Does ketchup belong on a hot dog? It’s a contentious issue, with those who are opposed adamant about their opposition. Of course, you should have your wiener your way, but this is just to say that those of us who choose to take the ketchup path have some sound reasons.


Heinz has been around since 1869, but it wasn’t until under the Reagan administration in 1981 that ketchup entered the vegetable category in the U.S. (a long, sad school-lunch story). Of course, tomatoes are technically a fruit, and a condiment does not a veggie make. The nutritional value of ketchup is pretty much nil — but, then, same with mustard.

As a tomato is a fruit, one theory might be that those vociferously against ketchup-on-a-hot-dog are of the same ilk as the anti-pineapple-on-pizza faction. But — unlike pineapple — tomatoes are delicately sweet, and also an excellent source of savory umami. Ketchup’s additional tang makes it a win-win-win when it comes to accompanying meat. It also plays nicely with the spice of mustard.

It’s true that classic Heinz and many other brands of ketchup contain high-fructose corn syrup to amp up the sweetness. If that’s a concern, look for organic ketchup made with cane sugar — though we’re talking hot dogs, so maybe throw nutrition-caution to the wind? (However, I’d avoid Heinz No Sugar Added, which contains the artificial sweetener sucralose, “not normally found in ketchup,” according to the label.)

Chicago traditionally deplores ketchup on a hot dog. But the Chicago dog features tomatoes (plus onion, mustard, celery salt and lots of pickley stuff — nicely played, Chicago!), which are, as we know, the basis of ketchup. Are we so divided after all, the ketchup and the anti-ketchup parties?