Ketchup vs Mustard. The Great Hot Dog Debate


Hot dogs are one of America’s most iconic foods. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans eat over 20 billion hot dogs every year! When it comes to condiments on hot dogs, the debate between ketchup and mustard has raged for over a century. While mustard has historically been the more “acceptable” hot dog topping, ketchup has become increasingly popular over the years. This article will dive into the history, preferences, and differences between ketchup and mustard on hot dogs to help settle the great debate once and for all.

Brief History of Hot Dogs

The origin of the hot dog traces back to Germany in the late 1600s, when butchers began experimenting with various meats and seasonings (sources). These sausages made their way to America in the 1800s when German immigrants brought recipes for “frankfurters” and “wieners”. Hot dogs grew in popularity at sporting events and amusement parks in the early 1900s.

Ketchup and mustard both became associated with hot dogs around this time. Ketchup had already become popular in the 1800s as a general condiment. Mustard gained favor as a hot dog topping after the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where the bright yellow condiment was featured prominently (sources). This helped solidify the quintessential “hot dog with ketchup and mustard” combination that many Americans enjoy today.
ketchup and mustard history as hot dog toppings

Regional Differences

There are distinct regional differences in ketchup and mustard preferences across the United States when it comes to hot dogs. According to a survey by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, mustard is the most popular hot dog topping nationally, preferred by 32% of respondents. However, ketchup came in a close second at 28% (“Mustard Remains Americans’ Favorite Hot Dog Topping …”). Regionally, mustard dominates in the East, Midwest, and West.

In the East, for example, mustard is preferred by 36% compared to ketchup at 27%. This may be due to the influence of street cart vendors in New York City, where mustard is a staple condiment on hot dogs. In the Midwest, mustard again leads at 34% versus ketchup at 22%. The Midwest leans toward traditional hot dog preparations, often not even allowing ketchup as an option.

The West also favors mustard at 32% over ketchup’s 29%. California’s preference for mustard could be attributed to the popularity of bacon-wrapped hot dogs loaded with grilled onions, peppers, and mustard. The Southwest, however, tells a different story. There, ketchup dominates as the favorite at 38% over mustard at just 21%. This could be due to the Mexican-inspired hot dogs popular in places like Arizona and New Mexico that pair well with ketchup.

regional hot dog topping preferences

The one region where ketchup rules supreme is the South at 44% versus mustard at 21%. Southerners have a penchant for sweet, tangy flavors like barbecue sauce, so ketchup complements those taste preferences. Additionally, brands like H.J. Heinz have roots in the South, popularizing ketchup in the regional cuisine (“Ketchup challenges mustard’s hot-dog supremacy”).

Nutritional Differences

When comparing the nutritional differences between ketchup and mustard, there are several key areas to consider such as calories, sodium, and sugar content.

Ketchup generally has more calories and sugar than mustard. For example, a 1 tablespoon serving of Heinz tomato ketchup contains around 20 calories and 4g of sugar, while the same serving size of French’s classic yellow mustard has 0 calories and 0g of sugar (source).

However, some ketchups may have less sugar than others. Organic ketchup brands like Sir Kensington’s contain 2g of sugar per tablespoon. Overall though, most ketchups will be higher in calories and sugar compared to mustards.

With sodium, yellow mustard often has more than ketchup. A tablespoon of French’s yellow mustard contains about 110mg sodium, while Heinz ketchup has around 190mg per tablespoon. However, spicy brown mustards and Dijon often contain less sodium than yellow mustard and can be comparable to ketchup.

In summary, ketchups tend to be higher in calories and sugar than mustards, while mustards can sometimes be higher in sodium depending on the specific type. When making a nutritional comparison, it’s important to look at the specific brands and ingredients.

Taste Preferences

Ketchup and mustard have very different taste profiles that appeal to different palates. Ketchup is known for its sweet, tangy tomato flavor, while mustard often has a more pungent, spicy taste.

ketchup and mustard taste profiles

Ketchup’s sweetness makes it popular, especially with kids. According to The Ketchup Conundrum, the average American consumes over 3 bottles of ketchup per year, with kids making up a significant portion of that usage. The combination of tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar gives ketchup a flavor profile that is craved by those with a sweet tooth.

In contrast, mustard can have a more polarizing flavor due to the spiciness from the mustard seeds. Dijon mustard in particular is known for its robust, peppery taste. The tanginess and heat of mustard caters more to those who enjoy strong, complex flavors.


