In the wide world of consumer packaged goods, spicy food continues to be all the rage. From hot sauce SpaghettiOs to ghost pepper soup to Flamin’ Hot Ruffles, there’s never been a better time to seek out snacks and condiments with a kick, no matter how much of a burn you want. And now that grilling season is in full swing, even ketchup is amping up the spicy flavors to scorch your favorite dishes.
Heinz’s new lineup of spicy ketchup flavors, released in April of this year, certainly have everyone buzzing. All three varieties (plus the complementary Hot 57 Sauce) are solid Heinz products, but the Habanero Ketchup is easily the best—and spiciest—of the bunch. And now, in time for summer, a new competitor has entered the space: Tapatío, whose spicy ketchup debuted in May.
Yup, that Tapatío, famed hot sauce brand, collaborator on the very best Doritos at the grocery store, and capable producer of instant ramen. It’s now releasing a spicy tomato ketchup for those who like their burgers and hot dogs to burn with chile pepper flavor.
As a fan of Tapatío, I can name a few advantages this brand has over its hot sauce competition: the condiment has an upper-middle level of heat that makes it highly versatile, and it’s almost always one of the cheapest options at the store. It seems like there’s nothing this brand can’t do—though going up against Heinz in the spicy ketchup space is certainly ambitious.
While spicy ketchup isn’t exactly storming the market just yet, the release of multiple Heinz varieties (jalapeño, chipotle, and habanero) indicate that there’s an opening for this condiment to hit it big. So, can Tapatío ketchup outperform Habanero Heinz, the latter brand’s best new release?
I dispensed a small amount of each ketchup to sample with french fries; it was easy to visually distinguish the two as soon as they hit the plate. The Heinz Habanero has its ultra-glossy signature texture, while the Tapatío has just a touch of visible graininess to it. The Tapatío also has a slightly darker red hue.
I started with the Heinz, since I already knew what to expect from it. The Heinz version is predictably smooth with a backdrop of fruity habanero, and it also has an impressive bit of heat that starts off gently, but builds up as you continue eating it. It’s also quite sweet, as all Heinz ketchup is.
The Tapatío ketchup takes quite a different approach. It hits you right away with a punchy hot sauce flavor, which is where it spends more of its attention, as opposed to the Heinz, which is more concerned with maintaining the ketchup we know and love than presenting us with something surprising.
Because the hot sauce flavor hits right up front, the Tapatío also comes off as less sweet (though it’s still sugary). And though I know Heinz lovers absolutely swear by its texture, part of me wonders if that’s just a century of effective marketing, since virtually all mass-produced store-bought ketchup is ultra-smooth by nature. My mouth didn’t notice any graininess in the Tapatío, even though it looked more textured on the plate.
Heinz is more tomato and sugar forward, while Tapatío hits you a little harder with spicy flavors right away. Given that anyone who buys spicy ketchup is probably looking for that detectable punch, then I would most readily recommend the Tapatío.
Otherwise, this competition was neck and neck; the Heinz is great, too, even if its sweet, smooth flavor doesn’t emphasize the heat as much as it could. I noticed myself reaching more for the Tapatío as I ate, because again, why eat a spicy ketchup that treats its spiciness as a background player?
I doubt Heinz fanatics will be swayed by the merits of Tapatío. But for those of you who aren’t so picky about ketchup, Tapatío is a compelling choice that will add noticeable punch to your food.
Tapatío ketchup is currently available on Amazon (find it here), and will start to roll out in some stores soon, starting in California and Texas. But come August, it will be available at Walmart nationwide. Good news for those of you who want a little extra kick with every fry you dip.