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What do the British call ketchup?

Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments in the world, but like many foods, it goes by different names in different countries. In the United Kingdom, ketchup is commonly referred to as “tomato sauce” or “red sauce.”

Why do the British call ketchup “tomato sauce”?

There are a few theories as to why Brits use the term “tomato sauce” instead of ketchup:

  • Ketchup originated as a fish sauce in Asia and was brought to the UK in the early 1800s. British companies began making a tomato-based version which was referred to as “tomato sauce” to distinguish it from the original ketchup.
  • Food labeling laws in the UK stipulate that products labeled as “ketchup” must contain a certain percentage of tomatoes. Many British “tomato sauce” brands do not meet this threshold, so cannot legally be called ketchup.
  • “Tomato sauce” is the direct translation of “tomatenketchup” which is what ketchup is called in parts of Europe. The term caught on in the UK.

What are some popular brands of tomato sauce in the UK?

Some of the major brands of tomato sauce consumed in the United Kingdom include:

  • Heinz – Known as “Heinz Tomato Ketchup” in the US and other countries, in the UK it is simply called “Heinz Tomato Sauce.” It has a thicker, more tomatoey taste compared to many UK tomato sauces.
  • HP – The top-selling tomato sauce brand in the UK, known for its tangy flavor. Fun fact – the “HP” stands for “Houses of Parliament.”
  • Daddies – A very thick, velvety textured tomato sauce. Second most popular after HP.
  • Hellmann’s – Produced by Unilever, known as “Best Foods” in the US. More vinegar-forward than other brands.
  • Branston – A thinner, slightly more acidic tasting sauce.
Brand Style
Heinz Thicker, more tomatoey
HP Tangy
Daddies Very thick texture
Hellmann’s More vinegar-forward
Branston Thinner, more acidic

How is British tomato sauce used compared to American ketchup?

While Brits use tomato sauce in many of the same ways Americans use ketchup, there are some differences:

  • Fish and chips – Tomato sauce is the classic accompaniment to fish and chips. Brits often pour it directly over the hot food.
  • Full English breakfast – Tomato sauce is frequently used to season items like fried eggs, bacon, sausages and hash browns as part of a full English breakfast.
  • Sandwiches – Tomato sauce is used as a sandwich condiment, often paired with cold cuts, cheese or fried fish fillets in a sandwich.
  • Cooking ingredient – British tomato sauce brands market themselves as an ingredient to use in cooking recipes like casseroles, pasta sauce, etc.

In the US, ketchup is more likely to be used as a burger topping, dip for fries and tater tots, or on its own with foods like eggs. The thick, velvety texture of British tomato sauce doesn’t always lend itself well to those uses.

What about other tomato-based condiments in the UK?

In addition to tomato sauce, there are a few other tomato-based condiments used in the UK:

  • Brown sauce – Made from tomatoes, molasses, dates, apples, tamarind and spices. HP is the most popular brand. Used similarly to tomato sauce.
  • Salad cream – An egg-based creamy condiment with some tomato flavoring. Used on salads, sandwiches, as a dip.
  • Ketchup – Yes, true “ketchup” is available, but mainly found in imported American foods sections of stores.


So in summary, while Brits and Americans adore the tomato-and-vinegar based condiment, in the UK it traditionally goes by the name “tomato sauce” rather than ketchup. Brands like HP and Heinz are tomato sauce icons in the UK. While it’s used on the classic fish and chips and full English breakfast, the usages differ slightly from how Americans use ketchup. But both cultures agree – tomatoes and vinegar make an irresistible sauce!