Here’s Why We Put Ketchup on French Fries

Their relationship is more complicated than you thought!

Ketchup is a magical little condiment. It has a sweet and salty bite, makes just about any food more appetizing, and you can even clean with it! So how did ketchup become BFFs with french fries? Let’s start at the beginning.

When was ketchup invented?

Ketchup has been around for centuries but in a completely different form. In fact, the first ketchup recipe did not include tomatoes! Instead the Chinese made it from pickled fish; doesn’t sound as appetizing as today’s dip, does it? Red, tomato-based ketchup didn’t appear until almost a century later in the early 1900s and really started making its way to everyone’s dinner tables (and refrigerators) when the Heinz family bottled and sold it. Ketchup underwent another makeover in the 1970s with the rise of high-fructose corn syrup.

How did we eat French fries before ketchup?

America’s favorite way to eat vegetables originated not in France as the name suggests, but in Belgium. When French fries made their way onto the scene in Europe in the early 1800s, ketchup, as we now know it, had not been invented yet. Americans embraced the side dish in the 1930s and enjoyed them fried in beef tallow. In their birthplace of Belgium, fries are served with mayonnaise.

How did ketchup and fries get together?

There are reports of early adopters dipping their fries in ketchup from as early as the late 1800s, but the trend didn’t take off in America until the 1940s. As the popularity of fast food restaurants grew, so did the desire to dunk our fries in that tasty red sauce. Fast food restaurants started serving french fries with a side of ketchup, and we were hooked! We all love dipping our fries in ketchup, but do you know¬†the real difference between fancy and regular ketchup?

Carrie Madormo
Carrie Madormo is a business and wellness writer for internationally recognized publications, and her writing has been featured in Working Mother, USA Today and the Huffington Post. As a former nurse, Carrie loves to translate complex health studies into engaging content, and she's passionate about empowering readers to live their best lives by taking control of their health.