There’s no denying it: Americans love ketchup. Ninety-seven percent of American households have ketchup in their kitchens, according to National Geographic. Consumers have been slathering it on burgers, French fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and countless other foods for more than a century. Ketchup hits all five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Its complex flavor profile and viscous, smooth consistency make ketchup more than just a condiment. In the test kitchen, we add it not just to meatloaf glazes and barbecue sauces but also to more surprising dishes such as Shrimp Tacos and Classic Stuffed Bell Peppers.
Heinz has dominated the market for decades, but that hasn’t stopped other brands from trying to compete. Since our last tasting, two major condiment companies, Hellmann’s and French’s, have started manufacturing ketchup. Meanwhile, small companies have gained traction with American shoppers looking for “artisan” alternatives. One, Sir Kensington’s, was recently purchased by Unilever (the food and consumer goods giant), and its ketchup is now sold nationally. How do these new options stack up to their more familiar counterparts? To find out, we purchased eight top-selling ketchups and compared them in two blind taste tests. We first sampled them plain and then evaluated them in one of our favorite applications: with a big bowl of crisp, golden-brown French fries.