Ketchup vs. Catsup

Mr. Burns, Ketchup vs. Catsup

Ketchup or catsup? Two seemingly identical products, two different names. But which is better, even though they are virtually the same? Foodiggity punches the numbers and gets to the bottom of the condiment debate.



A quick history

Ketchup appears to be the original term. Derived from the Chinese condiment ke-tsiap, a pickled fish sauce — a version in Malaysia then became kechap and ketjap in Indonesia.

The word ketchup was first mentioned in Charles Lockyer’s book of 1711, An Account of the Trade in India:

“Soy comes in Tubbs from Jappan, and the best Ketchup from Tonquin; yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in China”.

Influenced by these Asian condiments, the modern version of ketchup would see many iterations before tomatoes finally became a main ingredient in the late 1700’s.

Why ketchup is the preferred term

Heinz brought the preferred term to the forefront with what is clearly the most successful version of the condiment. Heinz even pays homage to early versions of ketchup by specifying that they produce a tomato version — hence ‘Heinz Tomato Ketchup.’

Heinz has had such a stronghold on the ketchup market that they were once bold enough to offer our beloved ketchup in various colors, including purple.


Hunt's Catsup

A quick history

The term catsup first appeared in a quote by Jonathan Swift in 1730:

“And, for our home-bred British cheer, Botargo, catsup, and caveer”.

The term has since been used by major manufacturers, but most would eventually change over to ‘ketchup.’ Why the conformity? Well, not unlike day-glo and terrible music, it was an unfortunate result of the 1980’s.

Why catsup is the inferior term

It was a glorious time of hairbands and Reaganomics; and a mix of tomatoes, vinegar and spices was about to be declared a vegetable by the US Government.

That is correct. A condiment—whose main ingredient is actually a fruit—would be equivalent to a serving of vegetables, and could therefore stand in for an actual vegetable in school lunches.

Regardless of the insanity, the movement was gaining steam. But what did this mean for catsup? Well, it specified that ‘ketchup’ would become a vegetable, not ‘catsup.’

Those still using the now secondary term—including Del Monte—would conform or miss out on all the spoils that came from being a veggie, i.e., the money to be made by being included in Jimmy’s lunchbox.


So there you have it. With a little help from being firsties and pressure from the feds, ketchup clearly reigns supreme.

Even though it was never officially declared a vegetable, ketchup was later found to contain Lycopene, an antioxidant associated with decreased cancer risk—while catsup has been known to cause cancer.*

*That last part may or may not be true.


  1. jennifer says

    @jeff – that’s pretty unfair. . I’d liken it to the difference between people saying “soda” or “pop”. W had plenty of problems.. enunciation was only one of them.

    I’d have to agree: “catsup…would seem to be more accurate given ketchup is not a vegetable”, at least not to any rational person not out to dumb us down further. I got here not knowing which term was historically correct so now I wonder where “catsup” came from!

  2. Jeff says

    I think you’ll find the same people who use and say the name Catsup, are the same people who say Nucular instead of Nuclear. Usually Southern or Texas low American English dialect. People who would say I’m waiting “on” you, instead of I’m waiting “for” you. George W comes to mind. Listen to Sarah Palin speak. Every paragraph is a single run-on sentence and both of them always sound like a child failing seventh grade grammar.

  3. Paul says

    Catsup is known to most experts to use higher quality tomatoes. This fact is not known to most Consumers, and they blindly purchase the inferior ketchup more often.

  4. Audrey says

    That’s John Kerry, you idiot. John Kerry is married to the Heinz Ketchup heiress. Have fun eating Hunt’s…

  5. says

    DaleK… I don’t think that there would be any consistent difference in ingredients from ketchup to catsup, but let us know how the shopping goes. And although ‘catsup’ seemed to have gone out with Reaganomics, you stick to your guns.

  6. says

    Hi, my daughter, the English major, laughs at me when I write catsup. I always thought “ketchup” was the Heinz branding of the word – along the line of Kleenex (tissue) or Xerox (copy).

    Anyhoo, so I was Googling and found this very pretty website. I also found another suggesting ketchup contains sugar while catsup does not. I will check when I go shopping tomorrow!

    I’m still going to write catsup as it would seem to be more accurate given ketchup is not a vegetable! Seems to me, calling a fruit ketchup would be misleading. :)

  7. tank says

    Now that Al (Lie like a dog about climate change) Gore is divorcing the Heinz Ketchup heir, I just might switch back to Ketchup instead of catsup ( cat soup).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>