Is Ketchup Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Plant-Based Ketchup

Ketchup is a vegan's dream condiment as it's almost always plant-based—almost.

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Ketchup is an any time food.

Think about it: It's completely acceptable to eat in the morning with hash browns or a tofu scramble, it pairs divinely with sandwiches, fries, and beyond, and for dessert? Well, maybe it doesn't take home any prizes there.

Still, the condiment wins because, for the most part, it's vegan. Still, there are times you'll want to be extra cautious about the condiment.

Why Ketchup Is Usually Vegan

Most traditional kinds of ketchup are made from tomatoes, vinegar, salt, spices, and a sweetener—either sugar or high fructose corn syrup. We're talking plain ketchup here, by the way—nothing flavored or added to other creamy condiments (because it's not really ketchup then, is it?).

Most traditional ketchup brands made with high fructose corn syrup are vegan. Similarly, any traditional ketchup labeled "organic" will also be vegan. The potential issue comes when ketchup is not organic and is made with sugar.

When Ketchup Isn't Vegan

Debating whether every ingredient in ketchup is vegan can be a little murky.

If the ketchup is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, it's typically free of animal products. If it's sweetened with sugar, however, the issue becomes a little more complicated.

Why Not Everyone Considers Cane Sugar Vegan

Some vegans consider certain sugars off-limits. This is because some sugar refineries use bone char, which is technically charred animal bones, as part of the filtration process to give white sugar its pure white color.

While the sugar itself does not contain bones—or any animal products, for that matter—the filter used to process the material comes from animals that have been slaughtered for meat.

While not all refineries use bone char to process sugar, it's not possible to tell what you're getting, as the information isn't disclosed on the product package. And you won't be able to avoid the potential use of bone char by sticking to brown sugar, since brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added back in. That said, unrefined brown sugars, like piloncillo, rapadura, panela, or jaggery, do not undergo the refining process, so they aren't exposed to the bone char.

It's impossible to determine whether processed cane sugars have been filtered with bone char, but there are some workarounds if avoiding the bone char process is important to you. The trick is to stick with organic, since organic sugar is not filtered with bone char.

The Good News

Bone char filtration is becoming less common in the United States, as beet sugar, which doesn't use the bone char filtering process, is gaining market share because it is less expensive to produce. Beet sugar is the most widely-consumed sugar in the nation, in part because sugar beets grow in more temperate climates while sugar cane needs a hot climate that is not as common in the United States.

Popular Vegan Ketchup Brands

There's no shortage of vegan ketchup options on the market. They are often the default at restaurants and fast food establishments—just be sure to ask your server what brand of ketchup is used if you can't spot the label yourself.

  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup (classic)
  • Hunt's Classic Tomato Ketchup
  • Trader Joe's Organic Ketchup
  • Sir Kensington’s Ketchup
  • 365 Everyday Value Organic Tomato Ketchup
  • Tessemae’s Organic Ketchup
  • Primal Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
  • Veg’d Organics Vegan All-Natural Ketchup
  • True Made Foods Ketchup
  • Westbrae Natural Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
  • Fody Foods Vegan Tomato Ketchup
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Why is Heinz Ketchup not vegan?

    The original variety of Heinz Ketchup is vegan, as it is made with high fructose corn syrup. The non-organic varieties of Heinz that are sweetened with sugar may not be considered vegan because of the bone char filtration process.

  • Can vegans have ketchup?

    They sure can. Ketchup does not contain any animal products. If you want to avoid eating ketchup that has been filtered with bone char, stick to ketchup that is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar, or choose organic varieties.