14 Additions To Boost The Flavor Of Store-Bought Ketchup

Although mayonnaise and ranch dressing have surpassed ketchup as the nation's favorite condiment, everyone's favorite tomato-based drizzle of flavor is still holding strong. Homemade ketchup is #goals, and ketchup is easier to make than you might expect. Not only is fresher better, but making your own allows you to control the sugar in the recipe because sauces are one of those oh-so-sneaky sources of hidden sugars. Tomato paste, some spices, and you have a freezable, homemade, delicious ketchup that's exactly what you want in this ever-popular condiment.

But, let's be honest — who has time to make sure there's always fresh ketchup on hand? Sometimes, you just want something quick and easy. On those nights when it's fries for dinner, it's time to grab the bottle of store-bought ketchup, which is definitely not all created equal.

Some brands can be too sweet, some can be heavy on the tomato flavor and not much else and ... some are just downright boring. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to fix that, and they're all ones that aren't going to make your quick and easy dinner that much longer. They will, however, make that store-bought ketchup into something much more flavorful.

Tahina (tahini)

Tahini is one of those things that you might pick up at the grocery store thinking you're going to do something fun with it, and, then, it sits in the cabinet forever. It's not a run-of-the-mill sort of ingredient in America, but, in the Middle East and around the world, it's been popular for generations. Made from roasted sesame seeds, good tahini is a thick, creamy, nutty spread that's surprisingly versatile — and it can be added to ketchup for a serious upgrade. 

Since the texture of tahini can be variable, this one might need a little water to thin it out, or — if you'd like some spice along with the nutty sweetness of your new condiment — reach for another vastly underutilized ingredient: harissa. And it's not an odd thing, either. Head to a true Israeli restaurant, and you're likely to see this ketchup-and-tahini mix served alongside some staple dishes.

Drizzle this over eggs and on egg sandwiches, or use it to dip fries in. If you slather ketchup on fries rather than dipping them, you might want to go for the dip option here to make it easier to control just how much you get in each bite. This combo might just be a new favorite go-to.


If the combination of horseradish and ketchup sounds familiar, that's because it's the building blocks of cocktail sauce. There are a few other ingredients, like Worcestershire sauce and the usual suspects when it comes to seasonings, but it's the horseradish that adds that spicy, clean-out-your-sinuses kick. It might be a love-or-hate thing, but, if you love it, you really love it — and it can make that jar of store-bought ketchup amazing.

Making your own cocktail sauce is incredibly easy, which means using horseradish to dress up your ketchup is super easy, too. And even though cocktail sauce is most often associated with shrimp, it can be used for all kinds of things that can benefit from a spicy kick. French fries are a given, of course, but this also works amazingly to dress up an old-school family favorite that might not get made nearly as much as it should: Sloppy joes. Also? Swap this in anywhere that Russian or Thousand Island dressing is used.

This comes with just a word of wisdom: When making this for the first time, add the horseradish slowly. It can be incredibly variable as to how strong your particular jar is, and it's easier to add more horseradish to the amount of ketchup you're planning on using.

Curry powder

Ketchup on sausage can be the stuff of family arguments at the dinner table, especially when there's perfectly respectable mustard just waiting to be used. But, dress up your store-bought ketchup with the help of curry powder, and you might just start leaving the mustard behind.

Sounds weird? It's not, and it's actually been a European stable for a long, long time. Currywurst in Berlin is a wildly popular street food, where sliced sausages are served with a sauce made of — you guessed it — ketchup and curry powder. The trend was born in a post-World War II city, and it was created by a German woman who relied on trade with the Allies to keep her family fed. Currywurst remains incredibly popular to this day. 

With just one bite, it'll quickly become clear that this was one resourceful meal that not only helped shape post-war Berlin but is a downright delicious mix of flavors that's just as good on fries as it is on sausage. 

Chipotle paste and peppers

Chipotle peppers and paste are ingredients that should be in every kitchen. They bring a wonderfully smoky sort of spice to anything they're added to, and that includes ketchup.

This one takes a bit of caution because it can be incredibly easy to go overboard on the chipotle flavors. That said, chipotle paste versus canned peppers is a better option if you're looking to jazz up just a small amount of ketchup. Add a pepper at a time to a larger amount of ketchup, then run it through the food processor to both chop the paper and evenly distribute it when you're, say, making the whole bottle. And you just might want to, because once you try this combination on hamburgers, chicken burgers, and fries, you might never go back to ordinary ketchup.

