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Who uses ketchup on home-made Mac & Cheese?

Subject line pretty much says it all, But I'm also curious about demographics.

Where in the USA (which is all I can speak to from experience) do people put ketchup onto home-made Mac & Cheese? I know many people who do it, my family included. And I know many other people who seem to regard the idea as one step short of insanity.

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  1. I'm from the NE and I've put ketchup on mac n cheese every since I can remember. But growing up, man n cheese came from a box, so the ketchup served to add zip and flavor in a similar fashion to using A-1 on steaks when growing up as they were always well done and had the flavor cooked right out of them!
    Now that I enjoy cooking a great deal, and appreciate making dishes myself over most foods that come in a box or can, I make mac n cheese with a blend of cheeses that my palate enjoys (fontina, gruyere, gorgonzozla etc) without the need for ketchup. Not to mention the cost of doing it right!
    Having said that, I still keep Eating Right mac n cheese in my freezer for times when I'm in a pinch, and yes, it gets a good squirt of ketchup and maybe a sprinkle of parm.
    It will be interesting to see other responses, as I've had people look at me like I have 2 heads when they see me put ketchup on mac n cheese.
    Prepared frozen mac n cheese or boxed= ketchup
    "Gourmet" and homemade with a blend of $$ cheeses-no way ;-)

    3 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      I'm also from New England, but I'm 100% on the opposite side. I've never seen or heard of this being done, and, frankly, it repulses me. I'm not huge on ketchup to begin with, though, so that certainly influences my decision.

        1. re: monavano

          I said it repulses "me", not that it's repulsive. You like what you like.

          I misread the North East/New England bit.

    2. Live in west Texas and there's no way in hell I'd put ketchup on any kind of mac n' cheese. And I'm not aware of any of my compatriots manufacturing said culinary abomination, either. ;)

      1. This Canadian girl does. Maritimes, yeh yeh!

        1. If I'm served what I call "fancy" mac & cheese that has (what looks like) scrambled eggs in it, I use ketchup if available.

          1. DH & i both grew up in NY.
            the first time i saw him squirt ketchup on the Kraft stuff, i was horrified yet fascinated. since then i've come over to the dark side, although we have at least graduated to Annie's.
            however, i do occasionally make m&c from scratch, and he still puts ketchup on that, but not without first asking if i mind.

            1. I usually serve macaroni and cheese with a main dish that ends up using ketchup or bbq sauce, and every so often dip a bite of the pasta in the sauce.

              Macaroni and cheese made with sharp and smoked cheddar tastes really good dipped in a good garlicky bbq sauce.

                But that's just because I don't like it, if you do then to thine own self be true!

                Just don't tell me about it like it's right, vato.

                1. I saw this on tv a while ago and started thinking about it. After seeing this thread I decided to try it, so I whipped up some mac and cheese (just enough for myself) and put some ketchup on the side (organic brand, which is a bit more tart than the regular sweet tasting heinz)

                  It was rather good as it's own dish but it wasn't mac and cheese anymore to me.
                  Was wondering if people who like the combo are into the sweetness of the ketchup or the sourness??

                  I've been known to squeeze lemon over my mac and cheese or creamy pasta dishes to cut the richness (lactose intolerant and helps to tolerate the milk)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: BamiaWruz

                    I use ketchup or Sriracha on mac-n-cheese, particularly the artifical stuff, because the sourness pairs nicely with some of the richness.

                  2. I just threw up in my mouth... ugh.

                    1. Someone should devise a placemat sized 3 sided curtain-like structure to shield this abominable practice from the view of others at the table.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Veggo

                        Preferably with a smell-neutralizing device in it.

                      2. I think it's very interesting how grossed out many people are by this idea. It often seems to go beyond the usual "not my thing" kind of distaste.

                        Especially when you consider that ketchup diluted in macaroni & cheese is little more than arm's length from a sweet marinara sauce in same--a hardly scandalous idea!

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          Marinara in mac n' cheese doesn't thrill me either.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            You're right, it is odd the level revulsion this practice conjurs up in folks, myself included. But it does make me curl my lip and shiver. Ick. Ketchup on eggs or steak produces the same effect. Oh, and don't get me started on bbq spaghetti. I don't mind ketchup either, so it's not the ketchup itself that disgusts me, it's the combination.

