* If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

BEST Ketchup Substitutes + 3 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of ketchup substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured I’ve got you covered.

Heinz chili sauce is an excellent ketchup substitute. But if you’re looking for a tomato-free sub, try banana ketchup or a homemade version made with jellied cranberry sauce. Romesco sauce is a good alternative if you want something lighter. Craving something more savory? Try barbecue or steak sauce.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The experiment

I made a big batch of French fries to put different ketchup substitutes to the taste test. 

The ketchup we all know and love nowadays is made with a puree of tomatoes, onions, peppers, vinegar, and pickling spice.

It has a sweet-tangy flavor with just the right acidity, making it a popular partner to greasy fast food. 

You can also use it in recipes from sauces, salads, and even stews.

Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesHow to SubstituteVerdict
Heinz Chili SauceReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
DIY Tomato-Free KetchupReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Tomato JamReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Homemade ketchupReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Romesco sauceReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Marinara sauceReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Tomato pasteReplace with 1/4 the amount7/10
Banana KetchupReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Steak SauceStart with ½  steak sauce6/10
SalsaReplace in a 1:1 ratio6/10
BBQ SauceStart with ½ BBQ sauce 6/10
Other Condiments Replace in a 1:1 ratio5/10

Common uses of ketchup

Here are some common ways to use ketchup and the best substitutes for those situations:

  • As a condiment/dipping sauce: Try Heinz chili sauce, homemade ketchup, DIY tomato-free ketchup, or banana ketchup. Tomato jam also works, but it’s better as a sandwich spread or hotdog topping. 
  • As a flavor enhancer: Try homemade ketchup, BBQ sauce, or marinara sauce. Tomato paste and sauce also work but need tweaking.

Heinz chili sauce

Have you ever reached for your favorite bottle of ketchup and wished it had just a touch more heat? Heinz chili sauce has your back.

It’s a close sibling to the beloved ketchup, with a similar sweet-tangy taste but it also has an added spicy twist.

It’s not a full-fledged hot sauce though! The heat is very gentle so don’t worry if you acciednlty ended up with chili sauce instead of ketchup.

The best part? You won’t have any problem finding a bottle of this – it’s available anywhere!

How to substitute: replace ketchup in your 1:1 ratio with Heinz chili sauce.

DIY tomato-free ketchup

Tomato-free ketchup is a thing, and it’s a godsend if you’re allergic to tomatoes or just don’t like them.

This alternative is built around jellied cranberry sauce and pear halves. Odd, right? 

But with the right mix of spices, including allspice, clove, and onion powder, it will surprise you with how close it tastes to classic ketchup.

The best part about this substitute is its simplicity. All you need to do is toss everything into a blender and blitz until smooth. 

This tasted fabulous with my French fries – and I’m sure it would work great in any recipes too.

How to substitute: replace tomato-based ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with your DIY tomato-free ketchup.

Tomato jam

This may sound like a pretentious ingredient, but it’s a fun alternative to ketchup if you want to switch things up.

Tomato jam leans more towards the sweet side than ketchup with a subtler tangy kick, but it’s not so sweet that you’d use it in desserts. We’re not talking strawberry jam levels of sweet!

It’s also studded with tender tomato bits that will add a nice texture to your dish.

It’s perfect for adding a touch of sophistications to sandwiches, burgers, or hot dogs.

Psst… if you make it yourself, make extra because it’s great for gifitng.

How to substitute: replace ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with tomato jam.

Homemade ketchup

If you have the time and energy to spare, making homemade ketchup is a fun activity to fill an afternoon.

The homemade stuff is usually healthier too, and you know exactly what’s gone into it.

There are loads of recipes out there, but this one from Minimalist Baker is my go-to. It skips the refined sugar relies on the sweetness of the tomatoes and maple syrup instead.

All the ingredients are all easily accessible and the process is straightforward.

Although you do need to let it simmer for about 45 minutes to make sure the depth of flavor is there.

How to substitute: replace store-bought ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade ketchup.

Banana ketchup

Banana ketchup is another tomato-free ketchup alternative you can try. 

Straight from the tropical heart of the Philippines, this sauce is a taste sensation. 

The base is bananas instead of tomatoes (incase you didn’t guess from the name). I know you’re probably thinking ‘ew’ at this point.

But I promise it doesn’t taste like mushy bananas.

The sauce uses similar spices and seasonings to classic ketchup, so it has the same sweet-but-sour flavor with a fruity twist.

Pro tip: pair this with salty foods to balance out the inherent sweetness.

How to substitute: replace ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with banana ketchup.

Romesco sauce

Romesco sauce is fondly known as the “Spanish ketchup”.

If you’ve ever had patatas bravas, it’s the orange sauce you get served with them. It’s made with a base of red peppers, roasted tomatoes, and almonds.

The almonds add a delicious creaminess and a light nutty flavour that I love!

Serve it with chicken, fish, or grilled vegetables. It’s also a fantastic sandwich spread.

Psst… muhammara sauce is also similar, but less common.

How to substitute: replace ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with romesco sauce.

