Photo by By Shannon Stonger

By Shannon Stonger
Health Impact News

Beloved by many for its tangy, sweet, and lightly spiced flavor; tomato ketchup is possibly America’s favorite condiment. Many have turned away from the thick tomato preserve due to concerns over ingredients found in commercial ketchup. It is possible, however, to make a homemade version that is not only a healthful alternative to commercial brands, but which also has the added benefits of fermentation.

And it’s as simple as whisking together a few common ingredients.

What’s Wrong With Commercial Ketchup?

Ketchup has a long history as a preserve and frequently without the use of tomatoes in recipes such as “mushroom catsup” dating back to colonial days. Vinegar, sugar, spices, and fermentation were all utilized to preserve ketchup or catsup.

Modern day ketchup, however, is replete with high-fructose corn syrup, way more sugar than is necessary, and the questionable natural flavorings that can mean anything from MSG to artificial sweeteners.

Finally, the tomatoes themselves that make up the bulk of the ingredients deserve a closer look. While tomatoes themselves are a nutritional powerhouse, conventionally raised tomatoes bear avoiding. Not only are they most likely sprayed with chemicals during both the growing and shipping processes, but tomatoes were one of the first GMO crops released to the general public. While it is claimed that no GMO tomatoes are currently on the market, this is just one more reason to eschew these commercial tomatoes in favor of organic.

Fermenting Ketchup


Straining whey from yogurt.

And, of course, commercial ketchup is not fermented. Fermentation certainly isn’t necessary to create delicious homemade ketchup. Its benefits, however, are twofold. For one, the fermentation process is a means of preservation. By fermenting ketchup you are preserving it through the wonders of lactic acid fermentation.

Secondly, fermenting ketchup allows you to add one more layer of probiotics and enzymes to your meal. This is especially helpful if you have picky eaters to feed or young children who turn away from kefir and sauerkraut. Instead, use that sauerkraut juice or cultured dairy whey teeming with beneficial bacteria to create a fermented food most children would happily add to their plate.

Simple Lacto-Fermented Ketchup


Mixing in the raw honey.

This ketchup is really quick and simple – just whisk together all of the ingredients and allow to culture. This makes a little over one cup of ketchup, but you can double this recipe for a larger quantity to be kept in the refrigerator.



  1. Combine all ingredients except the water in a small bowl. Be sure to fully incorporate the honey and spices to create a smooth texture.
  2. Add water, starting with 2 Tablespoons, to achieve your desired consistency. Using the upper end of the range, 4 Tablespoons, will give you something more pourable while 2 Tablespoons creates a thick, rich flavor.
  3. Now transfer the ketchup to a small jar or other non-reactive vessel. Cover the vessel with a clean cloth secured with a rubber band or canning ring. Allow the ketchup to ferment at room temperature for 2-3 days, or more as desired. Store in the refrigerator or in a cool place such as a cellar or basement. Should keep for several weeks.

Fermentation Tip: To gauge when your ketchup – or any fermented condiment or vegetable – is complete, open the ferment, and smell and taste it for tang. Generally speaking, the longer a ferment is allowed to culture, the tangier it gets. This is due to the proliferation of lactic acid bacteria and other organic acids naturally occurring from the fermentation process. For this ferment, a couple of days at room temperature should suffice but longer will only deepen the flavors and add extra acidity.

About the Author

Shannon grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota. She studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married her husband one month later. They were then blessed with two baby boys within the first four years of marriage. Having babies gave their family a desire to return to the old paths – to nourish their family with traditional, homegrown foods; rid their home of toxic chemicals and petroleum products; and give their boys a chance to know a simple, sustainable way of life. They are currently building a homestead from scratch on two little acres in central Texas. There’s a lot to be done to become somewhat self-sufficient, but they are debt-free and get to spend their days living this simple, good life together with their four young children.