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Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ketchup Recipe

Homemade lacto-fermented ketchup is thankfully devoid of processed sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Historically, most condiments were lacto-fermented in the era before refrigeration and hot water bath canning. This natural fermentation method provided an easy way to preserve food while giving it a pleasantly sour taste. As it turns out, these naturally cultured foods were also full of beneficial, probiotic bacteria. If you want to try your hand at getting more of these lacto-fermented foods into your diet, culturing your condiments is a simple way to start.

The following recipe for Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ketchup is featured in the Get Cultured! How To Ferment Anything online course, and was created and shared by Jenny of Nourished Kitchen. Thank you, Jenny!

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

Yield: 1 pint

The Players


The How-To

1. Mix tomato paste and sweetener in a mixing bowl.

2. Whisk in the whey (or other starter culture), vinegar, sea salt, allspice, and cloves. Continue blending until all ingredients are evenly dispersed and the mixture is smooth.

3. Spoon the homemade ketchup into a smaller mason jar, top with the remaining 2 tbsp of fresh whey or starter culture, cover, and let sit undisturbed at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.

4. After 3-5 days, uncover the homemade ketchup and stir it thoroughly. Cover with an airtight lid, and transfer to refrigerator for storage. You can use it immediately, and it will last for several months in your fridge.

This is normally the part where I say, “ENJOY!” But since this was a recipe featured in in the Get Cultured! How To Ferment Anything online course, I actually have an extra treat for you.

Watch The Video

In the video clip below, you’ll see Jenny prepare the homemade lacto-fermented ketchup. Hopefully, you’ll also see how ridiculously easy it is to make!

Want More Where This Came From?

Get Cultured! How To Ferment Anything features more than a hundred recipes spread across 13 in-depth lessons. It also features a ton of downloadable notes, tutorials, recipes, resources, and more! I’ve never seen anything this comprehensive available online before.

The e-course is currently on sale for $147 — that’s more than $50 off it’s regular price. And, if you use coupon code SAUERKRAUT on or before May 22nd 2012, you can get an additional $50 off.

That means you can get this e-course for as little as $97, more than half off it’s regular price!

Click here for more information about the Get Cultured! e-course.

(photo by nicolesusanne)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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43 Responses to Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ketchup Recipe
  1. Misha
    May 18, 2012 | 10:17 am

    Oh thank you! The timing of this recipe is just perfect for me. We’re almost out of our store-bought ketchup (organic though it may be, it’s not really healthy or fermented!) and I was just thinking fermented ketchup should be the next step in my journey to traditional foods.

  2. Elizabeth Gilhuly via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 12:02 pm

    I have also made this ketchup. I attest to the fact that it is EASY! And probably cheaper.

  3. Kimberly Skinner via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 12:06 pm

    this is on the list of things to try, looking forward to it!

  4. Jill
    May 18, 2012 | 12:14 pm

    Interesting that you fermented the ketchup with just a cloth over the top so it could breathe. I had been making it similarly, but with a tight-fitting lid! I just looked up the recipe in Nourishing Traditions and I see that there are no instructions regarding covering. I guess I just filled that blank in myself! Have you tried it both ways, or have you heard about any differences in results? Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    • KristenM
      May 18, 2012 | 12:32 pm

      Hi Jill,

      I think that since it’s a short-term ferment, the cloth cover simply helps the CO2 off-gas. I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you put it with a tight-fitting lid, you’ve had to periodically “burp” the jar to let the CO2 out. If you leave the ferment covered with cloth, the CO2 won’t pressurize the inside of the jar since it has a means of escape. That said, if you leave it undisturbed, the CO2 will still hover over the ferment and help create an anaerobic environment for the bacteria to grow since CO2 is heavier than air.

      If the ferment were longer, or had to go through more stages to “mature,” then I bet you’d see a noticeable difference between covering it with cloth or having the tight-fitting lid. That’s because in a longer ferment, you’re facilitating a different balance of bacteria that would thrive better in an air-tight environment.

      As it is, I don’t think you’d see any difference in the final ferment or the type of bacteria grown with a ferment this short. All you get by covering it with a cloth is no need to “burp” your lids to let CO2 out.

      • Kim
        May 18, 2012 | 1:33 pm

        I was wondering the same thing about the cloth vs lid. Thanks for the info!

      • Jill
        May 19, 2012 | 6:55 am

        Wow, very interesting! Thanks so much!

  5. Woody Be via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 12:25 pm

    This looks great! I’m glad I found your site. I’ve just started a food site. I’d like to refer people to your site and recipes, like this one for instance. Is that cool?
    Also, this recipe seems like it could lend itself nicely to variation in flavors. Is that true? Are there any key things that could mess up the chemistry of the fermentation?
    Thanks a lot!!

  6. Woody Be via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 12:27 pm

    I’m not big on constant advertising, but I guess I should share my site. It is very new, so hang tight. But I would love it if you would follow me, Food Renegade.