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              I bet it has to do with held-over childhood associations--Mac & Cheese is a food that people generally "commit" to at a young age. I know when I was in Germany, I couldn't wrap my mind around how fond my friends were of "Nutella" (a kind of hazelnut butter) on toast. They all had it as kids. I don't fancy hazelnut flavor to begin with, but the idea of it on toast just seemed distasteful to me. Still, it wasn't totally repellant, either. I gather that Aussies are into Vegemite in this same way.

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                OMGosh, I love Nutella! Of course I love hazelnuts too. Funny, I was making hazelnut pizzelles and had to pick up a bag at TJ's. Some guy commented on my bag of hazelnuts, saying that most Americans don't like them. I never knew that.

                                Swedish friends of mine are repulsed by peanut butter in the same way I am repulsed by their fish paste in a tube. Ugh.

                                I guess you're right... it has a lot to do with what you grew up eating. In my home ketchup was acceptable on french fries and burgers. :)

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  lynnlato: have to agree that my Swedish friends also were repulsed by peanut butter.

                                  As to mac n cheese with ketchup I'm in the midwest. ... if it is a cheap box of Kraft mac n cheese, and I'm home alone, I might give it a ketchup kick. Kind of like hamburger helper from childhood without the hamburger. If it's the good homemade stuff, or someone is with me, probably not. (unless it was my old roommate from college. Nothing would surprise her or gross her out)

                              2. re: lynnlato

                                Should I be embarrassed that I kind of swooned when I first encountered barbecue sauce mixed into spaghetti sauce in NYC-area African-American cookery?

                                1. re: JungMann

                                  Nope, JM, of course not. It's just something that rubs me the wrong way. Apparently it's big in Memphis too. It might grow on me after a night of imbibing though - say around 3am. But alas, I don't do that too much these days. : )

                              3. re: Bada Bing

                                Sweet marinara is awful. So ketchup in M&C even more so.

                                I live in MA, grew up in the NYC burbs and my parents were from CT. We never encountered ketchup on M&C, so I don't think it's a regional thing but a family thing.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  What is sweet marinara? Sounds awful.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I meant something like tomato sauce on the "Prego" end of the flavor profile. For what it matters, I am okay with bottled tomato sauces of a few brands, but not Prego, because it's too sweet for me.

                                    p.s., sugar is routinely added to home-made tomato sauces, in moderation (one hopes)

                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                      I'm with Karl S. "My" tomato sauce is Hazan's with tomatoes, butter, onion and a touch of salt (which I never add). No sugar ever.

                                2. re: Bada Bing

                                  "grossed out" ... nah. it's essentially adding sweetened vinegar.

                                  my mac& cheese is mustardy... (no vinegar, mustard powda.)

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    You're right, I agree with you, but for some of us mac & cheese is almost a sacrament, you have to understand, like ketchup is for some other people. I'm not going to write horrible things- I have my share of disgusting tastepreferences, but I'm certainly feeling them.

                                  2. I grew up in New England as well with the boxed stuff and nobody I knew added catsup ... so it isn't a regional thing.

                                    However, I'm a little surprised at the ack ack reaction to this.

                                    I'll bet the same people who give this a thumbs down, love, love, love grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup ... sort of the same flavor profile

                                    All that is needed is for some name chef to whip up gourmet mac and cheese with house-made catsup ... and maybe a touch of bacon ... people would be all over it.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I prefer my grilled cheese very much unmolested by tomato soup. The only tomato soup I like is Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with butter and onion, btw.....

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        Same here. And like you I have little use for tomato soup in general, although I do love V-8 and Snap E Tom.

                                        I would also add that I'm not one to glom onto whatever silliness a celebrity chef puts on offer. If Alton Brown or Emeril make something that sounds good to me I might make it, but not because Brown and Emeril made it.

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          Lace that tomato soup with booze and it will be as acceptable as V-8.

