Recipes That Use Ketchup As The Secret Ingredient

I enjoy ketchup more than the average person. Made with tomatoes and vinegar, this ubiquitous red sauce is my condiment of choice for a wide variety of dining situations. Sweet and tangy, it's perfect for eating with french fries and burgers, of course, but you might not realize how good it is incorporated into other dishes. Its unique sweet and savory nature makes it a bit of a dynamo that way. No wonder this addictive table staple of households and restaurants is so beloved.

The history of ketchup

Even though ketchup is commonplace in the United States, you might be surprised to learn that its origins aren't American at all. According to National Geographic, ketchup originated in China where "ke-tsiap" is the name of a sauce made using fermented fish. It is thought that the British tasted this sauce abroad, enjoyed it, and sought to recreate it once they returned home. Naturally, early versions of ketchup differ greatly from what we recognize today.

These days, we know ketchup as being deep red, gloppy, slightly sweet, and uniquely tangy. Adored by both children and adults, this condiment is manufactured by many companies — most notably Heinz. The company began manufacturing their famous best-selling tomato ketchup in 1971 and never stopped. Today, Heinz makes a wide array of flavored ketchups, too. From balsamic to Sriracha, they have continued to innovate and maintain a firm grip on the ketchup market.

I'd like to keep the condiment love going by letting you in on a secret. Besides hot dogs, burgers, and fries, ketchup is delicious cooked into some of your favorite dishes. It imbues various foods with just the right amount of zesty flavor and does a lot of the heavy lifting as far as seasoning goes. In our modern world of busy chefs and limited time, you may find that ketchup is a bit of a miracle worker, making your culinary life just a touch more delicious. Long live the red sauce.

Mama Chang's stir-fried shrimp and scallions

When you consider that the earliest version of ketchup originated in China, it comes as no surprise that this condiment is ideal for use in Asian stir-fry dishes. This positively vibrant recipe comes to Food & Wine by way of American chef Joanne Chang's mother. As the renowned chef and restaurateur notes, her mother struggled for some time before letting her in on the secret to the stir-fry's success: ketchup. Here, succulent spiced shrimp are cooked in a sauce made with ketchup, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, and cornstarch. The result is mouthwatering to say the least.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Ketchup sneaks its way into this recipe from the test kitchen of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury. Spaghetti Bolognese — a pasta dish topped with rich Italian beef sauce — is made simple, flavorful, and ideal for busy weeknights. Browned beef is cooked with onion, carrot, garlic, and red wine to achieve depth of flavor, then simmered with ketchup and tomatoes for some zesty sauciness. Served with al dente pasta noodles and garnished with Parmesan cheese, this dish is one you'll enjoy for its hearty warmth and sheer ease.


It's winter, so meatloaf is kind of a must. This classic main dish is deeply filling and good for leftovers. This recipe from Food Network combines classic all-beef meatloaf with a simple glaze starring ketchup. The condiment is combined with brown sugar, dry mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce and poured over the meat twice, once before plopping it into the oven, then once more two-thirds of the way through cooking. This double application allows the sweet and tangy sauce to seep into the meat first and cook into a shiny glaze to finish. Genius.

Barbecue sauce

Pssst! Homemade barbecue sauce is ridiculously easy. It's one of those things you never seem to have on hand when you need it in a pinch. Luckily, you're more likely to have a few other common pantry ingredients in stock, meaning you can just whip up your own finger-licking-good barbecue sauce. This recipe from Cook the Story shows you how to do just that. Combine ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar, then season with salt as desired. That's it. You're welcome. Now go slather this deliciousness on chicken legs, steak, and all the things.

Stir-fried chicken with ketchup

Mark Bittman's recipe for The New York Times turns another stir-fry into a winner with the help of ketchup, secret weapon extraordinaire. This Manchurian-inspired chicken dish contains six ingredients and tastes like it came from a restaurant. Perfectly seared chicken is cooked with ketchup, cayenne pepper, and garlic, resulting in tender dark meat that's flavorfully coated in a beautiful, vibrant exterior. The famous red condiment imbues the dish with bold color and flavor in one fell swoop. It may be the tastiest magic trick ever.

Shrimp ceviche

Shrimp ceviche is a beloved beach food in Ecuador. While ceviche is a dish that conventionally uses raw fish "cooked" in the acidity of lime juice, this take on it lets you enjoy the fresh and vibrant flavors without any unease about consuming raw seafood. The shrimp is fully cooked. This streamlined recipe gets its great flavor from the traditional citrus, fresh cilantro, and sweet ketchup. I love the way this recipe transforms a dish you'd normally avoid making at home into one you can easily whip up whenever you're feeling those beach vibes.

Honey garlic pork chops

There are five ingredients in this killer recipe from Blog Chef, and one of them is ketchup. That fact makes my heart sing a little. Tender pork chops are basted with one of the simplest sauces you'll ever make. Honey, soy, and ketchup make quite the dream team when they come together to produce a sauce that's at once sweet, savory, and tangy. You'll be glad to know that you can easily use this sauce in other dishes. Think chicken, steak, veggies — you name it. I sure appreciate a recipe that shows me that kind of versatility.

Ketchup cupcakes

Ketchup in dessert? What?! Oh, yes. This recipe from Frosted goes to show that you just what a power player ketchup really is. In the tradition of warmly spiced sweet favorites like carrot cake, these darling cupcakes are made with ketchup (and other spices) for rich color, moist texture, and a little tasty kick in every bit. Frosted with cream cheese icing, these treats taste like a brilliant cross between zesty carrot cake and decadent red velvet cake. Um, I love both of those, so these are winners in my book.

Quick low(er)-fat vegan pad thai

Pad thai is one of the most popular Thai takeout dishes, and it's no wonder. This plate of satisfying flat noodles cooked with peanut sauce and veggies awakens all the taste buds. This pared-down recipe from Low Fat Vegan Chef keeps what's crucial to the dish and eliminates the fatty elements — eggs and oil. Here, smooth peanut butter is combined with ketchup for rich flavor imbued with just a taste of tomato for sweetness. You'll love how unfussy and fast it is to get your pad thai fix whenever you want.

Kielbasa and beans

You don't have to be in college to understand the appeal of this homey sausage recipe from Cooking in College. It's easy to make and tastes like a down-and-dirty Philly cheesesteak. Sliced kielbasa is cooked with bell peppers and onions, then tossed in a sauce made with brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, steak sauce, and mustard. Combined with white kidney beans, this dish is surprising hearty, nourishing, and filled with complex flavors. Who would have thought?

Grab the nearest bottle of ketchup and go to town. Whip up an appetizer, entree, or dessert from this list or experiment with infusing everyone's fave condiment into your own creations. Whatever you do, I'm confident the result will be all the better for it.