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Mushroom Ketchup Is the Best Sauce You've Never Heard of

Doesn't look appetizing but tastes awesome
Doesn't look appetizing but tastes awesome

Updated February 21st, 2020

People in Europe and North America have been eating ketchup for many years, but it hasn't always been the tomato-based concoction most of us know and love today.

My first experience with mushroom ketchup was a homemade recipe my mom found on the internet. Being a mushroom lover myself, I was fascinated by it and loved the flavor it added to my burger. I still make and eat mushroom ketchup to this day, and it's a treat every time I do.

Mushroom ketchup stores well and has a variety of uses, so I love making it to keep handy for meats and other dishes. I use it to add flavor to soups and marinate meats, and it's a great starter for a variety of sauces.

This sauce is incredibly versatile. Here's a basic rundown on mushroom ketchup, including what exactly it is, how to make it, where it came from, and some of my favorite ways to use it.

The History of Ketchup

To me, ketchup has always seemed like a relatively cheap condiment, but it's got a rich history that spans back to the early days of trade. 
Ketchup was first given to European settlers in trades with Southeast Asia. At the time, the British had never tried anything like this, and it pretty quickly became a favorite for complementing meats and other dishes that can sometimes be a bit bland. These early ketchup recipes called for a variety of different main ingredients, but one of the common ingredients at the time was mushrooms.

British people loved this ketchup so much, they had to have more of it. The best way to get more ketchup was to make it themselves, which involved a lot of guesswork as to what exactly made ketchup so good. This is part of what led to the various different forms of ketchup, including mushroom ketchup, anchovy ketchup, and even modern tomato ketchup.

Although a tomato ketchup recipe had been invented in 1801, it would take another hundred years for it to become a favorite of the masses. For all the years prior, mushroom ketchup and its cohorts were head and shoulders above the ketchup we know and love today.

Today, mushroom ketchup is reserved for people like my grandmother who have a love for eccentric cooking. If you're lucky enough to be in my shoes, or you're willing to make it, you can try this delicious sauce too.

What's in It?

Eating ketchup with actual mushrooms in it may sound a little weird. If that's the case for you—and it was for me—you'll be happy to know that there aren't actually chunks of mushroom in mushroom ketchup.

In addition to mushrooms, I like to use several different spices in my mushroom ketchup, including salt. I also add onions for even more flavor, although I strain them out to leave the ketchup with a smooth texture. A bit of clove and cinnamon are my personal favorites, though.

Just How Do You Make This Stuff?

The first step in making mushroom ketchup is preparing your mushrooms. To release maximum flavor, you have to macerate the mushrooms to allow them to release their juices before boiling them. I use a large glass bowl with water and salt to do this.

Next, you can add your mushrooms and spices to a pot and bring them to a boil. Once you've got your mushrooms boiled, you can take the pot off of the stove or fire to allow it to cool. I like to use this time to clean up and get a bottle ready for the ketchup.

When your solid mixture is cooled, pour it into something to strain it. A cheesecloth works well for this. I just pour the boiled mushrooms in the cloth over a bowl, then lift the cloth and strain the juice. You can bottle this up and keep it around for meats, soups, sauces and anything else you might put ketchup on.

Storage and Other Questions

Homemade mushroom ketchup should be stored in a glass bottle and kept in the refrigerator for maximum freshness. I have a canning machine, so I can my mushroom ketchup for maximum freshness.

You should store it as soon as possible after you're done making it. The leftover mushrooms that are strained can be dried and used as a seasoning for cooking. I simply sprinkle a bit of them into a soup or on a chicken breast for a dash of flavor.

Any Other Types of Ketchup I Should Know About?

Mushroom ketchup isn't the only non-tomato option when it comes to ketchup. Fruit ketchup is a popular choice in some places; it's a mixture of sweet fruits like pears, apples, cherries, and plums. So what exactly is this fruit concoction used for? Believe it or not, fruit ketchup is used for many of the same purposes as it's tomato-based relative.

Although it's not quite a ketchup, murri is a similar sauce that's got historic roots. Murri is a condiment made from fermented barley, although I've only tried the less common but more modern version that's made from fish. Murri originated in medieval Arab cooking as one of the original "a little goes a long way" flavoring agents. Curry ketchup is also a great choice to try. The taste is similar enough to normal ketchup because of its use of tomatoes. 

Expand Your Palate

I hope my words inspire you to dive into the wonderful world of ketchup. Every journey into the culinary world is an opportunity to try new flavors and learn about different cultures. So go ahead—whip up a bottle of mushroom ketchup and bring a taste of the UK to your kitchen.


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