The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat ketchup. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.

What ketchup etiquette is

Ketchup etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve, use, and eat ketchup. Such rules help avoid behaviors that may disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow ketchup etiquette to serve it to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect ketchup etiquette rules to properly use it at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts.

What you should know about ketchup

Ketchup is a sauce used as a table condiment. It is made from tomato, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Ketchup is red in color, sweet and piquant in flavor, and quite dense in texture.

rules to eat and serve ketchup and add it to a dish

Etiquette rules to serve and eat ketchup

1) How to store ketchup

Store ketchup at room temperature, in a dry and cool place. Store it away from direct light and sources of heat.

After opening a bottle of ketchup, you should store it in the fridge. Oxygen can spoil ketchup, so make sure that its bottle or container is sealed. Consume ketchup before the expiration date on the bottle.

2) How to clean ketchup

Ketchup in commerce is ready for consumption. It does not need cleaning or filtering.

3) How to prepare & cook with ketchup

You can use ketchup to cook or as a dressing.

You can use ketchup to make sauces or bake it in pies. As a dressing, ketchup can be served with salads, fried food, salty or spicy dishes, and sandwiches.

Use ketchup sparingly. It is most appropriate to present ketchup to your guest separately from food, and let them add it to their liking.

4) How to serve & present ketchup

Ketchup is not common in dining etiquette. It may be placed on the dining table on informal occasions. However, ketchup is not most appropriate on formal occasions.

Serve ketchup at room temperature or slightly chilled. Take it out of the fridge about 20 or 30 minutes before serving it.

It is best to serve ketchup in a small bowl with a teaspoon. You can put a small saucer plate under the bowl to prevent ketchup from pouring onto the table. Only on very informal occasions, it is appropriate to serve ketchup in its bottle.

Place ketchup at the center of the table, next to the other condiments, so it is easily accessible to most or all guests. If you are hosting a large party, serve one ketchup bowl for every 8 guests.

At the end of the meal, before serving a cheese course, fruit, or dessert, it is polite to remove ketchup and other condiments from the table.

5) Foods & beverages to pair ketchup with

Ketchup is an informal food. It is most appropriate with fried, greasy, salty, and spicy foods. While it is most inappropriate with prized, lean, or delicate foods.

Serve ketchup to accompany hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, grilled or fried meat, fried eggs, and french fries or potato dishes.

Avoid ketchup with fish, seafood, or cheese. Never add ketchup to pasta or pizza.

The best drinks to pair ketchup with are soft drinks or beer. Wine does not pair with ketchup.

6) How to use & eat ketchup

In general, adding seasoning to a dish risks disrespecting your host. It can signal that you dislike the flavor, or that the dish could have been prepared better. Thus, if you add ketchup to a dish, add it in small quantities.

The most polite way to add ketchup is by pouring a small quantity on a side of your plate, beside the food. Avoid adding ketchup directly to the food. The only exception is when you eat street food, such as a hot dog. Add ketchup only to the food on your plate. Never add it to food on a shared dish.

When you eat ketchup as a dip with finger food, such as french fries, touch the sauce with the food once. Never double-dip.

Avoid eating spoonfuls of ketchup, as it is considered impolite.

ketchup etiquette mistakes

Ketchup etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst ketchup etiquette mistakes. 

  • 8/10. Pairing ketchup with prized, delicate, or lean foods.
  • 7/10. Adding ketchup in large quantities to your dish.

Additional information for properly serving ketchup

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

Ketchup contains about 112 calories per 100 grams (3.5 oz). A tablespoon of ketchup is 17 grams and contains about 19 calories.

How to buy the best ketchup

A crucial factor in ketchup etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Choose the best

Most ketchup in commerce is an industrial or semi-industrial product. Try different brands and identify the one that better suits your taste.

Alternatives to ketchup

The most common substitutes for ketchup are other sauces or condiments that pair well with the same type of food. Such as mayonnaise.


  • Physico-chemical and quality evaluation of tomato ketchup during storage: