Editorial credit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock.com
If you’re not from a Filipino household, you may not be familiar with banana ketchup. And if you’re more accustomed to the Hunt’s or Heinz tomato variety of this condiment, banana ketchup might not sound all that great.
However, this unique ingredient is worth a spot on your table. Plus, its history is just as unique as its flavor. Let’s take some time to learn all about banana ketchup, shall we?!
The History of Banana Ketchup
Maria Orosa is regarded as the inventor of banana ketchup. Even so, Magdalo V. Francisco, Sr., started mass-producing the condiment in the 1940s. But regardless, while Food52 offers a fantastic report on the origins of banana ketchup, here are the basics.
Maria Orosa was a Filipino food chemist who held a passion for innovations as well as the idea of the Philippines as a self-sustaining country that didn’t necessarily need to rely on imported goods from elsewhere, like tomatoes. In order to create a ketchup substitute that didn’t require the use of imported tomatoes, Orosa combined ripe bananas, vinegar, spices and red food dye to create what was the first iteration of today’s well-regarded banana ketchup.
However, as Food52 details, Orosa’s story is much more complex than simply throwing some bananas and spices together to create a new condiment. After obtaining two degrees in both pharmaceutical chemistry and food chemistry while in the United States, Orosa worked at Centro Escolar University in the Philippines in the 1920s, as well as at the Bureau of Science.
She created 4-H clubs to teach Filipino families how to raise poultry, preserve foods and better feed their families. She also invented a clay oven that didn’t require electricity, which was perfect for families that didn’t have access to electric appliances. In the same vein, nearly all of her efforts were geared towards making the Philippines more sustainable and less reliant on other countries.
In addition to her ketchup substitute that was made out of bananas, Orosa also used native plants, like tamarind, to make wine and preserves. She used green banana flour and cassava in place of imported wheat flour. She made vinegar from coconuts. She even learned how to freeze mangos, making her the very first person to do so! All of this was done with the goal of making sure the Philippines could export some of their food as well.
During World War II, Orosa invented two products that were particularly impactful, the first of which being a soybean product called Soyalac, which was packed with nutrients and protein. The other product she invented was a rice product called Darak, which was filled with vitamins and had the ability to help people combat their vitamin deficiencies.
Working with the United States against the Japanese, Orosa developed ways to smuggle these two products into prisoner-of-war camps, and she is credited for saving the lives of a great number of prisoners. Sadly, Orosa ultimately died during the war herself.
How Does Banana Ketchup Compare to Regular Ketchup?
While Orosa’s swap for regular ketchup was ingenious, how does it actually compare to the real deal? You likely already have some tomato-based ketchup sitting in your fridge, but should you trade it out for banana ketchup instead?
Comparatively, banana ketchup is usually sweeter and less tangy than traditional ketchup. It’s typically served with salty foods for a sweet contrast. You might find it accompanying wings, fried rice, eggs, fried foods in general and even spaghetti.
Looks-wise, the banana ketchup appears almost identical to tomato ketchup when looking with the naked eye. But in terms of origin stories, the banana ketchup wins, hands-down. While banana ketchup was discovered at the hands of a heroine set on breaking educational and innovation barriers during a time where women didn’t quite get to do the same around the world, tomato ketchup’s story is rather boring.
It was first created in 1812, when a Philadelphia scientist who called tomatoes “love apples” wrote down a recipe that somewhat resembled today’s ketchup. Still, it didn’t contain vinegar, which was an issue, because vinegar — both in regular ketchup and banana ketchup — helps the condiment last longer.
For tomato-based ketchup, vinegar didn’t come on the scene in a broad way until Heinz introduced its ketchup in 1867. Made with tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices, Heinz ketchup changed the game!
How to Make Banana Ketchup
If you want to make your own banana ketchup at home, you’ll find a few recipe options. Food Republic published a banana ketchup recipe from Nicole Ponseca, a Filipino restaurateur based in New York, and her recipe actually includes a little bit of tomato.
Her recipe also includes garlic, shallots, ginger, tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, water and four mashed bananas. You’ll have to cook the mixture to obtain the right texture, and from there, you’ll want to puree it in a food processor until it’s smooth.
Other recipes, like this one posted by Serious Eats, come with a much lengthier list of ingredients, though it still includes tomato paste. The Serious Eats recipe adds in a range of spices, such as ginger, turmeric and allspice, alongside rum and honey, plus extra flavor from jalapeños and soy sauce.
The Spruce Eats offers a banana ketchup recipe that incorporates other spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, but it still calls for rum as well as corn syrup and chipotle chile peppers. But if you’re completely disinterested in the idea of adding tomato to your banana ketchup, you can use this recipe from Bon AIPpetit, which uses a lot of traditional spices we see in other recipes, such as turmeric and cloves, but no tomato!
Interestingly enough, the Bon AIPpetit recipe also includes a few items you might not see in other recipes, such as molasses and coconut aminos. On the other hand, McCormick also offers a banana ketchup recipe that doesn’t include any tomatoes. Their recipe is a mixture of spices, onion, bananas, vinegar, sugar, water and oil. If you’re low on pantry items and you don’t want to make a special trip to the store, this might be the best recipe option for you.
Where to Buy Banana Ketchup
But, if you don’t want to make your banana ketchup at home, you can always buy some. One of the most popular brands is Jufran, which sells its banana ketchup under the term of banana sauce instead of ketchup. For this particular ketchup, the ingredients are water, sugar, some spices, starches, artificial colors and flavors.
