A Recipe: Ketchup for Real Food Lovers

Homemade ketchup – it sounds complicated as though you’d spend all day in the kitchen pounding your way through vats of tomatoes and slowly simmering them away in kettles on a wooden stove.  Making homemade ketchup from scratch seems complex, almost unfathomable in an era when quick-fix, all-in-one bagged skillet dinners constitute “cooking from scratch.”  It’s sad day when we’ve forgotten our collective culinary heritage.

And as difficult and complex has preparing ketchup from scratch may seem, like most traditional foods that we seem to have lost along the way, it’s not. Much like rendering lard, curing olives or making a good pot of chicken broth to chase away the flu, preparing a traditional homemade ketchup requires only a few simple steps and easy techniques that even a small child can manage with little effort and great success.

Don’t expect immediate results.  In a time when meals can be ready in minutes, we’ve forgotten the value and lesson of delayed gratification.  Some things, you see, are worth waiting for, and this homemade ketchup is one of them.  Like most condiments, homemade ketchup originally derived the bulk of its complex flavors through the slow process of microbial action – fermentation a practice that is still used to age raw milk cheeses, cure meats and make yogurt.  Fermentation used to be much more common and it wasn’t unusual for our great- great- grandparents to serve up meals in which every dish presented was bettered through the lost art of fermentation: cured meat and naturally aged cheeses on sourdough breads with brine-pickled relishes and lacto-fermented condiments served as an adjunct to improve digestion.

And our forebears were right: the process of fermentation and culturing foods not only improved their shelf-life, but dramatically increased the nutrition they gleaned from every bite.  You see the traditional art of fermentation – the deliberate and calculated introduction of beneficial bacteria into food – increased each dish’s vitamin and enzyme content while preserving the food for long-term storage.  Moreover, fermented condiments like this homemade ketchup and the other condiments and relishes you can learn to make in Nourished Kitchen’s newest cooking class Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything provided a wide array of beneficial bacteria which help to populate the gut, working interactively with the immune system to keep pathogens at bay and make for resilient and vibrant health.  It’s a beautiful art, fermentation.

homemade ketchup

homemade ketchup, an old-world recipe

By Jenny Published: February 18, 2011

  • Yield: about 1 pint
  • Prep: 5 minutes (active) mins
  • Cook: 3 to 5 days (fermentation) mins
  • Ready In: 8 mins

Deeply robust with the rich-sweet flavor of concentrated tomato, this ketchup differs from the cloying sweet varieties you find in the grocery store. Allspice and cloves, traditional inclusions often omitted in most store-bought varieties, bring a level of depth that would be otherwise absent. Not a particularly quick food, this homemade ketchup is slowly ripened and aged over a period of three to five days as beneficial bacteria metabolize the food’s natural sugars, creating a condiment that is potently rich in food enzymes and probiotics. It’s a traditional process, lactofermentation, that increases the nutritional value of the foods we eat and love. This recipe and over 100 others are included in the latest of Nourished Kitchen’s online cooking class: Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything.


  • 2 cups tomato paste (preferably homemade)
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (maple syrup or whole unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp fresh whey* (divided)
  • 2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar (plus extra for thinning the ketchup, if desired)
  • 1 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves


  1. Spoon tomato paste into a large mixing bowl and fold in raw honey or other natural sweetener of choice.
  2. Whisk in one-quarter cup fresh whey or vegetable starter culture into the sweetened tomato paste along with apple cider vinegar, sea salt, allspice and cloves. Continue whisking these ingredients together until the paste is smooth and uniform.
  3. Spoon the homemade ketchup into a mason jar, top with remaining two tablespoons fresh whey or vegetable starter culture, cover loosely with a cloth or lid and allow the ketchup to sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for three to five days.
  4. After three to five days, uncover the homemade ketchup and give it a thorough stir before transferring to the refrigerator. Naturally fermented homemade ketchup will keep for several months in the refrigerator.