The History of Ketchup

I had no idea that ketchup has seen so many versions and iterations!

The word ketchup is derived from the Chinese word ke-tsiap, meaning a pickled fish sauce. This mixture was mainly added to recipes to season a dish, versus served as a condiment.

Peggy Trowbridge Filippone at The Spruce Eats.

Update: I was looking up this article again for a friend and realized that, for some reason, The Spruce Eats removed their article by Peggy Trowbridge.

Another similar and quite in-depth article I’ll replace it with for any curious travelers to this site is by Stanford University professor Dan Jurafsk on his blog “The Language of Food.”

But walnut or mushroom aren’t the original ingredients of ketchup either. As Samuel Johnson tells us in his great Dictionary in 1755, English mushroom ketchups were just an attempt to imitate the taste of an earlier original sauce that came from Asia.

What was this Asian sauce? It’s clear from the earliest English recipes that the original ketchup was fish sauce, the stinky cooking sauce called nuoc mam in Vietnam, nam pla in Thailand, patis in the Philippines, and made from salting and fermenting anchovies. An English recipe in 1736 calls for boiling down “2 quarts of strong stale beer and half a pound of anchovies”, and then letting it ferment. And here’s a full early recipe for ketchup from Eliza Smith’s cookbook, the book mentioned in my essay on ‘entrée’. Smith’s cookbook, The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, was a very popular English cookbook, first published in 1727, and in the 1742 edition the first cookbook to be published in the American colonies.

The Language of Food