Wondering what reviewers had to say? Comments note that the banana ketchup isn’t spicy at all, and it’s not as thick as regular ketchup, but it does offer a decent replacement. Others describe the taste as being similar to a chili sauce, just less sugary. Many report buying the banana ketchup because they can no longer eat tomatoes for dietary reasons.
While Jufran is one of the more popular brands of banana ketchup, another option is Baron Banana Ketchup. You’ll automatically notice that this ketchup’s color is much more banana-like. However, the ingredients list is much more palatable for those trying to stick to ingredients that you can actually recognize, as well as avoid artificial flavors and dyes.
The list includes the following:
- Corn starch
- Hot pepper
- A few preservatives
- Added colors
Varieties of Banana Ketchup
Do note that the Jufran and Baron banana ketchups are two variations of banana ketchup. While the Jufran banana sauce is a Filipino brand, the Baron banana ketchup is more representative of the Caribbean take on the product.
Typically, the Caribbean-style banana ketchup is a little lighter and brighter, while the Filipino recipe is usually a little more basic and toned down. Either way, they are both worth trying!
How to Store your Banana Ketchup
If you purchased some banana ketchup, you’ll want to store it in the refrigerator, just like you do with many other condiments after they’ve been opened. Since the condiment is vinegar-based in most circumstances, it will last a pretty long time in the fridge as long as it’s in an airtight container.
How to Use Banana Ketchup
Wondering how you can use your banana ketchup beyond using it as a dip alongside your chicken wings or French fries? Just as you can add ketchup to many different dishes or recipes that you might already be familiar with, such as barbecue sauces or meatloaf, you can do the same with banana ketchup.
For example, here’s a recipe for Filipino-style barbecue ribs that uses banana ketchup in the sauce. Also, this recipe uses banana ketchup in the Filipino spaghetti dish mentioned above. However, don’t assume you can just swap out your regular ketchup for Filipino banana ketchup in any recipe and have a comparable experience.
For instance, you probably wouldn’t want banana ketchup on your hot dog. A good rule of thumb is to give banana ketchup a try on its own before you add it to anything else. That way, you can get a feel for the unique flavor of banana ketchup and what you might like it paired with the most.
Looking to Replace Tomatoes?
If you were interested in banana ketchup primarily because you need a replacement for traditional, tomato-based ketchup, there could be a few reasons.
You may have a basic tomato allergy. If you have what’s considered a Type I hypersensitivity to tomatoes, you’ll probably experience an allergic reaction whenever you’re exposed to tomatoes. However, these types of allergies are typically pretty rare and, if you do experience a tomato allergy, you might be allergic to other vegetables as well. You might even find that you have latex-fruit syndrome.
You may have a broader nightshade allergy, which causes breathing problems, rashes or eczema after you consume nightshade vegetables. Nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, but also potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, chilis, huckleberries and goji berries. It’s more often that you’ll be allergic to multiple nightshade vegetables as opposed to only being allergic to one, like tomatoes.
You might also be trying to eliminate tomatoes from your diet because of an autoimmune disease. The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is a popular diet to help alleviate symptoms of popular autoimmune diseases, from IBD to celiac disease to lupus, and requires you to cut out certain foods such as all nightshade vegetables, legumes, grains, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, sugars and food additives.
Luckily, if you’re trying to eliminate tomatoes from your life, no matter the reason, you can do so with the help of products like banana ketchup and making a few swaps here or there, too. For those with nightshade allergies, foods like beets, carrots and grapes are often popular substitutes for tomatoes.
For those specifically trying to remove tomatoes from their day-to-day diets, consider making simple swaps where tomatoes are most likely to be present. For instance, start by replacing tomato sauces with cream-based sauces and go from there.
Myths About Banana Ketchup
Since Magdalo V. Francisco, Sr., started mass-producing his banana ketchup in the 1940s, many assume that he created the condiment as a result of Americans bringing tomato-based ketchup to the islands. However, research has shown that Maria Orosa invented the condiment ahead of this time, and she has been recognized by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines accordingly.
Also, as the recipes above showed, don’t make the mistake of assuming that all banana ketchup is completely devoid of tomatoes, especially if it’s made at a restaurant or at home. Banana ketchup may very well contain tomato paste. That said, if a banana ketchup doesn’t contain tomatoes but it has a red tint regardless, it likely contains red food dye.
Other Varieties of Ketchup
Did you know that banana ketchup isn’t the only odd variety of ketchup out there? Historically, ketchup has been made from all sorts of interesting and unexpected ingredients, from mushrooms and oysters to soybeans and more.
In fact, the first version of any ketchup at all — though it’s not what we think of as ketchup in modern times — was a Chinese fish sauce called “ge-thcup” or “koe-cheup,” which is thought to be approximately more than two millennia old.
You might be hard-pressed to find oyster ketchup today, but you can find some pretty interesting and odd other ketchups for sale, such as ghost pepper ketchup, truffle ketchup and even fruit ketchup using blueberries, cherries, mangoes and peaches.
Break Your Ketchup Boundaries
The next time you reach for a bottle of the red stuff, think twice. You could broaden your culinary horizons and discover a new favorite condiment when you try new takes on the classics, from banana ketchup instead of tomato ketchup to banana milk instead of dairy milk and everything else banana-based!
You might also be interested in: 9 Best Sugar Replacements To Try…And One To Avoid