Catsup vs. Ketchup... What’s in a name

Which word do you use to describe the famous condiment

SHREVEPORT, La. (Ark-La-Tex Weekend) -

While doing a little grocery shopping, I noticed an overhead sign that read “Catsup.” I found it peculiar since the bottles on the shelves were labeled “Ketchup.” So in the interest of doing something a little off-the-wall, I investigated why we have the two terms for the tomato-based condiment and the results were kind of shocking and complex.

Ketchup/catsup is known today as a sauce containing tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, allspice, cloves and cinnamon. Of course manufacturers differ on the amount of each ingredient and add extras. In the past, chefs added oysters, mushrooms, walnuts and fruits to catsup.

Heinz started making the stuff in 1876 under the name catsup but switched the name to ketchup a few years later to make their product stand out. Prior to the switch, most everyone called the sauce “catsup.” Nowadays, catsup and ketchup can be used either way. Catsup is more used in the Southern U.S.

There is debate as to the origin of the word. The two leading theories concern the origin being from China (ke-chiap) or Indonesia (kecap). Ironically, neither of these Asian sauces contained tomatoes. They were both derivatives of fish sauces. European traders brought the sauces from their overseas adventures. Eventually the recipes changed to add tomatoes in 1812 and now we enjoy it on burgers, hot dogs, French Fries, sloppy joes and a whole lot more.

In case you were wondering, the largest catsup bottle ever made is a water tower in Collinsville, Illinois outside of St. Louis. The Catsup Bottle stands 170 feet tall and was built in 1949. There’s even a fan club for it.

Robert Streeter

Robert Streeter

Lead content producer for the Ark-La-Tex Weekend as well as Creative Services Producer.