Ketchup and mustard are classic condiment pairings for hot dogs, burgers, and other American-style foods. However, they can be delicious on many other dishes as well. Ketchup’s sweet and tangy flavor pairs nicely with foods like eggs, fries, mozzarella sticks, and roasted vegetables. According to one source, ketchup complements foods like “Potato Fries, Sweet potato fries, Scrambled Eggs, Potato chips, Grilled cheese sandwich, Mozzarella sticks, Hot dog, Hamburger” ( Mustard’s spicy and vinegar notes pair well with meats like sausages, cold cuts, and sandwiches. Both condiments add flavor and moisture to otherwise dry foods.

Some classic pairings beyond hot dogs and burgers include ketchup with french fries, tater tots, onion rings, roasted potatoes, and grilled or breaded vegetables. Mustard shines with soft pretzels, sandwiches, sausages, and more. People also creatively use these condiments in unexpected ways, like mustard on watermelon. While ketchup and mustard are most associated with American cuisine, they can enhance flavors in dishes from around the world. Their versatility and popularity come from the way they complement and bring out the best in so many foods.

Environmental Impact

environmental impact of ketchup vs mustard
Ketchup and mustard have different environmental impacts when it comes to manufacturing and packaging. Ketchup is commonly packaged in plastic bottles or pouches which can create a lot of plastic waste. Mustard on the other hand is often packaged in glass jars which are more eco-friendly and reusable. According to this source, serving condiments in bulk with reusable containers instead of individually packaged portions can significantly reduce waste at events or in food service.

When it comes to manufacturing, ketchup has a higher water footprint than mustard. Tomato farming uses a significant amount of water, which increases the water usage in ketchup production. Mustard seeds generally require less water and resources to grow and manufacture. Companies like SIG are working on more sustainable packaging solutions for condiments like ketchup and mustard to reduce their environmental impact.

Cost Differences

When comparing the prices of ketchup and mustard, mustard often comes out as the more affordable option. According to Spend Smart Eat Smart, a 14-ounce bottle of mustard can cost as little as $1.99, working out to just $0.14 per ounce. In comparison, the price of ketchup has risen significantly in recent years. An analysis by ABC7 found that a 32-ounce bottle of ketchup increased in price from an average of $4.08 in May 2022 to $5.22 in May 2023. That equates to approximately $0.16 per ounce. On Amazon, a 44-ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup is priced at $20.47, or $0.47 per ounce. The larger volume ketchup is nearly 3.5 times more expensive per ounce than a value brand mustard. While specialty mustards can also command higher prices, standard yellow mustard remains one of the most budget-friendly condiment options. Its inexpensive price point makes it accessible for daily use.

Ketchup and Mustard on Other Foods

While the debate over ketchup versus mustard on hot dogs is a spirited one, it’s important to note that both condiments are used on a wide variety of other foods as well. Their versatility extends far beyond just hot dogs and sausages.

Ketchup, for example, is a popular condiment for french fries, tater tots, chicken nuggets, burgers, scrambled eggs, and more. It adds a sweet, tangy flavor that pairs well with salty and savory foods. According to Mustketch, ketchup’s versatility makes it a great sauce, dip, and condiment for foods like hamburgers, chicken tenders, and scrambled eggs (

Likewise, mustard has many applications beyond hot dogs. It can be used on sandwiches, hamburgers, pretzels, chicken fingers, and as part of salad dressings or marinades. True Made Foods even sells a Picnic Pack with ketchup, mustard and hot sauce to use as condiments for a variety of picnic foods (

The versatility of both ketchup and mustard speaks to their popularity and usefulness as condiments. Their distinct flavors complement a wide range of foods, making them pantry staples for most homes and restaurants.


In summary, there are good arguments to be made for both ketchup and mustard when it comes to hot dogs. Ketchup offers a sweet, tangy flavor that many people find complements the salty taste of hot dogs. It’s also lower in sodium than mustard. However, mustard has a stronger, spicier kick that can cut through the richness of hot dogs. It also has no added sugar, unlike ketchup. While ketchup remains the most popular hot dog topping across the US, recent data suggests that mustard is gaining ground, especially among younger consumers looking for bolder flavors.

When it comes to personal taste preferences, there’s no right or wrong choice. The beauty of hot dogs lies in their versatility – dress them up however you like best! The ketchup versus mustard debate looks set to continue, with strong opinions on both sides. But as long as we can agree that hot dogs bring people together for summertime fun, does it really matter which condiment reigns supreme?

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