Marinara sauce

Marinara sauce is a classic Italian staple and works as a diverse substitute for ketchup.

It’s traditionally used with pasta, pizza, and as a base for other sauces. But it works as a dip too.

The recipe calls for simple, fresh ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs. And the sauce has a richer, deeper flavor than the sugary sweetness associated with ketchup.

Traditional marinara tends to be chunky. But you can give it a quick wizz in a blender if you want a smooth sauce.

Pro tip: you can use any fresh Italian tomato sauce, like pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce. And if you want more sweetness, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

How to substitute: replace ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with marinara sauce.

Tomate paste

Tomato paste can’t replace ketchup as a dip or a sandwich spread – although can can easily mix it with mayonnaise to make a quick and easy tomato-based dip.

But it works brilliantly re replace ketchup in things like stews or sauces.

It’s not got as much flavour as ketchup because there’s no other spices involved, and it’s a lot more acidic.

But like with marinara sauce, a pinch of sugar will fix that.

Easy Sauce Recipes has a nifty mixture that uses tomato paste to replace ketchup for glazing meatloaf.

How to substitute: replace ketchup with a 1/4 the amount of tomato paste and add more to taste.

Steak sauce

Steak sauce starts off with the same base of tomato puree as ketchup, giving it a familiar flavor right off the bat.

But it goes further with additions like mustard and Worcestershire sauce, making it slightly tangier and more savory. 

Pair the hearty flavor with the thicket texture, this steak suce is the perfect ketchup replacement for bold, meaty dishes.

Think grilled steak, burgers, or even a juicy roast.

How to substitute: start with 1/2 steak sauce and adjust to taste. 


Salsa is ketchup’s lighter cousin. It’s also made with tomatoes but trades in vinegar and spices for lime, cilantro, and jalapenos.

This gives salsa a bright flavor with a touch of heat (or lots of heat depending on how much chili there is).

A big pro of salsa is that it usually has less sugar than ketchup, especially if you make it from scratch. 

But it’s got more of a watery texture, so can thin sauces out and it wasn’t super easy to dip my french fried into.

How to substitute: replace ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with salsa.

BBQ sauce

Like steak sauce most BBQ sauce recipes start with ketchup. 

But then things like mustard, hot pepper, and spices like paprika are added to give the sauce a smoky twist.

The flavor can be overwhelming for some people, but an easy trick to calm it down is to mix the BBQ sauce with mayo.

How to substitute: start with 1/2 barbecue sauce and adjust to taste. 

Other condiments

Ketchup isn’t the only table condiment you can pair with your fries! 

If you want an even tangier bite with heat, try any variation of mustard. Dijon is my favorite, but spicy brown mustard is a great option too. 

Or you can stick with mayonnaise if you’re craving a creamy bite. 

Sweet pickle relish won’t work as a dipping sauce, but it’s an excellent ketchup substitute for sandwiches and hotdogs. It’s sweet, lightly tang, and will bring an added crunch. 

Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try tkemali. It’s a sour plum sauce from Georgia with a similar flavor profile and is often used the same way as ketchup. 

How to substitute: replace ketchup in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of condiment. 

Other substitutes to consider

The list above are my top picks for ketchup substitutes.

But they’re not the only options. Here are some more!

  • Red pesto – red pesto has a rich, intense flavor that’s a lot less sweet than ketchup. I love mixing it into a potato salad.
  • Sriracha – if you don’t mind spice sriracha is a great substitute for ketchup!
  • Sun dried tomato hummus – I’m not a fan of hummus and fries. But sun dried tomato is super taste in a BLT or in a chicken burger.
  • Sweet and sour sauce – fries and sweet and sour sauce is surprisingly tasty combo!

Substitute to avoid

While I was researching I came across loads of suggestions on how to to replace ketchup. But some, like vinaigrette or peanut butter and jelly, didn’t work out as well as the others!

Vinaigrette is excellent with salads and can even work as a marinade, but you can’t exactly serve it alongside a burgers and fries.

Peanut butter and jelly is a sweet-tangy combo, but it’s too sweet to work as a ketchup substitute – this combo is better enjoyed between two slices of bread.

Apple cider vinegar was also recommended if you only want to replace the ‘tang’ of ketchup, but this isn’t going to work in most applications! You dish would end up way too sour.

BEST Ketchup Substitutes + 3 To Avoid

I tested loads of ketchup substitutes to find the best one. I also included a homemade version if you're in a DIY mood.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ketchup substitutes, substitutes for ketchup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 19kcal


  • 1 can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • pinch of all spice


  • Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir until everything is combined. Turn down the heat to medium low. Stir until everything comes to a simmer. Cover then reduce the heat to low.
  • Let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. The mixture should be slightly reduced and have a darker color. Stir every 10-15 minutes to prevent sticking.
  • Remove a spoonful from the saucepan and let it cool. Once cooled, taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. Transfer to a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


other options: Heinz chili sauce, DIY tomato free-ketchup, tomato jam, banana ketchup, steak sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce, other condiments


Serving: 1tbsp | Calories: 19kcal

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating