Mr. Sauce Blog

Do you know the difference between Ketchup and Tomato Sauce?

Feb 8, 2020 | Mr. Sauce, Tomato Ketchup, Tomato Sauce

We often get asked “what is the difference between Tomato Ketchup and Tomato Sauce?”, so we thought we would delve a little deeper and give you a little history on their origins, how they began and how they’ve transformed today. Whilst they may be used interchangeably, the taste differences may not be too clear-cut – unless you’re a bit of a connoisseur – so we hope a bit of informed reading will guide you.

In simple terms, as it relates to the Mr Sauce products, Tomato Ketchup is a superior, more complex, tomato-based sauce prepared with a selection of premium spices and a higher tomato paste content than its simpler cousin. Tomato Sauce, on the other hand, is simply a blend of tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, and salt. And, because we like to do things well, we add a few spices for good measure!

When you unpack the history of these two products, things start getting interesting.


Tomato Sauce, where it all began

Tomato Sauce, as we refer to the sweet and sour tangy red sauce in most parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas, is completely different from what we know. If you were to ask for Tomato Sauce in Italy (and you weren’t met with a puzzled stare) you would be served a savoury “pasta sauce” made of chopped tomatoes, olive oil and herbs. There, like in many parts of the world, they only know “tomato ketchup”, being the sweet and tangy condiment that accompanies your burger and chips.

Italians are famous for their pasta dishes, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that they invented the tomato sauce – but you’d be mistaken! According to the writings of a 15th century Franciscan Friar, Bernardino de Sahagún, the markets of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City today) sold a prepared tomato sauce usually containing peppers, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, green peppers and fat tomatoes – making Mexico the source of the sauce, if you will.

When was Tomato Sauce first introduced?

In a detailed tomato history, a 1747 cookbook (by pastry chef Juan de la Mata) contains one of the first known Tomato Sauce recipes, a brewed tomato salad. It goes as follows:

“After roasting three or four tomatoes, and clean from their skin, they will be chopped on a table as often as possible, put in their sauceboat a little parsley, onion and garlic will be added, also chopped, with a little salt, pepper, oil and vinegar, that everything well mixed, and incorporated, can be served.”


Other common ingredients that have been incorporated over time and across geographical zones include stock, wine, chilli peppers, basil, oregano, parsley, black pepper, and sometimes even a bit of ground meat.

Catching up, on Ketchup

And we’ll bet that you think Tomato Ketchup is an American thing, right? After all, 97% of American households, according to National Geographic, report having a bottle on their table.

The origins of Ketchup are even more bizarre than the facts about tomato sauce. Especially when you learn that the original “ketchup” (or kê-chiap) was actually made from fermented fish, first introduced to the world by the Chinese in the 17th century. The word kê-chiap literally means the ‘brine of pickled fish or shellfish’.

English colonists first discovered it in the 18th century in the Malay States (now Malaysia and Singapore) and took it across to the Americas with them.

The recipe for ketchup (or “catchup/catsup” as it was referred to) evolved, and in England the use of mushrooms and walnuts as the main ingredient became dominant. There were a number of other weird and wonderful ingredients, including egg whites, oysters, mussels and even grapes used in the early concoctions.

The world’s first (documented) Tomato Ketchup recipe (1817)

It was only in the 19th century when tomatoes were added to ketchup, bringing to life the first tomato ketchup, in this intriguing recipe for “Tomata Catsup”. It was published as follows: 

  • Gather a gallon of fine, red, and full ripe tomatas; mash them with one pound of salt.
  • Let them rest for three days, press off the juice, and to each quart add a quarter of a pound of anchovies, two ounces of shallots, and an ounce of ground black pepper.
  • Boil up together for half an hour, strain through a sieve, and put to it the following spices; a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of allspice and ginger, half an ounce of nutmeg, a drachm of coriander seed, and half a drachm of cochineal.
  • Pound all together; let them simmer gently for twenty minutes, and strain through a bag: when cold, bottle it, adding to each bottle a wineglass of brandy. It will keep for seven years.

American cooks only started sweetening tomato ketchup in the 19th Century, and the first person credited with bottling and selling it commercially, back in 1837, was Jonas Yerkes. F & J Heinz – yup, THAT Heinz – launched their now famous tomato ketchup in 1876. The commercial production of tomato ketchup called for better preservation and so more sugar was added. With that, we’ve come to know tomato ketchup to be a sweet and sour condiment.

So there you have it, two fascinating histories of two of the world’s favourite condiments. Now you know ALL about ‘T Sauce’, ‘Tommy K’, ‘Red sauce’, or as one of our youngest fans have dubbed it – “Dip dip”.

These centuries-old sauces have evolved and certainly improved over the years; with 12,850 kg of Tomato Ketchup and 14,763 kg of Tomato Sauce being produced in our factory each month, we’re also still learning ourselves.

Aren’t you glad that we‘ve taken on the task of preparing these for you, with less sugar and more tomato, so that you don’t have to do it yourself?

What are the main differences that come to mind when you think of the two condiments? Drop them in the comments below.


  1. Andoni

    I’ve always thought of ‘Tomato Sauce’ as that sickly sweet, runny, light red (likely artifically coloured) sauce that everyone used about 20 years ago (won’t mention the brand), and ‘Tomato Ketchup’ as being the thick sauce (almost relish-type consistency) that you would get on the side, in a little bowl, at burger places. Definitely felt ketchup as being the superior, ‘healthier’ option of the two. Thanks for the history, very interesting!

    • Bilkiss Dhar

      Good knowledge. Concise and precise.



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