This is the year of the spicy grocery store shelf: Major consumer brands are releasing hotter versions of all our favorite products. Heinz recently decided to jump on the bandwagon, releasing a new lineup of three different spicy ketchups: Chipotle, Jalapeño, and Habanero. And on top of that, the company has also released a new, spicier Heinz 57 sauce with red jalapeño, the first new addition to the Heinz 57 line in over 10 years. Clearly, this brand wants to capture the heat-seekers among us.
These are all permanent additions to the Heinz ketchup universe, and given that Heinz is America’s top ketchup by leaps and bounds, that is a big deal. Companies this big don’t take new releases lightly, so flavored variations on its flagship product indicate that Heinz is ready to cater to those who want to get a little more kick out of their food.
Heinz sent the new flavors to The Takeout to sample, and we gave them each careful consideration. Is the spice in each bottle enough of a selling point? Are these ketchups worth buying for summer barbecues? Let’s find out.
3rd place: Chipotle
First, a note on all of these new ketchup flavors: There’s no appreciable amount of new color to them, aside from the labels. They all resemble the classic red tomato ketchup, and that signature Heinz texture hasn’t changed one bit. There’s no graininess to them like, say, Sir Kensington’s (RIP), if that’s something you consider when you buy ketchup. Texturally and visually, it’s the same stuff you’re used to.
Maybe I’m a little jaded from doing frequent taste testing, but when I see the word “chipotle” tacked on to a menu item, I immediately get bored. I adore the flavor of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, because when they’re added fresh to a dish, their bold, smoky flavor is front and center. But if a consumer product says it contains chipotle pepper flavor, it’s always a toss-up on whether or not there’s enough of that flavor to register.
In this case, Heinz Chipotle ketchup is pleasant enough as a ketchup, but it could use more aggressive chipotle flavor. We could taste a basic smokiness after multiple tries, but none of the red jalapeño notes that live under it come out. As the mildest of the bunch, the spice level here is nearly nonexistent. I’d say it would make a good ingredient in a secret sauce as it would add a trailing end of smoke, but not in an assertive way.
2nd place: Jalapeño
Heinz Jalapeño ketchup was a little underwhelming in that it was fairly difficult to find that grassy, slightly bitter note of jalapeño pepper in the sauce. When I did notice it, I certainly appreciated it, but Heinz ketchup has a pretty strong flavor to begin with, and its strength steamrolled the poor jalapeño. I’ve been struggling with ideas for how to use this one in your cooking, since the chile flavor is so muted.
If you supplemented it with finely diced fresh jalapeño, I’m sure it’d be great on something like meatloaf, but having to add extra peppers sort of defeats the purpose of a premade spicy ketchup in the first place, doesn’t it?
1st place: Habanero
The Heinz Habanero spicy ketchup was far and away our favorite of the lineup. Not only was it the hottest one out of the three, with a slow lingering burn (I’d still peg this one as high-medium or on the low end of hot), but the habanero pepper flavor noticeably came out with a slight fruitiness as well. This one’s great for dipping french fries, if you want to enjoy the finer details of its flavor. When added to a burger, the ketchup would taste like regular Heinz with a sneaky small burn after each bite, and you probably wouldn’t notice the habanero nearly as much.
Now, the real question is whether or not I’d replace the regular Heinz in my fridge with the Habanero one. After some thinking, I’d say they’d probably be better off coexisting, rather than a complete swap, since they taste distinct enough from each other that they lend themselves to different uses. If you offered it on the condiment table at a cookout this summer, I am positive your guests would reach for it, plus it’d surely be a conversation starter.
Bonus review: Heinz Hot 57 Sauce
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had Heinz 57 sauce in years, possibly over a decade. It’s not a regular table sauce at bars or restaurants, and people don’t really talk about it much. So the flavor of this sweet steak sauce had to be reintroduced to my palate, and I’m sorry to say that it barely made an impression.
While it’s considered a steak sauce, 57 sauce is pretty sweet, with high fructose corn syrup being its second most prominent ingredient. I can’t really see myself dipping a savory steak into something like this (though I could certainly justify adding it to a cheap steak sandwich). The red jalapeño was there a little, but not in a standout way. However, I did appreciate the choice of a red jalapeño versus a green one, since they’re fruitier, which makes more sense for a sauce that has actual fruit like raisins and apples in it.
This sauce would be pretty terrific on grilled chicken before it hits the grill, because I could see its all-purpose sweetness pairing well with a charred poultry flavor. So don’t mistake 57 sauce’s generic qualities as a knock—instead, think of this sauce as more of a background player than a star of your dish.
When it comes down to it, none of the new Heinz sauces are bad. They all have that refined quality you’re used to in a Heinz ketchup. It’s just worth knowing, before you buy, that only the habanero really pulls away from the pack in terms of bold and spicy flavor. I have a feeling it’ll find a place in my refrigerator door later this summer.