                                          The point is, that it is not a uncommon flavor profile whether you personally like grilled cheese and tomato soup. I just don't know why there is such a cringe factor about catsup on items that are not the usual ... even on the mundane such as eggs and hot dogs.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            If I drink enough of that booze I'm sure the soup would be acceptable.

                                            And while tomato and American cheese may be a fairly common flavor profile, it is one that makes me cringe. Moreover, flavor is not everything. As buttertart mentioned, smell is also a factor as is appearance. And I shudder to contemplate the sickly pink hue created by the combination of mac n' cheese and ketchup.

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              I shudder to contemplate the sickly pink hue created by the combination of mac n' cheese and ketchup

                                              Now you've done it ... made it sound so irresistably bad I'm going to have to try it ... but then again ... I put catsup on eggs, hot dogs ... and steak.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                I should report you for that last sentence :) Can't you get suspended for that?

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Yes- except for the hot dog part,

                                    2. Nasty High Fructose Corp Syrup is what youre putting on your Mac&Cheese. Learn what is in your food people. Ketchup = Corn Syrup = Nasty.

                                      Arent thhere supposed to be foodies here. UGH

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: TheMactastic

                                        There are many discussions on this board about catsup without HFCS, the most notable being Heinz Organic. So your assumption may not be accurate.

                                        No foodies here ... and if there are, hopefully in time they will become Chowhounds.

                                        1. re: TheMactastic

                                          Wow. the ketchup effect is extreme. I use Heinz organic, by the way.

                                          1. re: TheMactastic

                                            And boxed M&C is loaded with sodium.

                                            No foodies on CH :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I don't care how much salt there is in Kraft m&c.So I have to wear bigger shoes the next day. ;-)

                                            2. re: TheMactastic

                                              Meh, I couldn't possibly care less about the corn syrup, nor am I the least bit perturbed about sodium in boxed mac n' cheese (I'm sure the present administration is burning the midnight oil to rectify that particular "human rights violation"). I just don't put ketchup on anything but fries and tots, and mac n' cheese is one of the last places I'd put it.

                                              I'm sure rworange would like to bang me over the head with her skillet for my anti-ketchup discrimination. ;)

                                            3. I'm from upstate NY - no ketchup on my mac & cheese, but I do love a few fresh tomato slices on the side with a bit of sugar sprinkled on. then the sweet tomato juice runs into the cheese... mmmm.... one of my favorite summertime memories, believe it or not! :)

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                                No, no, no, no! In a related incident, I almost killed my ex husband when he put ketchup on my home made tuna casserole!

                                                1. re: EmJayC

                                                  ooh. DH puts hot sauce in my tuna casserole. grrr.

                                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                                    Okay, my budding hypothesis--built from this thread overall--is that ketchup is the Rodney Dangerfield of condiments. So let me ask you a question: is there any chance that if he put sriracha (Thai) or harissa (North African) hot sauce in the tuna casserole, he might seem edgy, cosmopolitan, or vaguely James Bondish?

                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                      I agree with you about Ketchup being the rodney dangerfield of condiments, lol!

                                                      not sure about DH seeming edgy, cosmopolitan or james bondish - he alternates between sriracha, barons habanero and tabasco habanero. most of the time I just think he's nuts. ;)

                                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                                        No, I love ketchup in certain applications, that some might think a little odd. But the thing is, those are foods that can stand up to ketchup. The point was, I carefully made a from scratch tuna casserole with the flavor balanced and just right (as far as I was concerned) and without even tasting it, he blobbed ketchup all over it. He used to put ketchup on eggs as well! But it's true, ketchup gets no respect!

                                                        1. re: EmJayC

                                                          That's what frustrates me EmJayC... they should at least taste it before they start their blobbing! (perfect word btw)

                                                          1. re: EmJayC

                                                            Not sure how this thread got kicked up again, but your remark about automatic "blobbing" (like juju, I love the word) is sound. It reminds me of a much more basic American habit: in many households, people automatically salt their plate of food before even tasting it, whereas when I cook, I send things out seasoned exactly as I think they should be.

                                                            Just different styles, I suppose. Maybe I'd automatically salt foods if I grew up in a house where the cook automatically undersalted foods. (I shudder to think of a household where maybe no one ever salted the pasta or rice when cooking it!)

