Heinz

Heinz ketchup (Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash)

Ketchup is one of the most beloved condiments, though there is some debate regarding what it should or shouldn’t be paired with. Snobbery aside, ketchup is a great condiment that many consumers love. Equally present with breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks we decided to round up our sources and find the best ketchup brands.

Ketchup stans will never bow to pressure from haters. One recent study highlights some of the anti-ketchup sentiment: If cooking a steak until it’s bone-dry isn’t bad enough, daters also don’t want to see a potential partner reach for the ketchup! Forty-two percent say they’d be critical of a date who slathers a steak in ketchup. Exactly the same number of men and women (42%) believe this is a steak-eating no-no. If you’re looking for a safe choice, four in 10 respondents say their favorite steak sauce is A.1. Thirteen percent opt for barbeque sauce and 10 percent like a little Worcestershire sauce on the side. Regardless of what their date may think, one in 20 people still say, “pass the ketchup!” — the same number who prefer fancier options like a wine reduction or a béarnaise sauce.

Despite this attitude towards ketchup that some folks seem to cling too, our true colors are revealed at the BBQ. Your BBQ preferences say a lot about your personality. Americans overwhelmingly prefer ketchup (63%) over mustard (27%), as a condiment. However, being an adventurous eater is a more prevalent trait among mustard lovers, rather than ketchup enthusiasts (42% vs 34%).

What makes a good ketchup?

  • Fresh Tomatos: The heart of any great ketchup is the tomato. Look for brands using vine-ripened tomatoes, bursting with natural sweetness and acidity. Avoid ketchups with a dominant “tomato paste” flavor – freshness is key.
  • Sugar Content: The sugar content should complement the tomato flavor, not overpower it. Hint: high-quality sugars like cane sugar elevate the taste, while high-fructose corn syrup tends to create an artificial sweetness.
  • Tangy Twang: A touch of acidity is crucial for cutting through ketchup’s sweetness and adding complexity. Distilled vinegar is a classic choice, but adventurous palates might enjoy ketchups with balsamic vinegar or even a hint of fruit.
  • Spice (Optional): While not essential, a touch of spice can add another dimension of flavor. Look for ketchups with paprika, chili flakes, or even chipotle peppers for a smoky kick.
  • Texture: The ideal ketchup texture should be smooth and spreadable, clinging to food without being gloopy. Be wary of ketchups with a watery consistency or an unpleasantly gritty mouthfeel.
  • Ingredients Under the Microscope: For health-conscious ketchup connoisseurs, ingredient lists matter. Opt for ketchups with minimal additives and preservatives. Organic choices offer the purest tomato experience, while sugar-free options cater to specific dietary needs.

Your options for this staple condiment are not limited to just major names like Heinz. Whether you feel it’s only for burgers and fries, or if you love to slather it all over everything, our list of the best ketchup brands is for you. Let us know your favorite variety in the comments below!

white ceramic mug with brown liquid
Cup of Ketchup (Photo by D. L. Samuels on Unsplash)

The List: Best Ketchup: Top 5 Brands, According To Flavor Experts

 

1. Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Heinz Tomato Ketchup sets the standard against which all other ketchup brands are measured. Kitchn has this to say, “Nearly all of the tasters immediately pegged this ketchup as Heinz. It had a really recognizable flavor that was balanced and sweet, without too much acidity.”

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Value Size (64 oz Bottle)
Heinz Tomato Ketchup Value Size (64 oz Bottle)

Heinz is a brand that is ubiquitous at restaurants in every state in the U.S. It is familiar and for some, a very comforting flavor that they can instantly recognize. Taste of Home writes: “This ketchup gave our Test Kitchen the best balance of tomato flavor, tanginess and sweetness. This is exactly the type of ketchup we all want to have on the table at our cookouts and in the fridge when we whip up some frozen fries in the air fryer. Overall, this thick, glossy ketchup had the perfect tang, perfect color and great tomato flavor.”

Although not ranked as the best with all our sources, it was still considered the gold standard. America’s Test Kitchen claims, “Our runner-up garnered high scores due to its ‘supersmooth, consistent texture’ and recognizable flavor. It was ‘pleasantly sweet’ and had ‘a great balance of vinegar and tang.'”

2. Hunt’s Ketchup

After Heinz, Hunt’s Ketchup is arguably one of the most recognizable brands because of its uniquely thick consistency. Restaurant News explains, “Next up is one for someone who likes a thicker consistency to their ketchup. This is a great one for slathering on your pork chop before putting it on the grill. Not only is this made from fresh tomatoes, but it will give you everything you need for a rounded flavor palette – introducing Hunt’s Ketchup. If you are looking for the hidden ‘umami’ in your ketchup, then you can’t go wrong with this one.”

Hunt's Tomato Ketchup Squeeze Bottle, 32 oz
Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup Squeeze Bottle, 32 oz

Folks that prefer Hunt’s Ketchup typically cite the flavor and consistency as the reason why. Sporked details the following: “In my humble opinion, Hunt’s lives in the shadow of Heinz ketchup, but not everyone agrees… The best way I can describe it is that Heinz is banana-flavored candy and Hunt’s is a banana. Both are good, but they’re different!”

A shared experience among ketchup consumers is the dreaded separation of liquid that can cause runny ketchup if you don’t remember to shake the bottle. Taste of Home adds, “No one likes runny ketchup that slides right off your fries and onto your lap. For thick ketchup that stays put, grab a bottle of Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup. This deep red ketchup was thicker in consistency and had a well-balanced flavor—not too sweet or tangy.”

 3. Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup

Some consumers prefer organic products and others love sweet ones. For people that fall into both categories our sources recommend Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup. Mashed writes, “Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup might just make your tastebuds sing. It’s smooth, it’s rich, and has a simple list of ingredients that are easy to pronounce (and recognize). They spell out the specific spices that are included, like allspice and clove, so there’s no need to guess what’s in this ketchup. This level of transparency is hard to get from other ketchup brands but it makes us love this Trader Joe’s ketchup that much more. ”

Trader Joes Organic Ketchup 24oz (Pack of 2)
Trader Joes Organic Ketchup 24oz (Pack of 2)

Trader Joe’s products can be hit-or-miss, but the reviews of their ketchup are strong. Sporked adds: “After tasting all sorts of products from TJ’s, I can confidently say that the Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup is one of the best pantry staple products they sell. Sporked contributor, Naajia Shukri, described it as ‘sickeningly sweet’ in the best way possible and I agree. This ketchup is sweet, sweet, sweet and there is nothing wrong with that.”

In addition to its distinctive flavor, Trader Joe’s Ketchup is also a budget buy. Uproxx says, “I’m blown away by this ketchup. One, it’s one of the cheaper bottles on this list, even cheaper than Heinz, but it tastes just as good as the high-quality high-priced stuff. Two, it’s Trader Joe’s, and as much as I love Trader Joe’s, the Joe’s branded stuff never does this well in a ranking.”

 4. Annie’s Organic Ketchup

Annie’s Organic Ketchup is both sweeter and more acidic than other entries on this list. One unusual trait of this ketchup is that it is very highly rated and at the same time, highly critiqued. Mashed writes, “Annie’s has provided kitchens with tasty prepared organic products since 1989, well before the average diner caught onto the benefits of organic eating. Its ketchup is organic and made from California-grown tomatoes, so it has a fresh, luscious sweetness, with no high fructose corn syrup.”

Annie's Homegrown Organic Ketchup, Gluten Free & USDA Certified Organic, 24 oz. (Pack of 12)
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Ketchup, Gluten Free & USDA Certified Organic, 24 oz. (Pack of 12)

Serious Eats offers some critical feedback as well. They claim, “I like this—it’s a little sweet for me, but tart enough to back it up.” Between this and Heinz’s two offerings, most tasters had trouble distinguishing the difference. All three had that familiar, not-too-tomatoey flavor laced with a hint of onion, allspice, and cloves.”

