The Ketchup Taste Test: We Tried 7 Brands and Ranked Them

The Ketchup Taste Test: We Tried 7 Brands and Ranked Them

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Kelli Foster
May 22, 2015
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

It's the go-to condiment for French fries; a staple at picnics and barbecues; and a regular accompaniment to hamburgers, hot dogs, and veggie burgers. Yes, we're talking about ketchup!

We tried seven well-known brands of ketchup (with French fries for dipping, of course!) and ranked them from our least to most favorite. Want to see how they ranked?

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

How We Selected the 7 Brands

I selected a variety of well-known national brands of ketchup that can be found at most grocery stores across the country, as well as one specialty brand predominantly found on the West Coast. There was a mix of both organic and non-organic ketchups based on what I found from visiting three major grocery stores in New York City.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

How We Set up the Blind Taste Test

I purchased seven brands of ketchup. I assigned each brand a letter, then poured each one into a clear plastic cup, and lined them up on a table. As for sampling, really, what better way is there to taste ketchup than with French fries? I placed a few bowls of fries on the table for the tasters to use as a vehicle for sampling the ketchup.

I asked everyone in the office to give me their thoughts on all seven ketchups and to comment on their favorite, their second favorite, and their least favorite.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Taste Test Results

Here are the results, from the least favorite to most favorite brand of ketchup:

7. Muir Glen Organic Tomato Ketchup ($.15 per ounce)

This ketchup had a distinctly different taste than all the rest. It had a strong tomato flavor with a dominant presence of warm spices. Cloves or cinnamon, perhaps. Certainly not a flavor you'd expect to find in ketchup.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "This is really sweet, but I'm kind of into it."
  • "Definitely my least favorite."
  • "It tastes homemade."
  • "I taste cinnamon."
  • "Has something in it that tastes familiar (but not in a good way)."

6. Red Duck Classic Ketchup ($.54 per ounce)

This was the one wild card specialty ketchup we threw into the mix, just to shake things up. Off the bat, this ketchup looked darker than the rest and had a more textured consistency. The tomato flavor was very dominant, more so than the other brands. The tasters thought it tasted more like a cross between tomato paste and smoky BBQ sauce than the classic ketchup taste they're used to.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "Interesting texture. I like it! It's not too sweet or salty."
  • "Very tomato-y!"
  • "This tastes sweet and natural."
  • "Tastes like BBQ sauce."
  • "Thought I wasn't going to like it because it's lumpy, but I love it."
  • "This is a lie. It tastes like BBQ tomato paste."

5. Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Ketchup ($.08 per ounce)

This ketchup had a nice tang that the tasters enjoyed. There was a little bit of smokiness, but overall there was an overwhelming sweetness that dominated. The general consensus among the tasters was that this was too sweet.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "Too sweet for me."
  • "This is super sweet."
  • "It's a little smoky and weird."
  • "Nice balance of sweet and savory."
  • "Tangy and vinegary."
  • "Has kind of a UK taste."

4. Annie's Naturals Organic Ketchup ($.12 per ounce)

The tasters didn't have very strong opinions on this ketchup. It had a vaguely familiar taste and was sweet, though balanced and not overwhelming. While the tasters liked it, many didn't go back for seconds.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "It tastes like what you get in the packets."
  • "It's kind of grainy."
  • "I think this is Heinz."

3. Whole Foods Tomato Ketchup ($.08 per ounce)

This ketchup was mild and balanced, with a dominant tomato flavor. There were also subtle nuances that helped it stand out. The tasters didn't have strong opinions on this one, but everyone thought it was pleasant.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "Very spunky flavor."
  • "I like it."
  • "It tastes like a restaurant."
  • "Are there cloves in this?"

2. Hunts Tomato Ketchup ($.08 per ounce)

This familiar national brand got high marks from tasters because of its balanced flavor and slight tang. It had a slight acidity and vinegary flavor that was welcoming and a great complement to the sweetness. It was a close race for the number-one slot.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "Delicious!"
  • "Sweet & lovely."
  • "It's kind of acidic."
  • "Tastes like fake Heinz."
  • "I like it!"
  • "Has a nice acidic kick."

1. Heinz Tomato Ketchup ($.17 per ounce)

Nearly all of the tasters immediately pegged this ketchup as Heinz. It had a really recognizable flavor that was balanced and sweet, without too much acidity.

Taste Tester Quotes

  • "This is definitely Heinz! Yum!"
  • "This tastes like delicious Heinz goodness."
  • "I love this."
  • "Almost a little buttery."

Have you ever done a taste test with ketchup? Do you have a favorite that we didn't mention here?

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