This is also brilliant for putting together a quick meal. Plan ahead, make and freeze meatballs, and on those days when you just can't, they're there to thaw. Serve them with your favorite sides and a slathering of this chipotle ketchup. It'll taste like you spent way more time on it than you did.

Sriracha (and honey)

Love a bit of spice? Look no further than popular grocery store hot sauce Sriracha to dress up ketchup into something that doesn't taste like it's just come out of a generic bottle.

Mix Sriracha and ketchup to taste, and to go one more step, add a drizzle of honey for a kick of sweetness (and thickening). Sweet, spicy, and smoky, this sauce is great for everything from chicken strips and fries. The addition of honey makes it a great, thick sauce for sandwiches like pulled chicken. There's nothing worse than biting into a pulled chicken sandwich and ending up with more BBQ sauce on the plate than on the sandwich, and that can easily be remedied by using this easy-to-make option to hold the whole thing together.

And, as unlikely as this sounds, this can also double as a dip for potato chips. Don't knock it until you've tried it!


If gochujang isn't a staple in your kitchen, it should be. This Korean chili paste is a versatile ingredient that brings not only heat, but warm spice and a dash of saltiness. Made with fermented soybeans and red chili flakes — among other things — gochujang adds something invaluable to any dish: umami.

And that's what makes it a brilliant addition to ketchup. Since gochujang can be an incredibly strong flavor, it's best to err on the side of caution when mixing this one and add only a bit at a time. That said, there are no real guidelines as to how much to add — make it as spicy as you'd like it! Still, looking for more heat? What about adding some cayenne pepper?

While this is great for spreading on a burger, there's another option that's great for this one, too. Add some brown sugar, and that'll turn it into a spread that's brilliant for glazing things like chicken breasts and wings or pork chops. Cook as usual, then serve with some more for dipping.


There are a few different options here that are sort of in the same family. This all works because of a delicious, salty umami that happens when you combine ketchup with ingredients that include teriyaki and Worcestershire sauce. It definitely doesn't take much to turn ordinary old store-bought ketchup into something delicious, and this works particularly well with those ketchups that are just way too sweet.

The saltiness of these liquids won't just counteract that, but it'll create some serious umami magic. Even better? It's a great hack for those nights when you don't feel like doing much in the kitchen but still want something tasty. The teriyaki (or Worcestershire) will thin your ketchup considerably, but that makes it into an interesting sauce to toss pasta in and to serve alongside leftover egg rolls, bite-sized meatballs, or slices of that last chicken breast leftover from the previous night. Anything that encourages less food waste is a win by us!


In 2018, Heinz confirmed that yes, their Balsamic Ketchup had definitely been discontinued. While people were bummed, there's good news — it's possible to make your own version of that, right at home.

Balsamic vinegar is something that's a staple in most kitchens, so even if you don't have some of the more specialized ingredients we recommend for vastly improving the taste of your store-bought ketchup — like with tahini and gochujang — you probably have some balsamic on hand. Add a dash to the ketchup and mix, or, there are a few other ideas to try. Add some honey for sweetness and texture, or turn the balsamic into a glaze first. Grab a shallow skillet, mix with brown sugar, and reduce into a syrup that you can then mix with your ketchup for something that might just end up being served alongside ranch every time you whip up a plate of wings.

Roasted red peppers

If you're looking for something that's going to improve the taste of your store-bought ketchup without adding extra sugar, salt, or spice, look no further than a jar of roasted red peppers. It's also surprisingly easy to roast bell peppers at home, if you have the time and the inclination. Simply grab an immersion blender, or a regular blender, and combine the two to create a sum that truly is greater than the parts.

Roasted red peppers bring a wonderfully smoky flavor that doesn't overpower the ketchup and transform it into something else, but, instead, takes that so-so bottle of generic stuff and turns it into something that you're not going to feel bad about putting onto a juicy burger straight off the grill. 

This can also be something of a secret weapon: Ketchup isn't just a condiment, after all, but it's an integral ingredient in some dishes. So, before you mix up your next meatloaf, mix in some roasted red peppers for an extra-flavorful way to keep that meatloaf moist all the way through.


