13 Controversial Ways People Use Ketchup

In the wide world of food condiments, there are few sauces as recognizable, particularly in the United States, as ketchup. What you may not realize, however, is just how hotly divisive this tomato-based sauce can be.

Ketchup as we know it today hardly resembles its earliest form, which dates back to the third century BCE in Southern China. There, it was called "ge-thcup" or "koe-cheup" (via History). Since the development of more familiar varieties in the early 1800s, ketchup has been used in a variety of ways and recipes. it's perhaps been most widely adopted in modern times as a hamburger sauce or a dip for french fries. But why let tradition get in the way of innovation? Over the years, folks have become creative in the ways they utilize ketchup, incorporating it into sweet desserts and fine dining. This condiment has even sometimes left the food world entirely and been roped into some surprising home improvement projects.

Let's go on a wild ride to survey some of the most unique and controversial ways people have used ketchup since its earliest days.

On hot dogs

Whether you are at a baseball game or a backyard barbecue, hot dogs are a classic American dish that is beloved by many. The uniqueness of the hot dog partially stems from the fact that there are a variety of toppings that you can add to your frank, from a simple single sauce all the way to the smörgasboard that is the Chicago-style hot dog, which typically comes loaded with yellow mustard, relish, chopped onions, tomatoes, pickle spears, spicy peppers, and celery salt (via Tastes of Chicago). But what's missing from the Chicago dog? The ketchup.

Depending on where you live in the United States, slathering some ketchup on a hot dog can range from a necessity to a downright sin. Ketchup is not only an unbreakable rule for the iconic Chicago-style hot dog (via The New Yorker), but the Windy City is adamantly against ketchup on top of any style of hot dog. Even former President Barack Obama, who calls Chicago home, is firm on his anti-ketchup-on-hot-dogs stance (via WTTW News). TODAY anchor Hoda Kotb, however, disagrees (via TODAY). Either way, you might want to think twice the next time you add ketchup to your hot dog, especially if you find yourself in the company of some very vocal Chicagoans.

On steak

Another major ketchup faux-pas for many individuals has to do with another all-American staple: steak. There are a vast array of opinions when it comes to seasoning your steak, ranging from adding only the necessities like salt and pepper (via My Chicago Steak) to one Redditor who argues that sauces can do a lot when it comes to elevating the overall dish. After all, why make A.1. Sauce if you can't use it on steak?

But no matter how you choose to add flavor to your steak, there is a nigh-universal agreement that ketchup on steak is a huge no-no. It was one of former President Donald Trump's condiments of choice when eating steak, much to the general public's disapproval (via Huffington Post). He also preferred his steak well done, another controversial take on how to prepare and enjoy the protein, as per Town & Country.

But why is this such a big deal? When discussing why so many are opposed to dipping their steak in ketchup, one Redditor noted that ketchup can simply overpower much of a steak's natural flavor.

On macaroni and cheese

Many of you reading this might think that macaroni and cheese is one of those few perfect dishes in the world. Surely, it doesn't need anything added to it, given that mac and cheese shines perfectly well all on its own. However, if you do want to spice things up, there are many ways to lend some variety to the pasta and cheese combo, from adding proteins like bacon or lobster to incorporating new textures like breadcrumbs or even dialing up the heat via jalapeños. But one topping that is sure to stir up some intense emotions when it comes to macaroni and cheese is ketchup.

This combo has its defenders. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes swears by ketchup-enhanced mac and cheese (via Sportscasting). Many others agree, noting ketchup's ability to add much-needed moisture and flavor to the dish (via MarketWatch). 

However, not everyone will see eye-to-eye on this particular topping. One Redditor sought sympathy after they spotted their dad adding ketchup to a bowl of macaroni. Condolences quickly poured in from others who sympathized with the original poster's horror. Who knew one condiment could inspire so much ire?

With morning eggs

We look once again to star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for yet another controversial method of using ketchup. As per Sportscasting, not only does he enjoy the condiment when it's slathered on top of some mac and cheese, but he would also gladly start his day with a side of ketchup. While the sauce might easily accommodate a plate of hash browns in the morning without raising an eye, that's not the issue here. Instead, some breakfast fanatics like Mahomes will just as quickly dip their scrambled eggs into ketchup.

