make your homemade vegan ketchup naturally sugar free!

The remaining ingredients are standard for making ketchup which includes:

  • Apple cider vinegar 
  • Onion powder
  • Seasoning including oregano or mixed herbs, salt (select pink Himalayan salt for a healthier alternative), and ground pepper.

Mix all ingredients till you achieve the right consistency and sweet-sour combination.

Final Thoughts

So the answer to our question ‘Is ketchup vegan?’ is not quite as straightforward as we initially thought.

Certain ketchup brands or individual products are vegan if the sweetener they have used has not been refined with bone char.

The most popular brand of ketchup made by Heinz is vegan if you use Heinz original ketchup, Heinz organic ketchup, or Heinz simply tomato ketchup. But Heinz does use a lot of sugar in their ketchup which makes it not the healthiest option for regular use.

There are other less well-known brands of ketchup that are both vegan-friendly and healthier to provide an alternative to purchasing Heinz ketchup. Or, simply spend a couple of minutes making your very own ketchup feeling confident in the nutritional value of the ingredients used, and being able to control the amount of added sugar and salt.

For more healthy guides to understand whether their products are truly vegan or nutritional, take a look here:

Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan?

Are Hot Cheetos Vegan?

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan?

Is Snickers Vegan? Is It Gluten Free?

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