We Settle the Debate of Ketchup vs Mustard

With Memorial Day and Summer Grilling Season Upon, We Explore Another Frequently Discussed Topic About Food FavoritesPhoto of a hot dog loaded with ketchup and mustard on a table

In this In The Mix blog, we take a look at another great food debate: ketchup vs mustard (the yellow variety). This is an especially relevant topic with Memorial Day weekend nearly upon us.

When it comes to favorite condiments, ketchup and mustard are at the top of most lists. However, these two sauces have been the center of many culinary discussions (ne: arguments) regarding which is better. Each sauce has its proponents and opponents. But what sets them apart, and is one really better than the other? Let’s look at the merits of each before we pick a winner.

The History of Ketchup

The origin of ketchup goes back over 2000 years to Southern China (History). However, tomatoes were not in the original recipe. Instead, the Chinese fermented fish entrails, meat byproducts and soybeans into a paste that was easy to store on long ocean voyages. They called the paste “ge-thcup” or “koe-cheup.”

British traders in Asia brought the paste home in the early 1700s. During the next 100 years, the recipe evolved into something much closer to modern ketchup. This included the addition of tomatoes.

The Popularity of Ketchup

Today, ketchup is enjoyed around the globe and is a staple of many U.S. diets. It’s found in nearly every American home and is the go-to condiment for fries, burgers and hot dogs. U.S. sales reached a staggering $765 million in 2017 (CNET).

Consumers love ketchup because of its sweet and tangy flavor. While there are many ketchup recipes, most start with tomato paste, sugar, and vinegar. Variations often include spices like allspice, ginger, cinnamon, or coriander.

Nutritionally, the tomatoes in ketchup provide a good source of lycopene (an antioxidant linked to heart health). However, ketchup often contains a considerable amount of sugar.

The History of Yellow Mustard

Like ketchup, yellow mustard paste originated several thousand years ago in China (Wikipedia). The paste was made from ground mustard seeds and consumed before meals in the royal courts to stimulate the appetite.

The Romans were likely first to use yellow mustard as a condiment. They mixed grape juice (the must) with ground mustard seeds to make “burning must” (mustum ardens in Latin, or must ard when shortened).

Use of yellow mustard subsequently spread through Europe and eventually to the U.S.  Many believe it was introduced as a hot dog condiment by the R.T. French Company at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

French’s yellow mustard remains an iconic brand in the U.S. to this day. The recipe includes water, vinegar, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika, spice, garlic powder and other flavors.

The Popularity of Yellow Mustard

While not as ubiquitous as ketchup in the U.S., the yellow mustard market topped $433 million in 2017.

Yellow mustard traces its popularity to the complex tanginess it can add to a variety of foods from burgers and hot dogs to sandwiches and salads.

Nutritionally, mustard is typically considered healthier than ketchup. It tends to have fewer calories (due to less sugar or high fructose corn syrup) and less salt (due to its tanginess from mustard seeds and other ingredients). Some also believe mustard helps relieve joint pain, skin problems, and respiratory issues.

Which is Better, Ketchup or Yellow Mustard?

Like most “which is better” food debates (see our Chocolate vs Vanilla Ice Cream blog), personal preference typically is the deciding factor. For this writer, yellow mustard is the clear winner. It’s ability to enhance other foods is far superior to ketchup. A bacon cheeseburger isn’t the same without it. Nor is potato salad. That said, I have a friend that must add ketchup to steak – even in upscale restaurants. Ketchup on French fries, on the other hand, is a must. And fried cheese curds dipped in a ketchup and grape jelly sauce are amazing. Still, I’m sticking with yellow mustard as my king of condiments.

For More Information

For more information about how ProQuip tank agitators can be used in food production, email applications@proquipinc.com or call us at 330-468-1850.