The Original Pancake House offers a balanced view when it comes to the possibility of putting ketchup on your eggs. Fans of the combo like the balance of flavors, including salty and sweet, as well as acidity and richness. Critics, on the other hand, cite a foul smell as a turnoff. They may also experience revulsion when they see the two ingredients combined, partially because the hot eggs and cold ketchup combine to create a lukewarm mess.

Some of those opposed to adding ketchup to eggs may well enjoy other sauces, however, especially spicy ones. Multiple Redditors pointed out that they enjoy adding Sriracha to their eggs, and another comment added that just simple salsa will do.

As a pizza topping

There are few dishes quite as ripe for customization as pizza. Yet, for many of this dish's fans, a simple red tomato sauce is all you need, apart from some good cheese. Meanwhile, some individuals have gotten quite creative when it comes to what that "red sauce" can be, swapping out traditional tomato sauces for ketchup.

Does it work? According to My House of Pizza, think twice before you immediately reject this somewhat unusual pizza topping. After all, ketchup is pretty similar to the typical tomato sauce that you would find on a pizza, though it's often sweeter than your standard topping. So, if you don't mind a sweeter bite of 'za, you might actually enjoy ketchup as a topping. But if you are simply using ketchup as a substitute for pizza sauce, you may want to consider adding some extra seasonings and ingredients to balance out that sugary flavor profile.

Will that persuade everyone to give it a try? Not necessarily. A Reddit thread discussing just that included commenters who said that it was definitely -not a common topping, though others made it seem quite normal.

With rice or pasta

When it comes to ketchup and carbs, many of the previously mentioned dishes are composed of additional flavors, like cheese and other toppings or seasonings. But there is a world where people use ketchup as the star topping on rice and pasta. One Redditor was perplexed by the concept, with many quick to agree that it simply didn't make sense to drown a carb-heavy plate with ketchup alone. There is some precedent, at least, as you may already be familiar with Honey Boo Boo's "Sketti" dinner, made with ketchup and Country Crock butter served over spaghetti (via NewOrleans). 

Turns out Honey Boo Boo was not the only one enjoying ketchup-smothered carbs this whole time. Another Redditor tried ketchup on top of their rice and found it to be quite tasty. Commenters argued that this is a budget-friendly meal, with one suggesting that diners add an egg to their rice-ketchup combo.

As medicine

It's now time to depart from the world of ketchup as a consumable and enter an entirely different world: ketchup as medicine. Yes, there was once a time when ketchup was seen as a bit of a wonder drug. Back in the 1830s, a man by the name of Dr. John Cooke Bennet decided to start adding tomatoes to what was then a fish and mushroom-based sauce known as ketchup (via Ripley's). That said, it's worth pointing out that a similar tomato-based sauce had already been popular in Asia for decades (via The Daily Meal).

Ketchup wound up being a popular medicine of choice, though not necessarily because it worked. However, it was marketed as a miraculous solution for many diseases and pains. The fad continued for a couple of decades, even going as far as selling tomato pills, according to Atlas Obscura. That continued until studies debunked much of what the proponents of ketchup medicine were claiming.

As a cleaning product

If you happen to have a collection of pots and pans that need shining, a buildup in your sink that should be addressed, or even jewelry that could use a quick polish, try skipping the traditional cleaning products found under your sink and instead turn to your pantry.

Instagram account Blossom shared how everyday items found in your home can be used for cleaning, including ketchup. But they aren't the only ones clued into this strange but explainable phenomenon. Wonder How To recommends leaving ketchup on whatever needs cleaning for five to 30 minutes before rinsing and drying. The idea is that the acid in ketchup will break down all of that gunk, grime, and tarnish. Strange as it may sound, you could be surprised at the results. Even The New York Times is on board, as it suggests trying V8 or Tabasco sauce for similar results.

That buildup of soap scum and buildup in your sink could also benefit from a ketchup bath. 7 News recommends smothering your sink drain in ketchup for a few hours before gently wiping it away for a hopefully cleaner basin.

With ice cream

Ketchup falls on the sweeter side of the sauce scale, which lends itself to balancing out savory dishes. But what if we told you that there were people in the world who double down on that sweetness by adding ketchup to their bowl of ice cream?