                                                  2. I put ketchup on homemade mac and cheese, but only when it's reheated the next day, in a frying pan to get it all crispy-crunchy. When it's fresh and saucy/cheesy, it stands alone.

                                                    Can't eat grilled cheese without ketchup, though.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: SherBel

                                                      similarly...won't put catsup on mac-n-cheese, except for FRIED mac-n-cheese, it adds another trashy layer to this so wrong/yet so delicious snack.

                                                      1. re: SherBel

                                                        It occurs to me now, waking up this old thread which I started, that the way I cook Mac and Cheese, the top portion really does have a drier and rather "fried" character, relative to the creamy styles people most often compose. Maybe that's why kethchup works for me from the get-go.

                                                        Here's my more recent contribution to a Mac & Cheese thread, outlining how I make it:


                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                          Thanks for waking this thread up! I'm from New England and I do put ketchup on mac and cheese, but only a certain kind. Not the stuff from a box or the cheddar rich elbow with bread crumb topping. That stuff is fine by itself.

                                                          My family is Albanian and we made "Albanian" style mac and cheese which is baked with a custard. It does have cheese but we use cottage and American and cheddar and it's much blander than the American style mac and cheese because it's more egg and milk than it is cheese. Ketchup compliments it well.

                                                      2. This topic made me laugh a little and I had to chime in because this is a "bone of contention" between me and my husband. My husband and I are both from upstate New York, and the first time I saw him squeeze ketchup onto my mom's delicious macaroni and cheese I was horrified:-) I feel like he's masking the delicious, cheesiness but as long as he likes it that's all that matters!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: arp29

                                                          Oh, you are a saint, I must say...

                                                        2. I once brought a table full of laughing, talking, eating bookclub women to a complete, stunned silence when i asked for some catsup to put on my serving of very delicious martha steward aged white cheddar mac and cheese. Loved it! I never used to do this, but my hubby introduced me to this habit a long time ago. It seems to accent the richness of the cheese sauce, much like mint jelly does to lamb. it's a condiment, used in moderation, delicious. yummm.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: zenofpie

                                                            MINT JELLY ON LAMB???? Sacrilege! :-)

                                                          2. I'm from the midwest and my family never used ketchup on mac and cheese. My husband from upstate ny puts it on mac and cheese and scrambled eggs. It doesn't bother me but I wouldn't eat it that way. I have been known to bake mac and cheese with salsa or tomatoes/green chiles mixed in and like it that way.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: poofty

                                                              Not a fan of salsa in it but fresh roasted green chiles make it a whole new and wonderful dish. Even the canned ones are not too shabby. I guess I don't like Red Stuff in mac&cheese.

                                                              1. re: poofty

                                                                Our nanny makes a fantastic fresh tomato/onion/garlic salsa with tons of chopped coriander that makes a perfectly piquant counterpoint to the creaminess of her (from scratch) mac 'n cheese. Cheese, tomato, and starch is one of those blessed combinations, whether it be pizza, pasta, or a grilled cheese sandwich.

                                                                But the only time I ever remember putting ketchup on boxed m'n'c was university days, when I was equally hungry, poor, and in a hurry. Ketchup added another flavour note, and only took a few dozen milliseconds to add. When we needed protein, it wasn't unusual to add canned tuna, hot dogs, or bologna to the mix.

                                                                1. re: FrankD

                                                                  tuna and ketchup?
                                                                  I'll have to ponder that a while.....

                                                              2. I grew up in southern Ohio and live in DC now and have also lived in Nashville, Columbus, OH, Boston, VT, and San Francisco. I've never done this nor seen it done. It sounds horrible to me. I wouldn't put anything on mac and cheese except maybe pepper if it needs it.

                                                                1. This thread reminded me of this old Heinz commercial that aired in Canada in the 80's:


                                                                  and I remember wanting to puke at some of the things they drenched in ketchup...

                                                                  1. I'm from the Southeast, and grew up splitting time between homemade mac and cheese, and the blue box. I never had ketchup with either until I heard the Bare Naked Ladies sing about it. I gave it a try with boxed mac and cheese, and really like it. I still won't have it with homemade. Full disclosure, I love ketchup, and frequently use it when others would use hot sauce or salsa.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                                                      I'm also from the Southeast, and never heard of putting ketchup on mac and cheese until I met my husband, who is from Ontario. He has taught our son to do it. On the other hand, I never had mac and cheese all that much. I certainly always knew about it, but I don't remember my mother making it, particularly, and the idea of "Kraft Dinner" as a staple seems more common in Canada. I don't remember it being a big deal in college, for example, but the Canadians I know seem to assume that students all live on it. The very fact that it's called "Kraft Dinner," rather than "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese" sort of fascinates me.

                                                                    2. i am not american but ,i grew up eating the boxed stuff plain. One day, in my teens, i noticed some one putting ketchup on theirs' and...i've been hooked ever since. One of the first culinary explorations out of my narrow eating palate. At present, I never put ketchup on Homemade Mac&cheese unless it is a little bland.

                                                                      1. Yup, tons of ketchup on home made mac n cheese, plus lots of salt. A true comfort food I have once every two years or so LOL. Hailing originally from Edmonton, Alberta!

                                                                        1. I put 'red sauce' on hot dogs and burgers and 'fries'.

                                                                          1. I love mac & cheese, I love ketchup, but I don't use them together.
                                                                            I do sometimes put diced tomatoes in my homemade mac & cheese though...yum :-)

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                                              I would never, ever put ketchup on mac & cheese. And neither would you if you came over to eat it. I make Martha's M&C101. Good shit. Not something you're going to splatter ketchup over.

                                                                              I actually hardly ever have ketchup in the house, but I had a Russian dressing fling this fall, so technically, I could offer someone ketchup with their M&C. But I think I'd hide it under the sink, then say, "there doesn't seem to be any in the 'fridge," if anyone were to ask (mental reservation).

                                                                              I grew up in North Jersey, lived most of my life in DC, and now live in Pittsburgh. I never even heard of this combo until sometime during the last ten years. I have a friend who does it. He's from South-Central PA.

                                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                                OP here: I did try the Martha recipe once, among many others, and agree it's good. I don't think I mentioned elsewhere in this conversation that, the richer and creamier the M&C, the less impulse I feel to use ketchup.

                                                                                But the larger point is that I never like the richer and creamier approach more than my own family approach, about which I have this other, more recent thread:


                                                                            2. I have never heard of that use of condiments, and WAS glad that was the case. While I DO enjoy ketchup on many things, Mac & Cheese is just not one of them. Hope that I can get past the visual, that your thread conjured up.


                                                                              1. I've never tried it, but I do see how some people would enjoy the flavor combination..
                                                                                Similar to grilled cheese dipped in ketchup-- a dish I had at least once a week in my childhood!
                                                                                Can't say I'd still love the combination today, though.

                                                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                    Blasphemy is my middle name....

                                                                                    i.e., Bada Blasphemy Bing

                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                      I agree.
                                                                                      It should be brown sauce, surely!

                                                                                    2. Never ketchup. But sometimes hot sauce. And it has to be leftover Mac n cheese.

                                                                                      1. Since this topic has popped back up on my list, let me expand upon my previous declaration of Blasphemy!!

                                                                                        While I do not, have not, nor will ever put ketchup into my mac -n- cheese, I do use tomato soup in my baked mac-n-cheese. I use a can of tomato soup, milk and melt the cheese into a nice gooey (always make sure to have the proper balance of goo vs. ey in your mixture) mixture add your pasta of choice (I always prefer elbow's but I will change it) up) top it with bacon and into the oven it goes to bake and let that bacon grease soak in..... yuuuummmmmyyyy....that there is some comfort food.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                          I think your remark--"make sure to have the proper balance of goo vs. ey"--is actually a life principle with very wide application.

                                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                            A friend of ours used this combination with tomato soup from a can. Her finished product was similar to the Franco-American spaghetti we enjoyed as kids way back in the day.

                                                                                            And as a kid I always wanted ketchup on mac and cheese, even though I never wanted it on anything else. Still don't, except in homemade Russian dressing. And maybe on leftover mac and cheese.