Go Back

Real Ketchup


  • 2 cans whole peeled plum tomatoes 28 ounces each, or 3 pounds fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onioin cut into chunks
  • 2 garlic gloves peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar or less, as desired
  • 1 stick cinnamon 2-to 3-inch
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to your taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Put half the tomatoes and their juices in a blender.
  • Add onion and garlic and blend until smooth.
  • Pour mixture through a fine strainer, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon.
  • Discard solids. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.
  • In a large pot over medium-low heat, bring tomato mixture to a simmer. Lower heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half and is beginning to thicken, about 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, celery seeds, peppercorns, dry mustard, cayenne and salt to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, turn off the heat, and let it sit while the tomatoes continue to reduce. When tomatoes are reduced by half, strain the spice-infused vinegar into the tomatoes, discarding the spices. Continue to simmer the ketchup, stirring often, until thick, 20 to 30 minutes (or more if necessary). Taste for salt and spice, and adjust to your liking.
  • Cool before transferring to a covered jar and placing in the refrigerator. The ketchup will keep 2 to 3 months.


Note: If fresh tomatoes are used, the ketchup will take about 2 hours to reduce and thicken, will have a final yield of about 2 1/4 cups, and will be slightly less smooth than commercial ketchup.
• Critical steps: Not burning the ketchup. There is a lot of occasional stirring in this recipe, so don't think you can set it and forget it. Keep a watchful eye as you're putzing around the house. There's nothing worse than discovering your whole batch is ruined because you got sucked into a movie.
• Comparison to its commercial counterpart: Homemade ketchup is delicious. After nearly two hours of simmering, I figured I'd be left with a bland tomato purée. Not so. Mine was packed with flavor that rivaled the most popular ketchup brands on the market (except I think mine was better because of the freshness). It is slightly sweet, so if you're worried about sugar intake, try using only a tablespoon or two instead of 1/4 cup. It also has a bit of heat from the cayenne. The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, but I highly recommend using 1/4 teaspoon and adding more if needed. Unless you're serving this only to adults, it's best not to pack on the heat. Consistency-wise, homemade ketchup has the same smooth texture as commercial ketchup.
• Is it worth it? Definitely. Keep this recipe in your arsenal when you have a bumper crop of tomatoes to use up. Because tomatoes aren't in season now, I used the canned variety and was thrilled with the results.
• Other notes: One way that commercial beats homemade is the shelf life. Although you can have a store-bought brand in your fridge for a year or more, making it yourself decreases that time to two to three months. But with grilling season upon us, and if your ketchup habits are anything like mine, you'll have no problem consuming this way before then.