One Reddit thread was not friendly to the idea, with one commenter arguing that this must be the work of the Scranton Strangler. However, ketchup as a frozen treat is not as uncommon or new as you may think. Mid-Century Menu shared a recipe for "Carnival Cream," a mixture of heavy cream, ketchup, vanilla, eggs, and sugar, all placed in the freezer and then topped with Maraschino cherries and almonds for serving.

More recently, Heinz sought to use its products as the base for ice cream, selling "Creamz" kits that use household sauces as a jumping-off point for ice cream recipes (via Fox News). For those who wanted the ice cream without the work, Heinz launched an Ice Cream Project that included "cupboard classics," featuring both ketchup and mayonnaise-flavored ice cream (via News on 6). The project did not seem to reach far beyond the London market during its limited-time run.

With cottage cheese

While we are on the topic of creamy dishes that some would prefer to stay far, far away from ketchup, we need to address something that history buffs may already know. Remember when we talked about former President Donald Trump's affinity for a well-done steak with ketchup? That may seem like a delicacy to you when you hear about former President Richard Nixon's snack of choice: ketchup and cottage cheese, which he often enjoyed for breakfast (via Insider).

According to Vice, cottage cheese was a more common kitchen staple in the 1970s than it is today. So it is no surprise that cottage cheese was a popular snack for the former president. However, topping it with ketchup takes it straight to the highest level of bizarre, at least where modern palates are concerned. Nixon's love of cottage cheese with ketchup must have had some influence, as it was reportedly a favorite food amongst dieters, as per "The White House Family Cookbook" (via Food Timeline).

As a skin or hair care product

Ketchup is a common ingredient in many food dishes, but some are thinking outside the box. Instead of eating ketchup, some people are using it as a topical application for their skin and hair.

According to One Good Thing, ketchup can serve as a potentially great chemical peel for your skin thanks to its citric acid content, as well as antioxidants that might just combat signs of aging. Noticing some tinges of green in your hair? Yeah, we're looking at you, bad bleach jobs. The redness in ketchup could be a great way to balance out that imperfect hair color, according to Glamour.

Ketchup is not only a great beauty tool but it can also be used as a remedy for certain skin irritations. According to ThoughtCo, ketchup is one of many household items you can use to soothe mosquito bites. While it is not going to cure your itchiness, it can at least provide temporary relief with its acidity and cool temperature, assuming you store your ketchup in the refrigerator.

As an odor neutralizer

We humans are not the only ones that can benefit from ketchup's many properties, both in and beyond the kitchen. Our furry friends might want us to make sure we always have a bottle of the stuff on hand, too.

That's because, according to Scienceline, acidic ketchup can be used to mask certain odors. If your pet ever has a run-in with, say, a skunk, applying ketchup may work to mask the smell, much as tomato juice has been used for the same task. However, ketchup will not act as a miracle cure that will eliminate the smell entirely, though it may provide some temporary relief while you seek out a more permanent solution. 

That said, the Los Angeles Times notes that, while tomato juice or ketchup might be the first solution that comes to mind, you are probably better off skipping straight to something that will actually eliminate the smell. It recommends a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and gentle dish soap for your stinky furry friend. After all, you may reduce the skunk smell by covering your pooch in ketchup, but then they'll just smell like tomatoes.

As the star of a dish

We feel that we've covered the gamut of ways in which ketchup can complement certain dishes, or can be used to address a common household (or personal) ailment. But to close out our list, we're letting the sauce itself take center stage. Yes, there are some of us out there who would gladly consume ketchup as the only ingredient in the dish. Imagine a cooking challenge on Food Network where the star of the dish had to be ketchup. Could you think of any dishes?

One Redditor enjoys a regular ketchup sandwich, for instance. No, not a grilled cheese with ketchup, and not a hamburger or even a hot dog with ketchup. We're talking about a simple combo of just bread and ketchup. C'est tout!

Of course, it doesn't just end there. If the thought of ketchup on ice cream from earlier left you hungry, then we have good news. A Toronto-based company called Happy Pops began selling ketchup popsicles in the summer of 2022 (via Vegetarian Times). And back in the Depression Era, cash-strapped families may have tried a dish known as "Depression Soup." According to one Redditor, this ultra-simple recipe included only two ingredients: ketchup and boiling water. One commenter argued that its taste was similar to typical tomato soup, though we are sure there are many out there who would prefer to just stick with Campbell's.