Brand loyalty is also a factor for some consumers, so much so that they may be willing to pay a bit more to get a brand that they trust. Uproxx mentions, “A great standard tomato-forward ketchup that leans on the sweet side but not in an overwhelming way. Annie’s is made with tomato paste sourced from California tomatoes, cane sugar, and a minimal amount of spices and salt.”

 5. Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup

Here’s a newer entry that some might not be familiar with, but after you have a look at the details, you might want to try a bottle. Uproxx writes, “Sir Kensington’s is the brand that most markets hold that isn’t Heinz or Hunts. It’s a slightly elevated better sourced classic ketchup, but aside from costing more, it also packs more flavor than the standard stuff. It features fair trade organic cane sugar, green bell peppers, and a bit of allspice on the backend.”

Sir Kensington's Classic Ketchup, From Whole Tomatoes, No High Fructose Corn Syrup, Gluten Free, Certified Vegan, Non- GMO Project Verified,...
Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup

Favorable compared to homemade ketchup, Cheapism had this to say: “This ketchup comes closest to homemade: thick, rich, with a deep red hue and a texture that clings tenaciously to french fries. It’s got less vinegary bite than Heinz, with a fuller, more savory flavor that hints at onion, green pepper, and allspice. One reason for that unique flavor: Unlike most ketchups in this comparison, Sir Kensington’s uses tomatoes, rather than tomato concentrate, as its first ingredient.”

A reviewer with Eat This, Not That! also claims that, “Admittedly, I had never heard of Sir Kensington’s before browsing my grocery store’s shelves for ketchup to taste and rank, but I’m thrilled I picked this bottle up. The first thing I noticed about it was its darker color and thicker consistency compared to the other brands of ketchup on my plate. The second thing I noticed was its outstanding flavor profile.”

 You might also be interested in:

Sources

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

Lea la versión en español en EstudioRevela.com: Mejor Ketchup: Las 5 Mejores Marcas, Según Expertos en Sabor.

About Alan Corona

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12 Comments

  1. David Clark says:

    The best ketchup is French’s, in Canada.

  2. Diana says:

    French’s Ketchup is head and shoulders above Heinz, probably because French’s uses sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. However, it is now very hard to find. The company may have stopped making it. ☹️

    1. David Clark says:

      I have no problem finding it at Metro.

  3. Robb A Dennis says:

    I concur with other’s on this list. I was a Heinz until I tried French’s. It has such a fresh flavor I was actually surprised. I absolutely thought ketchup was ketchup, but on a tiered scale Heinz would be second.

  4. Tony D says:

    I believe the Sir Kensington is the Lowest sugar of all the brands listed. It would have been nice to see nutritional information on each of brands.

  5. D W says:

    I won’t buy Heinz because of John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry.

    I like Hunts, but current favorite is Signature Select 50% lees sodium, 50% less sugar. A decent tasting more healthy choice. Available at Safeway and Albertsons.

  6. Will says:

    Sir Kensington stopped making Ketchup. Damn shame. It was a complex flavor, like a ketchup for adults. Please bring it back!

  7. Murf says:

    In Indiana, we make from tomatoes grown here a brand called Red Gold.
    It’s pretty tasty.

    1. Nakatsu says:

      Red Gold is my favorite. It has less vinegar than all others and has a well rounded flavor

  8. Nakatsu says:

    Red Gold beats them all if you don’t like the vinegar forward taste all other brands have. Red Gold has more tomato flavor than all of the big brands.

  9. Jeff says:

    Brooks beats all of these listed.

  10. Trevor Hunt says:

    Although I do like Heinz ketchup, nothing beats DEL MONTE KETCHUP, which is sold by ASDA in the UK. The reason is that it is slightly sweeter and more fruity, so that means it works well as a pasta sauce, on its own or mixed with a mayonaise to make salsa rosa. It’s not cheap, but you do get what you pay for.