Banana ketchup (or catsup) is made with puréed banana and seasoned with salt, sugar, garlic, onions, and spices. The sweet, savory, and tangy condiment often includes red artificial food coloring so it resembles tomato ketchup.
On the farm where I grew up in Tarlac, banana trees (that my father planted) grew abundantly. I mashed the fruit and watched my mother stir the thick, bubbling banana ketchup over a slow fire. A cheesecloth pouch filled with spices bobbed in the potion of sweet-smelling, dark yellow bananas. It wasn’t red as tomato catsup usually is, so I was skeptical when Mom said it was banana ketchup.
After days of prep, Mom eventually served a thick, magenta-colored banana ketchup as a side to the scrumptious entrées she cooked. I got hooked and never wanted any other ketchup.
My own banana ketchup recipe is a modern take on the original one my Mom took days and hours to make. I discovered that making the banana ketchup in stages helped me accomplish the sweet, subtly tart flavor my Filipino palate was accustomed to.
What Is Banana Ketchup?
Banana ketchup was invented in the Philippines by Maria Orosa, a food scientist and chemist, who advocated self-sufficiency in food supplies. In the 1940s, she created banana ketchup as a response to wartime food shortages. Among her many significant contributions to food preservation, Orosa turned different fruits—bananas, mangoes, papayas, and ripe tomatoes—into ketchup.
During WWII, Maria Orosa, then a division head at the Bureau of Plant Industry, sent supplies to the American and Filipino POWs held as prisoners in concentration camps around Manila. Orosa sent supplies through the VSAC (Volunteer Social Aid Committee) girls, one of whom was my mother, Lulu Reyes Besa.
Orosa’s techniques and passion for food preservation sparked an interest in my mother, which became especially useful when my mom married my father, a farmer.
The Best Bananas for Banana Ketchup
The bananas grown in the Philippines, though lacking in length and weight, are much sweeter than the bananas I find here in America. To make banana ketchup, I use very ripe Cavendish bananas (the variety you’ll find at the grocery store).
Freezing them before cooking halts the ripening, so I get the exact flavor I want and a similar sweetness to the Philippine-grown Latundan or Lacatan variety.
How to Serve Banana Ketchup
Banana ketchup is rich, thick, and has a sweet, slightly tangy flavor. Serve as a dipping sauce for Filipino dishes like giniling (ground meat and potatoes hash), embutido (pork roll), arroz a la Cubana, or fried chicken.
For many Filipinos, banana ketchup is used as an ingredient for sweet spaghetti. I add it when making sweet-sour sauce for lumpia Shanghai (egg rolls), shrimp rebosado, or fish escabeche.
As a marinade, banana ketchup enhances the flavors of char-grilled pork barbecue skewers or barbecue chicken. As a condiment, I mix it in with a homemade dressing for our family favorite, pineapple coleslaw.
More Condiment Recipes
- Easy Aioli
- Homemade Zhoug
- Homemade Ketchup
Make the annatto oil the day before:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the oil, annatto seeds, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 3 minutes.
Keep an eye on the mixture and do not leave it unattended or the garlic will burn, giving the oil a burnt flavor.
Steep the oil:
Turn off the heat. Remove the saucepan from the burner and let the sauce steep until room temperature, about 1 hour.
Strain the annatto oil and discard the seeds, peppercorns, and garlic bits. Store the infused oil in a clean mason jar. Refrigerate overnight.
Freeze the bananas:
Peel the bananas and add them to an airtight container. Freeze them overnight.
Remove the bananas from the freezer and thaw them completely before proceeding, 1 to 2 hours.
Mash the bananas:
Once fully thawed, thoroughly mash them with a fork or potato masher until they form a thick pulp.
Sauté the garlic, onions, and tomato paste:
Add 2 tablespoons of the annatto oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onions are translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients except the sugar and simmer:
When the edges of the paste are sizzling, add the mashed bananas and the vinegar. Combine well until evenly distributed and the mixture is a reddish hue.
Add the water, corn syrup, and soy sauce. Add the paprika and season with salt and pepper and stir.
Simmer on low heat until the vinegary scent and flavor starts to fade, 6 to 8 minutes. The ketchup should be thick enough to coat a spoon, similar to store-bought ketchup.
Add the sugar and cool:
Add the sugar and food coloring, if using, and mix well. It’s added at the last stage so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
Turn off the heat and let the banana ketchup cool off the heat.
Blend and store:
Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, either use an immersion blender to blend the mixture in the pan or process in a food processor until smooth.
Store in clean mason jars. For the best flavor, refrigerate for 2 to 3 days before using.
Banana ketchup will last for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. It can also be frozen for up to a month. Defrost in the fridge before using.
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