Add Thickness And Flavor To Your Stews With Ketchup

Of all the comfort food dishes out there — from fried chicken to meatloaf to rice pudding — a hearty, warming stew has got to be one of the most comforting. Whether your choice is an old-fashioned beef stew or a Moroccan chickpea stew, we can all but guarantee that dipping your spoon into a deep bowl brings a sense of contentment and peace. Typically composed of chunks of meat, poultry, or fish slowly cooked with an assortment of aromatics, vegetables, and other flavorings, this meal can contain all manner of ingredients. 

Very often a dish that can be improvised as opposed to having to closely follow a recipe, stews will often feature odds and ends that happen to be favored by the cook, per Stew Recipe. A dash of wine, perhaps, or even some pitted prunes, as in the famous "The Silver Palate Cookbook" recipe for Chicken Marbella (via The New York Times). Whatever your personal preference for stew ingredients, however, a surprising one that's likely to satisfy a wide range of tastes is good ol' ketchup.

Ketchup adds sweetness, acidity, and body to stew

When gathering your mise en place for your favorite stew recipe, you likely grab a few usual suspects. Cooking fat, aromatic vegetables such as onions, garlic, and carrots, fresh or dried herbs, and some homemade or store-bought stock. Another common ingredient that shows up in stews ranging from Irish beef stew to American-style goulash is tomato paste, which brings a hit of intense tomato flavor without adding too much liquid to a stew, which should, after all, turn out thicker than a soup (via Shelf Cooking).

But on occasions where you either don't have any tomato paste handy or simply want to try a different tomato product in your stew, you can reach for ketchup, instead. According to Cook's Country, ketchup lends the color, body, and depth of flavor to stew that tomato paste does, but also brings a hit of sweetness (from the sugar in the ketchup) as well as the acidity from the vinegar that's in there. All of these flavor elements play well with typical stew ingredients, with the outlet calling out oxtail stew as a particularly appropriate match for ketchup. So the next time you're called to make stew, reach for your bottle of ketchup and savor the results.