The Best Homemade Ketchup

Generally doing things ‘in moderation’ has not been a descriptor of my personality.  I tend to be a ‘go big, or go home’ sort.  I usually dive into something full bore, immerse myself and then very often discard it as is my fickle Gemini nature.

I dove into the Locavore pond headlong, not even stopping to check if the pool had been drained.  My original quest was to see if it were possible to over-winter in Colorado subsisting on produce and proteins from a 100 mile-Michael-Pollan-radius.  It truly was an experiment for which I did not know how to anticipate the outcome.

I did anticipate however that I’d have to quickly bone up on food keeping practices, assuming local fare would not be readily available through the winter months.  I began freezing and dehydrating food, signed up for two winter CSA shares and started canning.

I’m not fabulous at estimating volume.  I also prefer to have more than I might need rather than be caught short.  So when I was ready to can tomatoes, I started with 25 pounds.  Shocked at how little this amount actually did yield, I went back in for another 25 pounds.  I made tomato sauce, Mexican Salsa (click here for the recipe; it’s really delicious and easy), quartered tomatoes and tomato puree.  I could not decide between the tomato sauce recipe in my favorite book at the time, ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ (Barbara Kingsolver) or a different recipe from one of the 7 canning books I purchased for this undertaking.  So I went back for 50 more pounds and made both.  Not being sure 100 pounds of canned tomatoes would do it I thought a last 50 would surely be enough…..right?  150 pounds of canned tomatoes.  And it was plenty.

I have tomatoes this year from my farm CSA and from my small home garden in which I planted 7 different heirloom plants…..liking variety and all.  I am NOT canning tomatoes this year.  I actually did can more the year following my 150 pound year and we are still well stocked.  I wanted to do something different this year.  Maybe something that was faster.  So I decided making my own ketchup would be fun.

After researching in our abundant home cookbook library and online, I settled on a tried-and-true source: Saveur.  I found an approachable recipe and had all required ingredients already between my pantry, and garden.  I had heard making one’s own ketchup yielded a completely different condiment and it is true.  The depth of flavor is far greater, and the flavor components really stand out more as well.  I diverged from the original recipe a bit so will share it with my alterations.

After tasting the freshly made ketchup I had an immediate and urgent craving for Sweet Potato Fries (baked) with kosher salt and my new ketchup.  It was nothing less than perfect!

The Best Homemade Ketchup

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 cups

Most tomato sauces are made with Roma style tomatoes due to their lower moisture content and high flavor. I made my ketchup with a mix of Roma hybrids and heirloom cherry tomatoes and it was delicious. Experiment with the tomatoes you have on hand for varied flavor in every batch!


  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chile, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Cheesecloth
  • Kitchen twine


  1. Prepare a square single layer of cheesecloth that will fit all the spices with room to fold and secure the contents. Place the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, celery seeds, chile flakes, and allspice in the middle of the cheesecloth. Fold closed and secure with a length of kitchen twine.
  2. In a medium stock pot (enough to house the tomatoes with some extra room) place tomatoes, salt, vinegar, sugar, onion, chile, garlic and spice packet. Cook over medium heat until tomatoes and chiles are soft and onions are translucent and limp (about 30 minutes).
  3. Remove and discard spice packet. Using a small disk in a food mill, process ketchup through the food mill back into stock pot. (Should you not have a food mill you can run the ketchup through the blender and strain through a mesh strainer to remove the tomato seeds).
  4. Cook over medium-low heat for an additional 20-30 minutes until thickened to your preference.
  5. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


Adapted from Saveur Magazine


  1. says

    I’ve never been tempted to make my own ketchup – we go through all of maybe a bottle or two a year, and that big brand isn’t bad, although kinda sweet – but I must say I really like the flavoring assortment you used in your recipe. A bit of spice and sass going on there – it sounds tremendous. Maybe if I think of this as a spiced tomato sauce instead of ketchup? That might be enough to get me to make it! Anyway, adding this to my long, long list of stuff to try – it really sounds interesting. Thanks.

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Frankly John I’d given it a nanosecond of thought only in the last year. My attempts were born from not being able to bear the idea of canning this fall but wanting to disposition my larder of tomatoes. I am so glad I did too as it blows store-bought ketchup out of the water flavor-wise.

      I get the feeling from your comment you may have a ketchup ‘issue’ going on so YES think of it however you need to to make some and then you won’t turn back!

  2. says

    I was reading the first line and thinking it sounds like me….at the end u said Gemini..that revealed it all….I realized why it sound like me….so u become my twin blogger friend 🙂 lol….before i say anything about the ketchup…those tomatoes looks soo gorgeous….every year, my mom makes ketchup {she has a garden, I don’t 🙁 } The addition of all those spices sound really really delish….next time i’ll ask her to try this recipe 🙂

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Awe….I knew were were linked! I love that your Mom makes ketchup. I feel very ‘late to the party’ on trying myself but love it now that I’ve made it. Can’t imagine buying it any more!

  3. says

    Toni, I’m completely intrigued with the notion of making my own ketchup! Like you, we have 7 varieties of tomatoes this year with the San Marzanos being the most prolific. Better yet, my kids have become enlightened by the rampant use of HFCS in processed foods―my point being that we’d rather choose our sugar intake (like cake) rather than high amounts hidden in nearly everything commercially made. There’s one more spurt of tomatoes to come this season, and I know exactly what to do with them. Cheers from NorCal!

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Hi Brooks! I hope you WILL make some with your glorious tomatoes and ‘report back’. We’ve now had our first snow and I’m feverishly stripping the tomaotes from the vines before the next freeze hits tonight. May be alot of ketchup going on in my house this winter!

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      It is very good Pola. I hope you’ll make it and tell me what you think. I love the richness of flavor and the rustic texture!

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Hi Nancy! Isn’t it funny how we all feel like it’s something we’ve wanted to do but don’t quite get there? It is so easy too. Once I made it I could not understand why I had not done it before. I’m sure there are lots of fun modifications that could be made too!

  4. says

    I’m very excited to try this recipe out. I ate homemade ketchup for the very first time at Beach City Grill just outside of L.A in May and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I’ve really enjoyed reading through your blog!!


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