The First Ketchup Recipes Didn't Use Tomatoes

Are you a ketchup fiend? Even as adults we're still hooked on this thick, sweet, and glossy tomato-based sauce and love dunking our fries and onion rings with abandon, using it as a base in our favorite BBQ sauce recipes, and even making our own homemade ketchup.

When we think of the sauce we think of tomatoes, and we're willing to bet that you do, too. But did you know that there's a whole world of historical kinds of ketchup based on other ingredients? According to The Takeout, the word "ketchup" used to refer to a wide range of condiments that were usually made from either fruits or veggies cooked with vinegar in order to preserve them. In 1876, when condiment king Heinz added tomato ketchup to its selection of vinegar, pickles, and horseradish, it took off and we've pretty much thought of ketchup as a tomato thing ever since.

Beyond cucumbers, walnuts, celery, and even oysters (yes, you read that right), we recently learned of another historical ketchup with a surprising main ingredient.

How about a mushroom ketchup?

According to The Takeout, the term "ketchup" most likely descends from the Hokkien Chinese word kê-tsiap, which referred to a fermented fish sauce that lasted forever and was often taken to sea by sailors. As the sauce traveled the world with the seamen, it was encountered by people in other countries who changed the recipe and added local ingredients as they saw fit. When kê-tsiap made it to British shores, the Brits ketchup-ified a range of ingredients by cooking them down into flavorful pastes using salt or vinegar as a preserving medium.

One of the surprising ingredients often made into ketchup was mushrooms. According to The Daily Meal, the condiment was made by packing the shrooms into a container with plenty of salt. After the fungi released a bunch of their liquid, they were cooked down into a thick paste with added spices such as mace, pepper, and nutmeg. The brownish condiment was used atop meats, as well as to flavor other sauces. Looking for a recipe for mushroom ketchup? We found one over at the Greenwich Historical Society, and we're feeling pretty pumped to bust out our circa-1600s sauce-making skills.