Pour some sugar on me

Here’s the thing.

I have eliminated nearly all sugar from my diet for the past three months. This is not easy to do. It’s not like just giving up soda and not putting sugar in your coffee. There is sugar in nearly everything that’s commercially available, including sauces, meats, breads, soups…pretty much everything that’s “packaged” may contain some form of sugar.

I’m not going to go in to all of the different names sugar hides under, because, frankly, there are too many. The TL;DR version is: sugar, corn syrup (high fructose or otherwise), natural flavour, “flavour”, etc.. There are a lot of sugars in fruit, so anything made with “fruit purée” has sugar in it (granted, it’s natural sugars with fibre and vitamins and such, but it’s still sugar). Honey is a natural sweetener that, if you can manage to find it unprocessed and raw, is *less* harmful for you, but it still has some of the similar effects on your body that processed sugars do. Specifically, it buggers around with your blood sugar levels and confuses your body as to what sort of macronutrients to burn.

When I decided to start making my own sauces (BBQ, salad dressing, ketchup, etc.), I was pretty surprised at how much sugar they have in them. And, when I went sugar-free, I ditched them completely. After making some spinach and mushroom scrambled eggs today, I was thinking how great it would be to make some sugar-free ketchup. So I started looking for recipes.

Of the 20 or so recipes I looked at, 18 of them included some form of sugar (this is an incomplete list):
date sugar
palm sugar
sucralose (like Spelnda. It’s a sugar substitute that’s been processed with chlorine.)
agave syrup
maple syrup

Now, I did a search for “sugar-free ketchup recipe”, and not “unsweetened ketchup recipe”.

But here’s the thing. “Sugar-free” ought not be synonymous with “not sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup”. Seriously. It ought to mean “contains no forms of sugar”.

And so many of these recipes were posted by bloggermommies who were all going on about how they didn’t like how much sugar their kids were exposed to and how off-the-shelf ketchup was loaded with sugar (which it is, and I don’t blame them for wanting to provide healthier alternatives to mass-produced processed foods). But I’m really grumpy about the whole “sugar-free” title meaning “this one specific form of sugar is not used in this recipe”.

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. Assuming you’re using tomato base, do you mean no *added* sugar? Cause your tomatoes will bring their own sugars with them as they are fruits. Though legumes also bring sugars to the party. True sugar free is super difficult to achieve.

    1. No, actually, I mean no *processed* sugars. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables “don’t count” in my book. Although I have limited quite drastically my consumption of fruit and veggies and legumes for exactly this reason.

      In fact, for about a month, the only real sugars I got were from the leafy greens, onions, and garlic with which I was cooking.

      Natural sugars present in fruit and legumes (and to a limited extent in vegetables) can still cause problems with blood sugar levels, although the fibre tends to cause a slower digestion (and therefore release) rate.

      But the point is neither here nor there. When I look up a recipe for “sugar-free ketchup”, the third fucking ingredient had better not be “palm sugar”.

  2. I think you will have to accept something that tastes _different_ from Store Boughten Ketchup, unless you want to use artificial sweeteners. But if you leave the sugar out of any nice-looking recipe and add a moderate quantity of unsweetened apple sauce, the result will probably be quite good. Possibly better than Store Boughten Ketchup. (Kids are more likely to agree if they help make it and adjust the seasonings.)

    A radically low-sugar ketchup will need even more jiggering, especially if you don’t want crazy amounts of sodium. The lack of sugar will leave a “hole” in the flavor that you’ll need to fill with something else; it will probably end up tasting quite different. I have a feeling that white miso might help here (no idea how much, try half as much as tomato paste?) Well, it may have some sugars in too, but I’m sure they’re very laid-back sugars that meditate a lot.

    1. unsweetened apple sauce (or just pureed apples, for that matter) are full of natural sugars that I don’t want. And I’m not concerned about sodium! I’m okay with homemade unsweetneed ketchup not tasting like “store-boughten” ketchup because “store-boughten” ketchup is, let’s be honest, a little grody.

      I’m’a look into this white miso. I dig the idea of laid-back sugars that meditate a lot.

      Ultimately, I just want unsweetened ketchup.

      As an aside, I added tomato puree to my scrambled eggs and spinach and onion frittata thing last night. That was just about exactly the flavour I wanted. Tomatoes, roasted garlic, fried onion, salt, and a bit of cumin. I think I may have just invented the recipe I want.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: