While no one’s quite sure who first started the debate, people have not stopped scratching their heads over this question. It’s all in good fun, though the pro-smoothie advocates do make a good point. Their argument goes like this: if a tomato is a fruit, and smoothies are made of blended fruit, then is ketchup a smoothie?
If you’re going by the textbook definition–a blend of fruits and other ingredients–then you might want to call ketchup a smoothie. However, you definitely don’t want to drink this condiment with your morning granola bar. Find out exactly why ketchup is not a smoothie here.
What is Ketchup, Exactly?
Today, we know ketchup to be a sweet and tangy sauce that goes great with burgers and fries. But did you know that historically the term ketchup could refer to sauces made of anything from egg whites to mushrooms, grapes, oysters, or walnuts?
Today, it’s America’s favorite condiment, usually out of a bottle with the words Heinz Tomato Ketchup printed on the front. While different recipes can vary depending on who’s making it, most of them include tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and seasonings like onion powder and garlic. Some even include more exotic flavors like cinnamon or clove.
What Makes a Smoothie?
Usually, when we hear the word smoothie we think of a creamy blend of strawberries, bananas, berries, oranges, and other fruits. But what about green smoothies? Or smoothies that include nut butter?
The fact is, the definition of smoothie is actually a bit broader than we tend to think and can include almond butter, spinach, kale, and other vegetables. However, even the more eclectic recipes still use fruit as a base and are always predominantly sweet in flavor. While there isn’t any rule against including tomatoes in a smoothie, they are far from the most common ingredient.
Ketchup vs. Smoothie–Compare and Contrast
No matter which side of the is ketchup a smoothie debate you’re on, there are a few basic facts you have to recognize.
A Tomato is a Fruit, but Only Technically
Technically speaking, a fruit is a ripened, fleshy flower ovary containing seeds. While tomatoes do fit into this category this fact is more useful for botanists than it is for chefs. In fact, if you consider a tomato a fruit, then you also have to include cucumbers, chile peppers, squash, and eggplant.
In the real world, we classify fruits by their flavor and use in the kitchen. Fruits are usually sweet while vegetables are usually savory, it’s as simple as that!
Cooked or Not?
Tomato ketchup actually has a long cooking process to reduce the water in the tomatoes enough for a thick blend. This also helps the flavors of the vinegar and spices mingle together, creating a robust flavor that goes great with meat and fried food.
Smoothies are on the opposite side of the spectrum, bringing fresh, light flavor that won’t weigh you down in the morning. If you tried to cook them in the way ketchup is cooked, you’ll end up with something closer to fruit syrup.
Savory vs Sweet
While you could probably add enough sugar to your tomatoes to make them sweet, what you’d end up with would be less like a smoothie and more like tomato paste. Ketchup, while it does have a smooth texture and a bit of sweetness, also has a number of ingredients that don’t belong anywhere near a smoothie. Vinegar, salt, and onion powder put this pureed tomato product firmly in the category of savory.
However, if you’re looking for a smoothie recipe that incorporates both sweet and savory vegetables, look no further than our vegetable smoothie recipes. They’re as delicious as they are healthy, and come in all kinds of flavors.
Smooth and Glossy Vs Thick and Creamy
It’s true that ketchup and smoothies do have a somewhat similar texture, both are thick liquids with plenty of body. However, the way they each arrive at this texture is entirely different.
Ketchup gets its texture through a long cooking process as well as the addition of sugar which gives it its glossy finish. Some manufacturers also add other commercial thickeners to ensure it spreads easily on hamburger buns.
Smoothies, on the other hand, get their texture from blended ice or frozen fruit. A quality blender will be able to break down ice crystals so finely that they incorporate fully into the fruit blend. This, combined with the air bubbles mixed into the drink, give it a much thicker consistency than fruit juice. Because of how they’re made, a good smoothie needs a powerful blender with a sharp blade. Usually a $50 appliance won’t cut it.
One crucial difference between ketchup and smoothies is how long they keep. Since ketchup uses vinegar and salt as two of its main ingredients, it has an excellent shelf life and can keep fresh for up to a year when refrigerated. Smoothies, on the other hand, should always be drunk as soon as they’re made. While they’re perfectly safe after a few hours of refrigeration, they’ll lose their thick consistency and fresh flavor.
The Verdict: Ketchup is NOT a Smoothie
So is ketchup a smoothie? By now, the answer shouldn’t surprise you.
No matter how you look at it, ketchup is definitely not a smoothie. It has a different taste, texture, and is made in a completely different way. Though if you don’t want to take our word for it, try a glass of it for yourself and let us know what you think.
Still, that doesn’t mean this popular condiment doesn’t have its place in the kitchen. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy both, as long as you remember to keep ketchup out of your drinking glasses and smoothies off your french fries.