  7. Linda Duffy via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 1:07 pm

    Cute site Woody, but not sure how many food renegades are going to be using any recipes containing refined flour and sugar.

  8. Emily Morgan via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 1:27 pm

    I have fresh raw kefir available. Direction saw use that in place of whey? Is that correct or do i somehow have to strain kefir to get kefir whey? I really want to try for my kiddos?

  9. Food Renegade via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 1:30 pm

    Emily Morgan — Yes, you’d have to strain your kefir the same way you would yogurt.

  10. Woody Be via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 1:47 pm

    Yeah. I understand the thing about flour and sugar. I just had to get something up on the site, and that’s what I had at the time.

  11. Rebecca
    May 18, 2012 | 1:47 pm

    I have a question — how do you get that amount of whey from kefir? I make raw milk kefir daily, and sometimes I see the clear liquid in the jar, but it is not usually at the top, and not usually in the amount called for in this recipe. Any recommendations for me? Thanks.

    • KristenM
      May 18, 2012 | 1:50 pm

      The same way you’d get it from yogurt — drain the kefir or yogurt through layers of cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel. I used that method in this recipe for Pumpkin Cream “Cheese”, if you want to see pics of it in action.

  12. Karen Joy
    May 18, 2012 | 2:55 pm

    Hmmm… I have everything for this recipe except for that much tomato paste! I keep meaning to make some from my organic garden tomatoes, but I keep using them in other things.

    Do you make your own, or do you have a good source for organic tomato paste? I have 4 small cans from Trader Joe’s, but this recipe would use up all of the tomato paste I currently have, and would make the cost of the recipe close to $4. Not ridiculously expensive, but I’m always looking for ways to be frugally healthy. :D

  13. Joni Pettus Gilmore via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 3:27 pm

    I have made fermented ketchup and have to agree that it was amazing, but I am getting tired. I just found a local source for homemade fermented ketchup and I can’t wait to try it!

  14. mary
    May 18, 2012 | 6:06 pm

    Re: Rebecca, May 18…..Am just learning about kefir. When whey becomes visible in kefir,it apparently means the ksfir is “hungry” so to speak. So you could do a batch of kefir and purposefully put the kefir grains into not very much milk and it will get that separated, whey -on-top appearance. Experiment w/ ratios ( whatever the end p[roduct,it’s all good, right?, it can be drunk or used as an ingredient in cooking). mm

    • Rebecca
      May 19, 2012 | 9:33 am

      I have found that out, too… sometimes I forget in the mornings to strain my kefir, and I see that the whey has separated (this sort of happens to my sourdough starter in the fridge when it is time to “feed” it). But it just never is at the top for me, it is sometimes at the bottom, in the middle, etc. I can figure it out somehow. I can’t wait until my cabbage grows in my garden, as I want to make sauerkraut from scratch!!! Thanks for the tip!

  15. Veronica
    May 18, 2012 | 7:32 pm

    What’s the difference between a wild ferment and a starter ferment?

    • KristenM
      May 18, 2012 | 8:05 pm

      A wild ferment is when the culture is gathered and grown from the wild yeast and bacteria native to your food, your hands, and your kitchen.

      In a starter ferment, you introduce a starter culture in order to shoot for consistent results. Most cheeses rely on starters in order to facilitate the growth of the particular bacteria culture that turns the milk into the various kinds of cheeses you enjoy. Likewise, there are different strains of yogurt, kefir, sourdough, and more.

      In vegetable ferments, you typically create a wild fermentation, but sometimes you may add a starter culture to give your good bacteria a boost (so that they more easily out compete the bad bacteria that would spoil the food) or to help create more consistent results.

  16. Nancy Churchill Bengtson via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 8:19 pm

    The first time I made it it was delicious! The second time it tasted funky and none of us liked it. Any ideas??

  17. Miriam
    May 18, 2012 | 9:23 pm

    Any ideas on how to make it without whey or those starter cultures? A keep kosher and I’d love to have since non-dairy on-hand for meat meals.


    • KristenM
      May 18, 2012 | 10:26 pm

      You can use any vegetable culture as a starter, so the juice from another ferment like sauerkraut will work too.

  18. Kelly Kindig via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 9:24 pm

    I’ve been looking for one like this

  19. Melanie G
    May 18, 2012 | 10:03 pm

    Very interesting. Seems so easy!

  20. Food Renegade via Facebook
    May 19, 2012 | 11:25 am

    Nancy Churchill Bengtson — Did you use whey as the starter culture? If yes, that was probably your culprit. I don’t like using whey as a starter culture for veggie ferments for just this reason. If the whey tastes even mildly different or off, the whole ferment gets thrown way out of whack.

  21. Gale
    May 19, 2012 | 12:08 pm

    I gotta say, this sounds like something I want to try…once I looked at the recipe and got over the “Lacto-Fermented” part (“Lacto-fermented” just does not have the most pleasant ring to it…I mean, if I heard the term “lacto-fermented” and “pink slime” next to each other and didn’t know the difference I wouldn’t be likely to try one more than the other). But, doesn’t sound so bad once you read what it is. Pinned it on pinterest for later!

    • KristenM
      May 19, 2012 | 12:47 pm

      Yeah. I don’t like the way that term sounds either. It’s why I most often call these foods “naturally fermented” or “cultured.” Yet while those terms *sound* better, they’re not descriptive or specific enough.

      When people hear “cultured,” they don’t think of intentional bacterial cultures. And when people hear “naturally fermented,” they’re most likely to think of alcoholic beverages.

      Really, the only term that adequately and properly captures that we’re talking about the traditional preservation of food through cultivating lactic-acid producing bacteria is “lacto-fermentation.” Too bad it sounds so blegh.

  22. Sara
    May 21, 2012 | 9:08 am

    I am curious if I can still make fermented ketchup with regular apple cider vinegar? I live in Morocco and I don’t have access to raw cider vinegar (although I tried to make it once and that turned out miserably :) ). Will it still ferment with regular cider vinegar? Thanks.

  23. Karen Joy
    May 24, 2012 | 4:54 pm

    For the curious… Three, six-ounce cans of tomato paste (the regular, small tins) is exactly two cups. WHY they measure tomato paste by weight and not volume, I do not know.


    I have a batch now sitting on my kitchen countertop. Can’t wait to try it!!

  24. Kim
    May 25, 2012 | 10:28 am

    Just made this and it tasted great! Used whey I had from making yogurt, and I let it ferment for 4 days. It tasted a lot better than store bought in my opinion. I think the spices really make it :)

  25. Rebecca
    June 1, 2012 | 9:28 am

    I have a question… I made this on Monday of this week, and the jar is now covered with white stuff (mold?) and now I am afraid to try it. I am wondering, what went wrong? I followed directions, and used whey from my kefir. I used raw honey, raw apple cider vinegar. My honey smelled weird, vs. commercial honey, but I think that it is supposed to smell that way, I don’t eat much honey. Can you tell me what I did wrong? And is it safe to scoop off the “mold” part and still use the rest?


    • Amanda
      June 20, 2012 | 10:12 am

      I had this same problem! Did you find out if it is ok?

  26. Amanda
    August 24, 2012 | 9:10 pm

    How long does this stay good?

  27. monifah
    December 9, 2012 | 11:43 am

    My ketchup is fizzy!

  28. Nancy
    December 21, 2012 | 12:34 pm

    I was wondering about the mold on top to. I don’t see Replys to this issue. Mine is on day 3, I used whey from my raw milk. Do I just stir it in?

  29. Mpbusyb
    March 11, 2013 | 9:23 am

    How interesting. I was on another website about lacto-fermented ketchup, and there were no comments or replies to all the questions about the white mold there either. I have a funky-looking white growth on my ketchup. I am tempted to either boil the whole thing down to kill all the spores and growth or strain it out and refrigerate anyway. What did all of you (Nancy, Rebecca and Amanda) wind up doing with yours. I wondered if it is from using dairy whey instead of veggie culture.

    • R\
      May 22, 2013 | 7:45 pm

      in the nourishing traditions book it says when ferments develop mold to scrape it off the top and discard and the ferment is still good. this should apply to ketchup, not sure about more liquid things like beverages that are fermented.

  30. Danielle
    March 28, 2013 | 8:17 am

    Can you ferment store bought ketchup? I can buy WF organic ketchup for a few dollars but the ingredients for homemade ketchup are much, much more expensive. Is there any reason (like preservatives) that you can’t add whey to store bought ketchup and let it ferment the same way?

  31. McGlennMommy
    May 13, 2013 | 10:00 am

    I’ve noticed on other parts of this site she has said that you can just scrape off the white mold because it isn’t harmful. I think it’s due to exposure to oxygen (I noticed that while lightly covered the liquid I poured over the top evaporated, which would allow some oxygen to reach it).

    What I’m curious about is, mine isn’t fizzy…should it be? Today is the 3rd day and I don’t see anything really happening. I used veggie starter.

  32. AthenaK
    September 21, 2013 | 1:52 pm

    Will a plain mason jar work to store it?

  33. Rachel in Oklahoma
    May 22, 2014 | 9:03 pm

    Hi! Just made this recipe (I usually used your recipe from “Beautiful Babies” with success)and after a 3-day ferment, I ended up with something like “tomato jello in a jar”– rather weird texture. Is this common? or did I do something wrong? (and is it okay to still eat it?) I had a little of the initial pre-fermented ketchup left over after I filled my fermenting jar, and put that in the fridge; it seems normal consistency. Could the 1/4c. whey cause the ketchup to “gel”?

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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