Travel across the country and it will quickly become clear that every area has their own regional delights. Make it over to Utah, and you'll see something popping up on most menus. That, of course, is fry sauce. Created in the 1940s, it's one of those things that's almost deceptively simple. It's just a condiment that's half ketchup, half mayo — and it's incredible. Skeptical? Imagine biting into a Whopper, and getting the creamy flavor of both the ketchup and the mayo in one delicious bite. That's what we're talking about.

While you can dress up your fry sauce with spices, hot sauce, or other additives, that's not necessary. Sometimes, simple really is better, because fry sauce already has it all. There's a creaminess of the mayo with the sweetness of the ketchup, and just like there are any number of ways to put your own personal spin on this; there are many ways to use it, too. There are all the usual things, of course: dip your fries, top your burgers, and cover your chicken strips, but also, Potato chips. You're welcome.

Sour cream

Sour cream might seem like an odd thing to mix with ketchup, but it can definitely turn that boring, bland bottle of store-bought condiment into a delicious dip. 

Reach into the spice cabinet to dress this one up even more, with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper chili flakes, or tomato flakes. In other words? Season to taste, and you'll have a creamy ketchup without all the guilt. Use this one in all the usual places, but keep in mind that it's also good for veggies like sliced bell peppers and even artichokes. Have a less-than-stellar cut of steak that's been kicking around in the fridge? Help it out a little with this! Looking for something to add to gyros or wraps that isn't as stodgy as some of the more traditional mayo-based condiments? This is definitely the way to go, especially if you swap out a burger bun for a wrap and add a drizzle of this refreshingly different take on creamy ketchup. 

Soy sauce, honey, and hoisin

Even if the term char-siu doesn't ring a bell, you're likely familiar with what it is. That's the sweet, savory, and somehow shiny pieces of pork that play an integral role in Chinese barbecue. Now you know the flavor profile we're talking about — it's amazing, right?

While you're not going to be turning your ketchup into exactly the same thing, it's possible to get something we'll call a char-siu-inspired condiment with the addition of a few ingredients: soy sauce, hoisin, and a dash of honey (you can also add five-spice, too). The result will be a thick, slightly sticky condiment perfect for everything from burgers to spring rolls.

Another favorite use for this is pork chops: char-siu is traditionally made with pork, and this dressed-up version of ketchup inspired by the same flavors makes a brilliant dipping sauce to serve alongside pork chops. It's no secret that pork chops can be dry and more than a little difficult, but this sweet version of ketchup can save the day!

Roasted garlic

Garlic and roasted garlic aren't the same thing. Well, technically, they are, but when garlic is roasted, it undergoes a transformation that's nothing short of magical. And that's what you should absolutely be adding to your store-bought ketchup.

The steps for roasting garlic are easier than they might seem, and it's definitely something every chef should have in their arsenal. Experimenting with different types of garlic is fun, too. In turn, mixing those types of garlic into your ketchup with the help of an immersion blender will result in something slightly different each time — and every time, it'll be something elevated well beyond what you started with.

The thing we love about this one is that it's so versatile. While there are some things that you might not want to serve with ketchup that's been dressed up with something creamy or something spicy, roasted garlic ketchup is not going to do you wrong. Some of our suggestions are best done a few servings at a time — just enough for the family — but, if you're looking for something that you can do to upgrade the entire bottle at once, this might just be your new go-to.

Maple syrup and bourbon

Ketchup is one of the fundamental ingredients in barbecue sauce, but it's also no secret that homemade barbecue sauce can get incredibly complicated. There can be a ton of ingredients, lots of seasoning, lots of stirring, and simmering. But, there doesn't have to be, because adding some maple syrup and a dash of bourbon to your perfectly ordinary, run-of-the-mill, store-bought ketchup will turn it into something along the lines of a quick and easy barbecue sauce ... without the commitment.

Blending this one together will require mixing and simmering for somewhere around five minutes, but it's well worth the effort. In the end, it'll elevate not only that perfectly ordinary ketchup, but it's perfect for chicken. Whether that's chicken strips (and the fries that go along with it), sliced chicken breast, or even on a wrap, there's no way to go wrong with the sweetly smoky sauce you get at the end of just a few short minutes.