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Sauce vs. Ketchup: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 9, 2023
Sauce is a broad term for flavorful liquid condiments or dressings, while ketchup is a specific sweet and tangy tomato-based condiment.

Key Differences

Sauce is a generic term that encompasses a wide range of liquid or semi-liquid food items designed to enhance the flavor of dishes. Ketchup, on the other hand, refers specifically to a tomato-based condiment with a sweet and tangy taste.
While sauces can be made from a myriad of ingredients, including herbs, dairy, and broth, ketchup predominantly contains tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Its unique blend of ingredients gives it its distinctive flavor.
Sauce can be served hot or cold, depending on the dish and the type of sauce. Ketchup is typically served cold and is often paired with fast foods like fries and burgers.
The world of sauces is vast, with each cuisine having its signature sauces, such as soy sauce in Asian cooking or béchamel in French. Ketchup, originating from Chinese pickled fish sauces, has evolved in Western cultures to become a staple condiment, especially in American cuisine.
Many sauces require preparation, whether it's cooking, blending, or fermenting. In contrast, ketchup is generally a ready-to-use condiment, commonly found bottled in stores.

Comparison Chart


Broad term for liquid or semi-liquid condiments or dressings
Specific tomato-based condiment


Can be made from herbs, dairy, broth, etc.
Predominantly contains tomatoes, sugar, vinegar


Can be served hot or cold
Typically served cold

Cultural Variations

Found in many cuisines, e.g., soy sauce or béchamel
Originated from Chinese sauces, now Westernized


May require cooking, blending, fermenting
Generally ready-to-use and bottle

Sauce and Ketchup Definitions


Can be based on various ingredients like dairy or broth.
The chicken was simmered in a rich wine sauce.


Commonly paired with fast foods.
The burger tastes better with a generous squeeze of ketchup.


A liquid or semi-liquid food item to enhance flavor.
The pasta was served with a creamy garlic sauce.


Contains ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar.
He prefers ketchup with less sugar and more tang.


Served either as a dressing or condiment.
A side of cranberry sauce is a must with Thanksgiving turkey.


Typically bottled and ready-to-use.
Always check the expiration date on a ketchup bottle.


Found across global cuisines with varying flavors.
The dish was complemented with a spicy Thai sauce.


A tomato-based condiment with a sweet and tangy taste.
Ketchup is my favorite dip for fries.


Might require cooking or fermenting.
The sauce took hours to reach its desired consistency.


Evolved from ancient Chinese sauces.
The history of ketchup traces back to pickled fish sauces in China.


A condiment consisting of a thick, smooth-textured, spicy sauce usually made from tomatoes.


(uncountable) A tomato-vinegar-based sauce, sometimes containing spices, onion or garlic, and (especially in the US) sweeteners.
Tomato ketchup
This diner serves ketchup in red bottles, and mustard in yellow ones.


Can sauce be served both hot and cold?

Yes, depending on the type, sauce can be served hot or cold.

Can sauces be made without tomatoes?

Yes, sauces can be made from various ingredients, not just tomatoes.

Is ketchup spicy?

Standard ketchup is sweet and tangy, but there are spicy variations available.

Which is more versatile, sauce or ketchup?

Sauce is more versatile given its broad definition and variety of ingredients and uses.

Is ketchup a type of sauce?

Yes, ketchup is a specific type of sauce with a tomato base.

Is ketchup vegan?

Most standard ketchups are vegan, but it's essential to check the label for specific ingredients.

What is the primary base for ketchup?

The primary base for ketchup is tomatoes.

Can sauces be sweet?

Yes, some sauces, like dessert sauces or barbecue sauces, can be sweet.

Is ketchup only used as a condiment?

While commonly used as a condiment, ketchup can also be an ingredient in recipes.

Where did ketchup originally come from?

Ketchup has origins in ancient Chinese pickled fish sauces.

Can you cook with ketchup?

Yes, ketchup can be used in cooking, especially in recipes like meatloaf or as a base for certain sauces.

How long can you store an opened sauce in the fridge?

Depending on the sauce type, opened sauces can last a few days to a few weeks in the fridge. Always check for signs of spoilage.

Why is ketchup sometimes called "catsup"?

Both "ketchup" and "catsup" are Westernized terms for the sauce, with "ketchup" being more commonly used today.

Are there many variations of ketchup?

While the standard tomato ketchup is the most popular, there are variations like spicy ketchup or other fruit-based ketchups.

What are the main ingredients in most sauces?

The ingredients in sauces vary widely, from dairy and broth to herbs and spices.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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