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Is Ketchup Vegan? The Truth Behind Popular Brands In 2024

Donald Romeo

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz, Nutritionist & Health Coach

is ketchup vegan
Ketchup: A universally popular condiment enhancing many culinary dishes. Photo: Canva & Team Design

The grocery store’s condiment aisle presents many options, with ketchup reigning supreme. However, as many people adopt a vegan lifestyle, questions inevitably surface. The most common one is, “Is ketchup vegan?” 

While it may seem straightforward, the answer is quite nuanced. A closer inspection of ingredients and an understanding of diverse production practices are essential. 

Like many food products, ketchup has a complex background, and the answer we seek is more complex than it seems. So, let’s embark on this intriguing gastronomic journey, peeling back layers of information to reveal if the universal condiment of ketchup truly fits into the vegan diet.

Is Ketchup Vegan Friendly?

Yes, ketchup can be vegan-friendly, depending on the brand and ingredients used. Some brands use sugar processed with bone char, which strict vegans avoid. 

Others may contain ambiguous ingredients like natural flavorings. However, plenty of organic and explicitly vegan ketchup are available. Always read labels carefully to ensure your ketchup aligns with your dietary choices.

Common Non-Vegan Ingredients In Ketchup

Studying the ingredients list is one of the best ways to find out if ketchup is vegan. Most ketchup  brands contain several basic components, such as:

  • Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes or cooked tomatoes.
  • Distilled or cider vinegar.
  • High fructose corn syrup (found in commercial varieties).
  • Corn syrup (found in commercial varieties).
  • Water.
  • Onion powder.
  • Salt.
  • Natural flavorings and spices. 
  • Sugar.

High Fructose Corn Syrup And Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup[1] and corn syrup are used as sweeteners in many processed foods. They are considered vegan because they are derived from corn. Yet, the refining process is where the issue lies for strict vegans. 

Some sugar refineries, especially in the United States, use a decolorizing filter made from bone char[2] — charred animal bones — which helps achieve the sugar’s pure white color. Although the bone char doesn’t end up in the final product,[3] the mere use of it in the process could disqualify high fructose corn syrup as a vegan-friendly ingredient.

Natural Flavors

The term natural flavorings can be ambiguous. The Food and Drug Administration[4] defines natural flavors as substances extracted, distilled, or similarly derived from plant or animal matter, either as is or after it has been roasted, heated, or fermented. 

Natural flavors could potentially contain animal-derived ingredients, although they are primarily plant-based.

While most ketchup ingredients seem vegan initially, their production process might include non-vegan substances. Bone char, and other potentially animal-derived ingredients, are examples of those hidden in natural flavors. 

However, it’s important to note that not all ketchup brands use these ingredients or processes, so it’s crucial to investigate individual brands if you’re a strict vegan.

Ketchup is mainly plant-based and can be included in a plant-based diet. However, it may not be strictly vegan for individuals following a lifestyle centered around vegan food.

Is Ketchup Allowed On A Vegan Diet?

The suitability of ketchup for a vegan diet varies based on individual vegan principles and definitions of vegan-friendly. It depends on how strict one’s standards are. Tomato ketchup is typically manufactured with refined sugar, a non-vegan ingredient, as opposed to organic cane sugar, which is vegan-friendly.

Many individuals who follow a vegan diet often avoid the major sources of animal-derived ingredients. They eliminate meats, dairy products, eggs, and honey from their diet. 

Mainstream ketchups are generally acceptable for these individuals despite their potential gray-area ingredients. The primary ingredients — tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spices — are all plant-based.

Considerations For Strict Vegans

A subgroup within the vegan community is known as strict vegans. These individuals go beyond avoiding overtly animal-derived products and scrutinize even the minutest potential sources of animal derivatives in their diet. To them, it matters not just what the ingredients are but also how they are produced.

In light of these considerations, strict vegans might opt for certified organic ketchup. Organic regulations prohibit[5] using bone char in sugar processing, making any ketchup sweetened with organic sugar a safe choice. Explicitly vegan ketchup brands ensure that all ingredients, including any natural flavors, are free from animal derivatives.

So, while most ketchup can be classified as plant-based, not all can be considered strictly vegan. The complexity of modern food production necessitates that individuals on a vegan diet remain vigilant about their food choices. 

Therefore, to enjoy ketchup as part of a strict vegan diet, the safest course is to stick with certified organic or explicitly vegan-labeled brands.

How To Know Whether Your Ketchup Is Vegan

Determining if your ketchup is vegan-friendly involves a bit of investigative work on your part. It all begins with the label.

Look for vegan ketchup brands that denote the product is vegan on the label. Brands conscious of their vegan customers will often make this distinction clear. 

Next, look out for the term certified organic. Why is this important? Organic ketchup certification typically guarantees that the sugar used in the product hasn’t been processed with bone char, a material derived from animal bones often used in refining sugar.

But don’t stop there. Make sure to scan the ingredient list. Ingredients are the key to understanding the vegan status of your ketchup. Some brands ensure no animal products have been used in their formulations.

Pay close attention to the sweeteners used. Ketchup that uses high fructose corn syrup may not be strictly vegan, as this syrup can sometimes be clarified using bone char. In contrast, ketchup sweetened with alternatives like cane sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, or organic granulated white sugar is more likely vegan-friendly.

Vegan Alternatives

Today, with the rise of veganism, many alternative options exist for those who prefer a vegan lifestyle. 

For instance, vegan meal delivery services are a convenient way to enjoy vegan-friendly meals. 

You can also opt for vegan meal replacement options or supplement your diet with fruits and veggies, vitamins and minerals, or green powders to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

The Bottom Line

The world of condiments can be complex when adhering to a strict vegan diet. Ketchup can be vegan, but the specifics depend on your dietary strictness.

If you’re less rigid about trace ingredients, many brands, including household names like Heinz Ketchup, can fit comfortably within your vegan lifestyle.

Being proactive about your choices is crucial for those adhering to a more stringent vegan diet. Various vegan-friendly ketchup alternatives in the market are explicit about their vegan status. 

Reading labels is a crucial step toward making informed decisions about your food. Organic ketchup brands, or those that specify they are vegan, often provide transparency that can be comforting to strict vegans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is tomato ketchup not vegan?

Some tomato ketchup isn’t considered vegan because it may contain sugar processed with bone char, an animal product. Also, natural flavorings in the ingredients could be derived from animal sources.

Which ketchup is not vegan?

Certain brands of ketchup, especially those not labeled as organic or vegan, may not be vegan due to ingredients like bone-char processed sugar or unspecified natural flavorings.


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Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Center (2020). High Fructose Corn Syrup Questions and Answers. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/high-fructose-corn-syrup-questions-and-answers
  2. Patel, S., Han, J., Qiu, W. and Gao, W. (2015). Synthesis and characterisation of mesoporous bone char obtained by pyrolysis of animal bones, for environmental application. [online] 3(4), pp.2368–2377. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jece.2015.07.031.‌
  3. uscourts.gov. (2015). Food And Agricultural Industry. [online] Available at: https://www.lb7.uscourts.gov/documents/13c50377.pdf
  4. Fda.gov. (2023). CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. [online] Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=101.22
  5. Ecfr.gov. (2023). 7 CFR Part 205 Subpart G — Administrative. [online] Available at: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-7/subtitle-B/chapter-I/subchapter-M/part-205/subpart-G
Donald Romeo

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Olejarz

Donald Romeo is a highly skilled health and wellness writer and a dedicated nutritional researcher. His expertise unravels the intricate connections between nutrition, holistic health, and well-being. With an astute understanding of nutritional science and a talent for translating complex concepts into accessible content, Donald brings valuable insights to his readers. He is committed to empowering individuals by providing practical and evidence-based advice to support their wellness journey. Through his engaging articles, Donald inspires readers to make informed choices, adopt healthier habits, and embrace a holistic approach to their overall vitality.

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Olejarz

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